SQEK. London. June 24-27, 2010 notes
Attendants: Ely Lorenzi, Alan Moore, Galvao Santos, Baptiste Colin, Pierpaolo Mudu, Gianni Piazza, Hans Pruijt, Ask Katzeff, Lynn Owens, Peter Birke, Lucy Finchett-Maddock, Joshua, Mujinga, Miguel Martínez… all now members of SQEK. Others: Stevphen, Simon, Marianne…
1/ Presentation and first internal meeting
-Galvao, one of our new (and younger) members, created a blog for SQEK in may 2010, http://sqek2010.blogspot.com/ This blog still has few posts and affiliations. For the moment, it seems that the e-mail list is more useful for internal communication. The blog can serve as an external window of our activities, references, events, etc. So, please, feel free to post.
Someone suggested to open tags-sections within the blog in order to gather: 1) requests to SQEK; 2) squatters’ biographies; 3) squatting events; 4) different legislations.
-Two other of our new enthusiastic members, Mujinga and Alan, have interesting blogs with great parts devoted to squatting: http://mujinga.net/squat.html and http://occuprop.blogspot.com/ (Alan, indeed, also included some remarks about this meeting in London). (Alan also sent to the list some typeup notes which can complement these ones.)
-After the meeting in Milan we decided to revise the Manifesto we wrote there. All experienced many troubles while writing, editing and translating the text. And, however, we all felt satisfied with the result(s) and the world-wide spread of it.
Finally, different versions were published. One at ISA (International Sociological Association)-RC (Research Committee) 21 Newsletter in February 2010: http://www.rc21.org/newsletter.php It was supposed to be also published at ACME E-Journal of Critical Geography (http://www.acme-journal.org/index.html) but I cannot find it in the website, so hopefully it’s forthcoming… Spanish and English versions are also published at my own website: http://www.miguelangelmartinez.net/?Squatting-in-Europe
Alan Moore published the Manifesto in his zine “HouseMagic” # 2: http://occuprop.blogspot.com/2010/05/house-magic-zine-catalogue-2-pdf-is.html
-We also talked about our general aims and expectations about SQEK, coming from the past meetings and looking forward to future work:
To conduct systematic and funded research
To organise new meetings
To increase our personal links
To do visits to cities and squats
To write and publish papers / books
To improve communication tools among us
To establish deadlines of tasks and individual responsibilities
To open our meetings to activists
To learn more about squatting
To inspire each other with our experiences and ideas
To engage into high quality discussions more than in procedures
To follow up our “travelling circus” along Europe
-Information about the e-list. We are 37 people subscribed. The only criterion we fixed up to subscribe was to express a strong interest in this action-research network. Thinking on the new members, we should send to the list (or trough the blog) a new package of articles and bibliography, but none took responsibility on that…
-Pierpaolo proposed to participate in the writing of an ideal legislation for squatting which could be seen as a reference all over Europe. We all agreed. The commitment was to send ideas and pieces of positive legislation by September the 30th, 2010.
-He also proposed to participate in the Conference on Critical Geography to be held in New York City, 2012. No more information for the moment.
-Tisba informed that he was involved in the organisation of the Intersquat Festival in Berlin, September 10-19, 2010: http://intersquatberlin.blogsport.de/english/
-About fund-raising: Pierpaolo proposed to organise several concerts in Rome for fund-raising. Miguel proposed to open a bank account in Triodos (an ethical bank) pursuing the collect of money for funding future SQEK’s publications. It’s still to be done. Perhaps, a formal association needs to be set up in advance.
2/ Galvao Santos’ presentation: Squatting and Media in Barcelona (Spain)
It’s the first time that we discuss about mass media and squatting. This presentation emphasised labels of violence and law enforcement spread through media. The issues of appearing as a weird “social movement”, the opposition of squatters to talk to journalists, and the importance of events representation, were some of the key points under analysis.
3/ Baptiste Colin’s presentation: Reformist vs. Libertarian Squatters (Squatting in France and Germany)
Going further with his previous research, now he focused more on legal and ideological issues along the 20th century in both countries. He wrote, and sent to the e-list, new articles (In French and German) hat shed light on that.
According to Alan’s notes:
“The anarchist movement promoted squatting in the early 20th century (in Paris).
Georges Couchon (spelling?) publicized his actions with a “dish orchestra” – an organized moving of tenants before the rent was due, every three months.
Anarchists founded a union of renters. By the early 1920s squatting largely disappeared.
After World War II there was another big movement. Paris was proud to have “more squatters than in the United Kingdom.”
This movement was organized by a Catholic leftist workers’ organization, and centralized from Paris. They routinized and publicized squatting. They used the law governing vacant buildings. Squatters first used all legal means to get vacant buildings, and if that failed then they occupied. They were reformists. They showed that they were ready to pay rent if it was not too high. This movement began in 1945 and was active until the end of the 1950s. Labie Pierre, a priest, did big actions. They advocated for cheap housing and to build quickly.
[it sounds like a kind of entrepreneurial public housing]
The government agreed to help if they would stop squatting.
Squatting in Berlin in the mid-1970s was not the first in Germany. Baptiste is comparing with the French actions. In Berlin they organized “house poor” people. Working in solidarity with immigrant workers. Provision of youth centers.
In Paris in the early 1970s students organized housing for poor immigrants as Circle Rouge. In Germany called Rote Hilfe. [Circle] Succours. This organizing was not based on local politics, but was an international effort. It failed becauuse of internal conflicts. The organization of defense [of squats?] failed. They also had no concrete proposals to government about laws and housing politics.
In the mid-1970s in Paris, ideological and radical squatters, hippies, anarchists and autonomist squatters asserted the right to housing without rent. But unlike in Berlin, they could not “structure the movement.” There were more squatted flats in Paris than in Berlin, but the movement in West Berlin succeeded.
Paris had closer relations with the Dutch movement. Berlin was isolated, but this was fruitful for radicals. Many young men were there, exempt from the military draft. Also many people were leaving the city because of the tensions of the Cold War. There was a scandal with the minister of housing. Local problematics were used for developing strategies. The West Berlin movement also wanted to get contracts with the city. A large number of squatters did not want to negotiate, however. By 1984, it is almost the end of the squatting in Berlin because of repression.
One third were legalized, one third evicted, and one third of squatters left their buildings.
Naming: “Instandsetzen” means renovation – “Hausbesetzer” is a squatter – “Instandbesetzer” is a play on words, a squatter renovating
In Paris, “occupant renovateur” – this group develops childrens’ activities and cultural activities in their buildings. They also used corporate or association names to make the legal process of eviction more difficult for owners. They position: “We don’t want to pay rent” – they had no government contacts.
A slogan: “Legal if we can, illegal if we must. Only the result matters.”
“Legal illegal, scheisse gang” [what does it matter/the shit goes]
Droit Logement (right to housing) – 1990s squatting for immigrant people
[Neo]-March no evictions?
The law was changed…
I asked about Couchon – “Reflu de polycarp” – demenagement [???]
The noise of the many-carp fish as people move out and go to another building. To cover the noise of breaking into a building, and to protect the kraakers with a mass of people. Couchon was “conductor of an orchestra.” A popular form of demonstration.”
4/ Hans Pruijt’s presentation: Diffusion and Revanchism of Squatting in the Netherlands
In this occasion, Hans developed a more detailed analysis about the issue of how squatting relates to local and supralocal contexts (diffusion even to other social movements). Quoting from the paper he sent later to Gothenburg:
“Recently the Dutch parliament passed legislation designed to make squatting illegal. The paper examines the dynamics involved. It is based on participant observation in meetings – squatter meetings, debates with politicians, a parliament hearing and lobbying meetings – a survey (N > 2000), interviews and document study. A key mechanism that the paper explores is the following. Citizens in big cities are more likely to support squatting than inhabitants of small towns. Squatter strategies of resistance that seem more or less acceptable in the local context of a big city – especially Amsterdam – create media events that cause a backlash on the national level. This provides ammunition for right wing political entrepreneurs who seek to destroy the legitimacy that squatters across the country, while adapting to their local environment, had successfully struggled for to achieve.”
“Calls for more theory about squatting. “The study of squatting is on an island” compared with the study of other social movements. He speaks of other social movements, like the feminist campaign against sexual violence [called Take Back the Night in the 1980s in USA], and setting up of women’s shelters. [Is this ever used as a pretext for squatting?? It seems much of the same could be involved, particularly defense.]
“Diffusion [of squatting?] into contexts it doesn’t seem to fit.”
Squatting in NYC – he was there in the early 1980s… “I saw that it’s European squatting.”
Feminists in Spain.
Networks, connections, social trust – mutual aid — “build a floor for social structures.” How the activists promote themselves within society, how they create their own image…
[naming each other as “comrade” on the left or “cousin” in the 19th century US frontier]
The idea of “social capital” is a simplification of social life. He prefers Bourdieu’s conceptions, the glue that binds people together.
Question of diffusion, the supra-national nature of squatting, the scene that is moving.
In 1983, Hans screened a movie in New York about squatting in Holland. At that time, homeless people were living in boxes on the street, but they did not move into empty houses. Later when Europeans came to NYC it began to happen. Also middle class white people joined in the activity.
Differences – strategies – outcomes – changing opportunities
It is necessary to compare squatting to other movements, to see squatting in relation to other movements.
What is the “master frame”?
Goals – redistribution – identity
the international Autonomen
anarchist or Leninist – [what exactly is meant by “Leninist”?]
rhizomatic or “immediatist”
[question of negative views, projections – media stock in trade]
[“Joe's Apartment” – squatting in films]
Baptiste Colin – it is a question of having a roof…
[like kids who build clubhouses; Judy & Mickey in the movies: “we can use my garage to put on the show!”
BC – if the squat is legal, some activities will die off
Hans Pruijt – do other movements have this same problem? For example, the trade union movement…
Social movement theory is developed through cases, for example, the civil rights movement.
It is an urban movement; why is squatting marginal within this field?
Urban social movements : the city after Castells / Stuart Lowe (1986) – at NYPL – JLD 86-2169 (SASB)
first chapter is on squatting and social centers
question of political power at the local level, local control versus authority
[“insurrectionary urban planning” – An Architektur]
“dislocatable” – “translatable” form of action
Call for Decentralized Days of Action for Squats and Autonomous Spaces
organizer of this is present… name?
Call for Decentralized Days of Action for Squats and Autonomous Spaces
full dress call text and animation:
here is a full summary of all the actions:
Squatters in Berlin have self-archived.
Pierpaolo Mudu – The core of social movement theory is conflict. Some in this movement are not looking for conflict but for isolation, self-ghettoization. They want to be an island surrounded by criminal capitalists.
I note that Timothy Miller, a historian of religion, is a principal chronicler and archiver of the U.S. commune movement, also called “intentional communities”
Miguel – “Squatting is a crime” to most people, and that is all you need to know.
[Really, the demonization of squatting is important to understand – the “moral panic” question]
Hans asks, “What do you learn from squatting?”
[I think you learn about nomadism, contingency, money-less living, collective cultural production – it is really a kind of laboratory for learning how to live in the 21st century]
Miguel – Denmark tried to develop OSCs but they were eliminated.
Gianni – It is a question of collective identity. [Who are these people? As re. the UK online book “What's This Place?” addressing a basic question people outside the movement would have...]
Is there a master frame for all the squatters of Europe? No. In Italy they are very fractionated. So really it is not a social movement.
[i.e., there is a refusal of identification with a social movement – relates also to the rejection of being a social center that Peter Conlin described is happening in London in some squats – they are reverting to simple squatting for housing, refusing any political role]
Ely Lorenzi – an anthropologist, she is working on Critical Mass and bicycle workshops in the social centers…
she is studying the little movements inside the social centers
[“a movement of movements”?]
these are sectorialized, fragmented
a U.S. fellow working in Berlin said he is interested in the response to the economic crisis… also in the global South
[I gave this guy my card – he'll be in Berlin for 2 months]
P. Mudu – Casa Rosa, Casa del Popolo – 19th century mutual aid societies compare with the social centers of the 1970s
Miguel – the ateneos liberatario in Spain from 1900-1930 are also comparable
a woman (German I think; later I believe she was called Marianne) said she is doing a PhD study on Euro Mayday, working in Milan
(“Get in line,” cracked the guy from U.S.)
A “practice of sociability” is key to the Euromayday – media as an act of collective memory.
“cracking the system””
5/ Elisabeth Lorenzi’s presentation: Squatting and Biking in Madrid
She researched recently on the mutual and frutiful relations between the Squatted Social Centers and the Critical Mass movement in Madrid. In several Social Centres there are bike workshops and frequently, squatted social centres are the final destination, and places for partying, of the monthly Critical Mass. Quoting from the paper sent to a next conference in Berlin:
“Critical Mass is a worldwide urban movement which has developed along the last two decades as a promotion of bicycle in cities. Its most frequent public expression is through spontaneous meetings of cyclists once per month in such a manner that the motorized flow is interrupted. What is striking about it is that any of those meetings requires a specific social organization and adaptation to the particular characteristics of the city. Hence, the straight proposal of these activists in favour of sustainable urban mobility must deal with particular social and urban issues. (…) The monthly encounter is very close linked to an internet network of fluent communication and a spatial network of “workshops” located in squatted and self-managed social centres. These are places of mutual aid, common learning about recycling and how to make bicycles work. Many of them are placed within buildings which were empty for many years before they were squatted and socially reused. We shall argue, then, that initiatives such the Critical Mass get their optimum potential as an articulation with other sustainable experiences in the urban structure (housing and buildings) and with “autonomous” social networks promoting mutual ways of living, exchange and creation of collective knowledge.”
“Critical Mass is the “heat core” of the Social Centers [in Madrid] now… It is the public face, and pulls people into the OSCs.
Critical Mass builds its own network beyond the OSCs. Bike workshops are interconnected in Madrid. They don’t care about the political oppositions within the OSC movement. Many people arrive in the squats via the Critical Mass.
There have been ten workshops in the past four years. Five have been evicted from spaces. The biggest Critical Mass [in Madrid?] had 2,500 bikers.
Now it is a fresh activity in Madrid.
Parking Day – occupy a parking space and do bike work. [Cf. http://www.parkingday.org/ – September 17th is designated the day]
Rising usage statistics – in 2004, 4% of travel within the city was by bike
in 2009 14%
in May of 2007 Critical Mass had 300 bikers
in May of 2010, 2,300 bikers took part
The squatter movement is an area of intersection and support from other movements.
Current social movements may be seen as “sectored initiatives.”
Biking relates to the question of money within the SC’s. People acquire expertise in bicycles in the SC’s, then go on to the market. One group has set up a co-operative shop outside the SC. Another runs a co-operative shop a few days a week inside the SC, and has a one day open workshop.
In Copenhagen the city seems to be branding itself as a biking city. Ask Katzeff warns of “Copenhagenization” – closed off streets are more easily controlled by police.
Hans – In Amstderdam, 40,000 bikers at one time shut down traffic in the city. Then they began to build bike lanes.
Miguel – bicycle workshops are increasing due to the network of SC’s.
Between 2003 and 2008 there was a crisis in the SC movement – most were evicted…
Bicycle workshops are a principal activity of SC’s, and also the principal means of recruiting new people. It is also increasing the militancy of the SC’s.
A question – bicycle-powered energy in the SC’s? Ely does not know of any.
Miguel – Also the squatters are mobile. Malaya SC demonstrated against eviction on their bicycles.”
6/ Miguel Martínez’s presentation: Institutionalization vs. Squatting?
Following with the past research we presented in Milan, this time I focused more on the structural conditions that influenced tendencies to institutionalization of squatted social centres. Slides were sent through the email list. As was argued in the abstract of the Gothenburg conference on July 2010:
“Our aim is to search out both the political, social and spatial conditions that allowed these SC to develop, and all the factors that were involved in their interactions with municipal authorities. These three SC were located in central areas of the Madrid and achieved a great social recognition. However their attitudes towards authorities and their role among the local squatting scene differed significantly. Theoretically, we stand for a broad definition of the processes of institutionalization. Empirically, we focus, over all, on the operations made by squatters and local government in order to turn into a legal or stable status the SC. Persistence of the squatters’ collectives and projects, and their capacities to mobilize social affinities, can be also regarded as autonomous forms of institutionalization. As a consequence of our analysis, we argue that social alliances of squatters with local neighbours and mass media were positive to increase the stability of the SC, while urban centrality was crucial just for keeping active the nodal links within the urban-alternative movements.”
“The image of Patio Maravillas among the other SC’s is bad because they want to negotiate.
He references Murray Bookchin article, “Social anarchism versus lifestyle anarchism,” which is online.
Also Alberoni (?) – “institutionalization or death”
There are three general processes of institutionalization – become a new institution, and keep the essence of the movement; participate in existing institutions and disrupt them – the institutionalization process leads finally to paying rent…
Even negotiation with the police is a form of institutionalization.
cites Pruijt – two types of institutionalization, flexible and terminal.
Much stuff! Too much to take effective notes…
“Institutionalization is inherent to autonomy and self-organization.” Even nomads need to deal with cops.
P. Mudu later disputes this.
Of the split between radicals and moderates, the history of the German Green party is a good example. When the process of institutionalization begins, this gap grows ever wider.
In Madrid Seco, Caracole and Prospere [?} are legalized SC’s, but they still support the movement.
Mudu says Sergio Bologna and Toni Negri say “no” – autonomy is the opposite of institutionalization.
“Autonomia organizada” was not institutional. Organization is against institutionalization.
Stevphen Shukaitis cites Tronti, organization without institutions.
Someone asks, define the difference.
Mudu says that institutionalization is legitimated, under governance. Self-organization is self-management.
City managers (politicals) can recognize the interests of the SC’s, but they cannot understand them. That is, they see them as part of the post-Fordist ciity, but they don’t get it.
Ask Katzeff mentions that in Copenhagen the city is great at mimicking the strategies of the SC’s. Open-Hagen, in which he participated, was part of Undoing the City. [See online website, when you are online again.] The project has been co-opted now with the same name as a mobile SC-type formation. An event within the “experience economy.”
[Ugh. How hideous. I should ask Ask if there is much about this... it would be good for HM#3 to have a little text about this.]
I ask the question of private enterprise within the SC’s.
Video Werkstaet in Berlin is mentioned – they have an archive..”.
7/ Alan Moore’s presentation: Squatting from New York to Europe
He presented on ABC No Rio, a Social Center in Lower East Side, New York, which was squatted around 1979-1980 and later became legal. He also talked about his project “House Magic” (download here: http://occuprop.blogspot.com/2010/05/house-magic-zine-catalogue-2-pdf-is.html) and the exhibitions he made about squatting in Europe.
8/ Pierpaolo Mudu’s presentation: Autonomous and Anarchists in the Italian Squatters’ Movement
Here again the detailed Alan’s notes:
“Pierpalo Mudu – “I’m a geographer.”
The stars of geography use queer theories – David Harvey, Neil Smith – [did I hear this right??]
PM is working on the intersection between anarchism and autonomia. Are autonomists and anarchists the same? In English the terms overlap. In Italy they are two different histories. Like peace and love, war and death – to talk of these two it is so vast you don’t know where to go. These are two streams of radical extreme left movements from which SCs were born.
Autonomists were in the 1970s. You can track them with the workers from the 1960s, how they interact, the intersections, and how the journals of one movement treated the others. There is no tradition of study on the anarchists of Italy. The anarchists refuse to be interviewed, to be part of any academic work. It is not easy to find their journals. In 35 years there is no of anarchists, yet the people who define themselves as anarchists know very well their history. [It is like an oral history, then.] One anarchist said, “I’m a platformist.” I didn’t know what that was. Another was a “categorista.” There has been split after split, melting after melting.
The autonomists are “rooted in Leninist thought.” Negri says that young people are less interested in top-down movements. There are hundreds of groups, like Autonomia Operaia in the mid-1970s, Podere Operaio, the extreme group of which Negri was a part, created autonomia in the north. The movement is very diversified according to the geographical divisions of Italy. In Bologna Autonomia Operaia is linked to the student movement. In Rome Autonomia Operaia is linked to the people working in services – the hospitals, the electric company. In the south Autonomia Operaia has been unable to spread. The collectives interact with each other in demonstrations, and some journals, and after 1977 through the pirate radio stations.
Autonomia Organizada favored a stronger organization. At the end of the 1970s these groups were attacked by state repression. What was their common trait? Independence of the working class from capital on the one hand, and political independence from left parties and unions on the other. The
base concept is self-organization. The refusal of delegation to parties and unions, the refusal of work – the separation from capital – is complex. For this reason, there was hostility toward the autonomists from the left political parties and unions.
Question: Don’t all these same principles apply to the anarchists?
Miguel: But the autonomists come from the Communist Party, so their approach was communist.
Gianni and Mudu: No, they referred first to Marx’s “Grundrisse” text.
Mudu: The first point of autonomist analysis is on how is the working class composed? Let see how the composition of class is in this moment, in this place. In the 1960s the workers were developing their analysis on this. Tronti and all the others were working on this.
Gianni: They started smashing all the Communist Party theory one at a time. They said, “Gramsci is completely useless.” They attacked Lenin. [Negri's book] “Marx beyond Marx” is on Leninism, the question of the avant garde and the mass. Self-organization of the mass is not guided by party professionals, by “communists from another planet.”
Mudu: In 1977 was the largest movement of students and workers, mass demonstrations for several months. I tried to find anarchist documents of participation then, which was hegemonized by the autonomists. In their journals the anarchists criticized this movement, but they also recognized that there were many anarchists in the movement. In 1977 there was a meeting of anarchists about the movement, and there is a book on this [cite?].
The question of the exercise of violence divides the anarchists — using violence for self-defense and political acts — they were divided. In Autonomia there was the formation of leaders which the anarchists did not acccept. Their critique was that there is not a mechanism for the destruction of leadership in this movement. In 1977 for the first time they are using irony in their slogans. The anarchists criticized this. Irony, they said, was used to cover a lack of political analysis. The production of jokes, dance, theater, and singing was unusual. Marching in the streets with flags was no longer accepted. Dance and theater in the streets is not easily defeated by repression. Joy represented a new value in terms of labor, with the same logic that produces leaves and vacation.
The anarchists were all males. They were marginal in the 1977 movement. The intersections were very weak. In the 1980s, the second generation of SC’s in Italy — 1985, 1986 – the autonomists and anarchists gathered together. They were both linked to the anti-nuclear movement in Italy. There were mass demonstrations when all were together. The second generation planned conscious events. In 1986 in Rome and Milan a new generation of squatters was composed mainly of punks and people outside usual labels.
They were more into music, but a musical orientation doesn’t mean you are politicized to the level that you start a conflict. Anarchist punks and anarchists were the backbone of Cox 18 in Milan. The punks want a place to have concerts because their music was forbidden in official places. The anarchists were trying to build up something different after the defeat of the 1970s, so intersection was very strong. The two groups intersected on the issue of self-management. The debate was very strong on the issue of what is self-management. As Miguel last night presented, some consider self-management to be a means to obtain things. Social centers were acting with anarchists and autonomists together. It is important whether the anarchist press considers a social center anarchist or not. The issue of legalization made the fracture which still exists today.
Autonomia Operaia did not exist anymore after end of the 1980s. So we must refer to post-autonomist groups. They don’t refer to themselves as autonomist anymore. It’s more complicated now to understand how these streams relate. The anarchists also split into two groups: One refuses any dialogue or negotiation with any government institution. The other part belongs to the federation of anarchists — they negotiate with authorities, and have no problem legalizing squats. Most extreme anarchists call the others social democrats.
In the first half of the 1990s there was a debate on what is self-organization. Horizontal self-managment is the way to kill leadership. Negotiating and institutionalizing recognizes leadership. How can we manage ourselves? Through unanimous consensus among people. Gianni works in Catania. He finds that the informal meetings during the day are as influential as the official Monday night meeting. The decision taken by everyone is easily agreed upon because they have discussed and knew it before.
Although many social centers institutionalize, the horizontally managed social centers resist the process.
There is an ongoing question of what to do with people in the social centers who do not do anything. You have to create a kind of judicial mechanism. There is a judicial process as a way to build the truth about people who have an unsocial behavior. It is a big issue, how do you treat these people. The truth of not working, of not doing anything is recognized as a value until you create damage to the function of the social center. Who cleans up the beer bottles? After a concert in a big social center there can be 20,000 bottles. Who cleans the toilets? [At ABC No Rio, some wear shirts inscribed “Janitors of Anarchy.”] People with unsocial behavior are tolerated for a period of time, then, after one year, there will be somebody who will tell them, ‘we need your help in a more active way.’
Miguel: It’s an issue which depends upon the force of the assembly. If the assembly is not strong enough, there are no rules, and finally no organization. If the assembly organizes everything, groups, committees, and so on, it is easier to avoid these unsocial behaviors.
Ely: The persons who react individually stop the process.
Miguel: This is a general problem. Finally there is no division between autonomists and anarchists on this. It is exploitation if you can take profit from the work made by others. Always you have a core group which works a lot and a periphery which collaborates, but don’t work at the social center. This is a general pattern.
Mudu: Historically the self-management idea comes from two different streams. First, the self-management of workers in the factory. There are examples in Yugoslavia and Algeria of workers who self-manage production. For the anarchists, it is a longer term problem dealing with the creation of communes. This is big debate which started in the 19th century. The anarchists were back to the idea of being separated, the idea of a commune. The autonomists always wanted to break the ghetto. So there is a different way of dealing with the unsocial behavior.
Gianni: Concerning some of the political reasons behind the different conception of social centers in the autonomis and anarchist movement: In the 1980s, in my experience, when we occupied in 1988 in Catania, autonomists and anarchists were together for the first time. The basic ideas of self-management were shared: refusal of parties, unions, and public institutions. But later there came a split, because after the occupation there were different conceptions of a social center. For the anarchists, the self-management of the social center was an end in itself, a microcosm to live in and self-organize away the rest of society. For the autonomists this social center was not only an end but a means to develop a strategy against capital, institutions and so on. As a consequence of this conception, they looked for a class reference for their political work
to search for a compact lower class in the city. For the anarchists this was not a problem. If someone wanted to come to the social center, okay. If not, we are not interested. For autonomists the social center was seen as one of the means to interact with the lower class to build a mass campaign and a revolutionary movement. At the end of the 1980s there were 250 social centers SCs in Italy. That was the top of the movement. This problem of the relation of the social center with the state split the movement.
Ely: In Spain the memory of the anarchist movement was very important. There are two lines of heritage, first the anarchist union, rebuilt after 40 years of the dictator Franco, and second the counterculture version of anarchism. These two work together. The first is not at all tolerant of anti-social actors because anarchism is the highest expression of order.
Miguel: I absolutely disagree. Chomksy wrote a book about the lack of theory in anarchism. After the boom of 1968, lifestyle anarchism, there is a mix of ideas, a contradictory mix. From then until now too many sectors claim to be anarchists. In some places the memory of anarchism is stronger than in others. In Spain, anarchists were a great source of tendencies, like naturism, etc.. After the dictator, anarchist trade unions tried to gather these tendencies together but failed. With repression, they almost disappeared. They tried to squat many buildings that were part of their heritage before the civil war, but the new managers would not give those back to them. They were pioneers of squatting in Spain, but they don’t claim themselves as squatters. Now the anarchist trade unions don’t feel close to squatting. So that gives birth to new trains of lifestyle anarchism separated from trade unions. In some social centers you can find the anarchist newspapers, in others not. Also in Spain there is the tradition of the autonomists, imitated from Italy. All the autonomists claim the anarchist heritage in Spain for ways of action – not how they analyze the system, but how they organize and act. It is complex, but it is not a question of theory. Many autonomist groups have no theory behind them, they just act. For many anarchists it was the opposite. They trust more on reading the historical stuff, even absolutely old-fashioned nowadays, and their identity is based on that – the bomb and the A, the hammer and the sickle. Lucha Autonoma made the best materials of self-reflection, but they are a minority in the squatting movement.
Baptiste Colin: There is a very thick production of anarchist books in France today, but they reflect on the art of practicing an anarchist way of life, how to be anarchist. They are not really theories. In the 1970s and ’80s several groups and anarchist federation were active, but there was no platform. In the police archive, what they were willing to give to me, I found nothing in the anarchist materials about squats – no solidarity meetings with the squatters s in the 1980s.
[Mudu?]: The social centers follow Negri religiously. They read Foucault on self-discipline in relation to self-management. Anarchists were able to read Foucualt and Castoriadis in the early 1990s on the point of how to be self-managed. In the last year Negri took all these ideas back and recycled Foucauldian ideas. This was a kind of plagiarism. But they had been discussed by the anarchists a few years before. The idea of exodus, people who leave a place and build somewhere else, anarchists were discussing in the early ’90s.
Peter Birke: First comes the social movement. That is the meeting point between autonomists and anarchists, self-management in the ’80s. That is the idea that work could be seen as independent from capital, a force in society on its own. We are leaving the factory to be part of the development of the city. These two ideas fit very well into modern capitalism. Independent productivity is characteristic of the precarious worker.
Mudu: It is prophecy of Marx in the “Grundrisse” about the change of labor. Science and technology will change labor so that the time you spend working will not be the measure of labor. That is the idea of the general intellect. And “multitude” comes from the general intellect. So far as the anarchist lack of theory is concerned, this idea of not having fathers is very strong. There is no analysis of the financial crisis on the anarchist side. [He complains about anarchist pamphlets, “how to be an anarchist.”]
Ely: This is the author who refuses to write anything, only collects and puts things together. Bikers don’t want to go to the assembly; they just want to work.
[Anarchism as a last refuge of artisanal labor?]
Stevphen – What of the autonomists who went to NYC in the ’70s?
Silvia Federici was involved with squatting and Autonomia. [Also Bifo lived in NYC on the Lower East Side for a time.] In 1995 Mudu lived in a squat in NYC. There is more circulation of ideas than we know about.
Autonomists and anarchists have different conceptions of rock music. A singer like Jim Morrison, a rock star attitude, is refused. Autonomists explore and encourage bands to be famous and popular because they get a lot of money back. Who becomes famous out of the social centers?
[This is exactly the question with artists who worked at ABC No Rio!]
Punks are involved with self-production. [In U.S., called “distro” for distribution.]
Mudu: I told people in the socila center we are training the next generation of music manager. The manager of the most famous rock band in Italy trained in the social center.
Hans: We are for self-management and self-productivity. Capitalism then is not about taking control of everything.
Mudu: If you talk about self-management you must be very precise. In the 1940s, prisoners were self-managing the concentration camps. The term is used then in extreme cases. All prisoners were obliged to take care of their space. Self-management for the worst of the human condition.
Leon Cavallo in Milan was maybe the first social center squat, produced “to answer social needs.” There was a criticism of this project that trying to replace the state is wrong.
Italian squatters introduced a rhetoric of desire.
Among them a group called the Metropolitan Indians where humorist activists.
Described in ‘‘A Laughter That Will Bury You All’’: Irony as Protest and Language as Struggle in the Italian 1977 Movement” by Patrick Gun Cuninghame
with a link to the amazing Texas Archives of Autonomist Marxism, a personal project of Harry M. Cleaver, Jr., at University of Texas, Austin. https://webspace.utexas.edu/hcleaver/www/taalphacomplete.html
Hans: Autonomists “experience themselves as the avant-garde.”
Stevphen mentions “holidarity” and “picaturismo”….
?? – on the web, a blog: Holidarity – (n.) feelings of empathy for the people of some shitty country during the two weeks you’re there. Picaturismo no existe.
Hans: Many attempts to produce alternatives to violence in the Amsterdam movement. A thousand people attended the alternative festival at one social center during the coronation. But after that many of them went to the riot. The police exhorted people to come to the riot by circling the area with their helicopters for hours.
Lynn Owens is working on how mobility relates to the production of space. He wants a corrective to the “technophoria” of global justice movement researchers of a few years ago.
Discussion of punk band travelers, like the Washington, D.C. band Fugazy. The social centers of Europe was the only circuit available for punk bands to tour. [I wonder if this is how punk music became political, or that it became more so, or was continually inscribed into political concerns via the circuit.]
Transurbanity – moving between, also melding together of different cities. Urban development processes have been similar from city to city. The transformation into the neo-liberal city.
The period of the summit protests drawing activist travelers. Traveling ravers. Those who produced these events often drew strong police attention. They would then move along somewhere else, but the squatters would be sitting ducks for repression.
Hans: In Amsterdam, the “white book of squatting”* was an answer to the “black book of squatting,” denigrating the squatters. Foreign squatters have changed the “opportunity structure” for local people. Now a “moral panic” has put an anti-squatting law on the agenda. Squatters in Holland have a quality stamp. Squatting there involves fixing up your building and relating to your neighbors – being constructive. The kraakers built a brand.
*According to an English interview online at izlese.org, the book covers some 20 cities, not only Amsterdam.
An online list of punk music venues is the most current list of social centers. [Which?] Maximumrocknroll is mentioned, also book your own fucking life, and slingshot organizer.
Peter Birke: Christiania in Copenhagen and Haffenstrasse in Hamburg would not exist without tourism. Gaengelviertel, newly squatted, has a hostel in it.”
9/ Peter Birke’s presentation: Squatters’ and urban activism scene in Hamburg
More from Alan’s notes:
“The situation is defined by gentrification and the current crisis. As regards artists squats, artists are useful for process of gentrification. Self-management is regarded as an emergent tool of modern capitalism. This is being contested by social movements. In the Summer of 2009, the Right to the City movement begins. The Right to the City group is comprised of artists, knowledge workers. They are against the instrumentalization of artists. This group “had a spectacle of breakthrough,” squatting 12 buildings in August of 2009. This was very spectacular and gained much publicity because they were not evicted. Because of the feeling of economic viability of creative industries, and because of the conservative green party coalition which much liked this concept. [Of the creative city, yes?] The government held discussions with the / squatters. The owners of the buildings are a big investment company in Holland which could not pay to take the houses back becaause of the costs of the police action which they would have to bear. The government decided to use the squatters to valorize the buildings. In a situation of crisis new possibilities come to the surface. There is now a struggle against coal producing plant, and against the high level of rents, and so on. All these struggles produce the crisis of the neoliberal city. This is a crisis of subjectivity. Because of the housing crisis, the precarization of life and work, subcultural spaces and knowledge work are valorized. There is now the possibility of subvertising, and using this global cities discourse as a resource for squatting.
Miguel: What were the effects of legalization of historical squats in Hamburg?
Legalization and repression go together. Squats in the 1990s were evicted immediately. In the Hafenstrasse it was a constant struggle, but finally they were legalized. Then they got a lot of moneyfrom the state to rebuild the houses. The Hafenstrasse became a city project. The Rote Flora OSC is not legalized. In 2001 the right wing city government wanted to evict it. The social democratic government sold the buldiing to a cultural investor who “just didn’t call the police.” [This story is told by Michel Chevalier in “House Magic” zine catalogue #2.] The owner presents himself as an innovative money man. Now this investor is pressing the government to compromise with him on other projects. He threatens to sell the Rote Flora, which means it would be evicted, and he uses this pressure on the city. [I said, “He owns the cage which houses the bear, and now he threatens to free the bear.] Rote Flora is opposite a very posh quarter.
Kirsten Forkert: In London we have tried to build coalition with artists, housing activists and squatters, but it has been difficult. The housing activists disdained those who had not been living in a certain district for their whole lifves, and the artists did not engage, because they were subcultural.
The Gaengeviertel is an approved social center. The global city concept has been a resource in the success of Gaengeviertel. You can see that it is possible to do this.
MM: In the 1990s, Autonomen also tried to fight gentrification with hard schemes of action, against shops. So there was a lot of repression against them and they abandoned that line of politics. They dissolved themselves into this new movement, the Right to the City movement. In the winter, Right to the City made two parades with many different groups, trade unions, anti-motorway, rent protestors, squatters. It they were dressed up as the Autonomen, wearing black clothes would make people target for containment. But in this case, there were no police at all. The Autonomen movement still exists, but it is changing. The Euro Mayday is multi-party, with unconnected demonstrations. Maybe now the Autonomen movement is actually a number of movements.
The Gaengeviertel is 200 people in 12 houses. They produced a lot, exhibitions, coffee houses. They integrated Autonomen into their project, inviting them to come in. This still works very well.
Miguel: So Rote Flora and Haffenstrasse still preserve the Autonomen tradition?
Peter: Yes, and Rote Flora exists as the center.
Ask Katzeff (Copenhagen): The social centers provide alternative culrure for the city. Do social centers take part in “involuntary boosterism”?
Hans: If I was a Danish politician and sympathetic with Christiania, I’d say it was cultural tourism. You shouldn’t be too functionalist about this, but follow the whole causal chain. The politicians won’t make great sacrifices to preserve squats. It is tolerance at best.
Ask: I wouldn’t describe it as tolerance at all. They want to go into a kind of contract with them, to enter and control them.
Peter: This policy at the moment is in a crisis. The project [in Hamburg] is to become a global city. They are in need of these creative places. They need to promote creative industries, but at the same time they can’t control them.
Hans: Also the ownership is in limbo. If there were actual plans, such as to build a hotel [which is the case at the Foundry in London], they would evict the squatters.
There is a question about the law against squatting. Isn’t it against gypsies and illegal builders? It is involving with a change to a law of “intentional trespass.” All over the EU this is happening. Holland is the most recent example.
The Dutch “White Book” of squatting (witboek kraken) responded to a politician’s “black book” of squatting. The white book presented positive stories of squatting, the contribution to neighborhoods, creating good relations, preserving buildings, etc. They listed cultural institutions which have their roots in squatting, and there are many. Most of the pop music venues started as squats. As part of the promotion, they made big banners to hang on their buildings saying, “Made possible by the squatters’ movement.” Many institutions agreed to display these. The squats had open days. They also had tours, to show places where squatters had lived, and what happened after they were evicted. This broadened the struggle. There was lots of lobbying. A very small political party was holding the balance in the government. The social service aspect of squatting was emphasized, service to runaways, homeless people, and so on. In Amsterdam and Utrecht, the city council voted not to implement the law against squatting. An alderman said that squatters had saved part of the city.
Miguel: When a criminal law threatened, Barcelona squatters in coalition occupied a building building in the city center. The flag of Catalonia, the anarchist and communist flags were all flying together. The occupation lasted seven months. They did not leave peacefully. Thousands of people supported the action, but the legislation was passed anyway. This is part of the campaign, “part of our obligation as militants to do,” but you cannot expect that it will effect the legislation.
Before 1995 and 1996, most of the squatters refused to talk to the media. But then they talked a lot. They spoke of buildings that were “inexcusably empty.” After that campaign, the unity of the movement disappeared. In Amsterdam, the Student Squatters Information Service began. Squatters with a specific goal are likely to have a more positive resonance.”
10/ Final internal meeting and agreements
-Next time we will meet in Berlin: March 3-5 (Thursday to Saturday), 2011. Tisba (and Peter?) will organise it, and everybody will help and contribute.
-We agreed to self-produce 2 books and to organise party-concert-festival in Rome (when?) in order to raise money for that. Pierpaolo (plus Andrea Aureli and Gianni?) will organise it, and everybody will help and contribute.
-Book 1: it will contain “academic” writings we have already published in scientific journals (they can be updated and modified, of course).
-Book 2: this will be a more “popular” book on squatting (even with the foreword of a famous character like, let’s say, Chomsky). Main contents:
What have we learned from experience?
Case narrations of specific Squatted Social Centers / Houses.
Pictures and stories…
-Thus, style of writing will be also different for each book. Both books should include, nevertheless, the results of our two separate works we agreed to do until March 2011, following our Research Agenda (see Manifesto):
Database of experiences in Italy, Spain and Netherlands (more “quantitative”; mainly, but not exclusively, topic #5). Pierpaolo, Hans and Miguel will work on that.
Squatters’ networks (more “qualitative”; mainly, but not exclusively, topic #3). Tisba, Ely, Lynn and Ask (Peter and Gianni too?) will work on that.
Every subgroup will coordinate independently until March 2011. The aim is to compare data from different cities.
-The academic book can be published also in a share – venture with and academic company (University, Ashgate, etc.) but some conditions on low prize, distribution, etc. should be arranged in advance with SQEK commitment to open access to knowledge.
- ENG – London Meeting Agenda
- ENG – Berlin program