Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Berlin Conference on Squat Research, March 29-31 // Solidarity Show at Rote Flora Open Now

We're going to Berlin! The SQEK group – Squatting Europe Research Collective – is having a conference at the New Yorck in the Bethanien occupation in Kreuzberg, West Berlin. SQEK is described in this text from the June 2010 London meeting (I blogged it), “Squatting Europe is a research network focusing on the squatters' movement. Our aim is to produce reliable and fine-grained knowledge about this movement not only as an end in itself, but also as a public resource, especially for squatters and activists. Critical engagement, transdisciplinarity and comparative approaches are the bases of our project. The group is an open transnational collective (Squatting Europe Kollective, SQEK) whose members represent a diversity of disciplines and fields of interest seeking to understand the issues associated with squats and social centres across the European Union.”
It's militant research – an academic trend that a 2009 seminar in New York laid out, complete with bibliography, including the texts in David Graeber and Stevphen Shukaitis (eds), Constituent Imagination: Militant Investigations, Collective Theorization (AK Press, 2007). And the New Yorck Bethanien is a good place to have it. It's a recent occupation in the old hospital complex in Kreuzberg. Their website explains, “On June 11th 2005, residents and collectives of the house project 'Yorck 59' squatted 2 floors of the southern wing of the Bethanien, this happening just 5 days after being evicted violently by more than 500 cops from the Yorck Street 59. Since then, many new collectives and groups joined the project, in spite of repression and threats of eviction. One of them being the 'Initiative Zukunft Bethanien', which in June 2006 handed over more than 14.000 signatures to the district government - to call for an open cultural, artistic, political and social centre in the Bethanien and to prevent the buildings privatization.”
I have been very busy – and Michel Chevalier busier still, making this show in Hamburg which is up now: "Nicht das Neue, nicht das Alte, sondern das Notwendige," a No Wave Squatter Punk (Anti)Art Ausstellung, March 21-April 3, 2011. This is an exhibition at the Rote Flora (Red Flower), an occupied theater in Hamburg, Germany on the occasion of their negotiation for renewal of permission to use... In other words, a solidarity show with this center for independent political culture. The show consists largely of art information sent from New York City by agents of Colab and ABC No Rio that show a continuous history of radical culture in that global city.
Michel enthuses: “For two weeks an attempt will be made to put as much life and sense as possible into a mythical era that has not yet been fully understood: the tumultuous last gasps of musical and art rule-breaking in the capital of the twentieth century. In the first week, the Rote Flora will house an historical panorama (prints, books, posters, zines, videos, records) of the radically anti-commercial music, film and art-collective production that evolved in several low-income (and crumbling!) neighborhoods of New York City in the late seventies and early eighties. These people were not rule-breaking formalists of the ivory-tower type. Their struggles included attacks on the organization of society through norms, repression, and neoliberal "urban renewal" plans, and their gritty gallows-humor and clear focus was a karate kick against the sunny amnesia, the return to the 1950s, that Reagan and his friends in the consciousness industry propagated with their overwhelming means. Most of the rule-breakers we look back on said goodbye, forever, to normal careers and even, in the case of the many featured artists who were also squatters, to physical safety.
“In the second week, the previous artifacts will be supplemented by the more recent research and concerns of some of the "survivors" of this time and place, in particular the information project undertaken by Alan Moore (Colab, ABC No Rio), dedicated to raising awareness of Social Centers in squatted buildings worldwide, of which the Rote Flora is an example. Moore's new book on politicized collectives between 1969 and 1985 will also be included in the exhibition, and he will come for a talk at the Rote Flora on April 3rd. Our program will be further amplified by food from the Volksk├╝che, a DJ battle, video screenings, a performance by Deus Ex Machina (Berlin), and a satirical DIY treatment of a wealthy Hamburg polit-kitsch painter. This project is the first attempt to collect these materials on this scale in Europe.”
I can't wait to see it!
MEANwhile, very cool and dire action on the left and right in London – Squattastic group is mobilizing against the upcoming anti-squatter law push. (Many cool Nils Norman-esque posters on their blogspot). And the Really Free School is rolling along, being very smart and engaged. (No gods, no schoolmasters – only you and alla youse.) Wunderbar dass todos geht fort – hulloo! hulloo!


Some materials from SQEK are at:

The SQEK program of talks, and my notes from the 2010 London conference are at:

This Is Forever militant and co-research seminar syllabus:

New Yorck in the Bethanien

Squattastic posters are cool

Really Free School

Thursday, March 10, 2011

“Prepare for the General Strike”

Eric Drooker's sticker for the IWW Madison is getting us ready -- "Be prepared for the General Strike if and when it is called..." (The feline lead in the picture is the anarchist 'sabo-cat.')
Now it continues... More and more Republican-controlled states in the U.S. are trying to break their public employee unions. (My information is mainly from the close daily reporting of newscasts.) A chief target is teachers. Maybe in a while teaching will become a job for which you only need to know how to read – like in Afghanistan, a country to which Slavoj Zizek recently compared the U.S.. In addition to the prolonged occupation of the Wisconsin statehouse in Madison, there have been other demonstrations at the statehouse in Michigan. Although the attack on the politically powerful public sector unions is happening in other states, Wisconsin's right wing is taking the hardest line. (Home of Joe McCarthy, after all.)
My mom is there, watching TV and fretting. Now, apparently, despite the flight of the Democratic legislators to avoid having to lose the vote, the governor's union-busting bill has passed due to some shifty parliamentary maneuvering. Already, over the years, unions in Wisconsin have been weakened by the corporate flight of jobs to other states, and overseas. For Wisconsin, the pauperization of the public education system spells an end to a future skilled workforce. The right now is closing in for the kill. If these chumps get their way, Wisconsin will become a right-to-work state, like Mississippi – ripe to exploit a non-union work force. The campaign is well-orchestrated. Now, paid advertisements are running, setting private sector workers against public sector union workers. Likely then big corporations like those controlled by the infamous Koch brothers will come in with lots of nice low-wage jobs. My mom is appalled. She says, “Everything I've taken for granted all my life” is over with. Everything is being dismantled so easily, and so fast. Now she can see how it went in the Weimar Republic with their famous vacillating socialists. Of course there is fightback, like the doomed Spartacists of Berlin. The ever-busy Edu-Factory website tipped me that the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee's theater building has been occupied by students resisting Governor Walker's planned cuts.
Yesterday, Wednesday, March 9, 2011, I listened to Naomi Klein speak to Amy Goodman. Klein is the author of “Shock Doctrine,” the classic text on how hypercapitalism uses crises to impoverish workers and privatize public goods. For the right, crisis is opportunity – and the economic crisis is their chance to push through legislative measures that strip workers of rights. It's the climax of a 50-year war against trade unions; public sector unions were the last union stronghold, and now they're going after it. For Klein, the mass mobilizations in Wisconsin are an example of how to resist the shock doctrine. Why would the troglodytes do it? Money, duh. All of these care-giving services, services that mainly women provide can be very profitable if they are privatized. Ultimately, it's a corporate coup d'etat: the government is dissolved, and a company takes over. (This has happened, she said, in Sandy Springs, Georgia.) You don't get to vote. But you still pay taxes. (Sound familiar? Hmm... 1776? Ask Aaron Burr.)
And our president? According to Klein, there's been a lot of denial about who Obama is. Mainstream organizations have been waiting to see what Obama was going to do. (Even as they withdrew support for political direct action.) And behold, he didn't really do very much to end the privatizing and exploitation.
Where can unions go? What can they do? I have always somehow believed in a syndicalist solution – contest the corporations on their own ground, like Mondragon in Spain. Already it seems the Alinsky Foundation, the Industrial Areas Foundation (which nurtured the Cesar Chavez's UFW in the 1960s) is moving in this direction, designing co-op health care, and co-op housing alternatives to foreclosures and the like. Organizers are at work and things are happening.
While it may be only art, a lot of aesthetic and conceptual thinking has gone into these kinds of ideas. The irrepressible Steve Lambert pumps his Anti Advertising Agency, which includes the Samaras Project, about alternative economies. This was run by Josh MacPhee and Dara Greenwald -- I am always amazed by the stuff these guys get up to. These and other artists are opening roads that others can travel. I mean, they are talking Venture Communism!
Last U.S. news concerns resisting the plans of Big $ U's -- In Florida, a classic tree-sitting occupation is one month old – defending the Briger Forest of Florida, upland pine scrub and home to endangered tortoise and fern. It is slated to be razed for the Scripps Institute biotechnology and bio-science facility. Everglades Earth First! calls for donations to support the tree-sitters.
Meanwhile, here on the continent, the Madrid social center Tabacalera has been closed for a week to hold a series of internal discussions. This weekend there is a seminar to consider the effects of the right-wing neoliberal city government of Madrid. Again, I will be out of town... And on the shining isle – A group calling themselves Topple The Tyrants have just occupied the £10m Hampsted Mansion of Saif Al Islam Gaddafi, in solidarity with the Libyan people and their struggle to overthrow the murderous Gaddafi regime. A spokesman for the group said “We didn't trust the British government to properly seize the Gaddafi regime's corrupt assets, so we took matters into our own hands.... The British government only recently stopped actively helping to train the Libyan regime in 'crowd control' techniques, through the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and a Midlands-based arms manufacturer, NMS Systems.” I'd say watch your asses – the Libyan secret police may try to shoot you – they did that before, during a protest at the Libyan embassy in London in 1984. Killed a young policewoman.


Eric Drooker's sticker for the General Strike in hi-res, English & Spanish:

Reporting on the ongoing crisis of public employee unions:
(Wednesday, March 9, 2011 Naomi Klein speaks to Amy Goodman)

Aaron Burr Society – (re. 1776)

Anti Advertising Agency

Venture Communism

University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee's theater building occupation

Briger Forest Tree Sit

Saif Gaddafi's London mansion occupied