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A Report from the Agora 99 meeting: Post-Occupy Housing Rights Activism and Beyond

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
12th November 2012


Agora 99 was a meeting of European social movements preparing for the November 14 general strike call.

Excerpted from Ter Garcia:

“Participants detailed their experiences and goals in their efforts relating to public education, health care, direct democracy, housing rights and more.

Gonzalo Mosqueira, of the Italian organization Cantiere, explained in a session on housing that in Milan, for instance, there are more than 80,000 empty houses, and activists are working to stop the evictions of people in squatted houses who can’t pay rent. They’re also promoting new squats with the group Occupy Sfitto.“The participation of neighbors in the actions is very important,” Mosqueira said. “Here in Milan we are developing this slowly, but it has begun.” Some weeks ago, activists created a mobile application that allows users to map upcoming evictions. “At the moment, it is only being used in Milan, but we are trying to expand it to other cities,” Mosqueira added. The scene among housing activists in Germany is quite different because there are far fewer problems with the mortgages; people there are starting to face other troubles. “Fear is used by speculators to raise the price of the rent, especially in Hamburg,” explained Hanno Willkomm. “We tried to mobilize people to fight against these raises and demand that the government regulate the cost of rent.” The previous week, he said, was the first time in recent memory that an eviction has been halted in Germany with civil disobedience. Willkomm proposed, also, that the Spanish housing rights collectives represented at the meeting could work with Germans to apply pressure in the cases of evictions in Spain by German banks.”

Housing rights was just one of the issues included under the umbrella of rights, and it accompanied discussions of education and public services. It was announced, for instance, that in La Morada, Spain, a new social center opened in a squat several weeks ago, and a Greek activist told about how the workers in an Athens hospital occupied the building in order to keep it operating after it was to be closed because of budget cuts. Workshops about debt and democracy took place in five social centers across Madrid, where activists proposed tax resistance against the payment of national debt in each of their countries and a call for a new constitutional process in Europe. Other topics under discussion included basic income and a proposed European Charter of Social Rights. “In Paris, we are working to guarantee a basic income,” said Sophie Banasiak of Real Democracy Paris, a participant in a collective of precarious workers, “and I believe that we must fight for it at a European level, to include it in a charter of rights for all Europeans.” Banasiak announced that in France there will be a mobilization for this Charter of Social Rights and a basic income next December 1, and she invited the other movements to join. A hundred or so people, most of them Spanish, discussed how to unify several proposals about direct and participatory democracy through a “European Citizen Anti-Candidacy” — an open list of spokespersons to bring the voice of the people to the EU Parliament. These were among the proposals discussed over the four days of the meeting. Now, the international groups formed in Madrid will continue working on their proposals over the Internet and, next week, some of them will meet again in Florence, Italy, to continue formulating joint strategies. November 14 will be the first opportunity to put these discussions into practice, with a general strike planned in Portugal, Greece, Belgium and Spain, as well as a partial strike in Italy. In Spain, this will be the second general strike of the year and the fourth since the beginning of the financial crisis. It has been called by a dozen unions, including the two largest — CC OO and UGT — but the role of the 15M movement, together with that of other campaigns that have since emerged to defend public services, will also play an important role in the day of action. Activists at Agora 99 proposed making the strike into a starting point for the campaign for the European Charter of Social Rights, with the hope of spurring a public conversation. “This day is essential,” said Luca Casarini, a member of the Italian collective Global Project, “in order to begin a common discussion and to show that the market is not able to bring about these rights, which are now being converted into private services.” Collectives in other European countries, such as Germany and England, have announced that they will carry out direct actions and demonstrations in solidarity with the countries on strike. In this way, the movements are working in concert to transform a day of strike into a turning point.”

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