Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Subversion of Politics/Christiania, one of Europe's most famous communes, faces last stand

For an excellent history to help understand the importance of European Autonomous communities, resistance and practices, I recommend Georges Katsiaficas's "The Subversion of Politics: European Autonomous Social Movements and the Decolonization of Everyday Life" (AK Press: available online in pdfs of the chapters)

Christiania, one of Europe's most famous communes, faces last stand
by Lars Eriksen and Alexandra Topping
Guardian (United Kingdom)

For four decades, the freetown of Christiania has existed as a testimony to an alternative way of life, where hash was sold openly and squatters' shacks jostled comfortably with architect-designed eco-sheds.

For some, the commune was a human jungle in the centre of Copenhagen; for others a bastion of irreverence.

But now residents have erected its last line of defence against the Danish government attempts to "normalise" one of Europe's most famous squats after 40 years of legal wrangling.

Residents have erected fences at entrance points which they patrol, handing out flyers which declare that "Christiania will be temporarily closed until further notice". Cafes and shops were closed as residents began meetings to debate their future.

In what residents see as the final attack by the right-of-centre government, and property developers eager to get their hands on the valuable real estate, they have been given until 2 May to decide whether to take up an offer to buy the properties – collectively or as individuals – for 150m kroner (£18m). Many argue that, for residents who have renounced materialism, this is impossible.

The other deal tabled by the government is to turn the freetown into a public housing association.

For many, the battle has already been lost. In February the government won a legal tussle over the rights of use after the supreme court upheld a 2009 ruling which handed the state control of the area.

Christiania, on the site of an old barracks and home to almost 1,000 people, has become a tourist destination. Cannabis is openly on sale, even if other bans – on arms, hard drugs and insignia on leather jackets – have been imposed by the commune over the years.

Since its creation in 1971 by a group of hippies and squatters, its 34 hectares have become a warren of micro-neighbourhoods, with cutting-edge eco-houses placed alongside restored shacks.

Initially labelled a social experiment by the government, in the last decade the Liberal-Conservative coalition has made a number of attempts to "normalise" the freetown.

To Read the Rest of the Article


A Photo Gallery of Christiana

No comments: