Lines of tension, lines of flight: the revolution of occupations

Instead of gambling on the eternal impossibility of revolution …, why not think that a new type of revolution is in the course of becoming possible … Everything is played in uncertain games, ‘front to front, back to back, back to front …’.  The question of the future of the revolution is a bad question because, in so far as it is asked, there are so many people who do not become revolutionaries, and this is exactly why it is done, to impede the question of the revolutionary-becoming of people, at every level, in every place.

Gilles Deleuze, Dialogues II

In the last weeks of March, various occupations of residential buildings marked an expanding shift in the politics of occupations in spain.  The brutal housing crisis of the country, with hundreds evicted daily, while hundreds of thousands of houses sit empty and while banks, the housing creditors, are saved by billions in public money, has led to a growing radicalization of the many affected by the violence of the crisis and of the social movements which have sought to give voice/organize the generalized indignation.

Following in part the example of the corralas of Andalucía, the occupation of a five story, thirty apartment residential building in Madrid which now goes by the name of Corrala La Charca is testimony of this radicalization.  The communiqué of the occupation follows (27/03/2013), translated from the spanish …


We are unemployed, precarious youth, the evicted, families without means and all of those who’s “Welfare State” has turned its back upon.  In a moment when the rights of the citizens and their “Inviolable Constitution” are little more than wet paper, we decided to act.  Fed up with begging from power, we opted for a horizontal and assembly based self-organisation to reclaim what belongs to us, dignified housing.

So that no one be mislead, it is not the property of the building that is being reclaimed.  What appears to us inadmissible and what we will not permit is that a country with houndreds of evictions daily, with people living in the streets, there continues to be millions of empty houses collecting dust.

We claim okupation as a legitimate way to accede to housing, especially inasmuch as housing continues to be a luxury available only to a few.  And our desire is that our action spread like gun powder, that following the examples of the Andalucían corralas, of the social centers that pester the state and of thousands of other less media covered examples, we have set out to recuperate what is ours.

The liberated building is the property of UNIFO and for more than two years, since its completion, has remained empty.  This company speculated all it could in housing, a primary necessity, and was devoured by its own avarice leaving behind it astronomical debts to the public administration.  Given that in theory housing is a social good, we have socialised these abandoned houses and placed them at the disposal of people who need them.

This is not an okupation which aims only to satisfy housing needs, but is part of a larger project with clear social, cultural and artistic dimensions that we want to open to the neighbourhood.  We plan to furnish specific apartments as temporary refuges for the evicted, for whom the alternative is the street.  It is our desire to use the common spaces as well as an apartment as a social centre, as a space where different collectivities can meet, where takes, debates, workshops and all that we will want to construct together and with your help can be organized.

If you take from us the commons, we will take the private.

Okupy and be happy.


Similar occupations took place in Girona and in Barcelona (Ínsula Utopia).  If one speaks of radicalization in these cases, it is not because these are the first occupations of their kind.  Rather, it is that they are symptomatic of the spread of this form of appropriation and that groups (most notably, the PAH- Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca) that formerly resisted evictions through acts of civil disobedience/obstruction, have now decided that this is no longer sufficient.  The recent failure to force adequate changes to the country’s mortgage/eviction law to put a stop to the mass evictions through petitioning parliament, has led the PAH to more radical gestures, including occupations.

This is paralleled by land occupations (eg. Malaga), ongoing occupations for social centres (eg. Seville – La Solea, Madrid – Kairós), and the recent effort in Madrid to create a network of okupied social centres for more effective mutual aid between them and with social movements beyond with which there are affinities.

The occupations reveal lines of tension in the society which are not restricted to the workplace, though work is implicated in them (eg. evictions are typically the final event of a process that begins with unemployment).  They point to new political actors, the emergence of new subjectivities, new forms of life that struggle to fabricate autonomies amidst the violence and detritus of capitalism.  And the state does not remain passive before them, as the numerous evictions of occupations confirm.

Do they amount to a revolution?  The question is misplaced, suggesting as it does that we know what kinds of contestation lead to revolution, when we do not.  And the question is possibly blinding, for it points to assumptions about a true revolutionary subject, a subject that it is identified with the working class, an assumption with nothing to sustain it but nostalgic faith.

State-Capital reproduce themselves at a multiplicity of levels.  Fractures in the system may equally reveal themselves at different points/moments.  Occupations on the scale of what is today witnessed in spain point to tensions that are evidence of such fractures, fractures that then open up lines of flight, of creativity.  The rebellions of spain inaugurate possibilities of life against/beyond capitalism.

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