Landlords figuratively get away with murder, and urban planners are only concerned with the accumulation of profit, to bolster the city’s image.They provide the most efficient and the most hackneyed, quick-fix, short-term solutions to what has become a source of widespread affliction and misery ­under neoliberal capitalism. I had been forewarned of the ­immensity­ of the problem specific to the region before my own move to Utrecht over a year ago. Scanning through streams of ­people online fiercely competing for rooms only hinted at its scale, though as I tentatively contributed to this in my own attempt to secure dwellings, I began to realize the severity after ­several responses made it clear that ­anything under EUR 300/month is laughable, and nearly impossible to obtain. Thanks to a good friend –and his sofa– I was spared from entering too deeply into housing’s maddening terrain.

While the fight for housing can be witnes­sed partly online, the city center aesthetically exhibits all the features of a consumerist leisure-park, as it continues to craft itself upon the image of ­utopia. But upon closer inspection of the city as a strategically planned stage for the continuous renovation of the urban space reveals that these ­measures, far from exemplifying a well-off ­society of emancipated individuals, hide ­instances of homelessness and poverty, as those on the lower rungs of the wage-scale and the wageless ­(ethnic minority groups, ­undocumented ­people seeking asylum, students, etc.) are pushed further outside of the city’s­ enclosed oasis. Upon leaving the ­archi­tectural haven of the city ­center, with its organized streets, ornate shops, and beautiful apartments, large ­transit roads and high-rise buildings owned by RaboBank, ABN AMRO, and hotel chains begin to dominate space. Beyond, in lower-income areas, the process of urban renovation becomes visible. Wealthier classes appropriate spaces occupied by local residents, who slowly start to be relocated. Many are left struggling and often anticipate evictions from their homes. In Kanaleneiland, for example, privately owned, luxury apartments are in the process of being constructed, causing entire streets to be evicted. This began to accelerate a few months short of 2015 Resisting Enclosure through Creative Commoning in Kanaleneiland - Gentrifying the Commons // Commoning Gentrification L. Grace Weber . Asylum seekers are detained in refugee prisons on the outskirts of the city, and squatters who defy the recent squatting ban face continuous struggle. And yet, there’s an uncanny invisibility of homelessness in Utrecht’s city ­center, usually an obvious reminder of the brutality of capitalism in any major city.

These lived spaces produce –and are produced by– daily practices and activi­ties; the space works in relation to the mental and the social. Under capitalism this is complicated and perverted because housing is produced as a commodity to be bought and sold on the market, mediating social relationships and stunting their wholesome growth. It is a class issue when those who fight for space are being forced out by the corporate sectors. While the onset of industrialization in the nineteenth century saw vast numbers of people come to the cities, they quickly “became concentrations, real and symbolic, of state and corporate administration.” Plans to bring in capital meant that ­cities were being remade “for the ­benefit of the middle and upper classes,” ­designed for business and pleasure, all the while maintaining a clean image. As corporations buy public resources, ­individuals become immersed in their own continuous atomization.

Hence, in a society where capital is a social relation mediated by things, the way we communicate and relate to one another is deeply warped. If the privatization of housing fuels the fragmen­tation of society and individualist ­mentalities, we could pose that establishing common spaces could be imagined for an alternative set of ­values: necessity, cooperation, care, and togetherness. Following this line of thought, my research aims to tease out the dialectical relationship between space and social relations in light of the current housing crisis, and inspired my investigation into spaces of resistance to capitalism –squats and the ­collective artistic space Rood | Noot Rood | Noot Rood | Noot is a city courtyard build in 1880, surrounded by the highways of Utrecht Leidsche Rijn. It is used by identically-named theater company 'Rood Noot', whose artists in residence use it as theater and studio space. At Rood | Noot borders cease to ... – where space is organized according to principles of the commons, where cooperation stands in defiance to modern-day capitalism.

What is the commons?

The commons is not about being in common (with another person). It is a relationship between people and things based upon the conditions of a shared world, to subsist in accordance with the self-realization of individuals ­under a banner of collectivity and mutual ­cooperation outside ­market relations or state governance. It is grassroots and its grounding is historic: it ­predates ­capitalism by thousands of years, and has never actually disappeared but ­continues to emerge in new forms even as capitalism ­squeezes it from every corner. “Enclosure”, a term which emerged in sixteenth century England to describe processes in which common land was appropriated by the landed nobi­lity,­ violently separated people from their means of production, the ways in which they reproduced themselves. Not only did this disrupt people’s livelihoods, it fenced off areas to prevent their access to common resources. Now, centuries later, it has been identified as “a key process of neoliberal globalization” and ­perceived to be the biggest threat to the commons.

Capitalism reproduces itself according to a ruthless expansionist method of primitive accumulation, a term which Marx wields in Capital to “reveal the structural conditions for the existence of capitalist society.” As Marxist-feminist activist and scholar Silvia Federici rightly asserts, this enables us to trace the historical roots of accumulation, whereby we find out just how fundamental it is to how capitalism functions today. Enclosures as such rest upon enforced segregation and exclusion; particularly fierce instances ­manifest most plainly in war and conflict zones and areas of the “Third World” that are ravaged by the ongoing disastrous ­consequences of colonialism and climate change. Yet practices of commoning continue to emerge through the desire not ­merely to outwardly defy capitalist expro­priation and exploitation, but because –and this a large contradiction ­inherent to capitalism– through its relentless expansion and stealing of time, space, resources, and lives, capitalism ­forces the re-emergence of new commons as much as it forces their enclosure. It waits until such spaces are profitable, and dives in to claim them, and the conflict continues. “Capital gives fire to the commons,” as writer Evan Calder Williams has claimed.

Housing, not merely as a place to be situated, but as a place from which to organize life on your own terms, becomes the imperative.

Those on the Left who are critical of anti-capitalist commons have focused upon the tendency for the commons to be co-opted by market forces. Yet, it remains noteworthy that many initiatives such as squatting actions that continue to exist –albeit precariously– are crucial for providing both material evidence and symbolic encouragement for re-imagining spaces of resistance for mutual struggle and support. As Federici and George Caffentzis contend, “they are the seeds, the embryonic form of an alternative mode of production in the make.” In their article, where they contest the logic of capitalist relations as one that produces commons, they cite the squatters’ movements as an ­example of fruitful commoning­ practices. Squats not only visibly ­communicate disapproval and a rejection of the capitalist system, but also expose the absurdities of pro­perty and the harrowing reality of capitalist ­relations. Following Federici and Caffentzis, therefore, I turn to the ­squatting scene in Utrecht to understand how social relations are ­organized differently. I argue that we can begin to explore the potentials for inter­relating­ and organizing in defiance of capital­ist relations through the ­material ­spaces where we live and work, with the knowledge that the connection ­between space and our interpersonal ­relationships mutually affect one ­another continually.

Socio-spatial relations

“A revolution that does not produce a new space has not realized its full potential; indeed it has failed in that it has not changed life itself, but has merely changed ideological superstructures, institutions or political apparatuses. A social transformation, to be truly revolutionary in ­char­­acter, must manifest a creative capacity in ­its effects on daily life, on lang­uage and on ­space...”

“Social relations, which are concrete abstractions, have no real existence save in and through space. Their underpinning is spatial.”

Squatting in Utrecht – creating meaning from space.

Neoliberal values and the cult of indivi­dualism have severely impoverished our capacity to commune in a meaningful way. Squatters and anti-capital­ist ­activists on all levels have been stressing the need for horizontal organi­zational strategies and inter-subjective ­relations long before the onset of austerity ­measures that cut funds to welfare and public resources and demanded that citizens maintain their communities voluntarily (read: unwaged). As such, a politics of care and mutual recognition are vital to the commons, and can be manifested within particular spaces of resistance.

In the 1970s, squatting was at the forefront of groups acting against the ­system to organize social gatherings and claim property as a shared, ­common resource in response to ­housing needs rather than profit. In delib­erate opposition to Thatcherism in the UK which declared “there is no such thing as society”, ­anti-capitalists occupied and reorganized abandoned properties to demonstrate the necessity of communal living, to renovate ­abandoned properties for housing the homeless, and to reassert a less alienated mode of social interaction. They established transnational networks of squats where legal advice on safety and security could be exchanged and improved. This can be concentrated into the term “socio-spatial relations” in the context of this article, the social and interpersonal benefits of communal ­living –the link between material ­spaces and social interactions within those spaces.

In an in-depth analysis on the squatters’ movement in Europe since the 1970s, Miguel A. Martínez Lopez considered the social benefits of squatting, all of which lend support to the importance of creating alternative ­living spaces as a practice of commoning. He wrote, “Squatting challenges housing ­shortages, urban ­speculations, absolute private property rights, and the capital­ist production of urban space as it is conducted by the State and ­private ­interests.” He identifies squatted social centers, which combine ­housing with sociopolitical workshops, non-commercial leisure activities and meetings, while squatted residencies offer free housing for those who have been displaced –by the state or ­otherwise– and those who choose, for political reasons, to enact an ­alternative lifestyle in accordance with their worldview, by positioning themselves “outside” the system. As my own research confirms, these environments also strive toward (and benefit from)an atmosphere of self-empowerment, ­mutual aid and co-learning, maintenance of space, and respect for gender, sexuality and (dis)ability.

Unlike in Amsterdam, where many squats continue to be active in and around the city, squats in Utrecht are unfamiliar sights, ­complementing­ the city’s general political sterility. Squatting became illegal under Dutch law on 1 October 2010. A year prior to the law change, thousands of squatters and sympathizers marched in Utrecht to oppose the forthcoming legislation. For decades squatting had been ­vigorous in Utrecht and elsewhere in the Netherlands. The most renowned squat in Utrecht was ACU on Voorstraat, which was occupied by activists in 1978 and remained a site for radical political organizing until 1993, at which point the owner intended to put the building up for sale. Nearly half a decade since squatting became criminalized, ­empty properties are occasionally occupied, but restrictions on the land lead quickly to evictions. Over the past year in Utrecht the most successful political squats have appeared on top of the Albert Heijn on Voorstraat, and behind the central station amid a row of ­houses now being bulldozed to build expensive luxury apartments in its place. While it was active, the squatters along that street would leave free food outside the door, normally bread and fruit, for anyone to take. And the powerful ­presence of the squat on Voorstraat was ­heightened by its stark juxtaposition to the ever-parasitical Albert Heijn below. With the ACU just a few doors down on the other side of the street, Voorstraat seemed to be on its way back to becoming a site where students, activists, and the public could meet and be met by an atmosphere of constructive antagonisms, where a clash of open political agendas can form new syntheses. However, the squat was soon evicted. Spaces of social and political activism that provide a platform for interrogating ­housing ­issues are scattered. Those that ­continue to exist in defiance of the law often find most security on the ­outskirts of the city, where the land awaits engulfment by expansionist urban policies.

Organizing differently

Of all the squats I’ve visited in Utrecht, one struck me as particularly ­inspiring. Where the city center fizzles out into ugly corporate tower-blocks, with their neon logos luminescent in the sky, right in the middle, hidden from view, lies a ­community who has built their ­environment from the groundup within an ­industrial wasteland. No building has been ­occupied –the land itself has been squatted, and they are building their site from scratch. They are a ­mixture of activists and nomads among others who have been displaced ­within the Netherlands and have had to flee their previous living situations due to ­violence or misunderstandings. I am told that although some undocumented people occasionally drop by to fix their bikes, a new law passed on 1 March 2014 has made it too unsafe for them to live there.

Following a dusty path through a field, you reach a central communal living area, a round room with kitchen appliances, separated by a thick sheet from another space with sofas, music, and books. There’s a well-thumbed copy of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (2014) lying around. It’s cosy, despite the freezing outdoor temperature, and everyone huddled around and shifting places so as to allow everyone a chance to sit closest to the heater. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming. The building is insulated by a thick plastic outer layer, and power is generated by ­solar ­panels which they built and fitted themselves. So far thirteen people live there, clustered in small groups around the ­central living area in a mixture of individual and shared caravans, spaces for sleeping and for necessary privacy.

Squats and grassroots community spaces propose possible counter-projects to the hegemony of an alienated existence, wherein they can strive to build and maintain anti-capitalist commons towards the self-realization of each person as part of a community.

More common spaces and individual living spaces in the same field are in the process of being built, the construction work of which is remarkable and is evidence of their endurance through their second winter. One resident told me that the police and other authorities didn’t think they’d survive the last winter and as such, suspected that the squatters would leave of their own ­accord. However, proving their ability to build their own houses –their own means of self-sufficiency and signs of resilience– and although on partially agreeable terms with the neighbors, the owners of the land have not replied to the squatters’ letter; hence, they are able to stay for a while despite the ­obstructions in the law.

The squatters steal everything from capitalism, and live off capitalism’s waste. They frequently dumpster dive for food products that the supermarkets needlessly throw out in the trash, and their findings are often plentiful: large strawberries, vegetables, filled pasta, sticky-toffee puddings, coffee. They don’t need to accumulate to have more than what they need, and for them this is logical. The question of money has been hailed by bourgeois economists as the only reasonable way to conduct human affairs based on exchange. At the same time, it has been treated with an appropriate level of criticism among autonomist Marxists, as political ­philosopher George Caffentzis ­rightly argues to the contrary:

“The money system’s priests always present it as an abstract but purely rational reality, as not only the ideal language of commodities but as the truly universal mode of human coordi­nation transcending the vast and endless multi­plying varieties of human intercourse on the planet.”

Caffentzis acknowledges the hegemony of the monetary system that subsumes human activity and distorts social ­relations, leaving a path of destruction and misery in the form of debts, ­poverty, and violence.

The squatters I interviewed manage in their communities without much reliance on money. Many run into ­difficulties when getting started, since they look after the space of their own accord, which involves repairs, design, renovation, and general catering to ­other inhabitants. Autonomy is central. For many, upon squatting a building, they find that floors and walls are rotten and moldy, requiring time and effort to fix. These are tasks that they share; and sometimes others in the wider squatting community come to their aid. They aren’t necessarily close friends, one of them explained, but they’re people who can relate to the situation. Common ­experiences and empathy bring them together. These tasks are always d­ivided on the basis of ability, and when a lack of ability becomes apparent, a community of teachers and learners is manifested through the sharing of skills, passed on through desire and necessity. Through this process of self-organization they can manage the space based around their personal activities and plans. The free space is organized for the com­munal activities of cooking, playing, creating dialogue and sharing ideas.

Care, support, and safety

Residents of the squatted land, for no matter how long, take care of each ­other and consider themselves part of a ­wider family. There is a dog, for ­example, ­belonging to a squatter who had left the community for a while to do ­other things, but for whom everyone ­ungrudgingly shares the responsibility for its care. Another instance regards mental health and instances of norma­tive social standards: a young man who has trouble with certain aspects of planning and organization is considered autistic mainstream medical standards. Health services persuade him to take medicine which would bring him in closer compatibility with societal standards. It’s a one-glove-fits-all ­model. His squatting community, however, take care of him according to his own needs and abilities, and nothing is demanded of him that isn’t within his capabilities. He can feel unalienated.

Elsewhere, a squatter for fifteen years explained her experiences creating a space in which she could ­pursue ­activism without sacrificing her commit­ments to her child and ­other ­children in their wider family. “You can’t be safe in a squat until you have a ­contract with the owner.” This, she told me, is absolutely essential for ensuring the safety of squatters, and especially when squatting with children. “Once it’s illegal and there’s no contract, you can run into problems with the authori­ties; it could result in having your kids taken away. With no contract, it’s no longer safe.” Her longest squatted resi­dence lasted for ten years while it was still legal, during which time she lived with a group just outside the city center, where there was more space. Normally in that squat there were five to six adults and two to three children living together with one kitchen and living room. It was a big building where they could organize training weekends and facilitate political workshops and meetings. They saw themselves as a little community. Student housing (read: for single people) in Utrecht and families of two adults and one or two children, did not cater to them. “We are not a nuclear family!” she clarifies. “There’s a very particular idea of what a family is and what a student is. It’s really practical to live in a group, and financially easier. For the children as well, it’s more natural to live in a group – with squatting we could live the way we wanted to live, as a wider family.” They were a political squat, requiring a space where they could talk about ­politics, and where people could educate each other about understanding the risks of squatting. They also orga­nized space for those who weren’t necessarily political but needed somewhere to live. Mostly these people were undocumented. “Most people in the Netherlands squat because they have nowhere else to go, not because they’re political activists,” she says. This ­created contention within the squat, as those who squat because it’s the only alternative to the streets may not be the people to share meaningful discourse with and organize. There was a need to ­provide a space for these ­people, ­separated from their own political activities. While squatting was legal, refugees had a rich history of squatting in the Netherlands. Now they face exacerbated challenges in finding housing on account of stringent Dutch laws permitting the “Alien Police” to enter a house without permission if they suspect an undocumented person is inside.

Community and participation in artist collectives – Rood | Noot as a practice of commoning

Squats are one example of a commons where tangible capacities for collective self-organization beyond exploitative capitalist relations can emerge. Another example in a particularly interesting position is Rood | Noot, a com­munity of artists and musicians ­situated on the border between city and countryside, where Utrecht’s outskirts meet the Leidsche Rijn canal. A former farmhouse, the space hovers in the ­transitional space between the past and the slippage of the present, where people and animals (cats, dogs, ­chickens, and horses) live together comfortably. Wout de Boer, a core ­person in the ­collective, regards the space as “a ­living monument” sheltered from, and yet witness to, the process of urbanism: it is surrounded by trains, cars, cyclists, boats, and the roaring sound of heavy machinery which industrializes the land around it. “We are in the middle of an area that is full of plans,” he says, thinking over the continual construction work that encircles the site. He refers to this tranquility as a protected space for where people can live and work at different paces. “We wanted to open up the place for artists and the public, to create site-specific theater which isn’t just a rehearsal space.” This opening to a wider public allows for active participation within educational settings as well as artistic projects. One of the imperatives is taking respons­ibility for the working and living environment, a central tenet in the practice of freedom at Rood | Noot. “We are a collective of three, with associates. We invite people to come and work here, some stay for a week, some for years. The work itself, both artistic and organizational, is divided by expertise and interest and can change.” They choose to work this way so as to be open and independent. “There’s no scheme or plan to it, just space to work according to when a person arrives and leaves. People move from one place to another and stop by for a while.”

Rood | Noot is funded by the city of Utrecht, and hence does not rely on private interests. This guarantees that their work and the meaning it generates remain rooted in the community. However, this situation is precarious as financial support for the arts is slowly chipped away with the declining value of art in society. The insecurity of ­artistic practice falling outside of hege­monic institutions is exacerbated by budget cuts, and relies heavily upon private patrons. Compromises must be made in order to satisfy the criteria for state subsidies and grants. At the same time, these spaces become prime sites for ­urban development, as sociologist Sharon Zukin states, this type of ­artistic space “benefits the big real estate ­interests most because it redefines the terrain on which several new markets may develop.” Zukin calls this ­“using AMP (artistic mode of production) as a strategy of urban conversion,” which calls into question how far Rood | Noot can shirk the urbanization process. Despite this, the working practices they foster create inter-subjective ­relationships that are antithetical to attitudes promoted through neoliberal capitalism.

Possibilities, alternatives

Those uncritical of bourgeois society might construe organizational modes of squatting as disorganized and ­chaotic, resonant of the carnivalesque, deviant, primitive even. But for squatters it is logical to live their own way, ­embracing the freedom to organize space and time according to their needs, against the ­homogeneity implemented by urban planners and facilitators of so-called “social” housing. As Guy Debord ­reminds us in Society of the Spectacle, “Urbanism – ‘city planning’– is capitalism’s method for taking over the natural and human environment. Following its logical development toward total ­domination, capitalism now can and must refashion the totality of space into its own particular decor.” And indeed, when capitalism refashions these ­spaces, it impacts upon our ways of inter-relating. As political theorists Richard Gunn and Adrian Wilding have convincingly argued, “a bewitched or diabolically ‘inverted’ conception of mutual recognition … is present in property relations.”

For those squatting the field, however, the space emerges both ­aesthetically and practically from their own ­creative capacities; it is pragmatic while also expressive of their own will(s). Hence, the space is integral to a reality of their own realization, rather than as blocks designed and built “from above” in which many people are ­temporarily housed. A former squatter I spoke with insisted that squatting enabled her to organize other aspects of her life ­because she didn’t have to worry about paying rent. One of the many positive outcomes of having free time was the development of a free shop on 2e Daalsedijk, open for two years now. “People come by because they’re lonely –here they can have a tea or coffee for free, meet and chat together and look at all the weird stuff!” There are plenty of clothes for adults and children, Dutch and English language books, kitchen equipment, music, folders for school, etc. Organizing such spaces helps to ­resuscitate a sense of commonality and community beyond the cash-nexus, as well as providing necessities such as clothing and home-ware free of charge for those who are in need.

Challenges and struggles

Among those I interviewed for this ­research, common issues that arose in conversation were struggles with ­insecurity and safety. The notion of ­feeling at ease, without societal ­pressure to conform, or compromise the self, to have a base from which to build ­radical ­alternatives, are the ­personal and political reasons of why people choose to squat. It is also a method of building a commons. Squatting represents freedom of movement, freedom of space, and freedom of time. Within alternative spaces we find new ways to relate to one another, removed as far as we can from the alienated com­modified relationships intrinsic to capitalism. Housing, not merely as a place to be ­situated, but as a place from which to organize life on your own terms, ­becomes the imperative.

With the squatting ban in place, I am told that squatters in cities are on the move every two months, making it ­difficult to organize anything else: they can’t study, work, and do [squatting] actions because they’re too busy facing evictions and struggling to rejuvenate their communities. Some told me they had to perform squatting actions seven times in a period of two months due to legal problems. They’re constantly focused on the exhausting questions of where they can live. Furthermore, legal problems are disruptive and can turn those who are vulnerable into criminals. “The first time we squatted we were evicted immediately after the action,” one of them said. “The ­owners wanted to sell the house, as they ­apparently had plans for renovation.” The house was in a suburban neighborhood, which they think is the reason for their eviction. There are also court cases that property owners can levy against them that routinely have to be faced. One squatter tells me how impossible these situations are: if a court case is lost, you still need to pay EUR 1,500, and an extra 150 for a lawyer. “Some squatters say it’s important to do these court cases and build up huge debts, which they take to the community to try and raise money through benefits, but even if there’s a chance that you can win, the court is their place –they’re the owners and we’re just a bunch of squatters who’ve been there for a few weeks.” Although some owners recognize that there’s a housing crisis and allow squatters to use a space for as long as renovation plans haven’t been sanctioned, living situations remain distressingly precarious.

For those squatting the field, the space emerges both aesthetically and practically from their own creative capacities; it is pragmatic while also expressive of their own will(s).

With regard to the change in the law, not being able to squat is “a real pity,” the squatter of fifteen years told me,

“As soon as I left my parents’ house I was squatting. When renting, if something’s broken you have to call the landlord. This is not how I want to live. When something breaks, I want to fix it or learn how to fix it. This is natural to me. We share the duties as a community. In the old squat we were always up on the roof fixing things. Caring for the house brings you closer to your environment; you become more intimately connected with it. It feels good to me.”

The lack of squats in Utrecht’s city ­center testifies to gentrification in the city as much as the impact of the squatting ban. Property in the center of town continues to be renovated and reserved for the benefit of middle class citizens as well as international and Dutch ­students, many of whom supply ­landlords with a vast supply of profit as a quick cash-injection before they are overhauled and replaced with new ­students each year. Squatting, as a result of these changes, has been pushed further out of the city into suburban or industrial zones, and affordable, available housing remains at critical levels.

She continued: “A lot of people still don’t know what squatting is. They think it’s still anti-kraak. People in general think there are no squats anymore, that since squatting is illegal it just doesn’t exist.”

Final thoughts

Space constitutes a terrain that is “in between” where creative and disruptive possibilities open. At the same time, space is everywhere. Under neoliberalism, the compartmentalization of the living space serves to reinforce the disintegration of social life into an extension of the alien­ating productivity-­orientated workspace; the private space of the home for consumption and recuperation, where individuals living under the same roof while ­utterly ­uninvolved in each others’ lives –save for frequent scrambles for the ­bathroom– is representative of this ­experience of alienation.

Social space is manifest through the ­interactions and (social) activity of ­people in relation to each other and their environment. At the same time, we must not fall into the trap of ­spatial fetishism, of understanding space to be the determining causal factor of ­human interactions. Instead, socio-­spatial relations are to be understood dialectically, in other words, as the synthesis that results from opposing forces. Henri Lefebvre reminds us that social space has to be lived, that all persons ­recognize themselves within this space, to modify and enjoy accordingly. In order to subvert and re-appropriate the organizational mode of capitalism, alternative spaces for self-organized activities in solidarity and cooperation are vital.

As such, for both primary ­communities focused upon in this article, –the squats and Rood | Noot– space is what they make it; it is theirs to build and to be ­inspired by, and while at once creative and subversive, they are not without their internal problems, the scope of which is too large for this research. Nevertheless, squats and grassroots community spaces propose possible counter-projects to the hegemony of an alienated existence, wherein they can strive to build and maintain anti-capitalist commons towards the self-realization of each person as part of a community. This notion is implicit in Karl Marx’s assertion that the future society, with the collapse of capitalism, would bring about “the development of the rich individuality which is as all-sided in its production as in its ­consumption.” Through these alternative values, by creating and self-organizing resistant spaces to capitalism, a new socio-spatial relation can be offered, and time placed firmly back into our hands.

A recent example: a new Albert Heijn opened in Lombok, putting pressure on Turkish, Moroccan, and Surinamese grocery stores.

The Focus E15 Mothers in East London at the forefront of the housing campaign in London have as their slogan “social housing, not social cleansing.” See their Facebook page for updates on their work.

Martha Rosler, Culture Class: Art, Creativity, Urbanism (Berlin: Sternberg Press and e-flux journal, 2013), p. 3.

Ibid., p. 4.

See chapter five of Karl Marx, Wage Labour and Capital (1847), available here.

Alex Jeffrey, Colin McFarlane, and Alex Vasudevan, “Rethinking Enclosure: Space, Subjectivity and the Commons,” Antipode 44, no. 4 (2012): p. 1247.

Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch (Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 2004), p. 12. Federici’s crucial advancement of and divergence from Marx’s definition of primitive accumulation is born of her in-depth examination of the mass exploitation of women at the advent of capitalism in the form of witch-hunts.

Evan Calder Williams, “Fire to the Commons,” in Communization and its Discontents: Contestations, Critique and Contemporary Struggles, ed. Benjamin Noys (Brooklyn: Minor Compositions, 2012), p. 178.

Silvia Federici and George Gaffentzis, “Commons Against and Beyond Capitalism,” Community Development Journal 49 (suppl. 1) (2014): i 95.

Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991 [1974]), p. 54.

Ibid, p. 404.

Miguel A. Martínez López, “The Squatter’s Movement in Europe: A Durable Struggle for Social Autonomy in Urban Politics,” Antipode 45, no. 4 (2012): p. 870.

I comment further upon the situation of refugees and squatting later in this article.

George Caffentzis, In Letters of Blood and Fire: Work, Machines and the Crisis of Capitalism (New York: PM Press, 2013), p. 238.

The official government statement about this can be accessed here (in Dutch): The case of undocumented peoples’ living conditions has received increased coverage by We Are Here, a collective action group of refugees based in Amsterdam whose activities and struggles in their occupation of the Vluchtgebouw in the East of the city are regularly updated on their website.

See Rood | Noot.

Sharon Zukin, Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1982), p. 179.

Ibid., p. 182.

Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, trans. Ken Knabb (London: Rebel Press, 2004), p. 95.

Richard Gunn and Adrian Wilding, Marx and Recognition (Heathwood Institute and Press, 2014), p. 16.

Lefebvre, The Production of Space, p. 35.

Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, trans. Martin Nicolaus (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), p. 325.

This article was published in the (Un)usual Business journal Utrecht Meent Het #1 (May, 2015).