Jun 062012

Our man in Amsterdam

By Michael Marchman

In October 2010, squatting became illegal in the Netherlands. In the US, where private property rights are so sacrosanct as to be virtually unquestionable, the thought that a person might have the legal right to make their home in or on someone else’s unused property is probably enough to make most peoples’ heads explode. But for most of the past fifty years, squatting was, under certain conditions, entirely legal and squatters (krakers in Dutch) enjoyed full legal protection.

this Amsterdam squat recently screened Squatted Freedom and hosted a talk by Michael Hardt. Photo by Michael Marchman

The right to take over an abandoned building and to legally claim it as your home, art studio, bar or community center, is one of the conditions (along with legalized prostitution and soft drugs, of course) that has given rise to the Netherlands’, and in particular, Amsterdam’s international image as a place of tolerance and unparalleled individual freedom. (Or, if you are a devotee of Fox News’s The O’Reilly Factor, as “a cesspool of corruption, crime [where] everything is out of control. It’s anarchy!”). Continue reading »

Jun 062012

By Our man in Amsterdam

A new documentary on the squatters’ movement by João Romão, a Portuguese economist and activist living in Amsterdam, has just been released. Squatted Freedom, a one-hour limited-budget film, combines archival footage and interviews with current and former squatters to examine the history and politics of the movement as well as the wave of recent, violent evictions of squats in Amsterdam.

Squatted Freedom is a fascinating film. The story of the squatters’ movement, past and present, is both captivating and inspiring. Violent confrontations between police and squatters have been taking place since the 1980s and continue into the present. Squatted Freedom reaches its climax during an intense standoff and eventual confrontation between squatters and riot police attempting to evict a prominent Amsterdam squat, a scene which Romão and his colleagues were lucky enough to capture on film.

The film is also a great example of what amateur filmmakers can do with a limited budget and ample commitment. It will be of interest to anyone involved in autonomous, anarchist or other streams of radical left and anti-capitalist activism—as well as for anyone interested in knowing more about the history, culture and politics of Amsterdam.

I recently asked Romão to tell me about the film, the movement, and its significance in terms of contemporary economic and political conditions. Here is part of our conversation: Continue reading »