With the publicity surrounding the occupy movement reclaiming the UBS offices and the Tories planning to make squatting in residential properties illegal, I wanted to look at the changing attitude to squatters. Most people, including me, don’t know that much about squatting, as I have been lucky enough never to experiance it, but all the people I know who have or still are squatting, have done it out of necessesity and have always left a property in a better state then when they first entered it. With the growth of property as an important status symbol and commodity within the capitalist framework, people our becomming extremly possessive about ownership rights, in a material sense not in a community sense. Everyone has a right to have a roof over there head, and whilst the arguement against squatting is usually a sensational story about a granny went to buy a pint of milk and when she returned there were 500 squatters (probably anarchists) refusing to leave, these stories are not the norm.
As with every aspect of society there is good and bad, socially concious squatting and those who use squatting to make money (exploitation of immigrant families or sex workers) but it’s unfair cast aspertions on everybody who finds themselves squatting, let alone locking them up. There are many vulnreable people squatting and to class them as criminals just adds insult to injury. If people chose that lifestyle, good luck to them – it’s not for me, but many don’t have a choice. With unemployment growing, more cuts in benefits, there will be an increasing number of people whose only option is to enter a squat, and fair play to all the organisations that exist that support people who don’t really know what they are doing- Crisis, Squash. When you start reading into squatting there are far more positive stories then the Daily mail style scare mongering (don’t ever leave your house they are watching). Take Freston Road and St Agnes place in London, not everybody’s cup of tea but it cannot be denied that their intential was community based and not commercial.
Squatting is a historical form of land ownership in feudal times, if a house could be erected between sundown and sunrise the occupants could claim the right to tenure and could not be evicted; Squatting was a big issue in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 and again for the Diggers in the 17th Century. Founded by the anarchist Gerrard Winstanley, they were peasants who cultivated waste and common land, claiming it as their rightful due. After World War II, squatting was a necessity for some and people slept in all sorts of buildings. The next wave came in the 60s and 70s and while the country was in the grip of another housing crisis, there was also a cultural move towards trying out a different style of living.
Squatting is far from new, but what has changed is Britain emerged from the Thatcher years, a greedy self obbsessed country whose only mantra is I want it and I want it now. It was common not to own your own home, now people want ‘buy to let’ and ‘holiday homes’, not content that they are fortunate to own their own homes. The mentality of social conciousness to house everybody is being forgotten to protect the ownership rights of the wealthy.
Fuck David Cameron and fuck Margaret Thatcher for planting the seed!