The expropriated bank la canica: The contagion of bank okupations in spain

With the earlier bank occupations of catalonia in 2014 and the struggle for the defense of the Banc Expropiat in the Gràcia neighbourhood of Barcelona in the bankground, and also in Madrid with the occupied La Bankarrota in 2015, the example continues to resonate, this time in Madrid’s Lavapiés neighbourhood.  Below, we share news of the occupation published in the spanish newspaper Periodico Diagonal and a communiqué from the occupiers.

Such occupations are powerfully symbolic, but are also immenently practical, as they serve as spaces of experimentation for self-managed fors of life beyond the State and Capital.

 Number 2, Huerta del Bayo Street, Madrid: this Bankia bank branch [Bankia was saved by injections of public money after the financial crisis of 2011, in the order of over 20 billion euros and partial nationalisation] in Lavapiés was one of the bank branhes most targeted by actions of the Housing Assemblies of the city.  In it, since 2012 activists were able to stop dozens of evictions and to negotiate social rents.  A few years later, Bankia decided to close the branch.

Two weeks ago, the space which housed this branch of Bankia re-openned its doors, though now converted into the liberated space Banco Expropriado La Canica.

One of the projects that will be housed in the new “bank” is precisely La Canica, a network of exchange set up in various neighbourhoods in Madrid that employs an alternative social currency, also called “canica”, with which the creation of cooperatives and collective means of production are promoted.

Another of the projects that will be housed in the branch of Huerta del Bayo is the Red Solidaria de Economía de Barrio, that will use the space for its collective sales.  The Red/Network, which was born in May 2015, brings together merchants and inhabitants of the neighbourhood with the objective of by-passing large retail companies in benefit of local commerce.  (Periodico Diagonal 14/10/2016)

The communiqué of the occupation from La Canica follows:

The Expropriated Bank La Canica is located in Lavapiés, Madrid, number 2 of the Huerta del Bayo Street.  A space which up until recently housed a branch of Bankia and which neighbours and inhabitants of various neighbourhoods use today to move forward in the, let us so call it, the turbulent process of self-management that the city has lived in these last years and to begin to coordinate distinctive projects and sofisticated tools which, without being well known, we have been able to develop during this time.

One of these is La Canica, a network of exchange that has been consolidated over some time in various neighbourhoods, that has developed a social currency as an alternative to the euro and which is promoting already, with some success, the creation of cooperatives and the collectivisation of resources and means of production.  It is, in this sense, a tool that is proving itself very useful for the direct and common organisation of our lives, allowing for the circulation of goods between us and thereby reducing our dependence on the euro and salaried labour (those who have tried know).  It is not, in any case, anything but another tool among the many that help to shore up already a distinctive economy.  Madrid has ever more coordinated consumer groups, networks of production that that mutually support each other and neighbours that reinforce just forms of exchange within neighbourhoods as a brillant effort to recompose the social life of the territory.  The Expropriated Bank presents itself then as a space of confluence for these very positive initiatives with the purpose, ambitious but not mad, that the popular, organised, disobediente and loving movement provide itself by its own means, the many resources necessary for its life in common.

If the Canica and the Expropriated Bank are meaningful, it is then because – though with fewer protest demonstrations – we comprise an enormous common world whose resources or whose economy needs to be thought in its own terms.  It is worth stating: because the millions of encounters that have taken place since 2011 were significant, because there exists a common affect, because our organising skills remain intact and because we have demonstrated that we can go far; because, in the end, the self-organised and assembly based fabric can only be thought as irreversible and permanently interconnected.  The housing assembly of Lavapiés, to cite but one example, burned a handful of the directors of this branch, blocked a good number of mortgage evictions that originated in it and was able to assure an alternative social housing solution on the polished floors where we now stand.  PAHs [Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca] and housing assemblies have (we have!) colaborated in making the banks run and above all we have made evident their social uselessness.  To expand our success by expropriating a few banks in each neighbourhood could be, immediately, a good way to enjoy our victories.

And from here we send a hundred kisses to our compañeras of the Bankarrota in Moratalaz and obviously another hundred to those of the Expropriated Bank in Gràcia, who knew how to create a happy earthquake whose effects resonate today in the Expropriated Bank La Canica.

Let us see where they resonate tomorrow.

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