Voices from the East
In Raúl Sánchez Cedillo's trans-European segment of the MAC 4 conference Justyuna Koscinska of Miasto Jest Nasze spoke. That is the City is Ours group of Warsaw, Poland. (She distributed her card upon leaving the conference, which is quite untypical in these gatherings; it was easy then to find her group online.) They are fighting “wild reprivatizations” and evictions from social housing, and always the cutting down of trees to prepare parks for development.
(I recalled the hard story of the Warsaw woman housing activist murdered in the 1990s for her activism that we heard from activist architects at our SqEK conference in Rome in '14. Never solved. Even so, as I write this, NY Times reports: “In Poland, nearly half of the judges on the Constitutional Tribunal, one of the nation’s top courts, rebelled and declared its workings politicized and dysfunctional”, illustrated with a photo of people protesting in front of the Supreme Court in Warsaw. So not only the young left, but also the shreds of civil society are pushing back against the authoritarian government. SqEK's 2017 conference was in the east of Europe, in Prague, for the first time.)
Radomir from the Belgrade, Serbia, group Roof Overhead, a consortium of anti-eviction groups, spoke also of their struggle against the privatization of flats acquired during the socialist period. “When we made an electoral run,” he said, “we were shocked by how the media banalized and stereotyped our positions. It's a thing to be aware of, how your positions will be distorted.”
Justyuna concurred. “We are stereotyped as communists who want to terrorize society. Ownership of apartments has been valorized. We think it's better to rent. Tenants' rights is hard to discuss, because renting is associated with communism. The air pollution problem is also involved with ownership, and the property rights of the car.”
She referenced the sanctuary cities movement, and the offering of municipal ID cards to migrants. Urban citizenship is happening more in the German-speaking world right now, she said. This amounts to rethinking global justice from the municipal level.
I was reminded of the prescient artists' project, recently shown in Madrid, the “NSK State.” It was created in 1992 by people from Slovenian arts group Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK). They issued passports for their “state”, which for a period were actually used successfully by some African migrants.
Corporate Power in Cities
A madrileño, Tom of Ecologists in Action, asked: “What are the limits of municipalism in relation to corporate powers? With Ahora Madrid we can see there are big limits. How to spend public monies is the question. Here in Madrid, a huge amount goes to transnational corporations. How can we get rid of that? We don't have small and medium companies to take over from the transnationals. From the first moment, corporate power was organized to stop any systemic change.”
Now, he noted, AirBnB is lobbying in Brussels as the “European Holiday Association.” They are asking the EU to intervene in cities' lawsuits against AirBnB, relying on the capitalist market policies of the EU.
A woman from Greece observed that now, ten big cities in Greece have left governments. Women have campaigned to pass resolutions against TTIP, the trade pact that would affect cities' ability to do local democracy, and other things.
Renau from Lisbon: The political questions are obvious, even if they are not discussed under the rubric of municipalism. The anti-austerity movements of 2011-12 were the biggest movements in Portugal since the Carnation Revolution. They started to shift the political composition of the ossified left in Lisbon. Questions around gentrification and tourism weren't as present. But recently there has also been a shift in global investment. A huge influx of foreign capital has come to Lisbon. Rented social centers have emerged. Squatting is hard because of the weakness of the social movements. There is now an Assembleia de Ocupação de Lisboa – AOLX to claim housing in Lisbon. We try to squat city-owned property. The group is not openly antagonistic, she said (although their blog posts are pretty rad). “They've sort of formed an NGO.”
This compares directly to the NYC of the 1980s and '90s, when the movement squatted abandoned city-owned properties which the city was trying to sell to private developers. (The story is told in Christopher Mele's book, “The Selling of the Lower East Side.”) Then artists weren't so hip to being used. Now artists are coming to the aid of the movements early on – e.g., the activist art group Left Hand Rotation has produced a documentary comparing the new pressures on housing to the 18th c. earthquake that levelled Lisbon.
Raul Recapped –
Isabel spoke (and I missed her) on how the work of care is being reorganized. On the long trend of racism. Ecologies of care. Techno-ecologies. On the new social commons, and on new ways of defining social struggles. Transformation of classes.
Poster from Euromayday
He summarized me (on the question I've written already) – speaking of constructing migrants as subjects in themselves, not only as subjects of care, and how cultural institutions could relate in that work.
Other points of his summary in telegraphic fashion –
Elections are useful mainly as ways of deblocking at the level of the state. I think this meant “deblocking” the path of the social movements, how they are constrained in terms of the invisibility of their issues, distortion, etc., and their inability to propose policy and legal solutions to their questions.
Gerald Raunig: We need our own media.
Lunch. (I failed to buy a ticket, and there was no more room.)
The second session of the Subaltern meeting was assemblyistic. Groups were defined in a kind of rolling chaos, but ended up being something like 1) on treaties, municipalists against them, and how to network for practical purposes; and 2) housing – the struggle against global funds like Blackstone, and e-platforms like Uber, Cabify, Air BnB.
I joined a 3rd group on networking. The discussion was broad:
In the electoral pursuits, you get into an NGO world. Which network can municipalists use to help them? Radomir of Belgrade – Foreign legitimation of our struggle against waterfront development was helpful.
Italian man – We need to share legal best practices. Other municipalities offer examples of what is possible to do. A knowledge exchange in the field of law. I mention the crowd source law project in Madrid, which is in its infancy.
A “how to” program of questions like social media, how to do campaigns, etc. Question of the local vs. the national: “Neighborhood politics is already transnational” because everyone comes from someplace.
Me – (broken record) Cultural institutions in relation to social movements.
Raul – There is no global-local opposition anymore. Any locality is already a small world, an isomorphism that is already academic. Democracy is not overdetermined by national interests and governments. The manteros are harrassed by local police. This is not only here in Madrid, but everywhere.
He proposes an action day on issues, like No Se Vende (Not For Sale) EU-wide.
The main idea is to reinforce each movement in its own place.
Tom of Ecologists in Action – Who represents municipalities on the EU level? EU regulations impact cities, but the cities can't influence them back? This is a question, to work to influence power on an EU level, or mainly to build local power? We can use a concrete exchange with political platforms like Corbyn's Momentum and Bernie Sanders campaign on media and social media.
Gerald – We need these classical campaign logics, but on social media we need not to be so classical. We should think of funding our own media. Using Facebook and so, we will not produce a disobedient character. For example, the Euromayday program, a networked event which started in Milan in 2001. It spread all over the EU. The question of precaricization of labor became foregrounded. They named the issue. Municipalism was long a'building. EU wide action days can help.
In Hamburg in 2009, I saw street poster traces of Euromayday all around the city, as groups there had participated and pushed the program. An amazing Lego animation announced it online. I met graduate students who planned to write theses on Euromayday. Now online there is merely a fading luminescence of this event. I put some in the links below.
Many, including Gerald Raunig and most recently Geert Lovink in an anthology by my publisher, have written on the question of dissident media, and the dystopian aspects of corporate social media platforms. These writings definitely inform my consumption and use of the corporate platforms. But “our own”? So much more easily said than done. I recall the failed efforts of Michael Alpert's zcomm.org to launch one a few years ago. I'd love to see Gerald get a big grant and launch a platform with built-in auto-translation (like Facebook and Twitter have), that would greatly extend the fine work EIPCP has done with its occasional multi-lingual e-zine.
MAC 4 Concluding Session; Spanish Social Centers Ponder Legalization Strategies; The Madrid Seminar of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
Miasto jest Nasze | Warszawa: miasto mieszkańców!
Roof Overhead, Belgrade, Serbia (in Cyrillic)
Squatting in the East - Baltic Worlds
NSK State | The NSK TIMES
The city belongs to those who occupy it: Okupying Lisbon
blog post of Sept. '17 describes the movement
Assembleia de Ocupação de Lisboa - AOLX
"Terramotourism" documentary by the activist art group Left Hand Rotation
I saw the Madrid city website last year, but now cannot find it. There is this article, which looks to be an exhaustive rundown, as of 3 years ago. (This stuff changes fast.)
Robert Ambrogi, “The Failure of Crowdsourcing in Law (So Far, At Least)”, August 10, 2015, at lawsitesblog.com
Tomas Herreros and Raúl Sánchez Cedillo, “Euro Mayday: El otro 1 de mayo,” 01/05/2008
Publication in PDF (SP): "Milano-Barcelona. Euro MayDay 004. 1º www.euromayday.org. Primer de maig de 2004. MayDay! MayDay! Contra la precarització de la vida..."
EuroMayDay - Tactical Media Files (ENG)
Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter, eds., Organization after Social Media (Minor Compositions, UK/USA, 2018); online via Scribd at:
Tomas Herreros and Raúl Sánchez Cedillo, “Euro Mayday: El otro 1 de mayo,” 01/05/2008
Publication in PDF (SP): "Milano-Barcelona. Euro MayDay 004. 1º www.euromayday.org. Primer de maig de 2004. MayDay! MayDay! Contra la precarització de la vida..." https://marceloexposito.net/pdf/mayday_periodico.pdf EuroMayDay - Tactical Media Files (ENG) http://www.tacticalmediafiles.net/campaigns/6410/EuroMayDay;jsessionid=1C8A4F64F806E9DED6EF792AD9C52ED5