Peoples' movements and protests




Violent demonstrations do not exist





by Jan Wiklund



The best way to defend against gentrification is to stake out territory, says Eleonora Pasotti in her book Resisting redevelopment - Protest in aspiring global cities, Cambridge University Press 2020, the first book that, according to reviews, really tries to find out how to succeed.

There are different ways. One probably patience-testing but ultimately apparently successful way is various kinds of history-from-below activities and everyday cultural events such as family parties and amateur theatre. This has been tried in Yungay in Santiago de Chile, and even in this city ravaged by neo-liberal exploitation, it has scared off urban renewal projects. Pasotti goes so far as to suggest such - what she calls "experiential tools" - as the basis for any successful fight against gentrification.

Then, of course, there are variations.

One was tried in St Pauli in Hamburg and in Lavapiés in Madrid. They tried to exploit and put their stamp on the urban careerists' favourite cliché "creativity" by engaging artistically inclined people who were sympathetic to the threatened residents of the gentrifying neighbourhoods. It worked for a long time - but eventually even these artistic people were dependent on the market for their survival and adapted to it. Whereupon the resistance weakened noticeably.

A radically different method, which Pasotti recommends whenever possible, is co-operation with radical trade unions. Such unions hardly exist in our part of the world any more, but it worked well in San Telmo in Buenos Aires, where there happened to be such a union that had been radicalised by organising precariat workers. It didn't mind also organising a tenants' union dedicated to squatting, and collaborating with an even more extreme movement organising petty thieves and prostitutes whose bad reputation scared off the luxury exploiters. But this is rarely possible, except in Argentina in the years after the 2000 collapse when many identified with the marginalised.

The question is, of course, how many conclusions can be drawn from Pasotti's dozen or so examples. Bolette Christensen: Fortællinger fra Indre Nørrebro, Jurist- of økonomforbundets Forlag 2000, is the only supplement I can think of and it seems to confirm the picture.

According to Christensen, Nørrebro in Copenhagen has resisted gentrification pressures since the mid-1970s thanks to precisely the methods Pasotti recommends - experiential tools such as the Byggeren construction playground, squatting by the marginalised, and often - if occasionally - support from radical trade unions.

Indeed, the very theme of these books is now largely out of date in Sweden. Virtually all good locations are already gentrified, i.e. people with money have already taken over what there is of such locations in the cities that have the advantage of short and convenient distances. We know even less about what it takes to create enough good locations for everyone.



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