About internal contradictions of autonomy: Warsaw squatting

Meeting with Marta Burza and Antoni Wiesztort from the Syrena collective

Concepts need matter: both neoliberal elites, as well as movements for social justice, grounds their actions on the material base and infrastructure that they find useful. Left-wing/anarchist groups of workers, associating thousands of people, sometimes in different countries, have been taking over the official headquarters of the ‘job market’ (transformed into the so-called ‘houses for the community’), effectively developing self-organization and social bonds between workers. This is one of the historical sources of what we call “squatting” these days. The others are, for example, the fight against cyclical housing crises in cities being caused by the speculation, as well as the fake housing hunger (the phenomenon of “people without houses and houses without people”) or other calamities – for example, the destruction of cities under the influence of war or natural disaster.

In addition to, or in spite of the rootedness in social struggles, squatting also has got a completely different face, derived from the (radically) liberal tradition. Seeking the reasons for the anarchist defeat against the Bolsheviks during the October Revolution, its active participant Nestor Machno indicates, inter alia, to the ideological impotence of its liberal current in the light of a social struggle. Machno bitterly remembers “those who seized the bourgeois properties, where they built houses and lived comfortably, They are those whom I call <>, various anarchists who travel between several cities, in the hope of finding a place where they can live, skive and wandering as long as it is possible in comfort and carefree.” Over a hundred years, the tradition of stepping the bourgeois’ shoes has become the doctrine of “Temporary Autonomous Zones”, created to at least raise the “avant-garde” above the destiny of ordinary people and the “nonentities” who make a living being humiliated every day.

What role do the Warsaw squats play in this light? Does the idea of self-governance have a bearing on the daily fights and struggles for social gains in the capital itself and across the country? Marta Burza and Antoni Wiesztort try to answer these questions on the basis of Margit Meyer’s material “Squatting and neoliberalism”, as well on their own experience.