Reflections on an Eviction – For the Joyful Militants

On the second anniversary of the eviction of Liebig 14

“An event can be turned around, repressed, co-opted, betrayed, but there is still something in it that cannot be outdated. Only renegades would say: it’s outdated. But even if the event is ancient, it can never be outdated: it is an opening onto the possible. It passes as much into the interior of individuals as into the depths of society” -Gilles Deleuze

Struggle and Repression

The second of February 2011: a Berlin house project is evicted by several thousand cops. This event paradoxically marks a moment that is both a recent high-point of struggle in Berlin, as well as a highpoint of repression. Thousands take to the streets to demonstrate a collective refusal: we do not accept this eviction, nor the eviction of any other emancipatory space, nor the eviction of any individual or family from their home as a result of a city politics that is so clearly rotten, twisted in its pursuit of financial gain. We refuse the power of this city politics, and its neo-liberal yea-sayers, have over urban space. We will continue to fight for this space – the city we live in – to be a collective creation and not an object of financial speculation.

The struggle against the eviction of Liebig 14 pushed our movements further: new connections were made; solidarities strengthened; at times we broke out of the limits of subcultural identity. We tasted once again the force of collective uprising: not a unified vision nor a consensus on how to act but rather collective singularities; a multiplicity.

Those who worked on building solidarity networks between neighbors smiled at the sight of ATMs others had smashed. Those who took to the streets were later given food and warm drinks in one of Berlin’s free spaces, where we saw the adeptness of those spaces, of our radical infrastructure in mobilizing for a brief moment of urban unrest…we look to the future! And then, as now, it is in this multiplicity, this cacophony of perspectives, voices and acts that we locate our strength and our advantages against the hierarchical organization of the state and capital.

We may have lost a house and space of resistance on the second of February 2011 but we kept our dignity. This cannot be said of the landlords driven to gain more value from there property, the politicians who gave the eviction the go ahead and the cops who, outnumbering us in numbers beyond ridiculous, and armed to the teeth, with axes and chainsaws attacked a community’s building because those were the orders.

2012 in Berlin saw some impressive successes in the struggle against oppression. Twice the „Berlin Line“ on squatting has been broken, and by groups which are apart of the most marginalized and shut out by society. In June a group of pensioners squatted a senior person’s recreational house in Stillerstrasse which had been shut down due to cuts in welfare spending. In December a powerful movement of refugees fighting for freedom of movement occupied an empty school in Kreuzberg. Several times this year, activists and neighborhood groups have successfully prevented the eviction of people from their homes in Kreuzberg; a district which is currently experiencing the violent consequences of neo-liberal urban development.

At the same time, in Europe and around the world the capitalist apparatus grows more aggressive in it repression, the brutality of its force a measure of how desperately it tries to uphold a crumbling system.

In Greece this is taking the form of a full-on attack by the state on the emancipatory movements in the country. Anti-fascist activists are tortured in prison while the state turns a blind eye to the murder of migrants by members of a fascist political party. Acting like a military oppressor, the state´s mode of attack is also territorial: in recent weeks squats across Greece have face eviction and raids, part of an apparent plan to evict 42 emancipatory spaces. Our struggles are united.

On the anniversary of the eviction of Liebig 14 and in the context of the current cycle of struggles and repression, of the formation of new emancipatory movements as well as the re-emergence of fascism in some places, this text would like to offer a few thoughts on confronting the nihilism of capitalist society, lest it suffocate us. Because alongside the many threats to the actualization of the emancipatory worlds in the here and now, the prevailing mood of nihilism and the despair that can follow the seeming defeat of an eviction risks breaking our passion and reducing our rage to bitterness and disillusionment.

Against Cities of Nihilism

When we say that we want cities for people not for profit, we are saying that we don’t want cities of nihilism. Cities are increasingly nihilistic places in so far as the motivation of always-more financial gains leads to the “creative destruction” of our living places in the form of evictions, demolitions, renovation, and a hollowing out of the meaning we attach to the environments we live in. The spaces we inhabit are extensions of our living, breathing, creative selves and communities. Making them in objects of capitalist value alienates us not only from the city we live in but also from ourselves.

Living in cities predominantly organized by capitalism we must take precautions to not share in it’s nihilist fate, to fight falling into paralyzing despair as we apprehend a world gone dystopian, where our sense of alienation is a measure of our estrangement from capitalist interest.

Collectively we must combat our desires for freedom-for-all being mutated into a will-to-nothingness; into nihilism. As Guerre au Paradis tell us:

“Sometimes the line between rage and despair is very fine, very fragile. The abyss of nihilism awaits every sincere rebel who ceases to be critical, to listen to their heart, stifling their dreams of mutual aid and solidarity, saying that all of this is useless, since no one gives a fuck anymore”

Our capacities to act are disabled when sadness and fear are successfully deployed as part of the states’s matrix of repression. To think and act against the intolerable core of the present means not succumbing to the negativity and refusing that the suicidal nihilism of late capitalism becomes our own.

Militant Joy

Against this nihilism we can continue to fight against all forms of oppression, inequality, and authority through a militancy that is joyful. This does not equate with an unthinking positivity or optimism, which fits too easily with the positivity of liberal democracy and so-called capitalist freedom. Things may just not get better. A certainty that they will would be unstable grounds on which to built emancipatory desires. We can unburden ourselves from this disillusionment while at the same time grow more resolved in our commitment to struggle for freedom.

Militant joy is based on a belief in the world. It is a feeling of intense connection with the world which breaks the senses of alienation; from ourselves, from each other, from the spaces we live in and from the creations of our bodies, though which capitalism keeps isolated and enchained. Militant joy seeks the negation of capitalism through affirmation.

The philosopher Spinoza understands joy as a disposition of openness to connections which increase our capacity to act, while sadness brings closure and a reduction in a body’s ability to affect and be affected. In this way militant joy derives its force from relations of love and friendship and as Colectivo Situaciones, a group of militant researchers from Argentina, write “love and friendship tell us about the value of quantity over quality; the collective body composed of other bodies does not increase its power according to the mere quantity of its individual components, but in relation to the intensity of the tie that unites them.”

When we act as creators of values, socialities and worlds, the destruction of oppressive forces is always already underway. For those who choose to struggle, capitalism resides in the trail of our emancipatory collective aggression.

The philosopher Deleuze writes that “only affirmation subsists as an independent power; the negative shoots out from it like lightning, but also becomes absorbed into it, disappearing into it like soluble fire“.

When we refuse to join with the nihilism of capitalism, we refuse to become creatures of resentment, hate and revenge.

Instead we can absorb moments of loss and repression such as evictions into our collective revolutionary desires, like lighting bolts to the thunder of our affirmations for other worlds, like soluble fire which lights and then disappears into our burning joyful rage.

-Former inhabitants of Leibig 14

Berlin, February 2013.