The Squatters’ Movement in Europe

The Squatters' Movement in Europe: Commons and autonomy as alternatives to capitalism, by Squatting Europe Kollective, reviewed by Izzy Koksal

October 1, 2014
2 min read

squatters-movementAs the UK’s housing crisis intensifies, an embryonic housing movement is attempting to organise and propose solutions. The call for social housing is being echoed across London and beyond, rebounding off a desperate need for affordable, quality housing. This book is a timely reminder that when we think about and struggle on housing, it is not simply shelter that we are agitating for but a complete transformation of how we live.

The collection of case studies from across Europe over the past 30 years focuses on the political squatting projects that have created spaces for communal living, community projects, housing campaigns and other struggles in the hearts of the neoliberal cities. The overarching question of the book is whether squatting is an alternative to capitalism – an ambitious debate to take on, and one about which the authors conclude ‘there is no black or white, but only a series of shades of grey’.

Despite this greyness, the rich case studies carried out by activist-researchers show the many concrete ways in which capitalism is challenged and rejected on a daily basis by squatters and their supporters – from occupations that resulted in social housing being created and long-running social centres to communal meals for the local community. In Rome, the squatters’ movement claims to be more efficient at housing people than the state. The alternatives being practised focus on the importance of gender, sexuality, race, environment and creating welfare from below.

An absence of any content from Greece, where squatted social centres have been central to recent social movements, or from eastern Europe, such as Poland, does take a little away from a book that otherwise comprehensively covers political squatting projects across Europe over the past three decades, detailing the major shifts that have occurred over this time as well as important themes. This historical and geographical context is useful for current struggles to learn from and be inspired by.