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Leeds Social Centre

leedsarc | 28.06.2004 15:05 | Free Spaces

NEXT SOCIAL CENTRE MEETING Thursday 1st July, 6.30pm


Thursday 1st July at 6.30pm at Holy Trinity Cafe, Boar Lane, Leeds

The main focus of this meeting will be coming up for more concrete ideas of what people want to be going on in the social centre and the working groups to make these things happen.

SO come along and get involved and if you can't make the meeting but have a burning enthusiasm to be involved in a particular area, e.g. a cafe collective, putting on gigs, doing the info space, art workshops, then email so you can still be included.

Hopefully see you all on thursday


It’s the 21st century in boomtown Leeds, in one of the world’s richest countries. Yuppie flats, poverty, shit call-centre jobs, environmental devastation, glitzy overpriced bars, pollution, run-down estates and long working hours. Politicians, business, the media tell us this is as good as it gets.

Leeds ARC begs to differ!

Leeds ARC (Action for Radical Change) puts together the local newsletter The Rabble Rouser, links local and global issues, and promotes and takes collective action to create our own solutions and radically transform our city—without bosses or politicians.

Get involved....
Leeds ARC, 145-147 Cardigan Road, Leeds LS6 1LJ.
Tel: 07963 951267

Leeds ARC meets the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month, 7.30pm at the Cafe @ Holy Trinty Church, Boar lane, Leeds (2 mins from train station)

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Hide the following 10 comments

You can't rent your way out of a social relationship

05.07.2004 13:03

You can’t rent your way out of a social relationship…
a work in progress
by rogue element

“Legalisation is one of the most effective remedies against the inconveniences of subversion. It was used by the Social Democratic regimes in particular in order to suppress the most radical and openly subversive elements.” Against the Legalisation of Occupied Spaces by El Paso Occupato and Barocchio Occupato


This article has been written by a group of people who have been involved with squatted social centres and other forms of direct action over a number of years. We write in response to the recent plans to create a host of new social centres that are neither squatted nor co-operatively owned, but rented. It is our opinion that social centres should come from ‘need’, initiated by a critical mass of individuals and groups that have a common desire and/or need for autonomous space. This network of social centres has, on the other hand, been initiated by a wealthy, albeit well-intentioned, individual within the activist milieu who wanted to collectivise their wealth. The collective that was put in place to manage this money decided to share £70,000 among local activist groups through the Dissent! Network to help set up a network of ‘anti-capitalist’ social centres in the run up to the G8 summit, being held in Gleneagles in 2005.

This discussion document has not been written to ‘slag’ people off, but rather to start a dialogue on the issues raised so we can move closer towards realising our desires and challenging our political and personal comfort zones. We did not feel as though we could just ‘put up and shut up’ as we are very passionate about the issues we are discussing here. We hope that these rented spaces are indeed a springboard to more confrontational action, a place in which to ask why and what and how, and that the people involved in them will support other initiatives that occur in their localities – even if that means closing the rented spaces for a few days.

“We think it is important to have a confrontation of these topics, even at the risk of disturbing the sleep of the civilised.” Barbarians: the disordered insurgence by Crisso and Odotheus

The Dissent! Network, the PGA and Conflict

“How can we engender radicalism in our society if people’s first point of contact with non-mainstream politics is a space built on compromise, which exists only because the state says it can?” Social Dis-Centres, p185 Do or Die Issue 10
The new Dissent! Network, mobilising against the G8 in Britain, has adopted the hallmarks of People’s Global Action (PGA). The Dissent! Network website reads as follows: “As a group we decided that we wished to work non hierarchically with a view to enabling direct action protests against the G8. To enable the non-hierarchical working we agreed to adopt the PGA Hallmarks. The hallmarks promote a confrontational direct action approach, since we believe that it is impossible to negotiate with the encumbent governmental institutions.”
The PGA says it is absolutely committed to confrontational approaches to the dissolution of the global capitalist system and social relations built on patriarchy, sexism, inequalities of wealth and status etc. Grassroots groups from all over the world are part of the PGA network.
Groups or networks cannot really describe themselves as confrontational and anti-capitalist when they submit themselves unnecessarily to legal infrastructure. Squatting in the UK is possible (as well as preferable). Renting a social centre in the run up to the G8 is not only in direct conflict with the idea of promoting radical self-organisation, do-it-yourself alternatives (ie that which can be replicated by any group of people - £10,000 anyone?) and resistance to the state, it is also in direct conflict with those struggles abroad, such as the Piqueter@ movement in Argentina, with whom many involved in networks like the Dissent! Network would claim to be in solidarity with. When a woman from the MTD Solano (part of the militant Piqueter@ movement) in Argentina toured Britain to talk about their experiences, she talked as well of her own life choices: a trained clinical psychologist, she gave up her well-paid job and the house that she owned, long before the ‘revolution’ in December 2001, in order to set up a grassroots community health initiative in a poor barrio of Buenos Aires and to live in occupied spaces with a collective of unemployed workers and others like herself. Here in Britain, our experience is that there are an increasing number of people taking the easy route, trying to maintain one foot in the system (reaping the benefits of personal security, status and financial reward) whilst posing as radicals plotting it’s destruction.
As we understand it, the key reason for renting rather than squatting a space that can be used as a social centre (or a series of social centres) seems to be people’s desire for a space defined by its continuity. If something is not continuous because it is constantly repressed – such as a squatted space – then surely the alternative is not co-option or the creation of continuity by buying into the system, but resistance. Throughout history, many politically confrontational and challenging times have been accompanied by a strong, and confrontational, squatting movement. It was true with the ecological direct action movement in 1990s Britain. Not only were there many urban squats, but squatted land in the form of protest camps. If you are doing something the state doesn’t want you to do, if you are challenging the way things are, then you will be repressed. Renting a social centre is, in our opinion, an admission of failure and cannot promote anything other than the idea that the anti-capitalist movement has been absorbed into the system. It demonstrates a lack of commitment to realising the ideas that you expound, and by calling such a space ‘radical’ is to rewrite the dictionary.
Worse still, state-approved social centres can have a damaging impact on other projects. For example, in Italy, social centres that have negotiated with the state – often run by people associated with the White Overalls Movement/Tute Blanche, now ‘Disobbedienti, - have not only become recuperated but, through their negotiations with the state, have further marginalized the squatters movement. In the preface to ‘Barbarians: the disordered insurgence’ (a critique of the ideas of Negri and Hardt) the authors talk of the activities of leaders of the ‘Disobedient’ causing the state to issue an ultimatum, either you dialogue with the system or you are labelled ‘terrorist’ and repressed.

The Social Centre as Direct Action

“…the act of occupying a building is a form of direct action: illegal – collective – carried out openly that leads a group of individuals to reconquer a living space previously taken away from the collectivity by those in power.” Against the Legalisation of Occupied Spaces by El Paso Occupato and Barocchio Occupato

“Increasingly, in the face of the juggernaut that is civilization, our present social reality, I hear many radicals say, "It's necessary to be realistic; I'll just do what I can in my own life." This is not the declaration of a strong individuality making itself the center of a revolt against the world of domination and alienation, but rather an admission of resignation, a retreat into merely tending one's own garden as the monster lumbers on. The "positive" projects developed in the name of this sort of realism are nothing more than alternative ways of surviving within the present society. They not only fail to threaten the world of capital and the state; they actually ease the pressure on those in power by providing voluntary social services under the guise of creating "counter-institutions".” - ‘Realism’ in Against the Logic of Submission, by Wolfi Landstreicher

In our opinion, an anti-capitalist social centre, paying rent to a landlord, paying rates, and bills, obeying licensing laws, legal structures, and insurance, cannot in essence be in any way in conflict with the capitalist system. It is not direct action and it is not confrontational. At its heart is defeat, sometimes called realism.

To occupy, to squat a building is an act of direct action. It is taking what you want when you want it. Although squatting is not illegal in Britain, much of what goes on in a squat is illegal – providing food, beer, and entertainment for people without a license and without insurance. By squatting, we introduce ourselves to the new social relationships that develop when we take what we want from the state and property-owning class rather than asking and paying for it – and to the very idea that it is possible for us to exist outside those parameters. The experience of opening a squatted social centre is fundamentally more liberating than setting up a legal structure, a bureaucracy, in order to rent a building from a capitalist landlord. The experience of entering an occupied space is also fundamentally different to that of entering a legitimised one. There is often an atmosphere of anything can happen. In some senses this is the very essence of wildness, of revolt, and therefore in direct opposition to domesticity and obedience. The feeling that one is outside the petty rules and regulations of the system, even in some small way, is a magnificent one. Entering a centre that follows rules, pays it’s rates and licences, and has financial and cultural ownership of the space is radical suicide.

Private property is a product of theft, repression and exploitation. It is an agent of oppression and exploitation. The land used to be ours, now it is theirs. It is a principle of radical political activity to refute this ownership by simply taking back what we used to hold in common. Squatting is taking ‘private’ space and opening it back up to the collectivity. To rent space and call it a ‘radical’ or ‘anti-capitalist’ social centre is an oxymoron. As it was said during the May ’68 insurrection in Paris “ Don’t demand. Occupy!”

The history of revolt is one that occurs largely outside the workplace, the rented house, the ballot box. The rented social centre is no more radical than an alternative café. It is not what you say (or how many leaflets you put out), it is what you do, that matters. Revolt is about bringing the war home in a society where it is often too easily hidden beneath the veneer of isolation and alienation, where we are told (and believe) the war is always somewhere else, where we continue to labour under the illusion that we are privileged and where in fact some of us do actually have a ‘nice life’, where abundant opportunities arise for recuperation and the insidious selling out of ideals. To bring the war home is to make war on this society, on the way we live our lives, on the power structures that exist both outside ourselves and within us. Our project is one to destroy a system that impoverishes us and leads us to live increasingly mediated existences devoid of any meaning.
We wonder if the rented social centre offers a perfect displacement activity for those who are essentially part of the system, but wish to appear to be involved in radical politics. A rented social centre is never going to be a substitute for the spontaneous, transformative human interaction that comes about when people live together, struggle together, and spend time together on their own terms on a daily basis. When people have to come together against a system that doesn’t want them there.

“Politics is the art of recuperation. The most effective way to discourage all rebellion, all desire for real change [is] to transform a subversive into a man or woman of state. Not all people of state are paid by the government. There are functionaries who are not found in parliament or even in the neighbouring rooms. Rather, they frequent the social centre and sufficiently know the principle revolutionary theories, they debate over the libratory potential of technology; they theorise about non-state public sphere and the surpassing of the subject. Reality-they know it well is always more complex than any action. So if they hope for a total theory, it is only in order to totally neglect it in daily life. Power needs them because-as they themselves explain to us-when no one criticises it power is criticised by itself”– From Ten blows against Politics, by Il Pugnale May 1996

Samba, Summits and Counter Summits

“We who cultivate the taste for adventure and the free flow of passions see that only through the ongoing practice of direct action, springing beyond the four walls, going beyond the limits of lawfulness imposed by the state, can we succeed in opening new spaces for the self-organisation of our lives outside the squat and instilling new dignity into the existing occupations. In short, in spreading the practice of generalised self-organisation.” Against the Legalisation of Occupied Spaces by El Paso Occupato and Barocchio Occupato

The rented social centres that will be springing up in cities in England, Scotland and Wales in the next year have been initiated through the anti-G8 process that began in Britain a year ago. They are to be part of the build-up to a mobilisation against the G8 when it comes to Gleneagles in June 2005.
It is outside of the scope of this article to go into much detail on the role of summits, the mobilisations for them and ‘summit hopping’ as a phenomenon, but we would like to say just a few words about them. Since the kick start of what has variously been called the ‘anti-globalisation’ and ‘anti-capitalist’ movement, arguably June 18th 1999 or the anti WTO protests in Seattle in the same year, the level of autonomous direct action has gone down. Much of what passes for action now is a crowd of people kettled by cops, occasionally breaking free, only to follow a samba band around whilst dressed in pink and silver. For example, at the BP AGM action in London in April 2003, most of the crowd were content to protest the meeting by partying with a samba band outside – despite the fact that 100 shareholder tickets were available to enable people to get past security and disrupt the meeting. The majority of protestors, however, were happy to engage in spectacular pseudo-resistance rather than confrontation with those they claim as their enemies.
There is no doubt that in Seattle, and in Genoa, a critique free of mediation by ‘organisers’ and against domination was demonstrated, despite the dates being set by the leaders, and the presence of reformists in the street. Seattle took cops of all types by surprise, and at Genoa we hear of people physically challenging the authority of ‘White Overall’ stewards who were attempting to orchestrate resistance according to their ‘acceptable’ confines. But if domination and oppression are in every part of society and in daily life, attack has no need for dates set by the enemy. We can develop forms of action that can act as concrete examples of why people are resisting the G8, rather than a one-off carnival, a temporary rented social centre and a symbolic street fight against a meeting where the decisions have already been made.
You’ve got to be Kraakers!*
“In Berlin and Hamburg, during the occupation movement of the early eighties, the number of illegal squats was gradually reduced until they nearly vanished. At the same time, the most radical struggles also diminished.” Against the Legalisation of Occupied Spaces by El Paso Occupato and Barocchio Occupato
So the rented social centres are going to act as some sort of focal point for those that want to resist the G8. But with all this energy going into officialdom and cake selling, what will come of direct action and resistance? Will all the form filling, maintenance and café shifts not sap the energy from those who might otherwise be taking part in acts of resistance against what the G8 represents, and direct action?
“If we think we need ‘access points’ to be inspired by our political perspective[s], then surely this is best achieved through practising direct action – not through acquiring crippling mortgages [or rents], obeying a myriad of regulations set by the state and spending years doing DIY of the conventional sort. The energy that has gone into social centres during what has been an action-quiet couple of years may well have found other avenues for action had a lot of very energetic people not been engaged in property development.” Social Dis-Centres, Do or Die Issue 10
In terms of action, there is also the potential for conflict to emerge between ‘users’ of the space, those whose priority is the centre, and those who take action, which may place the centre at risk. This is often a fraught relationship. This was even the case with a squatted social centre in Manchester when those running the social centre tore down another collectives flyposters because they were publicising an action in the city which they thought might bring down repression on the squat.
The squatted social centre A-Spire in Leeds has been about for a number of years now. It has opened and run buildings for parties, film nights, queer events, political workshops and action planning, a free café, an illegal bar, healing spaces, art projects, hanging out space and much more. The last A-Spire happened in December 2003. It had clearly run its course. Attendance was low, the crew was small, the space was formulaic (though probably no less formulaic than the proposed rented spaces). But a network of squatted social centres, in bolder and more daring locations, carried out in increasingly creative ways, is a far less compromised and more combative way of doing things than the sordid compromise of the tenant. As someone once said ‘How can you think freely in the shadow of a church?’. Surely the rented, fully licensed social centre is that church?

“The expansion of the possibilities opened up by the insurrectionary break, the full exploration of the panorama of self-determination and of the "collective movement of individual realization", requires, above all, indomitable individuals who associate on the basis of affinity and the pleasure they find in each others' singularity, refusing every compromise.”- Against Compromise, Willful Disobedience Vol. 3, No. 2

*Dutch for squatters

rogue element

A response to "You can't rent your way..."

10.07.2004 21:25

Firstly, a bit about me.
- I am not intending to answer all of what you say, indeed I do not have those answers, but to present a different way of looking at the same problem.
- I am not in any way aptly described as "radical" or "anarchist". In fact, if you looked at my lifestyle you'd describe me as a slave to the system. If that puts anyone off reading what I have to say, then you are the people I am speaking to. However, I am in general agreement with the views of those people who are radical anarchists, but I choose not to go down the same routes in addressing my angst about the problems of the world.
- I am involved, in a small way, in the setting up of the Leeds Social Centre, and I think it is an excellent project, regardless of how many contracts and insurance documents people have to sign to have the space. More on this later.
- You are another human being. I love and respect you unconditionally. As a healer, I always seek friendly, nonviolent, nonaggressive dialogue as a way of settling differences of opinion.

Secondly, a bit about you. The way you write shows strongly that you are genuinely passionate about what you believe, you will settle for nothing less than the downfall of capitalism and all the benefits that will bring, and live completely outside any notion of state-imposed order. I'm not going into the ins and outs, rights and wrongs etc of all that here. You as an individual have the right to all your opinions, including those (which I doubt you have) that are of violence towards other persons. You are among a rare section of this society (I am making the assumption here that you are living in Britain) and lord knows! Britain (and the whole world!) needs people who think a little about where our society is going and who is at the reigns, and even whether there should be anyone at the reigns. You have chosen to utterly opt out of mainstream, legal society and be part of an underground opposition movement, taking action against capitalism and forcefully showing your opposition to it.

Over the years, I have met a lot of people who claim to be like you. They protest about things, they call themselves anarchists, they squat buildings, they are generally anti-state and anti-government. But you know what? I reckon 95% of them get to the age of, say 30, start having babies/get kicked off the dole/want to go travelling/want to make something of their life/become dissolusioned with protesting, or whatever, and before you know it they have a car and a mortgage and a posh job in a bank.

Furthermore, of the 5% that remain, the "true" element of radical anarchy, well I'd like to know how recently they asked themselves the following questions:

Do you buy tobacco, alcohol, any fuel, or other product that is taxed?
Have you recently recieved NHS treatment or think you may need to in the near future? If you had a life threatening accident, would you want an ambulance to take you to hospital, or would you be OK on your own?
Do you claim any state-benefits? Could you carry on your "radical" lifestyle if you didn't, or would you then have to go and find a job?
If your mother got murdered, would you ask the police to find the murderer for you?
Do you vote?

This brings me to the first point. If you, rogue element, are completely free of the "system", you will straightaway answer "no" to all these questions. If so, then great. If not, then that's also good as long as you acknowledge it. Of all the so-called anarchists I have met in my life, I reckon only one or two could comfortably do that.
You know the reason for that, don't you? You mentioned it. It's called realism. You know, better than I do, I'm sure, that reality kicks hard at lots of people. To live in the west, in a capitalist society, you need money. Food and shelter incur a significant financial cost. If you don't inherit it (i.e rich elite), or earn it (i.e. feed the system with taxes) or claim benefits (i.e. become RELIANT on the system) then, correct me if I'm wrong, but your only option in today's Britain is law-breaking. OK, that's good for some people, you can live nomadically in caravan communities, run illegal squats, deal drugs, steal from big shops, etc. etc. I don't pesonally have a problem with any of those kinds of behaviour. Hell, most of these laws are rubbish and I would like to see them eradicated. I'd like to see the kind of world where all are entitled to live in self-supporting communities.

But we don't. We live in reality. Point number two, your choice of lifestyle is fine by me, but I couldn't live it in my circumstances and most of the population of Britain wouldn't even consider it. Practically everyone buys into the system in some way. They don't want to drop out of their jobs, risk arrest, live a life of running from the police, getting sprayed with tear gas, having secret resistance meetings in dirty rat-infested buildings eating vegan slop, spending freezing cold nights in tree houses etc etc. They have family and loved ones to support, and health problems, and trauma from life events. They are struggling enough with coping with the system as it is, and don't have the energy or the inclination to become so radical. Furthermore, these people have huge stereotypes about people who are anarchists. "They're dirty dreadlocked hippies", "they just scrounge off the state and drink Spesh", "I'm paying their wages", "they're just troublemakers with no regard for other people", are some examples that spring to mind. There is also the perception that anarchists are shouty, confrontational and cliquey. Stereotypes are wrong, I hear you cry. Well you're right, but so, in general are the stereotypes. More on this in a bit.

However, my suspicion is that a heck of a lot of these people, who you might call slaves to the system, are actually hugely dissatisfied about the system they are in, and would like to see it changed. I'd go so far as to say that a majority of people in the western world would like to see much more equality, better distribution of wealth, freedom of speech, less power in the hands of the unelected etc etc. What do they do about it? Well, to be fair, mostly they do nothing, but where they do, they have two options. They can use the channels that this so-called democratic society provides them to air their views and attempt to get things changed. Or they can become like you.
Is that what you want? Do you want more people to listen to what you're saying and drop out of society and protest against the state? Well then, and here is the real crunch of it, YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO THEM AND RESPECT THEM AS PEOPLE. There are 6 billion people in the world and therefore, 6 billion ways of looking at it. Most people have the capacity to change their minds, adapt, be persuaded by new ideas and new ways of behaving and thinking. Lets take some examples. If I wanted my Dad to use his car less, how best to persuade him? Do I shout and scream at him about it and let his tyres down, thus making him angry, or do I use skilful language to talk him into the benefits he would get from using a bicycle instead? This I have successfully done. If I want less people to eat in Maccy D's, do I put a brick through their window and piss people off, or do I stand peacefully outside and give out leaflets to their customers talking about how they could eat better and cheaper elsewhere (Social Centre Cafe, anyone?). This is something I have successfully done. If I want people to understand better how corporations rule the world and how their consumer choices are driving them, do I tell them they are wankers for buying into the system and they should be only buying things I like instead, or do I invite them to a friendly meeting about it where they can comfortably share views, without fear of intimidation, teargassing by the police, being branded (unfair) names by their friends and families, and feeling like they are social outcasts?

So, to persuade people of things, to get people involved in your cause, to bring about change in society, you need to talk their language. To get Joe Public involved in proesting against the G8, ranting about capitalism and all it's evils, whatever, you need to get them on your side. They need to feel welcome around you. They want encouragement and support from you, Rogue Element, and the people at the cutting edge of the protesting movement. You can't not allow them in your gang because they don't have it in them to take all the same risks you do. You should be welcoming them with open arms because, although they might not be as "Radical" as you, they won't help at all, they'll just stay away from those "cliquey wierdos". I am a person who has no fear of strong, radical opinions, new ideas and change. Yet, in my experiences with anarchist types, I have felt cliqued out. This is why I never got heavily involved in road protesting, GM crop actions and anti-corporation demos. I was made to feel unwelcome because my lifestyle wasn't radical enough. People genuinely didn't like me because I wasn't like them. What kind of new social order is that?
So to finally bring it on to the Social Centre itself, well I say it will be a fantastic forum for all sorts of people to get interested and involved in more radical politics. People who would not go to Aspire, or other squats, for fear of intimidation/police action/food poisoning/violence etc. If Joe Public, who's a little bit concerned about capitalism and wants to maybe do something about it, sees a place like the Social Centre, he'll think, "great! I can chat about the issues, there's no pressure, I don't have to break the law", he feels safe basically. That means he's more likely to get involved, or at least, be more confident in his opinions because he's found people that share them and talk his language. Isn't that worth a lot to you? Or would you rather make him feel alienated from you and walk away back to his posh job and consumerism?
I'm sure you are correct in most of your arguments about the value of squatted spaces and living extremely radical lives to fight against the system. But if you don't have or want most of the population on your side, who are you fighting for? It only makes sense to me to encourage more people to live more free lifestyles and reject global consumerism. I do this as much as I can in my own life. But they can't all just switch, just like that. It has to be a gradual process of persuasion and change. And more importantly, you have to meet people half way, or they won't listen to you.

In any case, the Social Centre is not, for me, just about radical politics discussions. I hope to see it used for all sorts of things that can help benefit people directly. As a place for all manner of other community meetings. As a centre for advice on social issues, welfare, asylum, a place where people come together just to be together and share communal space! The legal framework might mean, yes, you pay some money to the government, you pay for the fuel you use, you have insurance, you maybe even have a licence. But whatever the rights and wrongs of all that, it means the space is more accepted by the world, more welcoming and safe, will attract more people, and won't get busted by the police running in with tear gas and truncheons. It buys into the system, but it's more sustainable, and I think more effective.

I welcome any comments!

Love and light


anachronisms in the UK

13.07.2004 12:16

This is like watching two bald anarchists fighting over a comb. Anarchism's lack of popularity has nothing to do with how anarchists present themselves; it's never been popular in 'developed', capitalist states, even before the stinkin lame-o crasstafarian stereotype came into being. It's a lot easier to opt out of quasi feudal, peasant based societies than it is to opt out of modernity, but even the Asturian miners and Ukranian peasants who proved this were brutally crushed by proto-capitalist states. Face it, moral opposition to the world as it is will never result in changes; it's about people realising their own power, not that of discredited, anachronistic ideologies.

Love, bunnies and Tenants Super,



come on then

15.07.2004 09:07

in reply to the rogue element, where are you? why didnt a-spire continue in other spaces, I hear it was pretty good . obviously some people have chosen to use this money to rent a place which is contrary to the spirit of a-spire but I don't see why it should inhibit others from doing things differently . we can have many means and spaces
nor should this be a competition
competitiveness makes things seem so pointless
if anyone wants to start a squatted social centre again I'm up for it aswell


valid critique?

15.07.2004 10:26

but doesn't the article point to some relevant questions eg:
1. Isn't paying huge sums of money to a private landlord in order to promote anti-capitalism kind of ironic
2. Social Centres take a lot of work. Who is going to do this? What would be they doing if if they weren't spending there spare time doing accounts and cleaning toilets?
3. Theres a lot of money involved, is spending it on rent the best use of it? Instead of expecting people to come to us would it not be better to go to them. Have displays and speakers - visit schools, community centres etc and talk about the issues involved. Theres been a lot of talk about community and think local etc, yet like everything else this project is centralised in the city centre.
4. Leading on and going all conspirational, don't you think some people may find it useful to have anti-G8 stuff co-ordinated round a handful of legal buildings that are static and easily monitored and with named organisers?
5. The point of squatted centres is that they aren't permanant, it is reclaimed space where there is the potential for breaking out of societal rules of how people should relate together, conversely legal spaces are already restricted to the logic of capitalism - people have to behave in certain ways in order to retain licenses, be financially viable etc this therefore restricts their value as we can never discover ways out of the system by playing by their rules.
6. Have the people involved honestly asked themselves whether they are involved in the Social Centre because they think it is an appropriate and useful thing to do with regards to G8, or because they think it would be cool to have somewhere to hang out with their mates.


Some good points raised

16.07.2004 14:20

>2. Social Centres take a lot of work. Who is going to do this? What would be they doing >if if they weren't spending there spare time doing accounts and cleaning toilets?

Yeah. Loads of people involved seem to be working full time etc. Who's gonna be doing the dirty work once the place is opened?

Will the centre be rented off someone who is going to develop the building/area into posh bars etc after the 'anti-capitalists' have gone? Won't renting the space of them in the meantime just help facilitate that?


you cant rent yr way....

16.07.2004 15:52

i have read the critique of rented social centres and am pretty convinced despite suffering from the infirmity of being over 30 (pur-lease 1st respondent!!!) . instead of bemoaning criticisms of activities (which is surely often the beginnings of resistance: is not the dissent network the critique of the G8?), organising groups need to know and understand their reasons for a path of action: i would sincerely appreciate anybody who could give some clear reasons as to WHY and HOW renting a property for a year can generate desirable radical change.

IS A RENTED SOCIAL CENTRE A PROBLEM? as far as i see it, to maintain the image of a democratic society this society needs some images of dissent, and as long as this dissent is reasonable and within the economic system then it actually assists with the progress and development of capitalism and thus is part of the problem. eg greenpeace, other NGO's, the opposition party, etc. yes, we all do compromise within a system we also resist: i rent a property in a co-op myself; but i do not make the mistake of seeing this in itself as radical ("from the roots")and an act of resistance but, like ethical consumerism, less bad. compromise isn't good, but it's understandable, that's not the criticism. the wrath comes when these acts are marketed as resistance, radical etc.

IS THERE A NEED? social centres are not exactly needed: community centres are up and down the country already, the government pours money (regeneration budgets) into community centres where cheap food is available, free courses for refugees, notice boards are up, creches run, groups can meet....THESE ARE ALREADY HERE and when they arent then there are heaps of official funds ready to access to set them up. which suggests it is a means of control not of resistance. so seeing so much money being squandered on this is therefore pretty painful.... its not like trying to get money for direct action where you have to sell beer at squat parties, do car boot sales and even charge yourself for the cost of going on actions.

HOW DO SQUATS DIFFER? where squats differ and to a lesser degree, long term co-operatives like the sumac, or the 1 in 12, is that you aren't bound to the dull beuracracies of renting, you can use the place to fundraise (eg selling luxury items like beer), you can skip and forage food to eat cos you're not tied to ludicrous food and hygiene laws - (and the comments about vegan slop and food poisoning is pretty damn offensive ignorance about aspire), you can make it what you want, its DIY culture, you can put about radical literature and have meetings about outlawed activities because there is no contract to be in breach of, and the temporary nature of squats such as aspire is, far from being a negative thing, part of it's aliveness.

AND i just want to finish by clarifying some of the strange comments regarding "anarchists". anarchy does NOT refer to a certain style or subculture nor does it refer to smashing things up, although some anarchists are indeed dreadlocked and some indeed enjoy the liberation of changing the urban landscape. anarchy is " absence of government" and anarchists are advocates of this. so, no, of COURSE anarchists would not vote. further, many of us are for the liberation of all peoples, and the best ones are also for the liberation (note: not rights) of the rest of the species on this planet too.
and please don't respond with some weird commentary trying to guess my age/gender/class/who i fuck/job or other such stuff that occurs far too frequently on indymedia as a means of point scoring.

for the wild, mae.x



23.07.2004 10:03

Does anyone else feel utterly raped by Flopsy's passive-aggressive gentle telling off?

ickle bunny-wunny

Reply to "You can't rent..."

23.07.2004 11:49

(the first essay made its way onto the Cardiff Anarchists list, here are my thoughts on it. Best wishes.)

You Can't Blow up a Social Relationship

First off it is worth noting that the length and detail of the "You can't rent..." essay at least signifies a serious commitment to our ‘common cause’, and a serious concern over the direction it is taking. Unfortunately the early promise of the essay soon gave way to a tone that seems sectarian, and perhaps the reasons for this are worth exploring. What struck me as disappointing about the essay was the absolutely unquestioned assumption that everyone else involved in any fashion in our ‘movement’ is working to the same agenda as the people who wrote it, and are therefore are liable to unrestrained ideological broadsides from this group of self-appointed thought police. Which is a real shame, for on strictly theoretical points, I have very little issue with most of what is being said in the essay. Yet the over-arching tone is one of ‘we are the guardians of ideological purity and we are come to show you the errors of your ways’. This ideological purity, though, is rarely achieved, and given that the authors are criticising the rest of us for our practical failings, perhaps one is entitled to make a few enquiries of them before taking onboard their upbradings… What polemics like this one always make me wonder is if the authors really hand stitch their own moccasins, do they really culture their own yoghurt with milk from rustled cows and with bacteria taken from their own mouths, do they honestly cook their porridge in pots fashioned out of recycled car doors? For the tone of ideological sanctimoniousness that radiates out from this piece would only be warranted if the authors could guarantee us that they have never put their hand in their pockets, pulled out a few coins, and entered into a consumerist relationship with a piece of alienated labour. (So they don’t smoke roll ups?) It strikes me that there is a certain security to be gained in seeking refuge in personal purity, rather than face the constant challenge of sharing a society (or a workplace) with a nation of tabloid readers. This piece smacks of the activist ghetto mentality that privileges ideological unreproachability over living within a system that was never of our choosing. Surely if the authors were so wholly untainted by the filthy material world around them they would have long since been nailed onto a wooden cross and left to die? And if not, where, then, do they derive the authority to upbraid the rest of us for our “lack of commitment”?

The other point that I felt needed making in relation to the essay is that it is fundamentally premised on a black and white understanding of social relationships, specifically with the state and capital. Cardiff Anarchists elected to call themselves a Network precisely because we recognised the multiplicity of different perspectives and orientations within our little grouping, the way that humans have societal links that go in many varying directions. Rogue Element seems only to conceive of an us-and-them scenario when it comes to the state, but this can never be the case, at least not for the time being, for the greater number of people in society. Many people are fellow travellers on the road we have chosen to follow, but not all will describe themselves as diehard enemies of state and capital. Does that mean that we should choose to exclude them from any social relationship with us? Or do we accept that different people have different needs, interests, priorities, agendas, and work with that to try to persuade them of the logic of our position? I would plump for the latter, for cutting the rest of society out of our lives for their lack of political enlightenment seems curiously self-defeating. Do we not aim for societal change, in some larger sense of the word? To expect others, therefore, to suddenly jump in with us at the sharpest end of struggle, is more than a little naïve. The social relationship that a (rented) social centre can represent is not only the relationship to the landlord. The fact that the authors of the essay chose to focus exclusively on this one aspect gives the lie to their ghetto-isation. There are other social relationships that can evolve out of an environment like a (rented) social centre, perhaps not the same ones as we might choose to have grow out of a squatted centre, but then again, perhaps the people who will enter into new relationships with us and others through a rented space would not consider entering a squat. Who is to know? Again, this aspect of the essay harks back to the all-or-nothing tone that I highlighted at the beginning.

A word to “Rogue Element” – just because you’ve found the answer doesn’t mean I’m asking the same question.

mail e-mail:

Ruffled your feathers

11.08.2004 17:07

Mae -
community centres ( loose term ) up and down the country are being closed or are controlled by the councilss for their own ends or are not social centres at all .e.g Jacksons Lane on Archway Rd, London, run by Labour arseholes on grant money for themselves and in a building 'stolen' from the community. Most of the other so-called community centres cost you an arm and a leg if you want to put something on e.g a benefit and prevent the community from doing anything outside of the government/council agenda.

Flopsy. Posting this'people like you' is posting condescending middle class hippy bullshit

I do think the other social centres can play a different role, but it isn't for me and I have no problem with the rented social centres in England ( of whom many friends put a lot of time and effort into organising )

Still, good debate. Lets keep on going...

ancient anarcho for want of a better description

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