Squatters, fuckwits, bums, lowlifes
Published by @ndy January 20th, 2009 in State / Politics, History
A reply to John Surname, principally, but also an opportunity to review some of the recent history of squatting in Australia. S is for SHACking Up, Soul Train & Squatting (January 16, 2009) was a previous post responding to some criticisms of SHAC, but on squatting, property and housing issues more generally. John wrote on the subject of Diddly-Squatters on January 14…
[Word on la calle is that LASNET gonna be organising something about the Zaps over the weekend of February 20–21–22. Stay tuned for more deets.]
Beyond Resistance: EVERYTHING! An Interview with Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos by El Kilombo Intergalactico
According to what the Zapatistas have stated, one can never ascertain a belief in or vision of the future by looking at a situation from the position of “neutrality” provided for you by the existing relations of power. These methods will only allow you to see what already is, what the balance of the relations of forces are in your field of inquiry. In other words, such methods allow you to see that field only from the perspective of those who rule at any given moment. In contrast, if one learns to harness the power of the periscope not by honing in on what is happening “above” in the halls of the self-important, but by placing it deep below the earth, below even the very bottom of society, one finds that there are struggles and memories of struggles that allow us to identify not “what is” but more importantly “what will be.” By harnessing the transformative capacity of social movement, as well as the memories of past struggles that drive it, the Zapatistas are able to identify the future and act on it today. It is a paradoxical temporal insight that was perhaps best summarized by “El Clandestino” himself, Manu Chao, when he proclaimed that, “the future happened a long time ago!”
Given this insight afforded by adopting the methodology of the inverted periscope, we are able to shatter the mirror of power, to show that power does not belong to those who rule. Instead, we see that there are two completely different and opposed forms of power in any society: that which emerges from above and is exercised over people (Power with a capital “P”), and that which is born below and is able to act with and through people (power with a lower case “p”). One is set on maintaining that which is (Power), while the other is premised on transformation (power). These are not only not the same thing; they are (literally) worlds apart. According to the Zapatistas, once we have broken the mirror of Power by identifying an alternative source of social organization, we can then see it for what it is—a purely negative capacity to isolate us and make us believe that we are powerless. But once we have broken that mirror-spell, we can also see that power does not come from above, from those “in Power,” and therefore that it is possible to exercise power without taking it—that is, without simply changing places with those who rule. In this regard, it is important to quote in its entirety the famous Zapatista motto that has been circulated in abbreviated form among movements throughout the world: “What we seek, what we need and want is for all those people without a party or an organization to make agreements about what they don’t want and what they do want and organize themselves in order to achieve it (preferably through civil and peaceful means), not to take power, but to exercise it.” Only now can we understand the full significance of this statement’s challenge.
It is important to note how this insight sets the Zapatistas apart from much of the polemics that has dominated the Left, be it in “socialist” or “anarchist” camps, throughout the 20th century. Although each of these camps has within itself notable historical precedents that strongly resemble the insights of Zapatismo (the original Soviets of the Russian revolution and the anarchist collectives of the Spanish Civil War come most immediately to mind), we must be clear that on the level of theoretical frameworks and explicit aims, both of these traditions remain (perhaps despite themselves) entangled in the mirror of Power. That is, both are able to identify power only as that which 6 comes from above (as Power), and define their varying positions accordingly. Socialists have thus most frequently defined their project as the organization of a social force that seeks to “take [P]ower.” Anarchism, accepting the very same presupposition, can see itself acting in a purely negative fashion as that which searches to eliminate or disrupt Power—anarchist action as defenestration, throwing Power out the window. 18 Thus, for each, Power is a given and the only organizationally active agent. From this perspective, we can see that despite the fact that Zapatismo contains within itself elements of both of these traditions, it has been able to break with the mirror of Power. It reveals that Power is but one particular arrangement of social force, and that below that arrangement lies a second—that of power which is never a given but which must always be the project of daily construction.
In sum, according to the Zapatistas, through the construction of this second form of power it is possible to overcome the notion (and the practice which sustains it) that society is possible only through conquest, the idea that social organization necessitates the division between rulers and ruled. Through the empowerment of power, it is possible to organize a society of “mandar obedeciendo” (rule by obeying), a society that would delegate particular functions while ensuring that those who are commissioned to enact them answer to the direct voice of the social body, and not vice-versa. In other words, our choices now exceed those previously present; we are not faced with the choice of a rule from above (we would call this Sovereignty), or no rule at all (the literal meaning of Anarchy). The Zapatistas force us to face the imminent reality that all can rule—democracy (as in “Democracy, Liberty, and Justice”).
Crack Pot Kin, May 2nd, 2008 at 7:10 pm
So how is ‘Anarchy’ doing these days…which revolution are you lot leading in the world, must be everyone is too dumb for ANARCHISM?!
I notice you didn’t mention Nepal – but reality doesn’t really suit you does it?
What a pity that the Nepalese haven’t taken up your ‘First World’ petty bourgeois Anarchism and instead have opted for “Authoritarian, Stalinist, Leninist, blah, blah, blah”.
Nepal: victory turns sour
Submitted by Ret Marut on Jan 22 2009
Paris (France… apparently)
Eating without paying? Scum!
French left pioneers a radical new tactic: the picnic protest
Activists take food off the shelves and invite shoppers to dine with them to highlight the plight of ‘Generation Y’
Jason Burke in Paris
January 25, 2009
In exactly a week’s time, in a supermarket somewhere in or around Paris, a couple of dozen young French activists are going to choose an aisle, unfold tables, put on some music and, taking what they want from the shelves, start a little picnic. The group “L’Appel et la Pioche” (The call and the pick axe) will have struck again – fruit and veg, dairy or the fish counter will have been transformed into a flash protest against global capitalism, rampant consumerism, bank bail-outs, poor housing, expensive food, profit margins and pretty much everything else that is wrong in the world.
The “supermarket picnic” will go on for as long as it can – before the security guards throw the activists out or the police arrive. Shoppers will be invited to join in, either bringing what they want from the shelves or just taking something lifted lightly from among the crisps, sweets or quality fruit already on the tables.
“L’Appel et la Pioche” have struck four times so far and have no intention of stopping what they claim is a highly effective new way of protesting.
“Everyone is bored of demonstrations. And handing out tracts at 6am at a market is neither effective nor fun,” said Leïla Chaïbi, 26, the leader of the group. “This is fun, festive, non-threatening and attracts the media. It’s the perfect way of getting our message across.”
Linked to a new left-wing political party committed to a renewal of politics and activism, Chaïbi’s group represents more than just a radical fringe and has been gaining nationwide attention.
The New Anticapitalist Party (Nouveau parti anticapitaliste, NPA) is a French political party launched on June 29, 2008. Its current name is temporary; a decision on the party’s name is expected at a founding congress that is being planned for February 6-8 2009.
A veteran of fights to get pay and better conditions for young people doing work experience, Chaïbi claims to represent millions of young Frenchmen and women who feel betrayed by the system.
“We played the game and worked hard and got a good education because we were told we would get a flat and a job at the end of it. But it wasn’t true,” said Victor, 34, another member of the group. “We have huge difficulty getting a proper job and a decent apartment.”
Chaïbi, who works on short-term contracts in public relations and is currently looking for work, told the Observer that the group’s aspirations were limited. “I am not asking for thousands and thousands of euros a month as a salary or a vast five-room apartment. Just something decent.”
In recent years, the problems of France’s “Generation Y” or “babylosers” have made headlines. As with many other European societies, after decades of growth, this is the first set of young people for centuries who are likely to have standards of living lower than their parents. According to recent research, in 1973, only 6% of recent university leavers were unemployed, currently the rate is 25-30%; salaries have stagnated for 20 years while property prices have doubled or trebled; in 1970, salaries for 50-year-olds were only 15% higher than those for workers aged 30, the gap now is 40%. The young are also likely to be hard hit by the economic crisis.
New ways of working mean new ways of demonstrating, too. “We are already on precarious short-term contracts, so there’s no point in going on strike,” said Chaïbi. “But a supermarket is very public and we make sure the media are there to cover our actions.”
So far reactions have been good, the group claims. In one supermarket in a suburb of Paris, the activists say they got a spontaneous round of applause from the checkout workers. Elsewhere, security guards have been “friendly”. Everywhere in France, the problem of a weakening “pouvoir d’achat” – the buying power of static wages – is a cause for resentment.
The economic crisis is further fuelling anger. Though not yet as badly hit as the UK, thanks to tighter regulation and much lower levels of personal borrowing, French businesses have still been laying off staff amid predictions of a massive rise in unemployment this year. Unions have been largely passive in the face of threatened redundancies, accepting go-slows to preserve jobs.
With the French Socialist party in disarray, alternative forms of political protest on the left, particularly a breakaway communist faction led by charismatic postman Olivier Besancenot, have made inroads. Protests about the homeless or against the expulsion of immigrants have largely taken place independently of the Socialist party, which is mired in feuds and ideological incoherence.
One new group is the Jeudi Noir, which organises heavily publicised squats of vacant buildings in Paris. Named Black Thursday after the day classified advertisements for flats appear, activists recently took over a clinic that has lain empty at the heart of the Left Bank for nearly five years.
“This is not just about finding myself somewhere to live,” said Julien Bayou, 28, who is now living in one of the former clinic’s offices. “We are making a political point. We just think it is wrong that a building in perfect condition should be empty for years when so many people need somewhere to live.”
Chaïbi sat in the kitchen of the former clinic. “It’s not just about the supermarkets,” she said. “It’s about fighting the system.”