Friday, July 09, 2010


Across the industrialized world various cities have become like Swiss cheese...full of holes. The "holes", of course, are the numerous abandoned buildings that sprout up like mushrooms as houses and businesses in 'depressed' neighbourhoods are left derelict. At the same time increasing numbers of people are finding themselves homeless in the face of higher and higher costs of housing. It would seem like a good fit; put the homeless people in the tenantless buildings. That, however, is not the way it works in societies where housing is seen not as a basic human right but rather as either a profit making enterprise or the subject of empire building by government social "service" agencies.

In some countries this has led to a mass movement of "squatting" where abandoned buildings are taken over and occupied by self managing tenants. This is especially prominent in Europe where while food may be cheap in a North American sense accommodation is quite expensive. It hardly registers as a 'blip' in Canada for various reasons. One is that any unauthorized occupancy is much more fully "criminalized" here, and the police move much faster on any squatters who, in any case, are the margin of the marginals and lack the political savvy (or maybe any savvy) of the European squatters. Another is that there are six months of the year in which if utilities are cut off any premises become completely unlivable for anyone but wilderness campers. Most homeless people can't afford -40 degree sleeping bags. God knows that my own city of Winnipeg may be the 'derelict building capital of Canada' (it's been commented on by none other than the Globe & Mail), and there are probably enough abandoned buildings in this city alone to house all homeless people in the whole country. God knows, however, that moving to Winnipeg would hardly be popular. That simple sensible solution is not, however, the way it works.

In Europe squatting is a political movement, and it has been far harder for European states to suppress it than it has been here. See Squat Net for general news. In southern Europe squatting has become widespread, and in countries such as Greece it has become part and parcel of the anarchist subculture. Not that I approve of such subcultures as they simultaneously build solidarity amongst their adherents and grievously divide them from others making any outreach immensely difficult. No free lunch here. An anarchist "alternative" is very obviously not a generalization of the norms of a small subculture to the general society no matter how the self-regarding tunnel vision of the subculturists may imagine it to be so. Still...the act of squatting points the way to another vision of housing that is different from that of a profit driven society or government directed "charity".

In Greece one of the oldest squats, that at Lelas Karagianni 37 (established 1988) has been under attack the other day. Here's the story from the Occupied London Blog.

In a period of intensification of social and class antagonism due to the generalised attack of state and capital on even the most elementary interests and rights of the workers the unemployed and the youth, and during the attempt to raise social and political defences, repression is intensified by targeting, threatening and attacking people in struggle and spaces of struggle.

On the night of July 8th at 2 a.m., only a few hours before the general strike demonstration some heavy police units surrounded without any obvious pretext the occupied building of 37, Lelas Karagianni Street in the Athens neighbourhood of Kipseli – and blocked off the surrounding streets. The Occupation was put under a condition of siege, threatened for many hours with a police raid, while an order had been issued for the arrest of anyone who would attempt to exit or enter the occupied building. Police checked and even detained many passers-by, neighbours or others who just happened to be in the streets around the occupation.

Finally the tight siege ended with the withdrawal of the police forces at 5 a.m., as suddenly as it had started.

Regardless of the undeclared targets and planning of this police operation, the fact is that yet another space of struggle and yet another group of people in struggle was targeted by state repression and terrorism. An occupation which during its entire 22 years always stood steadily within the ranks of the wider anarchist/anti-authoritarian struggle and always on the side of all the social-class struggles of the exploited and repressed people.

For this reason the night-time repressive operation of July 8th against this particular occupation had some wider targets and comprises part of the wider state repression aiming at terrorising and attacking anti-authoritarian struggle and more widely, the social struggles of our time.

And even if this particular repressive operation folded it nevertheless showed the aggressive tendencies and the terrorising methods employed by the state against the self-organised nuclei of struggle, such as occupations, which during this period are particularly important and useful in their support and contribution to the development of collective resistances, both on a more central level as much as in the neighbourhoods of the city.

It is for this reason that despite the very late time [at which the attack against the occupation was launched] there was an enormous struggle interest and tens of comrades were mobilised, expressing their solidarity availability to the besieged occupation on the night of July 8th.



Occupation of Lelas Karagianni 37

Friday July 9th, 2010
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Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Move all Canada's homeless to Winnipeg? Not as impossible as it may seem. People have been coaxed with free land to populate the Prairies in the past. Too bad people are more savvy now than the crazies who sheltered themselves with sod and the scriptures in days gone by. You might have to get the NHL to set up a hockey team there again to sweeten the pot to attract even the most desperate people to the Fort now.

mollymew said...

We DO after all have the cheapest beer in Canada.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...


mollymew said...

Yes, it's true. When can we expect you ?