Creating radical autonomy: Errekaleor Bizirik!

To construct anti-capitalist forms of life at the margins, or in the weaves, of the system, is a delicate and precarious task with no possible guarantee of success.  Over the years, we have tried to share as many examples and experiments in this direction as we have been able to.  In the mapping of archipelagos of resistance and creative withdrawal from State and Capital, Errekaleor is one more instance of what is possible.

On the 3rd of September of 2013, a group of students of the basque youth movement occupied the first building of the city owned neighbourhood of Errekaleor in Vitoria-Gasteiz.  Today, there are some 150 people living in the squat, making it, along with La Esperanza in the Gran Canaria, one of the largest okupied spaces in spain.

Errekaleor was a neighbourhood constructed for migrant workers from the south of country for the factories of the north.  A social centre, cinema, bar were later built by the resident families, spaces of an emergent working class “culture” during the period of the country’s Transition.  From the beginning of the 1980s, however, the neighbourhood would be slowly abandoned, due to the poor quality of the houses, the distance from the city centre and declining industrial employment.

The solution to the descent into ghetto status for Errekaleor was imagined to lie, for the city authorities, in the development of a smart city, with the neighbourhood being projected to physically disappear in the new urban project.  This in turn came to naught with the “crisis” of 2008 and the collapse of spain’s real-estate market.  With no money to do anything with the space, the local government abandoned the area to its own fate, a fate changed by occupation.

Once taken, Errekaleor becomes a self-managed, autonomous city neighbourhood, declaredly anti-capitalist, known as Errekaleor Bizirik!/Errekaleor Alive!  It first sets itself up as a centre for university students of the Basque Autonomous Region, to then quickly establish ties between the student movement of Vitoria and the broader society.  Families, victims of evictions, are housed.  Older inhabitants return.

In February of the following year, a first attempt by city authorities to clear the occupation fails due to the mobilisation of groups and collectives from across the city.  The attempted expulsion reinforces the occupiers.  Other and diverse political groups are welcomed: anti-fascists, feminists, basque separatists, animal rights activists, etc.  Days of common work attract people from all over the basque region.  Meals and other activities come to be prepared and taken collectively.     Gardens are planted, a school is created, a bakery, press and cinema are established and the walls of Errekaloer become canvases.  Errekaleor emerges as one more agent in the popular struggles of Vitoria-Gasteiz.

On the 18th of May, with dozens of riot police to protect them, electric company employees cut off electricity to the neighbourhood, at the orders of the city council.  And city authorities declare once again that they have every intention to clear Errekaleor of its violent occupiers, so as to physically remove the buildings for proper “pacified” urbanisation.

 

 

(Information for the post was gathered from the following newspapers/journals: Periódico Diagonal, rebelion, el diario, público, voz como arma)

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