Depot Wien: "Occupy in Europe"

Uploaded by ichmachpolitik on 07.01.2013

It started with the Arab Spring, the parliament in the State of Wisconsin got occupied
to prevent restrictions to labour unions. In Portugal you had the lost generation which took to the streets,
in Great Britain the students first demonstrated, then there were big demonstrations against cuts in the welfare system
in Spain the 'Indignados', the 'Outraged' appeared,
in Greece occupations of public spaces came together with general social movements, where it's about social restrictions,
in Israel spaces were occupied to demonstrate against housing shortages, in London you had riots in August
and finally in September you had Occupy New York, where again something happened in a centre of the world
and where you had the media focus on it, but you can say there are ripple effects.
Occupy was influenced by the Indignados and the Arab Spring and again you had a knock-on effect from it.
The question of living somewhere, of meeting somewhere in social centers, this question kept coming up during these movements. 0:01:34.200,0:01:46.600 In Europe in any case one can say that squatting by radical groups or groups with a wider focus
influenced the bigger movements and in reverse in Spain we've got the fight against evictions
and de-central and less spectacular issues as a continuation of the movements.
In Hamburg there hasn't been a case of squatting in 23 years
The last case of squatting is the 'Rote Flura', a property that is located very centrally in the western part of the city which is occupied to this day.
This city has a deep rooted squatting trauma, the 'Hafenstrasse' (harbour street)
which it hasn't gotten over yet. There are still people working in the administration, which have been dealing with the Hafenstrasse
To put the city of Hamburg into context one has to consider that Hamburg is a harbour city, it is a commercial city
and this is how this city operates and functions, you get merchants and dealers and the focus is on the market and on profit.
Decisions are made on this pretext. It is a city that has already had a paradigm shift towards deep privatization under (mayor) Klaus von Dohnanyi in 1982.
It is a city that owned only its own water supply in 2009, everything else, hospitals, gas etc. was sold i.e. privatized during the 1990ies,
some of it already in the 1908ies.
We had a workshop in the 'Gängeviertel', we were four people and started clandestine meetings in the cellar once a week.
We had a callout to the city and told many many people that we always meet on Tuesdays to set up a network
and with the aim of discussing in what kind of city we are living, who owns this city and how things can evolve here.
The backdrop of course was also that our days there were numbered and that something will change in 2009 and we will all have to leave. We simply didn't know where we should go.
People say the current movements are something relatively new. In my view some things have stayed the same or haven't changed much.
Social movements always strive for participation of the many, grassroots democracy and plenum discussions for example was something all movements shared.
The difference now in Spain or Vienna in the Uni brennt (Uni is buring) movement is that this is being discussed.
It was not the case that autonomous groups from the left got together and said we have to rise up against this state or the system we reject,
but it was a very wide spectrum of people who got together. So you had everything from from architect to city planner to artist to unemployed to left autonomous person
sitting around one table. Most of them had not met before and they came up with this plan.
The word of course was No, the enemy was clearly the city administration,
because they behave impossibly and they do so many things that they can't do, instead of letting go and passing on
and accept that they do have responsible citizens who are capable of acting according to a situation and you have to make that clear somehow.
Our strategy was to confuse, sort of. We thought we'll go into these houses, we had opened them and invited the whole city.
In one of them we also had an exhibition, for example, it was an international exhibition on one floor of a factory,
we wanted it to be a space everyone feels safe to go into and where no one had the feeling 'I can't go there', because
'I'm too old', 'I'm too young', 'I'm to big', 'I'm too small', 'I've got the wrong hair colour' or whatever, so that it's a truly open space.
I do think that in the last decades, at least in Austria, the protests do not have a very ritualized shape,
i.e. they have become more imaginative, especially these speech bubbles appeared a lot in the movement against black/blue (conservative coalition).
Also people don't seek confrontation with the police but rather go somewhere else.
In Hamburg the big issue was space, living space and the whole issue with investors.
If you are only informed after all the decisions are being made, you can still act without resorting to violence 0:06:51.200,0:06:57.000 by just not leaving and by saying we determine the course of this event.
I think this is an important point, the times have changed and I think the problems have shifted somewhat.
I do think, with a focus on Europe again, that the issue is not to voice political convictions through squatting or protest anymore,
but the issue is clearly very concrete living situations, where certain ways of living are not possible anymore or are breaking down.
This reaches far into the middle class and therefore if we are looking at class structure and protest we get a very different picture compared to the 70ies or 80ies.
If you look at who is on the streets in Spain today, it is not the ones who were on the streets in the 70ies or 80ies.
These are people who don't see a future. Citizens who are not usually and greatly concerned by these things now also have the feeling of being ripped off
by the powerful, by certain power structures. I can only remind you of Stuttgart 21, where, apart from the left and the autonomous groups of course,
you had the very wealthy middle classes on the street, who demanded their say in important local political and city planning issues.
I do think that you get a very different social make up through precarity
and that this mood has got a knock on effect on different social classes.
That's why I think that the comparisons with the 70ies are not fully accurate.
People have also realized that going into politics and changing things that way hasn't worked.
That's why people are nowadays saying 'I'm a citizen, whatever it is I am I will remain, but things don't work this way'.
What is needed is alternative concepts and it does need spaces and that should be central spaces, where people can meet and discuss these issues and a way forward.
The important thing, and you can clearly see this in the case of the Gängeviertel,
is the international influencing, the international contacts.
In the left you had internationalism in the 70ies and 80ies, then it went back to the local level.
Now you again have international contacts, international discussions and mutual influencing.
How do you see the situation in Europe, it's not like there's first occupations in the last few years only,
but clearly something has changed, has it intensified or has social media shifted it more into the public consciousness?
How does the media fare in general? Not well in Austria, as we all know we don't really have diverse media,
but in general in Europe, do we have more solidarity, where you are from for example?
Is it being hyped now and therefore no one will talk about it next year, currently it's part of any art fare like Documenta or Styrian Autumn.
The art scene is taking issue, literature surely, television and movies, I don't know,
maybe you'll have action films about occupations coming out in a year or something like that.
Can we continue to take it seriously, will some form of political emancipation emerge from it
or will it remain what it is and in a few years no one will be interested, is it possible to have an assessment on that?
If I said I had an assessment, it would be very audacious. What is evident is a certain imbalance.
In the south, where the austerity measures are implemented by the Troika, you get a lot more action
and of course the question is 'What difference does it make?'.
A friend of mine says he's completely disappointed with regards to Greece: General strike, violent demonstrations, election victories and no change
i.e. the current power structures remain and solidarity in the richer countries is also comparatively low.
At the same time I did have the feeling that there was a kind of departure in 2011, or some kind of cycle, which I would date a bit before
with a peak in 2011, which abated a bit, but partly in 1968 it was actually like that as well
in that it peaked in 1968, but what came after was not little either, it was just that it was repetitions in some cases, which is not as spectacular,
also in terms of media presence, so I do see further development, and regarding the posed question of occupation of a house or a square
of course there is a difference in size, but the center did get occupied around the 15th of October, which was the international day of action,
because people thought winter on the streets won't be great exactly, apart from that the question of habitation is central.
The Indignados, for example, have had a campaign where they prevented evictions.
I also do have the feeling that it is starting to get more violent.
Last year in Spain it (violence) was almost completely rejected and after getting stick from the police, it's not like that anymore.
Violence is of course always a question of media representation.
I remember in Austria, in the 70ies, when they talked about 'street fighting' that meant they were hitting us and we didn't really do anything
The common thing you can observe is that big diverse groups get together to say 'No'.
Whether it's on a square, in our case it's houses.
I think there is a big difference, because the focus is a different one. Our focus is on maintaining these houses.
We have to live somewhere, we need places to work. When you occupy a square in Spain, the focus is wider and more abstract.
I found that very interesting and it fascinated me, in the Arab Spring as well as in Spain:
This diversity of people who would never take to the streets together. When does this occur?
Just like in Hamburg: When people have the feeling that they are standing with their backs against the wall.
I think a lot of things will happen and I think it won't exactly be fun, I don't think it'll be pretty in the years to come, but I think it will be interesting.
It's not like we have a choice, we will all witness it, unless we kill ourselves, so one can try to shape it too.
I think we should continue the discussion informally