Italy: The housing struggle and even beyond

casa_reddito_dignitWe translated our editorial from almost two months ago, which was written soon after a first, successful “March of the  Peripheries”, a day in which people from working-class and suburban neighbourhoods rose along housing rights militants  and activists to tackle the gruesome Lupi housing plan, preventing people living in housing occupations and squats from  accessing basic services and citizenship rights.

As the Lupi minister himself was forced to resign after his associate Ettore Incalza – a longtime state manager which did supervise great unnecessary works’ projects such as the TAV high-speed railway – was prosecuted for corruption, a second march of dignity approaches in Bologna and other initiatives are developing in other cities, to reaffirm the people dignity against the neoliberal austerity and the individualist dogma of the Renzi government.

The struggle for housing rights gave an important message on January 31. A real mobilization that featured thousands of people taking the streets all over the country. It was able to address the social composition that lives in the housing occupations as well as those many characters – both involved in the politics of housing and in the more general and inclusive debate on the city and its criticism – that ended up at its side in the streets and in the squares. An important message which arrived exactly when the moratorium of evictions for being in arrears without fault (sfratti per morosità incolpevole) expired – an event that is made worse by the exclusion of the “protected”categories from the milleproroghe decree. A process that featured the multiplication of initiatives of reclamation, of questioning of local and government  governance through the years; that seems to be without limits, and fuels and strengthens the struggles that develop in the urban contexts; it does not seem to have preset boundaries but it has the potential to spread and widen, as it already happened in the recent past; it does not look to have a beginning and an end with the street and conflict events organized together. We have proof of that when, on the next day already, we meet together to resist the enforceable evictions (sfratti esecutivi), from the determination in Paitone (Brescia) in spite of police charges to the spontaneous expression of conflict against the bailiffs within the territory of Ostia, and to the barricades that, as we write, are being built in Florence in order to defend the occupation of former hotel Concorde.

We find ourselves in an unbearable situation, sometimes paradoxical, and because of that it is necessary to reproduce such events and develop a reasoning able to bring us even forward. The way of ruling over this country partly changes in its public expression, yet it remains locked to a really worrisome continuity with the sad Italian tradition. In a crystal-clear way we note that, as the squares of the country were filled up by people who had enough of austerity policies, welfare cuts and privatization of services and essential public resources, in the seats of power Mattarella was elected president of the Republic; a character that can style himself as guarantor of the continuity with that Christian democrat tradition which is epitomized by Renzi. Mattarella sums up in himself all the worst disgraces of this country, that worked through time in order to make Italy a neoliberal country at the service of the capital. An umpteenth proof that the way in which the territories are ruled is not going to change. Our legacy cronyist tradition is a characteristic of our country and of capitalism in our country. Actually in history, in the moment when parties and trade unions lost their real grip on the people, the ruling class created those intermediate dispositifs able to replace them, which are not required to have any political connotation in particular, they can be on the far-right as on the left, what it is important is that they must be linked to the power and guarantee the status quo. They continue to use the “middle-world” (a reference to the mafia capitale inquiry), connected to power through the tenders, in order to manage and control the underworld. Therefore, if in Emilia-Romagna and in Tuscany the “red cooperatives” linked to CGIL and PD dominate, the tenders in Rome continue to be a source of income and reallocation of wealth for the usual players. The arrests due to the Mafia Capitale inquiry seems to be more a warning to who thought to be able to make profits in the country without asking for permission than else. It was necessary to control those who exceeded the limits required by the country of austerity. Actually, there are needs that transcend State boundaries, and even Rome must respect them. Catholic lobbies, mafiosi, real-estate constructors and speculators are always ready to collect, and the city council to give – at the expenses of those who suffer from this all.

As housing rights movements always denounced, the ruling tool is that of emergency, and it is the best way to create profit. Dysfunctional administrations, that do not guarantee a decent public transport, a house for who needs it, that cut the nursery schools’ staff, that abandon increasingly crumbling schools, and that do not protecthundreds of migrants that reach the cities will subcontract the management of this all to someone else, with the clear mission of not resolving it.

The mobilizations of January 31 expressed themselves about the lies they want to tell us, discrediting an increasingly arrogant political class. Being aware of the great deal of work yet to be done, one has to continue to struggle and create conflict; starting from the battle against the housing plan of minister Lupi, that creates a further emergency, trying to smite the only active alternative for a dignified life. In the territories in which people do not want to wait to be treated as a parcel or a sad case, or even as a problem on which make money, a collective organization gears up and dignity can be reclaimed through struggle and reappropriation.

Who took the streets on January 31 does not expect any concession, does not believe that negotiating tables are needed to manage problems, the relation originates from power balances and from the capacity of enforcing them, from the ideas that are expressed and from the absolute refusal of any possible co-opt process. The administrations must answer concretely, with tangible and immediate solutions, to the solicitations produced by social conflict, that with its necessary strength and subjectivity breaks the spiral of the government of emergency, so cherished by those who want to decide without hindrances and propose themselves to manage it. The message was clear, and it has been loud and clear for years: “we want everything”, and no other middle way will do.

We proved how the struggle is able to reach important goals and will achieve them, even if the road is longer than one could wish. The determination of the Milanese movements opened a strong contradiction within local institutions, the blockade of evictions in the neighbourhoods in which the resistance of the residents expressed itself clearly and strongly demonstrates that what the power fears the most are not exclusively activist by themselves, but rather the people that participate in a real movement and, in anger, hold thigh their hand with their neighbour, in order to defend their territory from further sacrifices and police. What the model they proposed us fear is the solidarity, the fraternity, the capacity of being able to extrapolate a need such the housing one; not the one who prepares himself to manage the problem tomorrow, but rather those who whisper and spread from door to door a true alternative, which exceeds talk shows and media announcements.

But there is an even greater challenge that was grasped on January 31, that of managing to connect bodies and struggles that apparently are far apart, and that point their finger against the same enemy. A difficult challenge, whose continuity has to be kept even in the future, because the housing rights’ struggle is an opportunity that excites and enriches, that can hit the mark as and because it can question itself and profit in turn from the incitement that hails from other struggles. Be it because, as we tried to express this autumn, the protagonists of these struggles, as before and after the events of January 31, are everywhere, where the capital eats and rots, into the peripheries, the warehouses, the restaurants and venues of nightlife, the school and university classrooms: inside the interstices of the city, still to be completely explored and conquered.

Let’s move on then, towards new and further bets and goals to achieve together.