Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Squat" or "Occupy"? An answer from Madrid is heard in Copenhagen

Made it to Copenhagen for the SQEK conference (SQuatting Europe Kollective). We all stayed in collective houses, and met at the Candy Factory (Bolsjefabrikken) thanks to our hosts' careful arrangements. (I was at Molevitten, which Google says means “shebang”!) The last days we toured squat-like artists' projects. One big question last week was, what is the relation between squatting and occupying? Miguel Martinez tried to answer for Madrid. He had arrived in Copenhagen early, and gave his paper to an academic gathering at the University of Copenhagen. Since this will doubtless interest the academic readers of this blog, I reproduce his abstract below. My notes on the conference will appear in a subsequent post. (The raw notes are posted already on the “House Magic: Bureau of Foreign Correspondence” website.)
“Cumulative Chains of Activist Exchanges: the Occupation of Squares and the Squatting of Buildings,” abstract of a paper by Miguel A. Martínez (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) and Ángela García (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) The M15 [May 15th, 2011] movement in Spain (Taibo 2011) has responded to the financial crisis and the neoliberal policies [of the Spanish government] (López and Rodríguez 2011) with a sudden and profound social mobilisation during seven months (May-December 2011). While it is based on previous movements (alter-global 1994-2002, anti-war 2003, anti-conservative government M14 2004, and pro-housing 2006-2010), this is the first time that a precarious multitude (Mudu 2009) takes the squares, the streets and the neighbourhoods for such a long lasting period, through an innovative autonomous organisation and with a transnational scope (Tarrow 2005).
This paper focuses on the convergence experienced by the squatters' movement (Adell et al. 2004, Domínguez et al. 2010) and the M15 movement. We will describe first how and why squatters joined the M15 movement. Then we will provide evidence about the utilitarian role that already existed squatted social centres played in the M15 movement. Finally, after the camps were evicted, an explosion of new squats took place due to the initiatives of new activists of the M15 movement.
Our explanation of this process of convergence rests mainly in the 'cumulative chains of activist exchanges' since the three mentioned aspects of the process reinforced each other. The structural equivalence of the occupied camps and the squatted social centres (in terms of assemblies, self-management and social disobedience), sparked the mutual collaboration. Camps also turned into strategic ends (examples of direct democracy: Graeber 2011, Taibo 2011) of the M15 movement beyond its original function as a powerful repertoire of protest (Marcuse 2011), in a similar mood as squatted social centres tend to be performed (Pruijt 2003). Squatting gained legitimacy within the M15 movement due to the initial collaboration as well as to the increasing success of the campaign Stop Foreclosures. The M15 movement encouraged new activists to self-organise in many different groups: some of them went to work in preexisting squatted social centres while some others started to squat houses and social centres. On the one hand, this mixture slightly reduced the radical and anti-systemic discourse of squatting. On the other, the anti-speculation discourse was incorporated into an anti-crisis one where squatting was justified by the extreme needs of increasing numbers of the population.
The impressive wave of new squats opened between September and November, 2011, also took advantage of political opportunity structures (McAdam 2001, Meyer 2004): low level of repression and temporary divide (and de-legitimation) of power elites around the [eve of the national elections] (November 20th), in particular. Since January 2011 the international context of European and North African uprisings (and political and economic crisis as well) had an effect of demonstration and contamination to which internet networks contributed with instant and plural communication. This communicative environment was also developed by the M15 movement through their own cybernetic means and platforms thus allowing the new mobilised multitude to frame the continuous grievances that emerged during these seven months (repression, evictions, cuts in public services, reform of the Constitution in order to pay national debts, etc.). The camps, the popular assemblies and the squats had the virtue of getting people in touch regularly, so that the self-organisation and agency of groups had a reliable socio-spatial ground in which urban life based on collective and private consumption (Castells 1983, Nicholls 2010) was challenged by a hybrid of urban and macro-political movement.
The empirical information for this research comes from our own participant observation in most of the events of this period in the city of Madrid, but we also analysed media documents, alternative media news and messages which were spread through Internet platforms (weblogs, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube). The main source in order to [context] and contrast our data, were 21 semi-structured interviews that we [conducted with] squatters and M15 activists.
Adell, Ramón; Martínez, Miguel (eds.) ¿Dónde están las llaves? El movimiento okupa: prácticas y contextos sociales. Madrid: La Catarata.
Castells, Manuel (1983) The City and the Grassroots. A Cross-Cultural Theory of Urban Social Movements. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Domínguez, Mario; Martínez, Miguel; Lorenzi, Elísabeth (2010) Okupaciones en movimiento. Derivas, estrategias y prácticas. Madrid: Tierra de Nadie.
Graeber, David (2011) Occupy and Anarchism's Gift of Democracy. [http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/nov/15/occupy-anarchism-gift-democracy?newsfeed=true]
López, Isidro; Rodríguez, Emanuel (2011) The Spanish Model. New Left Review 69.
Marcuse, Peter (2011) The purpose of the Occupation Movement and the danger of fetishizing space. [http://pmarcuse.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/the-purpose-of-the-occupation-movement-and-the-danger-of-fetishizing-space/]
Mcadam Dough; Tarrow Sidney; Tilly Charles (2001) Dynamics of Contention. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Meyer, David S. (2004) Protest and Political Opportunities. Annual Review of Sociology 30:125–45.
Mudu, Pierpaolo (2009) Where is Hardt and Negri's Multitude? Real Networks in Open Spaces. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 8(2), 211-244.
Nicholls, Walter J. (2010) The Los Angeles School: Difference, Politics, City. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 35-1, 189-206.
Pruijt, Hans (2003) Is the institutionalisation of urban movements inevitable? A comparison of the opportunities for sustained squatting in New York City and Amsterdam. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 27, 133-157.
Taibo, Carlos (2011) El 15-M en sesenta preguntas. Madrid: Los libros de la Catarata.
Tarrow, Sidney (2005) The New Transnational Activism. New York: Cambridge University.

Friday, November 18, 2011

"From Israel to Essex: Travellers not welcome...

Traditionally nomadic communities face state-led discrimination and violent attempts to abolish their way of life."
I don't reblog hardly ever, but this exception proves the rule. A horrible story from Ireland and Israel, of people losing the homes to which they are entitled... From Al Jazeera English.
(Getty/Gallo image from Al Jazeera website. Photographer not credited.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

SQEK Conference in Copenhagen, December 4-6, 2011

This post concerns the The Squatting Europe Collective (SQEK) 3rd Conference, and includes 1) a text on free spaces of Copenhagen sent by our hosts, and 2) the agenda of the conference itself.
1st – Some spaces of autonomy in contemporary Copenhagen, written by Our Hosts
"Spaces of autonomy, or as many call them free spaces are abundant throughout the city of Copenhagen, the most notorious being Freetown Christiania which was a former military site which was squatted in 1971. Throughout the 1980s and early 90s autonomous movements were strong, visible and active throughout the entire city, most notably in the former working class neighborhood of Nørrebro. But since the 1992 police shooting during the anti-European Union protests, the autonomous movement has dis-integrated for the most part (Mikkelsen, Flemming, et al. 2001).
"With the violent demolition of the notorious Ungdomshuset (Youth House) at Jagtvej 69 in 2007, the commune had controlled or gotten rid of many vibrant spaces of autonomy throughout Nørrebro. The commune ceded a new house to the radical youth in Nord-Vest effectively evicting their activities to the periphery of the inner city. Although the new Ungdomshuset remains a vibrant space for radical culture, such as underground music, performances, workshops and discussions, it does not compare to the former historically laden inner-Nørrebro location, where the likes of Rosa Luxembourg spoke.
"One free space which survived the neoliberal governement of the past decade, is Folkets Hus (People’s House) along Folkets Park located at Stengade 50. This is a self-managed free space since it was squatted in 1971. As a meeting space for support parties, a weekly people's kitchen, cafe and bike workshop, it persists as an outlet and service for radical culture and the local neighborhood.
"Nonethless, the demolition of Ungdomshuset 69 left a void in Nørrebro for radical, alternative and underground culture. Within this context, a collective of politically minded artists, craftsmen and students appropriated (with permission from the owner) a former Candy Factory built by Arne Jacobsen at Glentevej in Nørrebro. By hosting workshops, concerts, exhibits and fostering the emerging pirate party/TAZ movement , the space became a vibrant institution. Today, Bolsjefabrikken has relocated to the site of a former plumbing factory in the same neighborhood at Lærkevej 11, where three buildings house various workshops, cinema, kitchen, gallery, and cafe.
"The second Bolsjefabrikken is located along the railway tracks on the edge of the Østerbro neighborhood. These buildings are owned by the commune, and were ceded for self-management at a symbolic rent of 250 DKK per month. The space has been self-managed since the 2009 KlimaForum, when it became a space for housing over 2,000 climate justice activists.
"Within the context of contemporary spaces of autonomy, we hope that the discussions, experiences and insights derived during this conference will help keep the movement globally connected and locally active.
"We hope you enjoy the third Squatting in Europe Conference with us in Copenhagen!
Best, Ask, Malte, Tina H, Tina S"

(some) Free Spaces in Copenhagen

1. Folkets Hus (People’s House)
Stengade 50
2200 Copenhagen Nørrebro
info : www.folketshus.dk/

2. Bolsjefabrikken
Lærkevej 11
2400 Copenhagen Nord-Vest
info: www.bolsjefabrikken.com
contact: info@bolsjefabrikken.com

3. Bolsjefabrikken Ragnhildgade
Ragnhildgade 1, bygning 3
2100 København Østerbro
contact : webmaster@bolsjefabrikken.com

3. Ungdomshuset
Dortheavej 61
2400 Copenhagen Nord-Vest
info: http://www.ungeren.dk/
contact : dortheavej61@gmail.com

4. K22 :: Kollektiv 22
Nørrebrogade 22.2
2200 Copenhagen Nørrebro
(black gate next to King of Kebab. Doorbell : Lett, Steiger, Voetmann)
contact : Tina +45 527 500 70

5. Freetown Christiania.
Christianshavn, Copenhagen Inner City
Info : Experience it, to believe it.

2nd – The Squatting Europe Collective (SQEK) 3rd Conference is set for December 4-6, 2011 at Folkets Hus, Copenhagen, Stengade 50, Nørrebro. Here is the program so far:
Sunday December 4, 2011 is the morning session, 10.oo – 12.oo, an internal SQEK Meeting to talk business and have breakfast. Then begin the public sessions...
12.oo – 13.oo
Lunch at Folkets Hus
13.oo – 14.oo
Miguel :: “Squatting and the 15M movement / #spanishrevolution”
14.oo – 15.oo
Femke :: “Cracking the participation creed: The squat-mosque as an inspiration for intercultural self-organization”
15.oo – 15.3o
15.3o – 16.3o
Armin :: “Between Intervention and Radical ‘Free Spaces’: Squatter Movements at the Beginning of the Neoliberal City”
16.3o – 17.3o
Joost :: “Defining what is open: Squatting as the problematic practice of recommodifying urban space in negotiation
towards audiences and the self”
17.3o – 18.3o
Anna :: “Evict Us and We Multiply! Protest Camps and the Politics of Eviction"
Dinner1 [for SQEK participants] at K22 ::: Nørrebrogade 22.2 :: doorbell : Lett/Steiger

Monday, December 5, 2011
1o.oo – 11.oo
Thomas :: “Squatters are urban planners! Innovative effects of squatting on public policies”
11.oo – 12.oo
Hans :: “Squatting as Balanced Empowerment”
12.oo - 13.oo
Lunch at Folkets Hus
13.oo – 14.oo
Alan :: “Circulating Movement Information in the Sphere of Art"
14.oo - 15.oo
Edward: “Theory and practice - activism and the academy”
15.oo – 15.3o
15.3o – 16.3o
Elisabeth :: "Self-research and squat practice"
16.3o – 17.3o
Amantine :: “Gender and squatting: debates about anti-sexism, patriarchy and heteronormativity in Germany"
Dinner at the Bolsjefabrikken (Candy Factory)
Lærkevej 11, Nørrebro
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
1o.oo - 12.oo
Internal SQEK Meeting [closed to general public]
12.oo – 13.oo
Lunch at Folkets Hus
13.oo – 18.oo
Bike Tour and visits of Spaces of Autonomy in Copenhagen
13.3o – 15.oo
Bolsjefabrikken (Candy Factory)
Lærkevej 11, Nørrebro
15.oo – 16.oo
Dortheavej 61, Nord-Vest
16.oo – 17.oo
Bolsjefabrikken Ragnhildgade
Ragnhildgade, Østerbro
Dinner in Freetown Christiania

("Occupy Everywhere" image by William Banzai)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On the Global “Occupy”

This blog has long been concerned with information and issues around occupation. The movement of squatted social centers has been about providing social, political and cultural space in cities where the processes of hyper-capitalism have foreclosed or constrained such possibilities. These occupations have been for the most part tiny islands in the immense oceans of normative life, captained by ultra-left pirate bands. Only now has a global movement bloomed which demands that same kind of space, which occupies it, and resolutely, slowly, determinedly discusses what to do about the systemic failure of the capitalist system to provide for the social welfare.
Visiting in New York before the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests began, I biked by the site in the morning and was amazed at the extraordinary police presence for what I assumed would be a small demonstration. Now I see the cops were right. Like small boys whose defensiveness is in proportion to their guilt, they knew what was up. The encampment developed beautifully, roiled by traditional protest marches which set off chanting slogans – but even these worked in well as the marchers returning were greeted with cries of “Welcome home!” The form of OWS developed like the encampments of the 15 May movement (15M) I'd seen in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid – with designated areas to handle all the various necessities, as in a social center. The massive general assemblies of the 15M ran smoothly. All this I assumed was the outcome of decades of experience with big-building occupations by many activists in 15M.
What precisely the 15M owes to the squatting movement is a question which will be addressed by Miguel Martínez at the early December meeting of the SQEK in Amsterdam. But the question of what the Occupy movement owes to squatters is only one of many as the U.S. movement is historicized. The Smithsonian and New-York Historical Society are already scrambling together collections of OWS artifacts. Are other cities' historical societies doing the same? On my travels I saw Occupy encampments in the downtowns of Chicago and Minneapolis this fall, and some time spent on the web can turn up the online evidence of the dozens more around the USA. These are all significant local events in a movement writers for “Dissent” have compared to the populist risings of the 1930s.
Since my return to Madrid, I've been following the U.S. on the web, just as I did with the Tahrir Square uprising in Egypt. That was easily the most exciting webcast of 2011. The international character of the Occupy movement, like the anti-WTO organizing of the '90s and '00s, follows the dust storms of international capital. While the entire scope of this global revolutionary period is too much to wrap one's head around, a September collection of “journalisms” on the 16 Beaver Group website begins to try, comparing U.S., Greece, and Egypt protests and their processes. The U.S. correspondent writes that, like me, “I have to follow from home via this Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/#!/OccupyWallStNYC.” The Twitter feed is tactical, but it also turns up all sorts of great stuff that's been written about the movement, like the Lowndes and Warren text cited above. S/he also watches the OWS live on http://www.livestream.com/globalrevolution, and recommends the live feed of the assembly process.
As web television, the national OWS so far has been a bit of a bore, or to be fair, widely dispersed in eventless streams and various shorts. There is no CNN for this revolution. Still, I liked the Ed David short film “Where Do We Go from Here?”, posted at http://occupywallst.org/ for the one-month anniversary of the NYC occupation. In it, a young woman explains in rejoinder to the mainstream pundits' complaint that OWS has no program, “I have no idea – and that's what's really exciting, not knowing what's going to happen.”
So far as analysis goes, Marxists are weighing in heavily on this movement. After a visit to Occupy London, “Lenin” (Richard Seymour, in the blog “Lenin's Tomb”) points out the “political indeterminacy of the movement thus far,” but concludes that, given their so-far enunciated principles, that “it's a reformism radicalising in the direction of an anti-systemic stance.” For him, “This isn't a revolutionary situation, but merely a punctuating moment in the temporal flow of class struggle.” The identification with Egypt, which Seymour says has been mocked in the English press, emphasizes the internationalism of the movement, and, like OWS, “it identifies the political class rule of the 1% as the key problem; the colonization of the representative state by big capital.”
Brian Holmes writes from Chicago where, true to form, the police are brutalizing the demonstrators (10/17), “Some kid from nowhere who hadn’t made it, a young drunk who wasn’t proud, he told us not to repeat with the people’s mic because he wasn’t clever. But he knew exactly what he wanted to say. It was `dead end, no chance, doors closed, please try somewhere else': what happens when there’s no place for you in the system. It’s strange to feel myself, over fifty years old, with accomplishments and self-discipline and a name that others recognize, reverberated in the speech of this honest kid. What it means to me: dead end for practical idealism, no chance for real cooperation, doors closed to care and solidarity, try somewhere else for your humanity. There’s no place for people like me in this system, that’s how I feel, stripped bare by the crisis like all the rest. It’s because the 1% have blocked all vision of anything beyond what they can grab, and that’s practically everything, the whole cookie.”
While he is leading a seminar at Mess Hall on “Three Crises: 30s–70s–Today,” this egghead captures the populist affect of the movement of encampment on the streets. His story poignantly reminded me of experiences I had as a hitchhiker on the road in the 1970s, another “public space” systematically foreclosed by police (and fear-mongering Hollywood movies) during those years. Holmes' ever-useful blog also reposts the Occupy TVNY video interview of war correspondent Chris Hedges in Times Square, comparing peoples' revolutions in East Germany, former Yugoslavia, Egypt, etc. to what is now happening in the USA. Hedges ends the interview in tears of gratitude...
Slavoj Zizek, in his recent visit to OWS, neatly sideswiped the red-baiting U.S. Media. He said through the “human microphone” – “We are not Communists if Communism means a system which collapsed in 1990. Remember that today those Communists are the most efficient, ruthless Capitalists. In China today, we have Capitalism which is even more dynamic than your American Capitalism, but doesn’t need democracy. Which means when you criticize Capitalism, don’t allow yourself to be blackmailed that you are against democracy. The marriage between democracy and Capitalism is over.”
On this, Marxists and anarchists are agreed. Crimethinc, in their recent letter to the occupiers, write that “Capitalism is not a static way of life but a dynamic process that consumes everything, transforming the world into profit and wreckage. Now that everything has been fed into the fire, the system is collapsing, leaving even its former beneficiaries out in the cold.” And Mike Davis, nothing if not Marxist, embraces direct action strategy in his 10/21 article, writing of the necessity of bodies in space: “Activist self-organization — the crystallization of political will from free discussion — still thrives best in actual urban fora.” Online social media still only preach to the choir – (here I disagree; Facebook also makes converts, and the computer is by far the best revolutionary TV). His prescriptions for evading co-option by normative politics (i.e., the Democratic party) include the following: “continue to democratize and productively occupy public space (i.e. reclaim the Commons). The veteran Bronx activist-historian Mark Naison has proposed a bold plan for converting the derelict and abandoned spaces of New York into survival resources (gardens, campsites, playgrounds) for the unsheltered and unemployed. The Occupy protestors across the country now know what it’s like to be homeless and banned from sleeping in parks or under a tent. All the more reason to break the locks and scale the fences that separate unused space from urgent human needs.” This has always seemed like common sense to me, and it is sweet to read the Great Pessimist advocate for it.
Adam Trowbridge on the Basekamp list comments on Seymour's text, that “The demand to be allowed to exist, together, in space, in real time, all day and night, is incredibly radical and this is perhaps why the media, especially the talking heads, cannot understand what is happening. No one has to explain to the existing homeless that there is something political happening in their lives every day and night. Occupy sites have gone beyond the idea of demanding of power that they be 'allowed', they have simply chosen to begin existing in real space and time, together. I think this goes beyond 'civil disobedience,' although that becomes a necessary part when existing outside a rented or purchased space has been mainly outlawed. We are left with a choice to continue as a customer of a series of private spaces or occupy a site illegally.” Exactly.

Miguel Martínez' website

minutes of the Squatting Europe Kollective meetings are at:

"The Smithsonian and New-York Historical Society Race to Preserve Occupy Wall Street's Art and Artifacts"

“Occupy Wall Street: A Twenty-First Century Populist Movement?” by Joe Lowndes and Dorian Warren

“Journalisms -- The Occupation of Wall Street -- Fragments On, From, Inside, Before, Through” (9/11)

Lenin (aka Richard Seymour), “Visiting Occupy London” (10/17)
from http://leninology.blogspot.com/2011/10/visiting-occupy-london.html –
reposted to Basekamp discussion list, from whence Adam Trowbridge's comment

Brian Holmes, “Meanwhile, Back in Chicago”

transcript of Slavoj Zizek on Wall Street

Dear Occupiers: A Letter from Anarchists (10/7)

Mike Davis, "No More Bubble-Gum"

Basekamp – “Occupy Everything” (only the one event posted here with links)

image: “Fight The Vampire Squid” by Molly Crabapple (scientists inform us that these creatures are unfairly maligned; still a cool image!)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Welcome to the Hotel Ocupa

Back in Madrid after a month in the USA, I find the indignados of the 15M movement have just taken a building nearby. The Hotel Madrid, at 10 calle Carretas is a long-abandoned former Best Western hotel. Now it is swarming with folks coming around to see what is up. The hotel is steps away from the Puerta del Sol, the center of Madrid and site of the original encampment of May 15th, 2011 that launched the Spanish movement which is the big sister of Occupy Wall Street.
I inquired of course of the man at the lobby desk: “What's going on?”, and presented my hand-carried copy of the “Occupied Wall Street Journal.” He threw it on the rack with the others! The hotel he told me, might serve the many evicted former homeowners who could not maintain their mortgages and found themselves suddenly on the street. (That's been a key issue of the neighborhood assembly of Lavapiés, the district that hosts the immense Tabacalera CSA. That body has conducted a number of eviction defenses.) But that wasn't certain yet. He directed me around the corner, to the assembly in Plaza Jacinto Benavente, which was even then discussing plans for the hotel occupation.
I wandered through the teeming halls. Most already had signs indicating their functions. A small boy with dirty blonde hair controlled the heavy glass door of one large empty room. “This is a studio!” he told me. I just want to look outside, kid – a broad open window overlooking the busy street below. I mean really busy, busy in a way that artists and activists haven't had access to. The hotel gang had already set up an info table on the street to collect signatures on a petition of support.
Back in the lobby I met AJ (Adrian), a sculptor who'd spent years working in the states, at a studio near D.C. He complained about an article in the “Occupied WSJ” that implied that the 15M movement had rioted. “We never did that!” he insisted. It was always the police who attacked.
AJ said when they took the hotel last week the owner sent around some thugs to get them out. But a few heavies were not enough to do that job, and now the case is before a judge. The owner is bankrupt, however, and AJ says the place was a mess they had to work hard to clean up. Big holes in the ceilings upstairs mark where thieves stripped out copper from plumbing and electrical systems. I asked why no graffiti? There was some from before, but the occupiers repainted the walls. There is a theater downstairs, AJ said, a historic site which should be used, “open for the people, even if it doesn't make money.”
I went to the communications office to check out AJ's story. A couple guys sitting around dozing, like some old time copy room in “The Front Page.” One young man with long blonde hair strode by, but told me he couldn't fact check AJ's story. He'd only arrived a few hours before, and was working on computer security. “That's my contribution here.” AJ too had plans to move on, to “walk north,” even as cold weather is coming on. He told me he saw the whole thing – the 15M movement, Occupy Wall Street – as the beginning of the real necessary transition. He was hipped on the Venus Project, a “feasible plan of action” for a “peaceful and sustainable global civilization” based on resource economies. (In fact thevenusproject.com site has a message to OWS.) “I might not live to see it, that kid might not live to see it,” AJ said, as the door-boy ran by, “but that's what's gotta happen.”
On my way out, a heavyset man in the concierge's position nodded to me. Bring on the thugs! While the “desk clerk” seemed unsure of the fate of the Hotel Madrid, a painted sign over the door announces that it is a CSO, an occupied social center. So far it seems to be that, as the indignadoes of 15M show that they are after a lot more than a few changes in the laws.

article on Hotel Madrid, with pictures

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"occupy and assemble"

Publisher Gerald Raunig was at the Creative Time Summit in New York last month -- the final talk of the conference adjourned to march down to Wall Street. Now comes this issue of "Transversal" on the subject... Hot off the um, presses. Even as organized labor and its resources come into the struggle of the Wall Street occupiers, it is important to remember: This action was emulating Madrid, which in turn was emulating Tunisia. It is international.
#occupy and assemble∞
transversal web journal
From the sit-ins on the Kasbah Square in Tunis to the tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, from the encampments on the Puerta del Sol in Madrid to Syntagma Square in Athens, from the Wisconsin Uprising to Occupy LA, from Tahrir Square in Cairo to Liberty Plaza in New York - there is an incredible movement of occupations growing in this year of 2011. Slogans like “They don’t represent us” call for a non-representationist political practice, inventive forms of assembling bring new meaning to the good old general assembly, reappropriations of space and time thwart the logic of private and public: There is a new abstract machine in the making, traversing the local practices, empowering itself with every new space that is occupied, every new assembly that finds another form of expression and sociality. This issue of transversal is a discursive component of this abstract machine emerging from the actual experiences of Occupy Wall Street, dedicated to all the precarious occupiers in the world.
Judith Butler: Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street
Nicole Demby: Liberty Plaza. A "Message" Entangled with its Form
Isabell Lorey: Non-representationist, Presentist Democracy
Gerald Raunig: The Molecular Strike
Nato Thompson: The Occupation of Wall Street Across Time and Space
Dan S. Wang: From One Moment to the Next, Wisconsin to Wall Street

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's happening...

I take it back -- I went by earlier, and thought this was a ploy to get NYPD out in force... But they are really doing it! This looks like the best live chat, free of right-wing "troll" spammers: https://occupywallst.org/chat/. The photo is from CNN -- tourists, unable to get their picture with the "bull"... It's great that this protest gets major coverage in U.S. media. That is, in itself, a victory!
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Manhattan's financial district on Saturday in a largely peaceful protest aimed at drawing attention to the role powerful financial interests played in wreaking havoc on America's economy.
Modeled on the "Arab Spring" uprisings that swept through Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and other countries this year, Occupy Wall Street is a "leaderless resistance movement" orchestrated through Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools. The Twitter hashtags #OccupyWallStreet and #TakeWallStreet lit up Saturday with coordination messages and solidarity tweets. (See CNNMoney's coverage in photos and tweets.)
68421PrintActivist magazine Adbusters spearheaded the event, putting the call out two months ago for participants in a Sept. 17 demonstration in lower Manhattan. Protestors arranged to meet and discuss their goals at the iconic Wall Street Bull statue at noon, as well as at a "people's assembly" at One Chase Manhattan Plaza at 3 p.m.
"The NYPD is aware of various protests and we have planned accordingly," Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne told CNN late Friday.
Early Saturday morning, police barricaded off Wall Street, erecting barriers around the bull statue that protestors had planned to make their rallying point. Protestors instead took to the surrounding streets, blocking traffic. By 2 p.m., nearly two dozen uniformed police officers surrounded the bull, while others worked to disperse the crowd.
"None associated with the demonstrations sought permits," Browne said Saturday. "A group that formed at the bull at Bowling Green spilled into the streets on each side of the bull, posed safety issues and impeded vehicular traffic. The streets were re-opened to vehicular traffic and barriers were subsequently erected at the bull to prevent a re-occurrence.
A marching band played as participants held impromptu yoga and tai chi classes in Bowling Green Park. Demonstrators moved their protest to another nearby park as their numbers swelled to around 500.
"Something needs to change," said one protester, who declined to give his name and covered half his face with a bandanna. "We need an economy for the people and by the people, not for the rich and by the rich."
Another protester, Rheannone Ball, chimed in: "It's our duty as Americans to fight for our country and to keep it true to serving its people. When it doesn't do that, it's immoral not to stand up and say something."
A call for 'justice:' Kalle Lasn, the editor-in-chief of Adbusters -- an activist magazine with a worldwide circulation of 100,000 readers -- said the editors there are angry that leaders in the financial sector "had not been brought to justice." Their inspiration came when pro-democracy uprisings broke out in Egypt on January 25 and quickly spread to other countries.
"We thought, why isn't there a backlash here?" Lasn told CNNMoney in an interview before the event. "We need to shake up the corporate-driven capitalist system we're in. To do that, we needed something radical."
Last month, cyberactivism group Anonymous released a video in support of the protest.
"It gave us a nice bit of street cred, some mystique. We lefties need a lot of mystique," Lasn said with a laugh.
That mystique is what drew Josh Dworning, a 20-year-old college student, to shell out $300 for a 24-hour train ride from Florida to New York.
"I heard about the protest through StumbleUpon, and I just really agreed that there's widespread discontent with the banks and corporations," Dworning said. "I'm no crazy radical, just a student who believes in something."
Dworning, who brought a tent for camping near Wall Street on Saturday night, said he's "planning on staying as peaceful as possible" -- though he'll be on alert, because "there's always the chance that someone can get a little too angry and throw a brick or something."
That's what scares Dworning's mom, Jeanne Molle, who said she's "a nervous mother watching her son get involved in a large-scale event in [a huge] city."
Lasn is hoping safety won't be an issue. A "Gandhi-like peaceful protest" is the only way the event will work, he says, though he acknowledges that central control is impossible over a group that organizers hope will swell to 20,000. And "there is a question of legality" around setting up tents and barricades, he admitted.
In a September test run of the occupation, nine people were arrested for disorderly conduct, and later released without being charged.
"It takes a lot to rise up and reform the global economic system," Lasn says. "And maybe this time we fail. But if we do, we're just setting the tone for the next revolution."
First Published: September 17, 2011: 4:18 PM ET
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Andrea Liu sent out this email -- Report on Second Day of Occupy Wall Street
i went down to the Occupy Wall Street Square Sunday night (9/18). it's coalesced since the first day into a relatively cohesive body with mechanisms to debate and decide action. they are calling it a "General Assembly." when i was there at 8:30PM they were trying to decide if they were gonna try to Occupy Wall Street this morning (Mon). people were taking turns giving speeches For or Against moving the protest to Wall Street. they were taking "stack." (i.e. at an activist meeting people get in line to give arguments for or against something).
there seemed to be 2 facilitators who were directing the discussion, they looked pretty young (college kids). then all of a sudden the police came and said that the (protest) signs all over the square had to be removed by 9:30PM, if the protesters didn't remove them the police would do it. then the debate switched to whether they should remove them or let the police do it. then they decided they would let the police do it, and film it. then some person who claimed to be a protester randomly started to remove the posters, and the protesters said he was an undercover cop, and they told him to stop. then they put back all the protest signs the removed, and sat on them.
here is the website for the process happening in the square--called New York City General Assembly:
Wall Street Bison (art project to replace the Wall Strete Bull with a Bison):
"Anonymous" (wikileaks hackers) is posting videos of Occupy Wall Street on its website:
"Celebrities" who have spoken in Occupy Wall Street square:
1. David Graeber, Yale anthropologist/anarchist who was fired for being too political, now teaches at Goldmsiths. parents fought in Spanish Civil War--he spoke around 7PM on Saturday:
2. Roseanne Barr/(Stand-up comedian/TV star)
3. Immortal Technique (rapper)
4. Lupe Fiasco (rapper)
Here are some summaries of what speeches i can remember from the General Assembly:
(speech 1): Isn't it fitting we started the Wall Street March in front of the Musuem of the American Indian? The reason they originally called this Wall Street is because they built a wall to keep out Indians. Now we are the Indians. What is to stop us from calling ourselves Indians?
(people in audience say "white privilege")
(speech 2): Most of get people in this square are not from NY. We have to do outreach to bring more people from NY here, because it is New Yorkers who live here permanently who are going to cause change.
(conversation i had with filmmaker): There is nobody here over 25, and it is all white people. Everybody is from out of town. There are no kids from Williamsburg or Brooklyn here.
(that's all i can remember--unfortunately i didn't have video camera).
ABC story:
Washington Post:
twitter search : #Occupy Wall Street

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"House Magic" #3 zine available as download

Before blasting off for vacation, I finished #3 and posted it online. You can download the 40-odd page zine from zinelibrary.info -- just search house+magic. Or you can go to the House Magic website at: https://sites.google.com/site/housemagicbfc/ (Number 1 & 2 are at both sites.)
“House Magic” #3 includes Bulletins from around the world; a stay at the Rote Insel in Berlin; a tour of the Regenbogen Fabrik/Rainbow Factory, Berlin; Ashley Dawson recollects his stay on Mainzerstrasse; “Right to the City” conference theses from Hamburg; a 1974 cover of Street by Ufe Surland; a new Provo pamphlet by Experimental Jetset; a talk with the artists of La Générale in Paris; photos and stories from the 1970s' squats on the Rue des Caves; visits by students to Metelkova Mesto in Ljubljana; stories from the USA, Bronx, San Francisco, and Hannah Dobbz' film “Squatumentary”; stories of “art squats” in Paris, London, Zurich, and Madrid; picture pages...
(That picture is the cover of HM#3 -- it was made into a giant banner and hung from the tower at New Yorck Bethanien CSOA in Berlin a couple of years ago.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Consultations on New UK Anti-Squatting Law

From Mujinga we hear -- In the UK, the government has now announced the consultation on the criminalisation of squatting - the documents make quite interesting reading-
press release
Consultation webpage
Consultation document (pdf)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Neoliberalism's Boll Weevils

When I was visiting at W139 in Amsterdam in May, I heard good buzz about Schijnheilig (Shine-high-lig). I headed over there late one night, after a poetry music festival, and saw that it was a big place, in a former school. They got kicked out this month. But no matter – they are going on to another place, as they have done for a number of years... This was the spirit of the squatters I met at Le Bourdon-L'Arsenal in Paris, painted on the facade of their okupa: “si vous nous expulsez ici... nous squatterons ailleurs/ nous n'arreterons jamais!”
Filmmaker Tino Buchholz has posted an interview with two Schijnheilig occupiers on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGtrRKtBGgk. Tino produced a film “Creativity and the Capitalist City: The Struggle for Affordable Space in Amsterdam” (premiering next weekend) which examines the situation in which artists find themselves in that city today. The mainspring of the film is the conflict between the decades-old squatting movement in the city and its neoliberal commercial enemy, the “anti-squatting” businesses that fill empty building spaces with resident “guardians” on short-term contracts.
Tino writes, “With this film I want to cover the creative city/ creative class debate at its high peak - tracing its urban roots - and aim to portray the wider picture of the struggle for affordable space in advanced Western capitalist cities. This film is more than a local documentary on Amsterdam. The hype around the creative city began already a decade ago, it is global in scope and about to reach its peak. What happens when the hype is over? Housing as a job or the Right to the City? In this sense, the film explores the latest urban re-/development pattern in advanced Western capitalist cities and links it to existential struggles for affordable housing and working space in Amsterdam, such as temporary accommodation, squatting, anti-squatting and some institutional synthesis: 'breeding places' Amsterdam. Especially Anti-Squatting, the market answer to squatting, poses a threat to the Right to the City, how to address the question of vacancy in the future. Hence, one of the crucial questions is: Housing as a job (living as a Guardian) or the Right to the City?” Tino is working out of Technische Universität Dortmund.
IN OTHER NEWS, “A Brief History of Squatting in Brighton,” Mujinga's new zine is available from northern-indymedia.org/zines/2075 -- as: “using space 5” -- he is blogging at -- https://network23.org/snob/. He informs us of a new grab! -- “Building in Central Brighton Occupied in Solidarity with June 30 Strikes – An abandoned shop front in Churchill Square, Brighton’s biggest shopping centre, has been occupied in solidarity with striking public sector workers. The building had been empty since August 2010 and the occupiers are already making repairs in order to rescue the building from dilapidation. The space will be used to form links between the striking public sector workers and other members of the public who are affected by the government’s public sector cuts, such as students, benefits claimants and private sector workers. Starting June 30th, the day of the strikes, the space will be open in the daytime and used as a place for people opposed to the cuts in general to meet one another, drink tea, and find out about anti-cuts actions. At 6pm everyday there will be an Anti-Cuts Forum, a public meeting open to all to participate. From 8pm until the space closes at night there will be film screenings and acoustic music. Drugs such as Alcohol, Nicotine and Ketamine are strictly forbidden in the space, along with all forms of oppressive behaviour such as Racism, Sexism and Homophobia. The space is non-party political and is open to anyone opposed to the government’s public sector cuts is welcome to the space at 29 Western Rd, Brighton, on the corner of Churchill square. All enquiries to 07563696458.” Cheers!
it's done -- Schijnheilig got the boot a couple days ago – here's the video --
rockin' squattin' action!, complete with noise-rock soundtrack...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Slammin' at Joe's Garage

Joe's Garage is a storefront social center in Amsterdam, and the site of the recent “mini-SQEK” meeting of squat researchers in early June. The center is amongst a web of streets named after the Dutch founders of South Africa (Afrikaaners). For years this nabe was the home of immigrants living in social housing, and now the relentless pressure of the city's housing market has led to a cycle of speculation, evictions, and redevelopment as luxury condos. Amsterdam's squatting group east has conducted a campaign of occupation and tenant organizing against this gentrification. The center is named for Joe McCarthy – not the U.S. rightwing senator from Wisconsin, really, but another, Joe Cyrus McCarthy, an Iranian who backed the Shah and fled to Amsterdam after Khomeini came to power. This Joe bought a house, Momo our host told us, with black money and intimidated the rental tenants into moving out. Amsterdam real estate, we were told, is a perfect setup for black money and the creeps who handle it. It's a laundry circle – a house is worth 150K full of tenants, and a million empty. But Joe was found out by the authorities, Momo said. He fled the country to avoid prosecution, and the squatters grabbed his house. This was the first Joe's Garage, which they held for seven years. (Relatives of the owner took them to court, but could not prove they owned the building.) Because of the irony of his name, the squatters used Charlie Chaplin as a symbol. (Chaplin was expelled from the U.S. as a communist during McCarthy's blacklist crusade.) In 2008 the water cannons of the police appeared at the door of Joe's Garage at 6:30 in the morning. It was time to move... across the street!
Nazima, a U.S. anthropology student, has been studying the squatters of Amsterdam for several years, immersing herself in their anti-gentrification campaigns. She shared her work, which is basically concerned with the internal dynamics of the squatter movement itself. She traces the dyamics and trajectory of activists' “careers in the movement as a scripted path to self-realization and autonomy.” She spent a while discussing conflict – the kind of thing artist Seth Tobocman limns so well in his graphic novel about NYC squats, “War in the Neighborhood” (1999). Through her work one can see how a squatted house can fail internally before it is evicted.
Cesar presented his work on the Italian social center movement in Milan in the mid-1970s, the high tide of the radical left. In only two years, between 1975 and '77, 35 illegal social centers opened in Milan – (among them were today's survivors Leon Cavallo and Cox 18). The city became a point of diffusion of the movement to other cities in Italy and abroad, especially Spain. Tino Buchholz, who just finished a film about Amsterdam called “Creativity and the Capitalist City,” reported on the big Hamburg meeting of Right to the City, which was nearly simultaneous with our conclave.
Miguel told us more about Spain, especially the encampment in the Puerta del Sol (which is packing up even as I write this – the first phase is over, but this movement is by no means finished). On the 15th of of May, Miguel went to the plaza with 500 people in the autonomist and libertarian bloc. There they found themselves in a crowd of 15,000, and their objections melted away. The group which had called the demonstration decided to occupy the plaza, and Miguel's bloc joined them under conditions they had not previously agreed to – i.e., no violence, reformist claims on the democratic system, talking to the mass media, etc. “But we liked that this demonstration was forbidden, management was absolutely horizontal, and no flags – even the anarchist flags were forbidden. Finally, taking the public space – we wanted always to mobilize people in the street.... Finally it was a very autonomous movement, even for people who never listened to the word 'autonomy' – it was absolutely new.” There were many problems, with homeless people, sexist attitudes by men, excessive drinking (a condition of this touristical square at any time), and a lack of political memory. “But the truth is that something changed. Now even squat social centers which didn't work together in the past are working together in this occupation.” (That is, the huge permitted social center in a government building called Tabacalera, and some illegal centers are working together. Recently, excellent analytic texts in English on this movement have appeared on the Transversal website and Interactivist.net.)
Hans Pruijt took on what he called an emerging argument among intellectuals that squatting is a precursor of neoliberalism. He outlined the reasons -- among them, that squatters and social centers are plugging holes left by the retreating state with their giveaway shops, language classes, free food, etc. This led to a lively discussion, particularly about the ways in which the squatting movement across Europe has become a sort of training ground for future managers and politicians.
While the “mini-SQEK” was fascinating as ever, I had also other fish to fry in Amsterdam. (The herring are running, and I ate some raw with chopped onions and pickles at a stand parked on a canal bridge.) I had an assignment in Amsterdam., to make a talk at the W139 art space. They were hosting a show by British artist Jonathan Monk – (Glasgow trained) – which was a kind of spectacular gloss on a 1989 show of “East Village” artists called “Horn of Plenty,” a show at the Stedelijk Museum which had influenced Monk as a student. He had W139 drop the ceiling on the spectacular interior space to exactly his own height while wearing high heels. The drop concealed about 10 meters of light-filled gallery, creating a bizarrely institutional environment to look at installation photographs of the 1990 exhibition. I had been recommended to the lanky director of W139, Tim Voss, to talk about the East Village district, aka the Lower East Side, “back in the day” – 1980s and '90s... but, typically, perversely, I talked about the Lower East Side in the 1960s. (If you're interested, a script of that talk will soon be posted on the “House Magic” website with the related Rote Flora show materials.) I'm afraid it was something of a mismatch. Monk is a very interesting artist, but political he is not. He seemed a little bewildered as I blathered on about Ben Morea, Valerie Solanas, Tuli Kupferberg, Bullet Space, Fly, ABC No Rio and the Rivington School – the standard roster of crusty heroes and heroines of the rebel LES. They are all really remote from the artists of the 1989 “Horn” show (at the time my gang called them the “neo-geos”). We did all agree that when there's no opportunities, artists really have to do it for themselves. (Jonathan did it in Glasgow, with his schoolmates.)
W139 is a prime example. It was squatted in 1979. I met Ad de Jong at Monk's opening party, a graphic designer and one of the original bunch who “cracked” the building. He told how a fellow wandered in then, a “financial guy,” who said his gang could secure the building for a long time if they did something for the community. So they made it a real art space. Now the W139 group owns the building, which has been beautifully renovated as one of the biggest cultural spaces in the center. It has a huge downstairs – which the artists' collective Jochen Schmith has asphalted(!), a bizarre floor treatment which made the opening party edgy with the tinkle of beer bottles just aching to be smashed... A friend of the crew later drove his custom made open road motorcycle around the place, making a hell of a lot of noise and a nice tire mark on the wall – it seemed superbly elegant and appropriate to the installation.
W139 is in the center, very close to the central station. They are surrounded now by “coffee shops” which sell marijuana and other intoxicants, and a stone's throw from the red light district where goggle-eyed young men oogle the ladies in their glass-fronted cages on the street.
What with the mini-SQEK and the talk for W139, I didn't have much of a chance to check out other squat scenes. Amsterdam abounds in them, past and present, despite the recent anti-squatting law. I made it to Schijnheilig (Shine-High-lig), a squatted cultural center in an old school which was hosting a music and concrete poetry night. (“It was in Dutch,” Renée Ridgway told me, to console me since I missed the performance.) Vincent Boschma, my host at W139, told me this place is due to be evicted in a wave of police actions against squatters next week. (Vincent was also busy with his installation in a deserted shopping center – but the artists did not squat, instead they have been allowed to use it) Although they will soon lose the place, the Schijnheilig was squatted by a group which reckons with being kicked out, just like the Really Free School in London. They will go on to another place after this. Renée and I went up to her place with Alan Smart. (She has a studio in the Kinkestraat, a famous old squat gone legal.) There we looked at Alan's collection of Provo and Kabouter documents, lovingly gathered from various antiquarian book shops. The vitality, creativity, and pure Dutch cheek of these movements is still palpable from these well-made (albeit cheaply produced) old pamphlets and books.
On my last day I biked around to look at Binnenpret and OCCI, two relatively recent squatted spaces out along the Overtoom, a busy street that runs near one side of the Vondel Park. Binnenpret is a complex of low buildings. One, an important venue for new music and punk bands in the city, has been renovated in some bizarre traditional manner. It is all tarted up with bright colors on bare wood, and looks like a postcard Swiss chalet. In the courtyard of Binnenpret, a complex of projects in small buildings, it's hippie-land. A bare-breasted Dutch couple darted out of the collective sauna to check the weather in the courtyard: “Oh, it's raining!,” and went back in. The lovely cafe, a glass-fronted jewel-box with a charming garden outside it was closed. Another joint, Ot301, is a giant dark 1955 office or school building fronting on a courtyard. Downstairs a finely tricked-out space is important for new music. The guy working there couldn't tell me about anything else going on in the building... but somewhere in there is the graphic design group Experimental Jetset. They are working on the legalization and contract for Ot301, visiting other places that began as squats to get ideas. Their last pit stop was ABC No Rio in New York. It's a small world after all....

Joe's Garage, een autonoom sociaal centrum in een kraakpand in oost amsterdam

Hamburg Right to the City conference in early June, 2011, an invitation to invites to collective confusions, encounters and diversions.

Creativity and the capitalist city, the struggle for affordable space in Amsterdam, a film by Tino Buchholz.
(see also a trailer on YouTube)

i don't yet do this Twitter thing, but if you do, the hashtag for the 15th of May movement is #spanishrevolution

the contemporary art space W139

I will soon post the W139 texts to the House Magic website part which has related content, "Rote Flora solidarity show Spring 2011"

Schijnheilig, a nomadic collective in Amsterdam doing a queer venture of creative activism and critical yadda yadda

OCCII | Onafhankelijk Cultureel Centrum In It


OT301 home/news, studios/parties, cinema, de peper, gallery, agenda, archive ...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fun 'Endless Summer' Action...

After my talk Monday night at Bluestockings Books, I am out of here (NYC). Some people from Real Democracy Now are in town from Spain. They are blogging in English about the occupations in Puerta del Sol, Madrid, and other parts of the country. I am hoping the people are still there when I return to town... Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, folks are taking off their clothes. Ask Katzeff tells us that around 1,000 people squatted an abandoned building near the free city of Christiania called Søminen. The idea is to turn the place into a self-managed social center. The photostream shows a really fun and wild-assed rave-up. The question is, can a party become an institution?

English blog on Spanish movement

Photos in Java on the Copenhagen occupation

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Back in the USSA

I've been snuffling around the old neighborhood these days – the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Yes, of course, it's a zone of young corporate stiffs now. Some streets are solid with bars pouring cheap beer at perpetual happy hours. I made a weekend pub crawl, just to smell the crowds. They were all in rut. Outside the famous art bar Max Fish was a rope and two really big guys in black suits controlling entrance. They took my state ID and put it into a scanner device which recorded it. Then I could go inside. These are cops hired to protect the business from the cops. Max Fish was recently closed for serving and under-21. The building Max Fish is in was until recently owned by the Elliots, old school LES landlords. Then it went to a son of them, who is a global wheeler-dealer type. This schlub tried to get the place, lock stock and liquor license – in a kind of “primitive appropriation” of the cultural capital of artists that is revealing of the true state of creatives in the super-heated global cities today. When he was thwarted, the schlub sold it to the owner of American Apparel – a clothing company which people mistakenly believe is somehow a fair labor practice operation. (The company has “greenwashed” itself on that issue from the get-go, basing their advertising on a softcore update of the labor unions' own historical “Union Maid” [i.e., “made”] campaigns of the '30s. This new owner is really rich, not just a little rich, and he looks to have an in with the cops. Because the old-school bully tactics of the Elliot son have been replaced by continuous official harrassment of Max Fish. (Although the Fish is not alone in this; other places that serve a non-bourgeois clientele are also under pressure.) The kind of giant klieg lights you see being used on the main drug dealing streets of ghettos in Baltimore are set up to shine in the windows of Max Fish for no apparent reason. (They ought to flash “get out!”) And somehow it is nearly impossible to register a complaint about this via the city's 311 municipal help line. No city agency seems to be responsible for the lights which bear NYPD logos. For the artists who made this neighborhood cool, “The future's so bright I've got to wear shades.”
Around the corner on Houston Street in the new skyscraper built with German capital, the No Longer Empty group has installed an actually decent art show in a large vacant storefront. I told them they were the enemy, because in Europe their kind of group forestalls occupations by temporarily filling a prominent vacant property with cultural content. (Kind of like Max Fish, although there the illusion was that it was a business with some hope of continuous tenancy. “Don't worry, boss. We can fix that.”) The chipper young gals sitting the place were a little baffled by that. But that's the way in NYC, artists and their presence manipulated like quicksilver, flowing rapidly around the city's vacant spots like some kind of flouride treatment for the epidemic of caries infecting the commercial real estate market. The technique was pioneered by the daughter of Durst, a major developer of Times Square. She started Chashama to fill the vacated storefronts along 42nd Street before they were demolished. Chashama programs continue today. They just closed a street art exhibition in the vacant NY Public Library building across the street from the Museum of Modern Art. Chashama is intelligent, and fearless in their embrace of edgy (read “non-commodity”) art. They even hosted an early anarchist convergence. NL Empty is a lot more timid. And they certainly don't understand themselves as being essentially a volunteer-run version of the kind of companies that will fill your vacant building in Amsterdam and London with short-term tenants who sign away their rights to stay – the “squatter-proofing” companies. At the Berlin SQEK meeting, Hans Pruijt told us that representatives of these companies were working with him to lobby against the recent Dutch anti-squatter laws. Of course, like the CIA funding the Taliban... keeping a good thing going.
With its heavy security cordon, Max Fish was pretty sedate inside. Nowadays most East Village bars play such loud music that social intercourse is reduced to gulping drinks and smelling each others' behinds. So I could relax, among the other controlled, amidst the gloriously painted walls and lavish art displays. I chatted with bartender and painter Harry Druzd – all the employees there are artists – and then walked on, to the Bowery Poetry Club. Nearby another empty newly renovated storefront has been spraypainted “Private Property.” (Duh.) Inside, a sort-of art show seems to be in progress, evidenced by a Samo-style graffito on the wall to the effect that “I am my own person...” The two graffiti read together make a kind of odious continuity between individuality and ownership. I was philosophically disgusted. I walked into the Yippie Museum. “This place smells like cat piss,” I told the barista. He wanted me to leave. So I told my story, and the only other people in the place, a young man and his friend, told me, “That's a case of predicate logic.” Even so, it's dangerous. As the great Reverend Billy told us at “service” that Sunday, our freedoms are being commodified, and sold to us as products. Billy entertains to liberate. For the neo-culture industry, it is as the French journal Offensive puts it, “Divertir pour dominer.”

Max Fish, Lower East Side "original" art bar

Yippie Museum Cafe and Gift shop and the Lenny Bruce Academy of Sick Comedy

Bowery Poetry Club, with "digital poet in residence" (??)

Chashama -- group of theaters, gallery spaces, and studios

Reverend Billy & The Church of Earthalujah!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Paris Is Burning

My trip is done – Berlin, Hamburg, Paris – a rich experience, in forms both direct and mediated. Again I realize that for all I have learned, more in fact that I can tell, it is only scratching the surface of a vast networked cultural and political resistance tradition, a resistance that, having been denied systemic political outlets, has perforce become cultural and sportive. Stick this in your “creative city” and smoke it!
My hosts in Paris were in La Générale which is actually in Sèvres, across the river from the last metro stop. Their place is at the end of a rather harrowing walk along a metropolitan super-highway, towards forbidding looking corporate towers. I'm sorry, but Sèvres sucks. Along the Grand Rue one morning, I walked for an hour and could not find a cafe I wanted to have a coffee in. The mad expensive ones inside the corporate Novotel across the street were out of the question. After I passed the morning forest of salarymen on cel phones out front of the hotel, I walked on past sad businesses with bright neon-colored paper signs in profusion. The town seemed full of sour looking people, and devoid of interesting shops. Above the street, as if on cliffs, are obviously charming palaces – Louis Philippe's was here. But you are not invited. I don't know what is supposed to be going on in this town; some big schools and buildings with the ugliest architecture I've seen in a long while, kind of like parts of East Berlin or Poland, without those countries' good excuse for official ugliness.
But it wasn't always like this. Later, in a chat with Eric at La Générale, I am told that Sèvres was once a Red town (communist municipal government). The factories were here, and much social housing. Then suddenly the Renault plant was razed – it was a scandal at the time... During those “good old days,” there was a squatted street, or street with many squats – Rue des Caves... all evicted, and renamed “Rue des Caves de Roi” – like only the king ever stored wine here; revanchism with a capital R.
The artists of La Générale squatted a grand empty building in Belleville, central Paris some years back, and got popular. With wild parties attended by movie stars, they became hard to ignore. They were given short-term tenure in an abandoned school of ceramics behind the sprawling royal manufactory of porcelain that sits below Versailles, and began La Générale en Manufacture. All is quiet now, as the artists tiptoe around the listed historical building, making art and music in the light-filled premises. The theater people waited a couple of years, and then were given a building to continue normally. All of this history was laid out for me in a wonderful interview with the artists which will appear in “House Magic” #3. (I'm working on it now, rather than waiting like I did in July – with the consequence that all the Hamburg stuff didn't come out.)
I was welcomed by Jerome Guigue, Michel Chevalier's compadre. He was busy with his new baby, however, and Eric Lombard took over as my genial host. Eric is a punk connoisseur, and former co-conspirator in the Montreuil art squat Zoumééééé. Béatrice toured me around underground Paris, to Radio Libertaire, the “voice of the anarchist federation,” where I talked about “House Magic” and she translated. A rare honor, to be sure. Beatrice also took me to meet Anna in Montreuil, where we toured shuttered former squats, ending up at an apartment complex occupied by Malian immigrant laborers. The place, near metro Robespierre, had been opened by squatters who lived with the immigrants for a while before turning the place over to Bambara elders. Paris is the “second city” of Mali.
The next day we visited a newly opened squat in Fontenay, at the opposite end of Paris, in a former Catholic school that is awaiting transfer to the municipality. The house is across from the train station, and immediately identifiable by the red and black flags flying from its towers. Inside a handsome grubby bunch of young people, French, mostly but with a sprinkling of travelers from other nations – including two Russians. They were holding seminars on Marx's “Capital,” and the library is already full of books after only two weeks in occupation. (I saw Lefebvre's “Production of Space,” a theory of self-reflection for these guys.) There seems a chance to develop the place as a community center, open the door and let vendors sell in there, start a garden cafe, a library, a school for liberation education. But the squatters are young, and spoke self-consciously of their lack of unity. They were political kraakers, pure and simple, and they expect to be evicted. Someone else would have to do the job of insurrectionary urban development.
After spooning soup with the Fontenay occupiers, and washing some of their mountainous dishes in return – (I always feel compelled to do this when I eat with young anarchist squatters), I was invited to visit another. We rolled out to metro Bastille (do we see a pattern in these names?), to Le Bourdon-l'Arsenal, also festooned with red and black flags and defiant graffiti. The place has seen some memorable parties downstairs. Their logo is a deer in the street, fist raised beside a pile of burning debris. Behind the deer-person, what looks like a line of police with riot shields stand in front of a line of barbed wire -- or is it a crowd behind the animal? Maybe I am reading a cheerful fatalism into this image... I waited with the squatters for dinner. They were chatting and joking, and nervously looking out the window. The occupation had lost in court, and was awaiting eviction. “Ah, there's the flics now, across the street.” Very tense – really like a play of theater.
I am not really into talking about folks getting beaten and killed and all. “Accentuate the positive” is my motto. But it can be hard to avoid. I was looking for some photos of the Paris cops I saw at a recent demonstration for Côte d'Ivoire at metro stop Nation. (Mine were wretched and fearful.) But when I Googled for them, I got instead Washington D.C. police. Ugly? Yeah. I mean, these guys watched "Star Wars" and identified with Darth Vader. (They like black.) They do look exactly like the cops in Paris, except the French were dangling more guns. What's up with this shit? It takes Germans to tell the tale, Germany where cops like to visit bookstores and take things so others can't read them. From the University of Göteborg Resistance Studies Network, an article on how Richmond, Virginia police consider demonstrators terrorists, and warn of the new “methods of assembly” they are using. (Cel phones? Email lists? Blogs? “Can U Rd This?”) This is old news – January, '11. And uncovered by anarchists of the Wingnut Collective using Freedom of Information statutes. I wonder if these innovative police are in Bahrain and Syria now studying new methods of crowd control? Yes, well, sometimes you just have shoot people.

Le squat de la rue des caves à l'honneur
although my French is wretched, you can see a chronological illustrated presentation here. This website is part of – http://sevres2006.over-blog.com/ext/http://www.lemonde.fr/web/vi/0,47-0@2-3246,54-946861@51-947082,0.html – which appears to be part of a 2007 Le Monde series on "Squats d'artistes, la culture en friche."

La Générale en Manufacture

Radio Libertaire, 89.4, la voix de la fédération anarchiste

Le Bourdon-l'Arsenal OSC

Resistance Studies Network

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Berlín 2011: ¿Qué ha quedado de las okupaciones en el movimiento alternativo?

por Miguel Angel Martinez
Guardado en: Movimiento Okupa, Movimientos Sociales, Espacios
El cuarto encuentro de SQEK (Squatting Europe Kollective) nos ha convocado a finales de marzo en Berlín. La ciudad está cambiando su apariencia a gran velocidad desde que cayó el Muro que la dividió sangrientamente de 1961 a 1989, y no menos mudanzas han ido experimentado estas últimas décadas los movimientos sociales de la izquierda radical. Como siempre, nuestro objetivo en tanto que grupo de investigadores-activistas dista mucho de enclaustrarnos en nuestras disquisiciones académicas por lo que aprovechamos cada encuentro para empaparnos en la efervescencia política de la ciudad y para compartir impresiones con la gente que nos acoge. En esta ocasión podía resultar paradójico que nos reuniésemos en un país donde las okupaciones están, en principio, proscritas y son ferozmente abortadas antes de sus primeras 24 horas de exposición pública. Sin embargo, todavía es posible percibir la estela de una de las oleadas de okupación más interesantes que hubo en Europa hasta 1981, por una parte, y en los años inmediatos a la reunificación de las dos Alemanias, por otra. Y su interés radica en que suscitaron una simultánea actividad represiva y negociadora que no dejó a nadie indiferente. ¿Qué ha quedado de todo aquello, pues? ¿Ha desaparecido finalmente la okupación del repertorio de acción y de identidad de la izquierda radical de la ciudad?
Carla Macdougall (profesora de historia de la universidad de Rutgers, New Jersey) y Armin Kuhn (politólogo realizando su tesis doctoral en la universidad de Potsdam) fueron nuestros cicerones por algunos de los hitos históricos del barrio de Kreuzberg que, en su mayor parte, quedó del lado occidental tras la escisión postbélica. Partiendo de la Oranienplatz nos indicaron la multitud de edificaciones residenciales que originalmente se habían apelmazado junto a fábricas y almacenes, alojando a humildes inmigrantes alemanes y turcos, y acumulando muchas deficiencias en su habitabilidad durante los lustros posteriores a la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Desde mediados de la década de 1950 comenzaron a idearse planes de renovación del barrio que suponían drásticas demoliciones en el conjunto del distrito. No obstante, poco a poco las protestas de los residentes empujaron a los sucesivos urbanistas a aceptar procesos participativos y a diseñar, ya en la década de 1970, una rehabilitación general menos agresiva, que no expulsara a la población trabajadora y que recuperara los espacios industriales y los patios dando lugar a los numerosos jardines y parques infantiles que son visibles hoy en día. En aquel período de intenso movimiento vecinal asambleario surgieron múltiples comités -como el pionero SO 36 del que hay abundante iconografía en el fascinante museo comunitario de Adelbergstrasse- que optaron por las okupación de edificios vacíos como un modo más de intervenir en los procesos de rehabilitación.
Sólo en Kreuzberg, Macdougall y Kuhn estiman en unas 160 las okupaciones de aquel período. De ellas, unas 120 adquirieron posteriormente un estatuto legal y las restantes fueron desalojadas. Al menos cinco casos, como los de Naunynstrasse y Mariannenstrasse (Schokoladenfabrik), se constituyeron como proyectos feministas y lesbianos que han perdurado hasta la actualidad. En realidad, aunque el movimiento urbano tenía por entonces una fuerza social inusitada, la mayoría de colectivos okupantes aceptaron la legalización tanto porque el nuevo gobierno conservador -desde mayo de 1981- no les daba un sólo día de respiro en la ilegalidad, como por las enormes ventajas económicas que les proporcionaba. Si los okupas negociaban un contrato adecuado con la propiedad del inmueble okupado, el gobierno de la ciudad-Estado (Stadt) les concedía amplias subvenciones para renovar el edificio: en torno al 80% a fondo perdido y permitiendo que el 20% restante se aportase en forma de trabajo por parte de los residentes. Al final, las condiciones de cada contrato dependían mucho del tipo de propietario, del estado del edificio y del vigor organizativo del proyecto de cada colectivo okupante, pero, en su mayoría, se firmaron contratos de alquiler por períodos de unos 30 años. Los problemas, por lo tanto, han arreciado cuando los contratos iban expirando y los propietarios se han negado a prorrogarlos o, incluso antes, han alegado su incumplimiento. Los desalojos policiales no se han hecho esperar y a ese fatídico destino se abocó recientemente a Liebigstrasse 14, en el distrito de Friedischain, que cerró sus puertas el pasado mes de febrero después de una intensa campaña de protestas que culminó con una manifestación trufada de disturbios y arrestos.
En Berlín apenas hay ya nuevas okupaciones pero estamos en una época en la que se suceden los desalojos de antiguas okupaciones que han subsistido en la legalidad como “hausprojekts”. El caso más sonado en los últimos años lo protagonizaron los habitantes de Yorckstrasse 59. Dos inversores privados, cuyas fotos y viviendas se difundieron ampliamente en carteles de denuncia, se hicieron con la propiedad del edificio y con diversas triquiñuelas legales consiguieron el desahucio en 2005. La respuesta social inmediata fue una okupación de unas dependencias municipales abandonadas en el complejo de edificios de Bethanien, donde se ubican un hospital psiquiátrico, una escuela infantil, un comedor y salas para ensayos de teatro. New Yorck fue el nombre que le dieron al nuevo proyecto que, sorprendentemente, no fue desalojado el mismo día de su apertura pública. Después de dos años de movilizaciones continuas las autoridades municipales temieron un incremento de la tensión y aguardaron cinco días, pero entonces ya era demasiado tarde y la policía se negó a ejecutar el desalojo al margen de los procedimientos legales. Unos meses más tarde el nuevo gobierno de izquierdas del distrito también intentó el desalojo pero enseguida aceptó negociar con los okupas y se firmó un acuerdo por un alquiler mensual de 6000 euros. El New Yorck se dividió entre un “hausprojekt” con 30 habitaciones y un centro social con salas de reuniones. Pagando una renta aproximada de 200 euros cada habitación se consiguen abonar 5000 euros, y los restantes 1000 quedan como responsabilidad de los distintos proyectos políticos y sociales que alberga el centro social, entre los que se han incluido las jornadas de SQEK.
Podrían parecer precios elevados si se desconociese la fulgurante transformación que ha sufrido la ciudad en la última década. En un artículo del número de abril de 2011 de la revista berlinesa en inglés EXB, se registraba un incremento del 4,3% en los alquileres y 5% en los precios de compraventa durante el pasado año. La elitización y la globalización capitalista de la ciudad han sido promocionadas con vehemencia por las autoridades buscando la atracción de turistas, sedes de empresas y capitales inversores. Para ello no han escatimado en recursos públicos con el fin de dotarla de una imagen cultural, urbana y arquitectónica acorde a esas expectativas. Las políticas públicas en favor de la vivienda social asequible, por el contrario, se han resentido notablemente a pesar de haber contado con un considerable patrimonio público en esa materia. Por mencionar una de las enajenaciones más escandalosas, en 2004 se vendieron 60.000 viviendas públicas al lamentablemente famoso banco Goldman Sachs a un precio por unidad de unos 6.100 euros. En 2009 el banco consiguió vender 15.000 de esos pisos a precios que rondaban los 50.000 euros cada uno (Joel Alas, EXB, abril 2011).
Kreuzberg y Friedrischain son todavía las zonas más populares y de mayor diversidad social de Berlín donde se habían concentrado la mayoría de hausprojekts, aunque en los últimos años su imagen multicultural y su animada vida urbana les han servido también para atraer nuevos residentes, cafés, empresas de servicios, especuladores inmobiliarios y operaciones de regeneración urbana. Es decir, que el incremento de precios y la expulsión de las clases trabajadoras está extendiéndose implacable por sus calles con la consiguiente repercusión en acortar la esperanza de vida de los proyectos de vida colectiva. En realidad, tal como apunta Sara, una de las más longevas habitantes de Rote Insel -el hausprojekt situado en Mannsteinstrasse, en el distrito de Schoneberg, que nos ofreció alojamiento- en algunos casos ha desparecido completamente el “habitar en común” que inspiró a casi todos los hausprojekt en sus albores. Desaparecen las cocinas y las salas comunes, se cierran con llave los pisos y, en ocasiones, se llega a adquirir individualmente la propiedad de las viviendas, olvidando toda relación con los vecinos y compañeros activistas previos. Rote Insel es uno de los proyectos que más se resiste a esa deriva. En una larga conversación con varios de sus miembros y revisando las reliquias de su álbum de fotos pudimos reconstruir los dilemas que se les han presentado a otras experiencias semejantes. Rote Insel fue okupado en 1981 y, tras muchos debates y rupturas internas, negoció un contrato de arrendamiento con el gobierno del distrito en 1984. Las obras de acondicionamiento del edificio, otrora casi en ruinas, avanzaron muy lentamente y con muchos reflujos que casi anulan la aportación económica pública. Se prolongaron durante diez años y los 25 primeros habitantes vivieron confinados a una cocina y muy pocos dormitorios. En 1997 firmaron como asociación (incluyendo a un centro social juvenil y unos espacios de aparcamiento) un nuevo contrato por 20 años más. Martin, Mufflon, Kathia e Iratxe -algunos de sus actuales residentes con quienes charlamos- consideran que será complicada la renovación del contrato cuando este concluya aunque de momento se concentran en resolver en su asamblea quincenal los abundantes conflictos de gestión que ya comporta todo el proyecto. El edificio tiene una fachada gris y granate, con una medianera pintada alegremente con imágenes y alusiones a los colectivos de la izquierda radical. Tiene dos puertas independientes y en cada piso hay una cocina común, además de todas las habitaciones sin cerradura. En uno de los bloques hay un salón donde se realizan las asambleas y se acoge a los visitantes ocasionales que les visitan constantemente. Excepto Sara y sus hijos, ninguno de los okupas originales sigue morando en el edificio. Al ser preguntados por los conflictos pasados, hay cierta unanimidad en señalara las drogadicciones como principal amenaza a la vida colectiva. Cuando se trataba de heroína, la expulsión era expedita. Sin embargo, declaran que no tienen unas normas de convivencia escritas y que tan sólo se guían por dos principios básicos: la prohibición de la violencia entre ellos y una mínima colaboración en las tareas colectivas. El consumo habitual de drogas, argumentan, suele conllevar relaciones violentas en la comunidad y, por lo tanto, no se permite que sus causantes permanezcan en ella. Limpiar baños, cocinas, escaleras y zonas comunes es algo que se consigue sin turnos fijos, con un poco de presión colectiva informal.
Desde octubre de 2010 se alojan provisionalmente en el salón Aritz, David y Saioa. Han venido de Vitoria a trabajar en Berlín en lo que pueden (empleos muy por debajo de su cualificación debido a su impericia con el idioma alemán) y esperan a que quede libre alguna habitación en Rote Insel para poder establecerse con más comodidad. Junto a Yunai, un arqueólogo turco que escapó del servicio militar obligatorio de su país, y el brasileño Gustavo, se encargan todos los viernes de la “solipizza” en el local del edificio. Vendiendo excelentes pizzas caseras a 2 euros cada una y cervezas a 1 euro constituyen una de las múltiples citas gastronómicas (voku) que se ofertan cada día en los espacios sociales de los hausprojekts, anunciadas puntualmente en la última página del boletín mensual StressFaktor. El mes pasado dedicaron la recaudación a la solidaridad con Liebig14. Son parte de la comisión de Rote Insel que gestiona esta especie de “bar privado” (por falta de licencia legal no está abierto al público y es necesario llamar al timbre para entrar) siempre con fines solidarios. Tampoco el taller de bicicletas está oficialmente publicitado, aunque resulta de utilidad para propios y allegados. Este relativo cierre contrasta con los “centros sociales” de otros hausprojekts muy conocidos y concurridos como el teatro y la sala The Clash en el Mehringhof, que antaño fue el principal bastión “autónomo”, o la Schokoladenfabrik donde existe un “haman” (baño y masaje árabe) sólo para mujeres y una cafetería en apariencia indistinguible de todas las demás con aspecto bohemio que se concentran en la zona. Como era de suponer, para algunos activistas esos proyectos de autoempleo pueden caer fácilmente bajo el aura de la despolitización, del consumo y de la gentrification.
A simple vista no es fácil discernir un hausprojekt de cualquier otro edificio. Ni siquiera la presencia de graffitti, frases elocuentes en las fachadas o coloridos murales son un indicio fiable ya que en algunos barrios son prácticas muy extendidas (la campaña RYC -Reclaim Your City- por ejemplo, se puede ver estarcida con grandes letras en muchas medianeras). Sólo la guía de personas involucradas en ellos puede ayudar a bosquejar su localización y las conexiones mutuas que mantienen. Los mencionados desalojos o las amenazas de próximos desalojos (como el que se cierne sobre la Kopi desde 2006) han puesto de manifiesto que todavía suscitan un apoyo amplio entre la izquierda radical de la ciudad. Martin añade que el otro punto de consenso es la crítica contra la elitización (gentrification) y la expulsión de residentes trabajadores. Pero, según este activista, los ejes de división clásicos entre militantes izquierdistas alemanes perduran y hacen mucho daño: el conflicto Israel-Palestina, el recurso a la violencia política, el sexismo y el anti-fascismo. Las negociaciones puntuales con los representantes políticos, por su parte, son aceptadas tácticamente por muchos colectivos aunque se rechacen en general, según la opinión de los miembros de Rote Insel. Dido, un miembro de la organización del Queerruption, indica que hoy en día predominan los grupos anarquistas en el movimiento alternativo de Berlín, coexistiendo con una organización “autónoma”, algunos colectivos punk, varias organizaciones comunistas extraparlamentarias, antifascistas, ecologistas, veganos, grupos de mujeres, artistas y empresas sociales. Más o menos, todo lo que aparece en la publicación regular StressFaktor y que él prefiere denominar simplemente como “movimiento contracultural”. El “May Day” o Primero de Mayo alternativo sigue siendo uno de los puntos álgidos de expresión de las facciones más combativas de ese movimiento en la calle, pero el resto del año no es frecuente asistir a convergencias muy duraderas.
Carla y Armin nos invitaron una tarde a conocer el proyecto Regenbogen Frabik (Fábrica Arcoiris) como otro ejemplo de resistencia y construcción de alternativas de vida social sostenibles y autogestionarias, a pesar de su relativamente precaria legalización. Aun no han pagado ni una sola de las mensualidades de alquiler a las que se comprometieron cuando cerraron las negociaciones con el Senado de Berlín en 1984. Y, sin embargo, hace poco han conseguido de esa misma entidad una subvención de 100.000 euros para arreglar los tejados y remodelar su salón de teatro y cine al que acuden espectadores de toda la ciudad. Andy, uno de sus más veteranos animadores, nos relató, prolijo, que el contrato firmado incluía la responsabilidad de los okupas en la descontaminación del suelo del patio. Ahora hay un parque infantil situado en el centro de la parcela y Andy asegura que la contaminación ya es mínima y que la tierra se analiza regularmente. El día de la visita -miércoles- tanto el taller de bicis como el de carpintería estaban restringidos exclusivamente para las mujeres. Además de un café-restaurante abierto al público en general en la calle Lausitzerstrasse 22, al lado del canal del Spree que atraviesa Kreuzberg, entre sus variadas iniciativas se cuenta un “hostel” con precios muy asequibles (de 10 a 38 euros por noche) en el que, aplicando a rajatabla el principio de “auto-ayuda”, se solicita a los huéspedes que limpien sus habitaciones.
Las viejas instalaciones fabriles y el bloque de 18 viviendas adyacente que constituyen Regenbogen Fabrik se okuparon en 1981 por unas 50 personas. Las motivaciones de aquellos jóvenes eran ya diversas en sus inicios: desde quienes deseaban experimentar con formas colectivas de convivencia y compartiendo la maternidad, hasta quienes la concebían como una lucha contra las políticas municipales de vivienda. Fueron el germen del partido verde en la ciudad y recibieron también su apoyo cuando aquel obtuvo cargos municipales representativos. Eso puede explicar, en parte, su anómala supervivencia que, incluso, les obligó a reokupar el espacio en 1991 cuando la propiedad pasó de manos privadas a manos públicas (eran tiempos en los que no había llegado a su fin el reflujo de la ola de okupaciones en el antiguo Berlín Este). Actualmente tienen un contrato por 30 años más y colaboran con los servicios municipales de educación infantil y de desempleo, pero las autoridades, según Andy, no cejan en sus intenciones de privatizar este vibrante centro social (la mayoría de las viviendas, no obstante, parecen más consolidadas y ajenas a ese acoso).
En su repaso a casi tres décadas de activismo en Berlín, Sara, de Rote Insel, constataba: en la década de 1980 nadie tenía un empleo, en la actualidad casi todo el mundo está trabajando y queda poco tiempo para dedicarlo a la política. El Estado de Bienestar ha reducido sustancialmente las rentas básicas que proporcionaba antes a los desempleados que se dedicaban a tiempo completo a la agitación y a construir formas de vida alternativas. Andy también incidía en este punto y señalaba que cada vez son mayores los requisitos a los desempleados exigiéndoles prácticas, formación y la aceptación de trabajos que algunos militantes han preferido cumplir en empresas sociales como las de la Regenbogen Fabrik. Berlín está dejando de ser la ciudad barata que era antes de su intensiva globalización urbanizadora y cultural y la infraestructura política constituida por los hausprojekt, al menos, proporciona cientos de alojamientos asequibles y recursos comunes a buena parte de la izquierda política de la ciudad. Las okupaciones que están en su origen, en definitiva, no han desaparecido de la memoria colectiva e, incluso, se siguen esgrimiendo en momentos puntuales. Hace mucho que dejaron de ser un ingrediente fundamental de su identidad política, pero la intensa lucha que auspiciaron es reconocida como la fuente de los modelos de convivencia alternativos y de crítica a la ciudad capitalista y elitizadora que de nuevo afila sus garras contra quienes la sufren o contra quienes disienten de ese modelo. El campamento instalado en los últimos meses por quienes defienden las riberas del Spree frente a la especulación urbanística, se enmarca en los movimientos urbanos actuales que siguen recurriendo a la okupación como una herramienta política útil y transformadora, aunque ocasional debido a las fuertes restricciones legales a las que se enfrentan y a la no menos condicionante huella de toda la pretérita institucionalización. Por eso, con todas las contradicciones y recesos que también han marcado al movimiento alternativo de Berlín, el encuentro de SQEK se enriqueció con todas esas complicidades y con los conocimientos in situ que alientan, necesariamente, la construcción teórica colectiva en la que estamos embarcados. [Alan W. Moore, uno de nuestros miembros más inquietos y que acaba de presentar una exposición en el Rota Flora de Hamburgo, ha publicado su propia versión en inglés de estas peripecias y descubrimientos: http://occuprop.blogspot.com En breve se actualizarán los archivos y el espacio web de SQEK, aunque hay una lista de correo electrónico mediante la que se puede contactar: squattingeurope@listas.nodo50.org]
image: Squattastic, London

Friday, April 8, 2011

Discussion on “Squats, Social Centers and Autonomous Spaces” at Tamiment Library, NYU for the Anarchist Book Fair, NYC April 2011 Now Online

This excellent multi-generational discussion on “Squats, Social Centers and Autonomous Spaces” at the Tamiment Library, New York University, held for the Anarchist Book Fair, NYC April 2011 – was recently Youtubed by the organizer, Sebastian Gutierrez in several segments starting at: "Squats, Social Centers and Autonomous Spaces - I".

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hanging Out: That's What It's About

I've been abandoned by my host in Hamburg – something about a birthday party in the countryside... He rode a horse for the first time. So I wander down to the Gängeviertel, an artists' occupation in Hamburg Mitte (central city). I've blogged this place before, on my summertime research visit here last year. It was occupied in '09 by artists who already had studios in this crumbling complex of low-rise buildings. It's a block of 19th century workers' housing, very quirky architecture. (That's the photo, ca. 1900, above.) In the past it was nothing special – but now it is. It's the last of its kind in central Hamburg. Yesterday it was lunchtime, and everything was closed. There's nowhere down there to eat. The workers on the giant building projects which ring the Gängeviertel are gobbling lunch in a tiny takeout sandwich shop. By now I really have to pee, and face the prospect of choosing a place to eat simply because it has a toilet. (Ah, age...) But at the Gängeviertel I find a high-mounted compost toilet! Perfect – it's a feminist project; I'm not exactly sure how or why... some fool pissed in the sawdust anyhow.
I find a nice lunch special up the street at Happi Sushi, a family run shop very unlike the main run of office worker takeout joints. Upon returning I find Regina opening her shop at the Gängeviertel. It's full of artists' works very low-priced, postcards, etc. – souvenirs of the artists' complex. Regina is an old-time San Francisco squatter who's been in Hamburg for 15 years. In the bay area, she worked with Rene Castro and Project Artaud. (Dunnno about anything about that, but the name is right by me; I love Antonin.) Contrary to what we thought when we were doing our show there last week, it turns out Rote Flora had an “art club” upstairs 10 years ago. It's been forgotten by present users. (Later I'm told it was more like a bar, with drinks and sketching, and it moved out.)
We are chatting and along comes C., a guy I met last year who loves the Gängeviertel. He's into a jazz festival in Morocco, a charming guy who's lived an adventurous life as a “permanent beginner.” We have a coffee, and he tells me stories of sailing on the Mediterranean, eating crab with ganja pancakes... the cafe smells of hashish. It's the place where you can lose your whole day... Regina and C. tell me about an art circus that passed through here from Lisbon on its way to Paris – “Arte Ocupa.” Things could really get rolling, if I can hook up with those guys. Now I am packing packing for Paris. Popped by Frise artists' house in Altona where I stayed in the summer to say hello to Sabine Mohre, my host then. She says Gängeviertel may get the chance to buy their squat – in Hamburg, that's how they say “we love you.”

Photo: Brauerknechtgraben um 1900, in the Gängeviertel
posted on http://hummel-hummel.blog.de