Taking Rome: Okupation as Revolution

This last 6th of December, eight new occupations of buildings and houses took place in Rome.  This was not a spontaneous, momentary explosion, but a premeditated collective step that allowed some 2000 families to be sheltered.  That many have been retaken by the authorities, while others resist, in no way diminishes the significance of the event.

Okupations respond to needs, but they go well beyond immediate concerns.  They are a direct challenge to the presumed inviolability of private property and more broadly speaking the established legal order.  They also help to bring to light the social nature of the creation of wealth that is then privately appropriated and speculated upon.  For those involved, they are crucial experiments in self-management that open onto a horizon of broader acts of reappropriation and self-determination.  Indeed, the scale of the okupations in Rome is an example of an insurrectionary politics of archipelagos of autonomy that both contests State-Capital, while creating the rudimentary framework for other possible forms of life. 

What follows is a translation of a text from the LOA Acrobax okupation that participated in the December 6 okupations, also posted in spanish in Periodico Diagonal and Madrilonia


From the Social Strike to “the Commons in Rebellion”

It is rare, it has to be said, to write from here, from the Alexis Occupato, the space that we freed in Rome this last 6th of December in a new national day of mobilisations, after the 14th of November, when important practices of the social strike were tried.  It is difficult to understand what happens when one okupies, to describe the magic of the subjectivities that traverse self-managed and self-organised spaces.  One asks oneself about what is moving in the guts and head of the companions next to one, with whom one shares pickets, assemblies, conversations, work, food, actions of all kinds.

It is something marvellous, out of the ordinary.  If not, one would have to ask “who obliges them to do it?”: the cold, the lack of sleep, fatigue, paranoia and the like.  The chemistry that develops in the struggles is something that awakens the souls, constructs alterities; cooperation in the conflict dissolves tension, moves emotionally.  

To see someone who after two hours of sleep go to work and return in time to take up a thousand tasks, or who brings here their work or studies in the cold of one picket to another.  This is what we understand when we speak of the commons in rebellion.

We speak of an energy that cannot be destroyed, given that it reproduces itself from within these very processes.   And this collective warmth that is being produced is a justice added to these cold days of winter, a social energy that puts into practice new forms of solidarity and mutual aid between subjects affected by the politics of austerity.

In these few days solidarity with the okupation was expressed by the workers of Acea-Azienda Comunale Energia e Ambiente, by the inhabitants of the area and by those who work here.  The workers of Italgas gave us their food bonuses and promised to return should we still be here next month.  Motorcycles pass screaming, “You should never give up this place!”

Okupation, Precariousness, Investigation

Since we okupied in 2002 the LOA Arobax Canódromo de Roma, we have seen increase the number of people who become okupiers, who display an interest and want to be part of the experience.  About a year and a half aga, we begin to examine the precariousness of housing among students of a model university like that of “Roma 3” that was already conceived of according to market criteria.

With a great deal of determination and desire to experiment we okupied the Alexis, motivated also by the strength of a day like the 6th of December, in which many took to the streets and appropriated significant parts of their rent, putting into action different practices of the social strike.

We have nevertheless not been able to carry off a social strike capable of generalising the struggles against austerity or which could change the relations of power in this jungle of precariousness.  But today, it is possible to see the direction to follow.

It will be a long path that begins from necessities and arrives at the realisation of dreams.  It will be a long path, because there are no short cuts, there are no party or union delegates, there are no leaders … It will be a collective process, or it will be nothing. 

About necessities and desires

We began with research on the metropolis, because necessity is not just born of urgency, but also of a complex of desires denied, the impossibility of one’s own self-determination.  Through our research we came to the conclusion that today necessities are no longer to be had directly, but only in relation to a necessary change and radical transformation of that which exists.

And therefore we can say that okupied Alexis is not born exclusively of necessity, but also from desires.  This is the concrete utopia from which to begin again.  But, who says that it is not?  Can one not speak of those struggles of resistance that begin with a NO and then immediately begin to develop elements of proposals?  From the “no” to “alterity”, passing from resistance to processes of independence in the struggles against austerity.

Over the last years, we have witnessed moments of great conflict and radicalness, but which have not sedimented: squares were filled, bodies were and for little decided to resist, but after the NO the step towards alterity was not taken.

A direct reappropriation of rent

We believe that the direct reappropriation of the rent that belongs to us (in the form of houses, social spaces, relations, knowledge) could represent the key to join the precarious and those becoming precarious, joining conflict and cooperation, anger and love;  a rent that we want without conditions for everyone.

From the zapatistas we have learned “everything for everyone, nothing for ourselves”.  Beginning from this occupation, other houses are identified, not because of urgency, but desire; houses that represent the possibility of reproducing the practice of reappropriation.  

We want to generate complicities in this rebel territory and with anyone who has initiated in Italy a constituting process that tends towards radical change.  From the reappropriation of houses we will pass to all that they have taken from us.  We are realistic, we want everything.

Eight occupations in a day

In this sense we want to resist an eventual eviction that would be nothing more than an eviction motivated by concerns of public order, given the lack of capacity of a political response.  Never before in Rome were eight okupations carried out in a single day.  They were nevertheless ignored by the newspapers and other media, as well as by the city’s mayor and political opposition.

Politics gives way to the forces of (dis)order.  This silence testifies to the preoccupation of the political institutions, the repressive apparatuses and power as regards a possible generalisation of the conflict.

Before them is a generation that is no longer willing to negotiate, that is no longer anxious about the future, that is anxious and nothing more.  Before them is a second generation of the precarious who live between temporary jobs and juvenile idleness, in the absence of any rights.

Before them is a wide spread anger ready to explode and a deteriorated social context filled with bitterness.  Before them is a crisis of political representation that leaves ambiguous and empty spaces, which if we as movements take can become something very powerful.  And therefore, how may we say it? We will see each other on the right side of the barricades.


Video Chronicles …


Italian sources for information about December 6th and beyond can be found at the following …

Acrobax Project: laboratorio del precariato metropolitano

Coordinamento Cittadino Lotta per la Casa

Action Diritti in Movimento


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