Riga: “The Capital of Empty Spaces”. Dealing with the Shrinking of the Great Baltic City

It’s a dead-eyed building the colour of a paving slab, set back from the street outside at the end of a pockmarked driveway. Looming behind the roof like a figment of a bad dream is a colossal edifice, copper-coloured, precision-cut and cartoonish, a child’s conception of a skyscraper, chiselled out of the twilight sky. This is Riga, capital of Latvia, and here, we’re on the other side of the tracks – literally: the railway lines leading into the city centre cordon off the Old Town from Maskavas Forštate (the Moscow Suburb), usually referred to as Maskačka, the sprawling, chaotic and large ethnic Russian district associated locally with crime and unemployment. The hulking skyscraper beyond is Riga’s most visually inescapable legacy of the fifty-year Soviet occupation – constructed in 1956 in the Stalinist classical model, a scaled-down colonial cousin of similar edifices in Moscow and Warsaw.

But today, though the building may look like the same drab grounded rectangle as ever, internally, it’s bursting with energy. Clusters of people hover around eating, talking or playing undirected music, some line the walls, looking at pictures and felt-tipped imperatives on drawing boards. The little rooms upstairs host workshops on a number of practical and impractical subjects, from improvisation to soap-making. Cakes and vegetarian food emanate endlessly from somewhere. A Latvian-language poster stuck on the inside of the door urges (or promises) “Latvian-Russian friendship”. At one point everyone squashes themselves into the truncated hall to listen to a speech. [Read More]

Dublin: Better to Squat Than Let Homes Rot

On the merits of Squatting as a tactical response to the permanent housing crisis.

While the government says there is no money to build social housing, they seem to forget the fact that there are over 270,000 vacant houses, flats and apartments scattered around the country, and over 30,000 in Dublin alone. There are over 90,000 people waiting on the social housing list in Ireland – but there is quite an easy answer to the housing crisis, the government doesn’t even need to stretch itself any distance to address. they simply need to introduce a law to legally allow people to squat properties that have been empty for over 6 months, or relax the laws to make it easier to squat. Coupled with a sensible social housing strategy, based around people’s actual needs and not purely profit for landlords, the housing/homeless crisis could be greatly reduced.

No government loan schemes, no sub-standard, gentrified social housing projects, and no need to wait for a new property bubble to develop to finish off the economy altogether. Over one billion a year is provided by the government to create and sustain social housing in Ireland over a two year period. The majority of this is a simple giveaway and effectively a government subsidy to private landlords (including large and small landlords, hotels, hostels and B&Bs), as the money goes straight into the coffers of already property- and capital-rich individuals/companies. It is largely dead money to those homeless or precariously homed people who have no choice but to pay artificially inflated rent for, in many cases, sub-standard and dangerous accommodation. [Read More]

“London 2016: the terrain of struggle in our city” – Aylesbury Estate and some seeds of resistance

By Some London Foxes.

This is a small contribution towards mapping the terrain of social conflict in London today.

First, it identifies some big themes in how London is being reshaped, looking at: London’s key role as a “global hub” for international finance capital; how this feeds into patterns of power and development in the city; and the effect on the ground in terms of two kinds of “social cleansing” – cleaning out undesirable people, and sanitising the social environment that remains.

Second, it surveys recent resistance and rebellion to this pattern of control including the short-lived “grassroots housing movement” of last winter, the confrontational Aylesbury Estate occupation, anti-raids mini-riots, and some riotous street parties. [Read More]

From Shanghai to San Fran, the rent is too damn high

Fueled by years of record-low interest rates, a new housing crisis is rearing its head from London to L.A. This time, however, it will not go uncontested.

Capitalism is a strange beast. Though incredibly resilient in the face of systemic crises and remarkably adaptive to ever-changing conditions, it never truly overcomes its structural contradictions. As the Marxist geographer David Harvey often points out, it merely displaces them in space and time.

The global financial crisis of 2008-’09 has been no exception in this regard. In fact, the very response to that calamity has already laid the foundations for the next big crisis. And just like its immediate predecessor, it looks like this one will be centered, at least in part, on a massive speculative housing bubble. [Read More]

Dublin: Squatting & the property question – Personal Possessions & Communal Property v Private Property

After an illegal eviction on Phibsborough Rd. in June much debate arose surrounding the legitimacy of the squatters and their rights to take over empty and unused properties and put them to use. This piece looking at the issue of squatting and property rights was written by a WSM member and an An Spreach member who was evicted on that day from the property.

—Personal Possessions & Communal Property v Private Property—

While one’s immediate reaction to using and living in an empty home or putting workplaces/land to use that is legally owned by another individual or company may immediately be that it is illegitimate or morally wrong, this article aims to deconstruct the argument that individuals, legal or real should be able to dominate and/or control property for their exclusive use, or to leave it rot at the expense of others. The ideas and justifications for private property go to the heart of the capitalist/statist system and its ability to control resources and the means to life to the exclusion, exploitation and detriment of the majority of the planet’s population. [Read More]

Resisting the next wave of real estate speculation in Spain

Stop_BlackstoneA new speculative bubble may be taking shape as global investment firms buy devalued real estate in Spain. Will they beat a new path of dispossession?

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, Spain was flying high. After extensive economic liberalization and adoption of the euro in the late 1990s, all indicators pointed up. Spain boasted the highest use of cement in the European Union, fifth worldwide, as close to a million houses were built in 2006 alone — more than France, Germany and Italy combined. Many were convinced that prosperity was here to stay.

But the boom was built on an asset bubble, where skyrocketing housing prices and unprecedented amounts of credit for developers and homeowners — and thus vast indebtedness — created the perfect storm. While more than six million new homes were built and house prices increased by over 200 percent from 1996 to 2007, in the years since then Spain has seen millions of vacant properties accumulate, housing production at a standstill, price declines of over 65 percent from their peak, and hundreds of thousands of home repossessions. [Read More]

London: DiY regeneration shows how to solve housing crisis

We’re told the only solution to the housing crisis is to build more homes. Just whack up enough new build flats and the market will sort itself out and make things a bit more affordable, right? But if you’re a person who’s getting kicked out of a council estate so that it can be flattened and then gentrified, it is in fact the building of houses or yuppy flats that is the cause of your housing crisis, not the solution.
[Read More]

London: Organising in our Communities

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) have been organising together for two years on housing, benefits and other issues we face relating to poverty. Over time we have explored ways to make our organising more accessible and better addressed to our diverse needs. There are people in our group for whom English is not their first language, some are the sole carers for their children, some have mental or physical disabilities, or struggle with various other difficulties that living in poverty can entail.
[Read More]

Paris: Against states and their borders

This text on the wave of sans-papiers occupations in Paris tells important lessons for those involved in migrant struggles on the strategies used by liberal democratic states to contain them. If we anticipate these moves, how can we pre-empt them? And what strategic targets are based near you?

Original French text in Lucioles #23 with the title ‘Against states and their borders: revolution’; roughly translated by Rabble.
[Read More]

Their Law: The New Energies of UK Squats, Social Centres and Eviction Resistance in the Fight Against Expropriation

For anyone old enough to remember themselves as a teenager during the nineties, with fond memories of piercing their own ears (multiple times) whilst listening to the second album of The Prodigy ‘Music for a Jilted Generation’ [self-​piercing nostalgia optional], they will recognise ‘Their Law’ as the musical response to the criminalisation of rave culture’s collective enjoyment of ‘repetitive beats’ directly legislated in Section 63(1)(b) of the Criminal Justice Act and Public Order Act 1994. The metallic screams and staples pulsate into an abrupt “fuck them and their law” where the Braintree boys quarterise their angry sentiment against enclosing law, the voice of a radical resistance felt in lower frequency bass, vibration, body, the tribe, the people — rave terms.

I think of Their Law when I think of the energy and metabolism of many communities now fighting the heartbreaking effects of unabated private property acquisition in the UK, of the fierce passions contesting the market-​obsessed policies enacted through unapologetic and unconcerned legislative processes that are entirely ignorant of the difficulties people are facing on a day-​to-​day basis just to be. [Read More]

Now that it’s undeniable: Gentrification in Hamilton 2015

From The Hamilton Institute

Introduction

For the past several years, we’ve been talking quite a lot about gentrification here in Hamilton. In the current moment, as the vanguard of art galleries decisively give way to boutique shops and condos, as sections of town are repurposed into bedroom communities for people who work in Toronto but can’t afford to live there, what do we mean when we talk about gentrification? Two years ago, even the arts industry fucks could claim, without feeling too dishonest, that they were creating something local and durable. Now we watch their flagship galleries and favourite restaurants close while a Starbucks and McMaster satellite campus open in Jackson Square, with condos going up on all sides. You were the footsoldiers of gentrification – don’t say we didn’t warn you.

[Read More]

Turkey: Gregor Samsa and Don Kişot fighting against windmills. Squatting in Istanbul as an attempt to resist neoliberal urban politics

Donkisot_serbesiyet_IstanbulOn the Trails of Don Kişot – Our Field Research in Istanbul
By the changing shape of the Istanbul skyline, the rapid growth of production within the city since the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP) rose to power in 2002 is easily visible to the city’s inhabitants. Over the past two decades, Istanbul has undergone a neoliberal restructuring process (1). Progressing globalization and digitalization have not only turned the city into a site absorbing surplus value – an epicenter of the accumulation of capital – they have also formed a new urban space in which traditional national spatial arrangements engage with those of the global digital age (2).

As a research group, we were concerned with Istanbul’s economic, cultural and social transformation into a global city over the past 50 years as well as the various effects of this transformation. During our travel to Istanbul from May 23, until May 31, 2014, we conducted field research on squatting in stanbul. The political controversies regarding common usage of urban space in everyday life as well as the political struggles stemming from immense changes of social life culminating in the Gezi Park protest in 2013 were the most obvious links between the projects we visited.

In reference to David Harveys’ “Rebel Cities”, we call people’s occupation of Taksim Square “their right to the city” (3). In our field research, we intended to explore the political intentions of The Don Kişot Sosyal Merkezi, a squat in Istanbul German leftist magazines focused on, calling it a “follow up movement to Gezi.” (4) We asked ourselves in which way squatting in Istanbul is connected to the 2013 Gezi Park protest movement and how it relates to neoliberal politics and
urban transformation. [Read More]