A new squatted social centre in london…

The breach of property rules that is at the base of squatting seems to suggest that this practice will always have a profoundly anti-capitalist nature. But it is not so much the explicitly political squat projects that prove that are the more interesting in this respect. The ‘explicitly political’ projects that I refer to are the social centres that dot the geography of europe and to some extent much of the world. The most recent of these that I have come across would be one set up in North London by a bunch of people that were evicted from a squatted University building in July – run by londonsocialcentre.org people. But aside from much rhetoric about subverting capitalism these squats seem to be indistinguishable from what amounts to arts industry projects such as talked about in this article – where squatting is a business advantage (no rent) as well as a sort of value adding chic.

These social centres have not undone the prolems of ‘activism’ but rather are the product of this discourse upon a particular material situation. Often the talk amougst people seeking to set up a squat is that they want it to be ‘something’ and ‘something’ is generally constituted as a place that ‘contributes to the community’. A good example of the cross of squatting and activism is the Dalston Street Theatre squat, this is something about the squatters/occupiers and something more about the campaign surrounding the buildings .

What seems to go un-reported is the convergence between squatting and low paid Polish workers. As an important part of the low paid service industry army these people, attracted by the favourable pound to zloty exchange rate, as well as the UK’s relative open door policy to polish migrant workers, have found surviving in London worth the extra cash through the practice of squatting. I say unreported because despite the plethora of information on squats such as those of the londonsocialcentre I found nothing on polish squats – despite the biggest and most ‘thorn like’ squat being dubbed ‘the polish empire’, a squatted building of flats number over two hundred residents (anecdotally).

If there are to be interesting political developments in the world of squatting I feel that it will be from this band of squatters. It is here that a practice of life is being pursued that is actually subversive to capital in its attack upon property relations. Further, it is in these squats where the violent force of the state and capital against the practice of squatting is exercised. For instance, the last squat of the londonsocialcentre people, a building of birkbeck college in London, was essentially given a date of eviction that would give them a period of free activity within the squatted building – and when the date came there was little resistance to the agreed upon eviction – mainly because the use of the building was not a material necessity to its users only an activity of ‘activism’. Compare this to the Polish Empire which refused eviction – not deliberately but simply because people had nowhere else to go and so had nothing to loose by waiting until they were forcibly removed. Further, the attitude of the authorities to to the ‘polish empire’ was vastly different to that of those in the londonsocialcentre. Instead of coming to an ‘agreed eviction’ the owner of the squatted housing estate decided to try and force the occupants out through, the illegal, cutting off of water supplies. And after the occupants turn the mains water supply back on the council, in an effort to show comitment to making peoples lives painful if they refuse obedience, cemented the tape off. Then after this was thwarted (by digging the cement out) the council bashed holes in the resevoir that distributed mains water to each flat…

Complicating this however is the idea that all systems of control depend on a degree of transgression of rules. So just as sections of capital in the US are dependent upon people breaking work visa regulations, certain sections of capital in the UK may be dependent upon polish worker squats. In this way the potential radical usurption of property rules becomes part of a system of control. Further, many of the ‘polish worker squats’ seem to forget the act of transgressing property rules and become fiefdoms of dominant personalities that claim ‘ownership’ of the space. Additionally, despite all there problems the social centre squats like those of the londonsocialcentre people are focal points of resistence that seem to allow activities and discussions to occur that simply don’t seem to exist in Melbourne, plus the social centre mentioned seems to be fairly useful for the noborders campaign in London…


About barkingcoins
This author is just another fucking dickhead.

2 Responses to A new squatted social centre in london…

  1. s0metim3s says:

    I hear ESC – which hosts the Uninomade among other things, has just been raided in Italy. Though not much more information than that.

  2. Pingback: Squatting as Commodity on Film… « Barking Coins

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