Anarchist Philosopher back for a 3rd alterview to discuss what can be defined as private property and tells of her residence in a squat turned into an anarchist commune
Anarchist Philosopher, welcome back to The Sewers. We welcome and congratulate you.
Thank you, hello.
So how have you been, what with your being in ownership of private property, and also in general?
Oh, that’s a very interesting way to start a conversation, just like I used to start a conversation when I was a student by: ‘what is the time, and what do you believe in?’ although, to make it more to the point, in your case I would ask: what property that you own do you perceive as privately yours? And then we’d have to define what privately owned property actually is, not before we define what property actually is, in this sense.
Do you own your own underwear?
Yes, I do, but underwear is, of course, not a property in the sense that it can be defined as privately owned –
Oh come on, can’t you take a joke?
Jokes are, of course, fundamentally, the essence, the nucleus, of the way we attempt to discuss power relations, that is to say, power relations are essentially the core of every joke. You are trying to engage me in a conversation where I explain how I’m not only anti-capitalist in perception, but also in practice, since last time I insisted on strict activism when we talked about anti-racism. But I’m not sure private property in the micro level is the right way to begin this discussion.
Alright, what is the right way?
Historically, in modern history that is, the initial debate about privately owned property was about inheritance of course, after the French Revolution stated ownership of property as a civil right. As a consequence, discussing property turned into discussing civil rights, and for a long period of time no one actually questioned ownership as a human right. I know I made an inconceivable leap right there, from civil rights to human rights, which is a huge subject of debate in itself. It’s an essential leap when we attempt to talk about the formation of modern world socio-economic classes, of course.
So once we, well, of course, differentiate between human rights and civil rights we begin to see the focal point of this differentiation, which is, again, ownership of property and capital in general. In that differentiation we can closely inspect what is the kind of property one can own owing to one’s ‘civil rights’, and what can one own owing to one’s ‘human rights’. It is there that you find, again, what can be defined as property that can be privately owned.
Ah, so what is it?
I intend to say that what you can own as a fully acknowledged citizen and not as a mere human sheltering under your ‘human rights’, is what can be defined as private property.
Right, so once we have this definition?
Then we can discuss private property.
So do you own any private property?
In this sense, well, no. I live in a commonly-shared estate where everyone contributes their time and efforts to maintain the day to day functioning of our collective. I do own a laptop and some books and they’re for all to use.
Tell us more about where you live.
Well we took over an old estate, an old school that had been abandoned for about twenty years. At first, it was taken by art students who’d wanted to turn it into some sort of a pirate venue. They of course, some of them, had problems with the homeless people who had lived there. There were a lot of arguments about this issue and it was eye-opening for some, in the sense that some students started to ask themselves if their squat isn’t some sort of micro-colonialism.
Micro-colonialism? You mean like gentrification?
Alright, yes, these are art students.
What does that mean?
It means that like most people who are in the arts they are, to say the least, usually intelligent but always self-absorbed. That’s irrelevant. After about two years the school yard became a very beautiful public garden and the project was given budgets by the municipality –
By the municipality!
Yes, by the municipality. It became approved in the sense that staying there was no longer trespassing. But of course the municipality didn’t agree for it to be used for accommodation, it was meant to be a public art center of some sort. But also, more homeless people came there. It was not an easy process but everyone came to agreements because they sought to agree. I came there at about this period of time, it was December 2013. We started using generators to keep the place warm at nights, so the municipality would not suspect that people sleep there, since it was paying the electricity bills. The estate became some sort of a shelter. To make a long story short, two NGOs got involved – one focused on homelessness and poverty and the second is an organization that helps prostitutes break the cycle. So now it’s owned 30% by the municipality and 70% by the NGOs. Which is a big achievement in itself. Today there are 51 people in our community, excluding the people who come for temporary shelter. About 20 of which are people who have used the shelter, that is people without homes and people who have escaped prostitution. Another 20 are people who decided to live there even though they have other residency options, such as myself. The rest are people who stayed there since the time it was meant to be an art center, some even have children now.
That’s a very diverse community. How does it work?
Of course, there are some rules, of course. No sexual exchange of any sort. No violence, no drug abuse, no alcohol abuse –
Who makes sure the rules are kept?
Well, of course, we all do, because we want to live together, and if we want to live together we have to respect one another and our community. It’s that simple. The NGOs’ presence there helps with issues that are more personal in the case of addictions of course. We gather twice a week to discuss and allocate our chores maintaining the residence.
What about money and food?
There’s a minimum you have to contribute to the residence food wise. If someone has no money for the reason of losing a job they work in the garden and contribute in other ways, and the NGOs also help.
Can’t that lead to exploitation of the residence resources?
Of course it can, but we’re a community. We discuss this. No one there feels they’re there without wanting to be there. Once you want to be there, once you appreciate this way of living, there can be no exploitation because there is respect, there is mutuality.
That sounds very exciting actually.
It is exciting.
But what if you want some quiet time for yourself?
It’s a matter of respect, again, and once there is respect there is nothing you’re deprived of. What I intend to say is that the way you live and interact with others truly and most deeply affects your perspective.
So this is basically a commune.
It’s an anarchist-commune, yes.
What makes it specifically anarchist?
I think the fact that it’s open and very diverse not only in the sense of the people involved, but in the sense of the structures it inhabits. There’s the municipality’s basic demands we have to meet, there’s the NGOs which also follow a code of their own, and there’s us, the residents, all with their sets of beliefs and personal priorities. But, again, of course, the point is that there is not hierarchy between these structures.
Were there no involvement of the municipality or the NGOs or both in it, would it have looked different?
This is a very important question and I have to answer yes, but again, I do not know in what specific way it’d be different. And perhaps it would be simpler without the involvement of the municipality and the NGOs, but then again, why would we aspire to something simpler when we can obviously handle very well a more complicated situation and maintain a non hierarchic structure? This is an achievement I’m sincerely proud of.
It does sound great, it’s inspiring.
Thank you, of course, you can come visit, of course.
Oh thanks. Any chance for a Safe Word today?
No, sorry. Again, this is irrelevant.
What if Safe Word would be your Safe Word? You would never bring it up on normal circumstances.
This is really unnecessary and very unclear why you keep insisting on it. There’s a certain order you follow and in this sense it’s very unnecessary.
Right, so I won’t bring it up again, and you won’t either. And if you do, I’d know something went really wrong. Alright?
Thank you. We thank you for a very interesting alterview and congratulate you here and now.
Thank you, farewell.