The Roots of Okupation

On November 17th was announced another okupation in Madrid and the creation of a new Self-Managed Okupied Social Centre.  The new okupation now carries a name: the CSOA Raíces, or RootsRoots, because radical, because okupations contest the very foundations of the State-Capital: private property, law, hierarchical authority, inequality, because they spread without control, overcoming obstacles, sustaining ever new life.

What follows is a translation of the text which presents the new okupation …

¡Ya tenemos nombre!CSOA Raíces

Posted on November 28, 2012

Roots, because they grow in all directions, are multiple and diverse.  They aoppear and disappear from the surface, yet always growing, expanding, interweaving and mixing with others.

Roots, because our practices seek to radically question the social and economic order imposed by a minority.  Roots that aspire to spread until they bring down the cement of the State, of Capitalism and of Patriarchy.

Roots, because we return to the origins: the building where we are was once the Okupied and Self-Managed social Centre Le Escoba around 2006, and on entering a graffito reminded us that each eviction is a felled tree with strong roots and which cast many seeds.  A tree that will always bud anew.  It did so in La Alarma (2007), in Malaya (2008), in La Mácula (2009), in Casablanca (2010-2012), in Magerit (2012) and now in the CSOA Raíces.

They cannot stop us.

10, 100, 1000 social centres!

One eviction, another okupation!!


A video chronicle and reflection on the okupation movement, centred in Barcelona, perhaps helps to emphasise the importance and complexity of the movement … and State-Capital's violent hostility to it … OKUPA, crónica de una lucha social, by Octaviroyo


A final text, originally in Italian, from 1994, reflects on the rich Italian experience with okupied social centres, a reflection from which much can still be learned.  The translation is from a spanish translation of the original, posted on the Oficina de Okupación Madrid

Against the legalisation of okupied spaces

The following text offers a significant reflection on the strategies used by the Italian State to defeat the okupation movement.  The analysis can be applied to our own, geographically closer realities.

The political responsibility of who wants legalisation:

In recent times, the sympathy of almost all of the Leftist parties for Social Centres has become obvious, something that appeared naturally above all due to the instrumental antagonism that they have tried to generate in their confrontation with the Right; a Right whose position of hatred towards Social Centres is known by all.  But the Left does not display the same attitude if we speak of okupations instead of Social Centres; horrible term this last, with its flavour of socialist-bureaucratic politics and that points to all of those places which, according to institutional interpretations and in the eyes of so called civil society, develop activities of public utility: from centres for the elderly to pottery cooperatives, from the treatment of drug addicts to socio-cultural animation.  Through the social centres and their heterogeneous activities, the Left has endeavoured, by all means possible, to prolong solidarity in various domains, but always avoiding to speak of okupation.  Holding to this attitude, the Left has consequently supported the eviction of all illegal spaces, from Genoa to Rome, from Torino to Milano, Bologna, etc.

We were saying therefore that the Left avoids speaking of okupation: the parties of the Left (Rifondaziones, PDS, Greens, Rete) are predisposed to tolerate Social Centres solely and exclusively if they play a role recognised by society.  In this way they do not lose electoral support and they avoid accusations regarding tolerance for situations that are different from the established order.

In sum, Power lowers itself to accept the existence of four walls only as long as from them come no actions which threaten the status quo.  Therefore, free services and volunteers who make up for lacunae in the social serves of the State are welcome, social work that on the one hand legitimates the existence of the Social Centres before society and on the other legitimates the power that tolerates them.

Yet incredibly, it is not only the parties of the institutional Left that demand legalisation, peaceful coexistence and an attachment to categories more easily assimilated by power.  There are also sectors within the heart of the okupation movement that we can say, with due reservations, who support this situation (concretely, from the space of “Autonomia”).  In this case, it looked as if those supporting legalisation and/or conciliation with institutions of power developed in hand with the consolidation of the same okupations.  This is a direct consequence of the mode of life of the okupations that came to have little to do with a desire for liberation, which derives from a political method that has demonstrated all of its monstrous flaws.

To better understand what the responsibilities are of the movement for legalisation, we have to take into consideration the following:

1. For them, the Social Centre finds legitimacy in actions directed at the masses

2. Substance, forms of communication and actions are established in strict relationship with the existence of precise social classes (the same that Power makes possible): proletariat, students, and immigrants of colour.

3. Revolution at the level of the individual is ignored and life itself is divided into the “private time” and “free time” of the militant.

4. Complete absence of a revolutionary imaginary.

Keeping in mind these four traits, let us situate the situation in the national context in which we find some one hundred okupations, even though the media (as is customary in the mass media) only recognises two large cities with organised centres: Rome and Milan.

All the other centres, whether those that appeared some time ago already, or those that are younger, those of large cities or small towns, and above all those that display greater hesitation before compromises, they find themselves either before an immediate military repression or the alternative of accepting the conditions earlier adopted by other centres already legitimated in the eyes of the authorities.

And all of the occupations that continue with no interest in a dialogue with Power and who find themselves obliged to live with groups that have opted for legal recognition will be evicted by force; evictions legitimated by previous agreements between other centres and the State.  These are agreements that also establish in the eyes of public opinion a line between the good (those that accept to dialogue with institutions) and the bad (those that refuse).

The grave responsibility of those who want or search for an unnecessary dialogue with power is amplified by the fact that this faction presents itself as a compact group that follows a political line rigorously that is accepted by all of its members, creating in this way divisions within the extreme Left: there are in fact situations of conflict in cities such as Rome, Padua, Florence, Milan.  This situation is however ignored by the official information about the centres, as the only representative voice is that which decided to compromise with the institutions and it imposes itself as the only legitimate interlocutor. 

Legalisation will never be uniform or univocal; it will encompass a broad panorama of possibilities that include the legally recognised association (with statutes, account books …), the cooperative, the symbolic rent or perhaps not so symbolic but paid for by the public administration, relations with other associations of all kinds, respect for the norms of hygiene and use, with successive controls by public inspectors, alcohol licencing, taxes, etc.

Perhaps not all of these demands will be made, or not all of them will be made at the same time, but once this path is chosen, there is no turning back.  And even though the State, satisfied with having created the precedent to deal with the problem, will not impose on the large social centres of the greater cities conditions that may break with the agreements reached.  They will have though no scruples in doing so when there is a need to put an end to the minor and less oppositional realities.

The centres that manage to arrive at agreements with Power will be those that have managed to mobilise people to their cause, situating themselves demagogically as a political vanguard, those whose voice is heard in the press and on television, those who manage to find legitimacy in public opinion and with institutions of power.  And all of this according to the democratic dogma – the majority is always right.

With this self confidence in their status, with the security of recognition, any element of rupture that characterises a revolutionary will is lost.

Who truly desires radical change cannot seek security, for the only security that should be of concern is that of conserving one’s dignity as rebellious individuals before a world in which one cannot live freely; anything else is but tragic ingenuousness or alienated mystification of life.

By contrast, anarchists, not being a movement, having neither strict political orientation nor centralised organisations, live occupations and self-management in the most heterogeneous of ways, leaving the field open for experimentation and avoid precise instructions and ideological prescriptions.

The only principle that we defend is that the freer we are the better.  It is obvious then that we reject always dialogues with institutions of authority (except in situations of extreme necessity).  It is our conviction that the different okupations, above all in the large cities, should not seek the favours of political parties nor conformity with the law for these bring nothing more than the legitimacy of institutional Power that has nothing to do with self-management and its development.

We have no intention of being served as bait to revisionist political opportunism.  We have therefore no interest in being as many as we can if in our daily actions the direct affinity of the individual is not verified.

We do not want to belong to a movement as an alternative club that seeks a dream of negotiation-spectacle, nor to an association of solidarity with the poor, desirous of ties with organisms of power, thereby surviving and securing a vanguard movement of the masses.

Our objective is the destruction of politics and yet we seek no power; power must be destroyed.

We propose the greatest possible diffusion through direct action of different experiences in revolutionary self-management as an operative heterogeneity of the experience of okupation, nationally and internationally.

We solicit a series of encounters to exchange information and experiences, where all aspects, individual and collective, associated with those who have decided intentionally (and not for miserable necessity) to live according to principles of self-management and freedom.  The themes that we propose are those present actively and daily in different spaces: self-financing, organisation of concerts outside of the circuits of alternative businesses, self-production, distribution, self-construction, mutual aid activities and other, propaganda of our ideas and our activities, and also themes outside okupations as such: antimilitarism, anticlericalism, social control, criticism of labour and other forms of self-management struggle.

Against centralisation, against homogeneity, we spread a thousand practices of liberation.


Mario Frisetti, Mario Spesso, Luca Bruno of El Passo Occupato and Barocchio Occupato.
Torino, February 1994.



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