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(en) invitation to an "autonomous spaces" focus in Dijon (France), during the European PGA conference, August 2006

Date Sun, 23 Jul 2006 00:08:37 +0300


Practices & resistance within autonomous spaces
The People's Global Action is an anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian
network, whose European encounters will take place this summer in
France. This even will happen in two parts: from August 19th to August
27, simultaneous decentralized conferences will take place in five
locations throughout France; from August 30th to September 3rd, all
participants are to gather in Dijon, for a centralized moment.
In addition to the centralized conference, one of the decentralized
meetings will take place in Dijon, at l'Espace Autogéré des Tanneries.
It is a squatted autonomous social centre, hosting subversive, political
and social activities in a post-industrial environment, since 1998. Over
the years, it has reached a certain degree of stability, thanks to a
long struggle against the city council owning the occupied buildings.

The decentralized conference in Dijon should allow, among others, the
construction of a library/meeting room & office, debates & collective
organisation on "the defense of activist servers & our structures of
communication" within the "digital struggles" discussion focus, accounts
& perspectives on the social uprising in France, last Spring, and, last
but not least, discussions/workshops/whatever on another topic we're
particularly interested in here: "practices & resistance within
autonomous spaces".

What follows is an introduction to this topic. It suggests a setting and
subjects we could talk about collectively in Dijon. It is intended to
circulate in various "autonomous spaces" (a pretty vast concept, which
we tried to explain further down), so please pass it around! Anybody
willing to participate to the meeting can send texts, films, proposals
for workshops, practical exercises, debates, exhibitions... whatever!

Furthermore, we included a very quick & partial introduction to the
"french" squat scene, right after this invitation.

To contact us:
stamp-dijon@pgaconference.org

For further information:
http://pgaconference.org/

To get involved in organizing the conference:
http://stamp.poivron.org/


-
- - -
Struggle is often made possible in the first place
by collective appropriation of an "autonomous space"
- - -
-

Be they urban squats; bought, negociated or reappropriated land in the
countryside; restored or self-constructed buildings; temporary or
nomadic places; activity and/or living "centers"... such autonomous
spaces serve as resourceful shelters, and have been - at least in Europe
- at the heart of many radical & anti-capitalist struggles over the last
decades.

Access to rural and urban liberated spaces, where we can put
self-organisation into practice, produce things, plan actions and
offensives, is crucial to us, both in the perspective of a radical
social change movement, and on a much more individual scale.

These various spaces especially allow us to:

- have a place to live, in a world that denies us access to suitable
housing, or to any kind of housing at all, and to question the
accumulation of goods and the sacred concept of "private property";
- share and exchange skills, objects and tools on a non-profit basis;
- experiment communal living and ways of organising, towards autonomy
in regard to the state, to wage work and capitalist society - which
allows us to break the division between work, private life, hobbies
and activism... and to show that it is possible;
- create texts, broadcasting tools and independent media;
- do a lot of "Do It Yourself" stuff: recycling, construction,
agriculture, energy producing, handcrafts...
- create and spread subversive "cultures" and lifestyles;

These spaces, islands of uncontrolled freedom, are therefore targeted in
priority by the established powers. In some European countries,
determined state offensives have already strongly jeopardized the
existence of such collective living & political activity spaces.

Right now in France, these places are endangered. The state wants to
establish an even more repressive legal setting, and the authorities
seem to be reacting more and more swiftly to squats, against those
inhabited by people in a particularly precarious situation or by illegal
immigrants, and against the recent outbreak of "political" squats in
many towns. For instance, deadly fires in buildings occupied by illegal
immigrants last summer have been used to increase the number of
deportations and to take strong repressive measures against squats.

In the countryside, access to land is getting harder and harder, and
rural communities find themselves facing unreachable hygiene and
security standards, while struggling with touristic and upper-class
colonisation.

In France, despite the fact that many links exist between various
collectives, formal structures allowing skill-sharing and solidarity are
poorly developped. It seems necessary to us to get strong enough to face
states and owners when it comes to such topics as access to land and
space. Therefore, we should ask ourselves how we could create networks,
alliances and collective strategies.

Despite a certain will and some practices, "political" squats often
remain stuck in "marginal ghettos" and don't really connect with other
kinds of squats, like the ones inhabited by the very-poor or by illegal
immigrants. Seldom do they connect with people's struggles in some
neighbourhoods against gentrification, for easier access to housing.

For all these reasons, we wish this AMP/PGA conference to:

- be an opportunity to address such questions as: what do we mean by
"autonomous spaces"? What could/should their role be within a strategy
of radical social change, in between "alternatives" and "offensives"?
What about the links between these spaces and social movements and
struggles?
- inform people about our practices within these spaces, talk about what
we actually do and create, and see how we could increase all kinds of
exchanges, especially between the countryside and cities...
- be a space where we can share our experiences, which would allow us to
learn from one another in terms of communal living, activities,
economy...
- deal with the various ways of keeping or getting land and buildings,
to collectivize them or to build them: squats, wagenburgh,
negociation, co-op buying, special loans and leases... and take into
account the positive/negative aspects and the compromises each
solution might imply.
- allow us to build tools for solidarity between different types of
spaces: activity spaces, inhabited buildings, illegal immigrants'
squats, co-ops, farms, etc.
- give us the opportunity to think about what divides us into distinct
categories, illegal immigrants' and extremely poor people's squats,
"nomads", "urbans", "rurals", about what marginalizes us and separates
us from one another.
- deal with what makes it possible for these spaces to last, either by
taking the advice of older people who live in such spaces or by
examining the case of spaces that have lasted throughout the years.
- allow us to talk about resistance strategies we have in common when
it comes to repression, evictions and standards the state wants to
force upon us.
- talk about what decisions are taken (or not) within these spaces so as
to question and change patriarcal, racist and heterosexist norms.

We'd love to see friendships, projects, actions & common plans as
possible outcome of this conference.

We'd like people to come and introduce their spaces, we'd like to talk
seriously, and not so seriously, to tell each other stories about
barricades and walls made out of straw, about dumpstering and gardening,
about infoshops and hacklabs, chaotic shows and collective readings,
about relating to each other, about blending roles, gender and
queer-theories, about sharing tasks with or without using a taskboard,
about neighbourhoods and welcoming, about money and autonomy, caravans
and old factories, riots, formalism & passion, heaps of clothes and
psycho-geography, about douchebags and crazy friendships... About
feasting at 3 a.m. and bread-ovens, about lazy breakfasts and
hyperactive-days, about extravagant people and identity norms, about
living off nothing with a bit of everything but not always with the
things we want, about meetings that end up in disco-parties and
work-parties that end up in games, about secret plots and being able to
yell whenever we feel like it, about water-heaters turned into stoves
and stoves turned into engines, about proudly-painted facades and hidden
refuges, about crazy constructions, leaking pipes, magnificent wrecks
that only work half the time, about the distress of having to move one
more time and about the sheer daily beauty of building our lives with
our very best friends and new ones that have just arrived... and more,
definitely.

-
- - -
Appendix: A few words about "political squats" in France
- - -
-

For a couple of years now, there's been a growing movement of social and
political squatted spaces, where collective life experiences and various
public political activities often take place.

These spaces quite often host the organisation of anti-capitalist and
anti-authoritarian events and activities, "free zones" where goods can
be exchanged freely, squatted vegetable-gardens, internet cafés and
cyber-activism, free software use & development, independent media,
information spreading and book/zine publishing within infoshop
structures, work and skill-share spaces for alternative medecines,
bikes, mechanics, metal/wood-working, silk-screening, self-construction,
vegetable oil recycling for vehicles, action organising, seed-sharing,
women's spaces, feminist, queer and transgender practices, neighbourhood
pic-nics, as well as spaces for restaurants, bars, shows, discussions,
video projections or theater.

These spaces distinguish themselves from another movement called
"artists' squats" (which can be found especially around Paris), by the
fact that they refuse to collaborate with authorities and wish to act
within a strategy of struggle against private property, the state,
relationships based on power and profit, trying to build autonomous
zones linked to various other social movements.

This is just a very partial and vague introduction, the situation being
far more complex. It would be wrong to try to standardize various
experiences that each have their own ideas and activities, and which
don't necessarily see themselves as part of a larger movement.

Therefore, several intersquat meetings have taken place throughout the
past 3 years. Furthermore, local intersquat associations meet quite
often and a lot of sharing has been happening accross the country,
thanks to specific projects and actions, friendships, and networks
squatters are involved with, such as "sans titre" (which rural
communities are also involved with) (http://www.under.ch/SansTitre/),
the infokiosk network (http://infokiosques.net/), Indymedia
(http://indymedia.org/), resistance festivals, the anti-prison network,
as well as nomadic projects such as "La caravane permanente"
(http://cp.squat.net/). Existing links have already rendered possible
collective offensives such as the one that took place on the 25th of
February 2005, during which several town-halls and offices belonging to
the socialist party in 17 different cities were the scene of "surprise"
actions protesting evictions.

Despite the increasing repression coming from french authorities against
these political squats - for instance, the government tried to turn the
illegal occupation of a building into a misdemeanor within it's set of
"homeland security" laws (Lois sur la Securité Intérieure) two years ago
-, it's usually still possible to squat a building in France without
risking imprisonment. Even if the law, which usually is on the side of
the owners, orders an eviction, most of the time the actual eviction can
be postponed for months (even years) in case squatters decide to
struggle legally, and especially if they do so on a political and public
ground. A large number of evictions also create an opportunity for acts
of resistance, which can make re-openings quicker and easier.

Over the last years, several squats have even managed to block eviction
threats and to be granted a certain stability after long struggles,
sometimes after negotiating with the owners (which itself caused many
disputes). That's the case for l'Espace autogéré des Tanneries in Dijon,
for the Clandé in Toulouse, or the 102 in Grenoble, which have all
existed for over 8 years now. On the other hand, many of the most active
squats throughout the last years, such as les 400 couverts in Grenoble,
Les Diables Bleus in Nice, or l'Ekluserie in Rennes have all been
evicted last year. In the meantime, in Paris, the socialist mayor
doesn't even seem to care anymore about legal proceedings to evict
people, especially since last years' fires in buildings squatted by
illegal immigrants. Therefore it seems necessary for the movement to
build up enough strength on a nation-wide scale, as well as to carry on
making alliances and cooperating outside of the squat scene.
From:
STAMP Dijon <stamp-dijon-A-pgaconference.org>
-- STAMP Dijon -------------------.
| http://pgaconference.org/ |
| http://squat.net/tanneries/
| `-----------------------------'
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