Rozbrat - a free space in an unfree world

  • piątek, 12 wrzesień 2008
Article written for the ESF in Malmo - September 2008Rozbrat squat is situated in Western city of Poland - Poznan. The city is one of the richest ones in Poland, it's close to the German borders, the unemployment rate is much lower than in the other parts of Poland, there is an International Trade Center plus a lot of hotels for its guests, there's a football stadium that will be one of the stadiums for Euro 2012, there's one the best awarded shopping malls owned by one of the richest people in Poland. And yeah, the richest guy in Poland is from Poznan, him and his wife were given a ground for their shopping mall by the neoliberal president of Poznan on very doubtful grounds, now he's legally sentenced for this. He's also sentenced for banning several demonstrations in the city, at one of them - the infamous gay pride in 2005, 60 people were illegally arrested, finally, no one - apart from the president - was charged. Poznan is also a city where F-16 aircrafts have their base, it's located within the borders of the city, being very dangerous and burdensome for its neighbors and all inhabitants of the city. Poznan is an expensive city, what is troublesome for masses of working class people and for around 100 thousand students living there. In the last years, the costs of living rise rapidly, from the prices of food, rent, tram tickets, almost everything gets more and more expensive every year.
The existence of Rozbrat squat in Poznan is therefore even more surprising. In this purely capitalist surrounding, we've been there for 14 years now. From a housing project, our squat grew to a social-political-cultural center, organizing dozens of different events every year: gigs, parties, exhibitions, lectures, picnics, debates, sports competitions and what is the most important: loads of demonstrations and protests throughout the years. Having the autonomy behind the fence of our squat, we've always tried to be as open as it's possible and not to stay closed within our autonomy - we'd rather call our space a free space - free to new ideas to live in a better reality, without exploitation, oppression, capitalism, social control, fascism, sexism. We take part in local protests, from workers strikes, to local communities' struggles with the authorities, through taking part in wider protests of other oppressed groups, people discriminated against sexually, racially or economically. For all those years, the eviction threats were rather minor and didn't cause much mobilization considering eviction.

Peaceful times ended last January, when a debt collector, together with cops, came to our squat with a warrant from the court, drilled the locks and came in to estimate the price of the ground of one of the parts where the squat is. Rozbrat is situated on three parts of ground owned by three different owners. The biggest one was owned by a company which disappeared roughly 15 years ago after taking a big loan from a bank. So, after years, bank came to a moment when they can auction the ground to get their money back - the space has been occupied for 14 years though. We raised red alarm, all our friends, supporters, comrades were informed that the auction can happen any day now. It's been over seven months now and nothing has happened. Probably there are some legal problems in the court but we're not giving up. After the visit of the debt collector in January, we decided to make as much publicity about Rozbrat as possible. We're happy to see hundreds of people coming to our events, dozens of guests visiting us every now and again, getting a lot of support from other cities and countries. We renovated our bar, small concert hall and we're planning more. We're waiting for the hour zero but it's not waiting for the end. We know that we will not disappear. With this place or another - we will always be here.

Recently, thanks to the international squatting days of action, there's been a wide international debate on the future of squatting in Europe. We also took part in it. The Western squatting movement focused much of its power to create autonomy within the borders of capitalist reality. Did it work out well? Many squatting communities became scene ghettos, they don't have much to offer to the world outside. That's what we were always aware of and tried to fight with the ghettoisation of squatting. More and more free spaces are being repressed and evicted, but on the other hand more spaces are falling into the process of gentrification, people from poorer communities have to pay higher rents, not mentioning other costs of surviving, the working law is being changed by the neoliberal government so that it would make us work more and for less money. Our surrounding is becoming an environment for rich people only. For money, not for free thought. We, as squatters and anarchists, are under severe attack of the authorities that want to take our free spaces away from us. If we want to keep them, we have to change tactics. We have to show our social face. Because squatting is a purely social issue and it is an alternative for living in this world - an alternative which is dangerous and inconvenient for this system. As people that still have free spaces we should use them as much as possible to be open for everyone who rebels against this reality of wealth and power. Together we're stronger. Let's build a big free space around our squats - a space of free thinking minds that will also be a support for each other at all times.

We, at Rozbrat, are trying hard to get outside, to get people from outside to visit us, to work with us, to have fun with us. Sometimes it works better, sometimes worse, but we don't feel alone. On the final day, we will not be alone. For sure.

Be ready for the news from us, visit us anytime you can, it's less than 300 km from Berlin. We couldn't come to ESF because we're just celebrating our 14th birthday party but we'll surely see you in the streets!

Mo./ Rozbrat Collective + Anarchist Federation Poznan

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