Autonomous Spaces

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2006-06-04 14:52.

This topic will be treated in the decentralised gathering in Dijon.

Practices and resistance within Autonomous Spaces

Struggle is often made possible in the first place by collective appropriation of an "autonomous space"

Be they urban squats; bought, negociated or reappropriated land in the countryside; restored or self-constructed buildings; temporary or nomadic places; activity and/or living "centers"... such autonomous spaces serve as resourceful shelters, and have been - at least in Europe - at the heart of many radical & anti-capitalist struggles over the last decades.

Access to rural and urban liberated spaces, where we can put self-organisation into practice, produce things, plan actions and offensives, is crucial to us, both in the perspective of a radical social change movement, and on a much more individual scale.

These various spaces especially allow us to:

  • have a place to live, in a world that denies us access to suitable housing, or to any kind of housing at all, and to question the accumulation of goods and the sacred concept of "private property";
  • share and exchange skills, objects and tools on a non-profit basis;
  • experiment communal living and ways of organising, towards autonomy in regard to the state, to wage work and capitalist society - which allows us to break the division between work, private life, hobbies and activism... and to show that it is possible;
  • create texts, broadcasting tools and independent media;
  • do a lot of "Do It Yourself" stuff: recycling, construction, agriculture, energy producing, handcrafts...
  • create and spread subversive "cultures" and lifestyles;

These spaces, islands of uncontrolled freedom, are therefore targeted in priority by the established powers. In some European countries, determined state offensives have already strongly jeopardized the existence of such collective living & political activity spaces.

Right now in France, these places are endangered. The state wants to establish an even more repressive legal setting, and the authorities seem to be reacting more and more swiftly to squats, against those inhabited by people in a particularly precarious situation or by illegal immigrants, and against the recent outbreak of "political" squats in many towns. For instance, deadly fires in buildings occupied by illegal immigrants last summer have been used to increase the number of deportations and to take strong repressive measures against squats.

In the countryside, access to land is getting harder and harder, and rural communities find themselves facing unreachable hygiene and security standards, while struggling with touristic and upper-class colonisation.

In France, despite the fact that many links exist between various collectives, formal structures allowing skill-sharing and solidarity are poorly developped. It seems necessary to us to get strong enough to face states and owners when it comes to such topics as access to land and space. Therefore, we should ask ourselves how we could create networks, alliances and collective strategies.

Despite a certain will and some practices, "political" squats often remain stuck in "marginal ghettos" and don't really connect with other kinds of squats, like the ones inhabited by the very-poor or by illegal immigrants. Seldom do they connect with people's struggles in some neighbourhoods against gentrification, for easier access to housing.

For all these reasons, we wish this AMP/PGA conference to:

  • be an opportunity to address such questions as: what do we mean by autonomous spaces"? What could/should their role be within a strategy of radical social change, in between "alternatives" and "offensives"? What about the links between these spaces and social movements and struggles?
  • inform people about our practices within these spaces, talk about what we actually do and create, and see how we could increase all kinds of exchanges, especially between the countryside and cities...
  • be a space where we can share our experiences, which would allow us to learn from one another in terms of communal living, activities, economy...
  • deal with the various ways of keeping or getting land and buildings, to collectivize them or to build them: squats, wagenburgh, negociation, co-op buying, special loans and leases... and take into account the positive/negative aspects and the compromises each solution might imply.
  • allow us to build tools for solidarity between different types of spaces: activity spaces, inhabited buildings, illegal immigrants' squats, co-ops, farms, etc.
  • give us the opportunity to think about what divides us into distinct categories, illegal immigrants' and extremely poor people's squats, "nomads", "urbans", "rurals", about what marginalizes us and separates us from one another.
  • deal with what makes it possible for these spaces to last, either by taking the advice of older people who live in such spaces or by examining the case of spaces that have lasted throughout the years.
  • allow us to talk about resistance strategies we have in common when it comes to repression, evictions and standards the state wants to force upon us.
  • talk about what decisions are taken (or not) within these spaces so as
    to question and change patriarcal, racist and heterosexist norms.

We'd love to see friendships, projects, actions & common plans as possible outcome of this conference.

We'd like people to come and introduce their spaces, we'd like to talk seriously, and not so seriously, to tell each other stories about barricades and walls made out of straw, about dumpstering and gardening, about infoshops and hacklabs, chaotic shows and collective readings, about relating to each other, about blending roles, gender and queer-theories, about sharing tasks with or without using a taskboard, about neighbourhoods and welcoming, about money and autonomy, caravans and old factories, riots, formalism & passion, heaps of clothes and psycho-geography, about douchebags and crazy friendships... About feasting at 3 a.m. and bread-ovens, about lazy breakfasts and hyperactive-days, about extravagant people and identity norms, about living off nothing with a bit of everything but not always with the things we want, about meetings that end up in disco-parties and
work-parties that end up in games, about secret plots and being able to yell whenever we feel like it, about water-heaters turned into stoves and stoves turned into engines, about proudly-painted facades and hidden refuges, about crazy constructions, leaking pipes, magnificent wrecks that only work half the time, about the distress of having to move one more time and about the sheer daily beauty of building our lives with our very best friends and new ones that have just arrived... and more, definitely.