For anarchists like Jelena, Fistra, and Dado, being politically engaged is about more than attending protest marches and chanting in unison. From squatting abandoned buildings to organizing anarchist punk concerts, militant activists seek alternative routes to create community and live their politics. Read More
In many ways, the Zagreb activists live their politics as part of daily practice because they understand the political as permeating every aspect of social life. Perhaps no where is this living of politics more apparent than in the daily process of finding food and securing shelter. This track also gives a glimpse of everyday life more broadly as we explore daily activities such as Dado’s meditation practices and Jelena’s family history.
Squatting, the illegal occupation of empty structures and land, is one such practice Jelena and others invoke both to live outside the system of private property and as a means of assuring they have adequate time and resources for political activism. For these activists, squatting is a way to reappropriate empty structures for productive social purposes and, as such, is understood in fundamentally political terms. The Network of Social Solidarity, a collective Maple worked with throughout his time in Croatia, also utilized squatting as the basis for opening a Take It of Leave It free store based on voluntary exchange as mutual assistance. The Free Store, located in an abandoned printing press, was an interesting squatting experiment because it was located in a very public area near the parking lot for a Billa supermarket. In fact, shortly after occupying the building, activists learned that it was to be demolished to make additional parking for the international grocery chain. To learn more about the Free Store, read the track context.
The act of squatting can also be a revealing process through which to assess the changing urban landscape in Croatia. It can be an intervention in the real estate market, where buildings are frequently left empty for speculative reasons, awaiting the day when their market value has risen enough to allow for profit taking. In other cases, buildings are left empty and in disrepair so that they will deteriorate sufficiently to be deemed irrecoverable and therefore free of zoning and historic protection restrictions. To learn about Jelena’s squat in Zagreb and the history behind it, watch Jelena’s Mess.
Compensation laws restoring property rights in the mid-1990s sought to privatize real estate and push Croatia into the era of neoliberalism. Yet the restoration of private property, via a process of denationalization, was more than just a precondition for Croatia’s market economy. It was also perceived as an economics means of attacking lingering Serbian influence on the national economy and favoring Croat interests, thereby giving it a strong nationalist dimension. This forces us to question the claim that neoliberalism is implicitly for the freedom of the market and against the state. The nationalist ideology of Croatian state-formation has in fact been absolutely critical to the marketization of Croatian society.