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The Legalization of Squatting

By Punkerslut

Image: A Squat in Viladecans, Barcelona, Spain.
Image: A Squat in Viladecans, Barcelona, Spain. From Wikipedia.

Start Date: December 6, 2006
Finish Date: December 24, 2006

"Now the worker must be made to see clearly that in refusing to pay rent to a landlord or owner he is not simply profiting by the disorganization of authority. He must understand that the abolition of rent is a recognized principle, sanctioned, so to speak, by popular assent; that to be housed rent-free is a right proclaimed aloud by the people."
          --Peter Kropotkin, "The Conquest of Bread," 1892, Chapter 6, Part I

     Until all governments are abolished in favor of a just, mutual, and cooperative relationship between all civilizations, until that day, all states, governments, and councils should legalize squatting; that is, they should allow people to sleep in unused buildings, even if privately owned. The rights to freedom of speech, press, religion, and association are powerful safeguards for the Democratic spirit of any people. These concessions made by the government in giving their people more liberty are never done peaceably The people must always demand, they must always fight, they must always struggle, and inevitably, to create a true social change, they must bring themselves to a violent standoff with their enemies. Martin Luther King changed America by marching in the streets and letting himself be subject to the torture of the police. When those images of vicious police brutality appeared on the television sets of every American, it instantly became a social issue that people had to face. King's campaign was to change the way the this country looked at race. He followed along the guidelines of Gandhi, who also subjected himself to the brutalities of a tyrannical and undemocratic government. Again, the revolution in social progress was made possible by making people look at the brutality of the status quo.

     For all of these reasons, the freedoms of speech, assembly, religion, thought, and press, all of these have been cornerstones to every Democratic government. It is these rights which allow people the ability to demonstrate their social and political grievances. Those whose seek to exploit and manipulate the masses will oppose Democracy in every form and mold. To a tyrant, the rights of the individual poses a constant threat to their power. Seeing as the enemies of Democracy constantly attack the rights of the individual, those who believe in autonomy always guard the cornerstones of Democracy. These rights of speech, press, association, and religion must always and constantly be in place. When they start to crumble, chipped away by legislation of the people's leaders, when freedoms start to diminish and the scope of authority expands, at this point, the people lose Democracy. These rights are not something that are needed once and only once to establish a social order for the people and by the people. Civil Liberties are the active criers against tyrannical threats for a thriving, autonomous community.

     The right to squatting is much more than a single battle between the bourgeoisie, property-owning class and the oppressed, working-class proletariat. Some look to it as another stepping stone between pure Capitalism and pure Communism, a grayish area commonly calling itself Socialism. It is like the Eight Hour Day, legislation that protects workers from dangerous conditions, unemployment insurance paid by employers, welfare for those the system left behind, among so many other reforms. These are all battles that the working class have won and continue to struggle defending today. Each one was a moment where the professional, militarized, and mechanized capitalist system bowed down under the pressure of those who believe "no peace without justice." Ten years of struggle may take children out of the mills and factories. Another ten years and all workers are guaranteed the right to form unions. Yet another ten years of struggle may raise the income of poor families by twenty percent because of a minimum wage law. Class war in America has been a particularly slow, brutal, and uphill struggle. Many of those who understand the issue of squatting in this sense of historical Materialism will see it as just another moment in history where those who have nothing fight with those who own everything.

     The right to squatting means so much more than just another battle for the working class to forcibly demand what belongs to them. The right to squatting is as necessary to economic peace and justice as the right to freedom of speech or assembly is necessary to Democracy and Autonomy. Without the people always being in possession of the right to inhabit any unoccupied buildings, then you will surely be guaranteed of social and economic inequality. The right to squatting acts as a safeguard. We are in a society where there are billions without a place to sleep, while a small elite few possess millions of unused buildings. It is the bitter, suffocating stench of Capitalism. There are so few with so much that they cannot use and there are so many with absolutely nothing. It is true that this system of exploitation and mass manipulation must be completely abolished and overthrown. It will be replaced with a society founded on mutual benefit through cooperation, as opposed to a social order based on competition. A world without leaders, without nations, without borders. But to sustain the society of the new world, to make sure that its population continues to love liberty and stand together in solidarity, we must always guarantee the right to occupy and inhabit unused buildings. By making the right to squat a cornerstone of the new world, we can guarantee that if the social order drifts again to a division of classes, those with nothing will possess the legal right to take what the upper classes cannot use.

     Many of the terms I am using are vague, as I'm not defining what the term "in use" means or the rules and regulations by which a building is claimed by one squatter for longer term use. Some might suggest that these "inconsistencies," these awkward technical matters are a sign that the right to squatting is a pipedream, and nothing that will ever come about. We need to remember, though, that every right the people have fought for contained its own inconsistencies. With freedom of speech, it was ruled in an American court that yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater does not qualify as protected speech. This is just a small technical issue of a very important, individual right. With freedom of religion, it is generally accepted that the practices of a religion must not interfere with the general order of society. A religion that sacrifices humans would be outlawed for that reason alone. Banning the practice of religious human sacrifices is not an issue of infringing on the right to religion, so much as it is an issue of guaranteeing everyone the right to life. Even though there is this small technical matter, it would be illogical to use it as a reason to completely deny the right to religion. The most sacred rights of a Democracy all needed to be practically implemented into a social order, admitting certain restrictions. This does not chip away from their value or meaning. The same must be true of the right of squatting. Implementing a system to guarantee this human right will be its own experiment. None of this should detract from the importance of legalizing squatting.

     Effectively, the right to squat will translate to the right to housing for the poor. There is no state of society where such can be considered anything more than a blessing. If we ensure laws to guarantee the right to squat, and guarantee that habitable structures cannot willingly be torn down, threatened, or attacked by authorities or individuals. Some doubt the necessity of society reaching an equilibrium in the matters of social and economic justice. Much of the world today feels that Capitalism must be accepted as a de-facto economic theory. In such an understanding, private property must constantly be guarded by the state. If it is the interest of a property-owning individual to let their buildings rot, then that is their interest and it ought to be protected. The desire of those without housing to shield themselves from the elements is irrelevant in Capitalism. It simply does not enter the equation. But, naturally, for this reason, all systems adopting Capitalism are constantly feeling the social unrest of its poorest class. The system of Free Enterprise possesses its own inherent flaws and detriment to society. If Capitalism continues to make these social decisions on behalf of the people, then we must defend what is left of the people's democracy and protect the right to squat.


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