Bordeaux: La B.A.S.E., opportunities beyond the establishment


A city that made its fortune by exploiting those who could not defend their rights back in the 18th century, a city where homeless people sleep on the streets, surrounded by costly restored monuments and facades – one of this kind, Bordeaux is renowned for its delicious wine, chic boutiques, elegant esplanades and bourgeois lifestyle.
An estimated number of 3500 homeless, a whole district where less wealthy people had to leave their homes after refurbishments that resulted in a boost of residential rents, plans for further gentrification of the city center, investments in façade cleanings and the construction of a touristy boardwalk instead of in the amelioration of social services, for instance in lacking nurseries – this is Bordeaux, too. Here, in December 2009 a homeless froze to death.
Under these conditions squatting an abandoned building in the north of Bordeaux is defined as a political act by the tenants of “La B.A.S.E.”. It was in summer 2010 when a group of young people entered a residential house that was left to decay for more than ten years. They decided to turn it into a place where those who seek a roof over their head can have it for free, since lodging is a human necessity, to create a place for free information and cultural events, open discussions and people’s kitchen.

It may be surprising that in a city where any civic step-asides are quickly corrected by the quite omnipresent executive, a squat managed to keep its stores open for nine months. Yet it was not easy. After few months of occupation the tenants have been invited to court in February 2011. In times of reinforcements of severe security laws and hardened conditions for undeclared habitats summed up in the “law for the orientation and progress planning of interior security affairs” (LOPSI from 2002 onwards and LOPPSI2 2009 – 2013), the inhabitants feared their soonish expulsion. Being a group of less than ten people in the beginning, they had organized free documentary screenings, a people’s kitchen, an information center and a freeshop. While their case was at court all projects were temporarily frozen down: nobody would diminish the mess in the freeshop or care about the information center when expecting a court decision claiming the eviction within the next 48 hours.
Meanwhile social life in “La B.A.S.E.” flourished. More people willing to make a political statement moved in, an international flair blossomed since the arrival of two Spanish supporters and a mother that had left her violent husband found a safe welcoming home for her and her son in “La B.A.S.E.”. Naturally the squat became a place where people with various backgrounds live, cook, welcome friends and take responsibility together – in harmonious autonomy and self-management. Some feel that “La B.A.S.E.” achieved to offer services that they would not expect to be furnished by public administrations – in solidarity and completely without paperwork and waiting time.
A month later a concert was being organized to celebrate the court’s decision: four months to stay.
“It seems little time, but for us it means the relaunching of all social and cultural activities, the restarting of projects like the information center. Four months is enough to do plenty of things that meet the needs of the people in Bordeaux. It is even worth to start doing the garden.”- a tenant says. Although a juridical decision will make life in “La B.A.S.E.” come to an end, the people living there set an example for taking on responsibility, self-management and solidarity.

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