Monday, November 07, 2011

Epizentrum Wien Enters Its Fourth Week

7 November 2011
By Der Kosmonaut

To the surprise of the occupiers themselves and undoubtedly to the dismay of the reactionaries, Epizentrum in Vienna still remains.  Last Wednesday's threat of eviction did not materialise nor does it seem that there is any danger that it will be evicted in the coming days.

Political Silence
With the exception of the far right wing leader of the Neubau FPÖ, the silence from municipal and national politicians is deafening. In the fourth week of Epizentrum next door, the Greens have not uttered a word. I attempted to speak to a media representative or spokesperson for the Greens to ask some questions. After being grilled about my journalistic credentials from some manager of Green Party Headquarters, I was told that the Greens did not have anything to comment about. Attempts to get comments from BUWOG were even more fruitless. I have been left on hold for 30-45 minutes before being disconnected.

The SPÖ and ÖVP have been silent as well. Frau Jutta Klaedorfer from the Vienna Department of City Planning and State Development, who made an embarrassing spectacle of herself at last week's new conference, has shut her mouth and has not even sniffed around Epizentrum as she had during the first week.

No one wants to touch Epizentrum and all the responsibility has been passed to BUWOG. Given its present financial disorder and the continuing revelations of the sordid details regarding its privatisation, BUWOG probably does not want to draw any more attention to itself. BUWOG has discontinued any communication with the occupiers of Epizentrum. BUWOG seems to give information only to favoured local reporters. As of Friday, November 4, the free daily tabloid Heute reported that BUWOG wants the occupiers to leave "voluntarily". BUWOG does not have the stomach for an eviction. Moreover, there are unsubstantiated rumours of tensions and hostility between the police and the corporation. The police have made vague statements saying that they may not have the authority to evict Epizentrum. This is all speculation and conjecture and nothing based on any facts. 

What is clear is that Epizentrum has paralysed the political structures of the city. Confused and deeply fearful of the political implications of Epizentrum, it appears that the consensus among the Viennese (petit)Bourgeoisie has broken down.  The entire political class is in disarray. One would not be incorrect to think that the (petit)Bourgeoisie and their political puppets are hoping that Epizentrum simply goes away. They may very well calculate, that by ignoring Epizentrum, the issue will simply go away. Just as the attitude of the Bourgeoisie to stonewall the true state of the Austrian economy, with the infantile belief that as long as no one knows that the banks and State are bankrupt and nothing is spoken about it, the same strategy can be used against Epizentrum. The power to Epizentrum remains disconnected for the sixth consectutive day now. To the dismay of both the City of Vienna and BUWOG, the occupants have two generators which still produce electricity for the kitchen, media room and bar. 

Old Habits Are Hard To Break
Austria remains a society with authoritarian structures and tendencies. The police have decided to harrass  Epizentrum and people leaving. Twice last evening a police car stopped at the corner of Lindengasee and Zieglergasse and shown its spotlight through the windows of the media room. In the second instance, the patrol car flashed its blue lights. This is cleary a psychological tactic to put the occupants at unease.

This afternoon, I was stopped and questioned by four police officers after I left Epizentrum. 
"What are you doing? What were you doing in there?"
"I was visiting." I replied.
"No, you weren't visiting. No one has gone inside. Your ID please."
I've lived in Austria long enough to know the deal. My passport is still valid with a visa and my residence is officially registered. When they asked me what I was doing, I replied that I was a journalist covering Epizentrum and that I more of less am the only one covering the story for the worldwide English language media. When they questioned what agency I worked for, I told them freely that I'm a blogger but also said that I'm a radio journalist for CKUT in Montreal, Canada. The police tried to gain intelligence from me.
"How many people are inside?"
"I don't know. Hard to say. I would guess between 20-60."
"Any children inside?"
"You know that children shouldn't be inside. A child was abused inside there."
I feigned shock and surprise. Nearly two weeks ago, the right wing tabloid press reported a lurid lie about a child being sexually abused and molested, simply in order to discredit Epiezentrum and give the authorities a reason to shut it down.
"Is there going to be an eviction today?" I asked the police.
"No, no, no! There will be no eviction. We're simply doing routine control."
They police checked out my identity and let me go. I've been around long enough to deal with the Austrian police. Speaking German is a necessity. Moreover, identifying myself as an American journalist made them respect me.
Warning! Any visitors or residents leaving Epizentrum can except to be harassed and questioned by the police.
What Next?
Without any official communication from BUWOG or the politicians, it's impossible to guess exactly what will happen next. If the words of the police officers this afternoon can be taken at face value, it appears that there will not be an eviction anytime soon.

In the meantime, Epizentrum is about to release its political statement today or tomorrow. This blog will have the English translation when it becomes available. Epizentrum has decided to close itself off to the public for the next couple of days. Many people who were drunk, aggressive and contributed nothing to the running of the building have been removed. The mobilisation of solidarity and support has been effective to date.

Many of the occupants of Epizentrum are also exhausted from the non-stop partying. Many people see Epizentrum as a free house, which means a free for all. There are plenty of places in Vienna for people to party and behave like jackasses. Epizentrum must remain an open space to those with social and political consciousness and awareness. Those that simply want to have a field day and then home to their flats and jobs will not be welcomed.

Internal Political Tensions
In spite of being the most advanced politically in the current protest and resistance wave sweeping the world, there remain political divisions within the participants of Epizentrum. While many want Epizentrum to be officially "Anarchist" in its politics, not everyone is an Anarchist. Moreover, the latent tensions between men and women, are starting to surface. Many of the women are radical Feminists. While almost all of the men are anti-sexist and are conscious of their socialised sexism, many men feel marginalised. Many men complain of double standards. Whenever a man does anything remotely out of order, he is immediately expelled. However, when a woman does the same things and even worse, she is not expelled or even reprimanded. It appears to some men that double standards are at play.

A meeting to address this issue was held last night but didn't go anywhere. All of the women walked out of the meeting, refusing to seriously address or debate the issues. It appears that any serious adult conversation about radical feminism, both in theory and practise is not open to any discussion. This is potentially the biggest threat to Epizentrum. It's neither BUWOG or the police that seems to threaten Epizentrum but rather a rift between the men and women. Already, many women have moved out or have declined to participate due to sexism. As one woman, who remains neutral on the issue of feminism, stated: "I hear nothing but complaints about sexism but no one seems to want to discuss it or find a collective solution."

As I elaborated this earlier this year and last year, Feminism and other recently invented politically correct terms regarding sexuality and gender, are nothing less than radical trends of political disintegration. There neither can be nor will there be any social or political revolution as long as these ideas hold sway over large segments of the "anti-capitalist" movement. Unless these positions are seriously and rigorously debated democratically and with a level of maturity, the potential revolution will falter and fail. The question is if men and women can come together to resolve the differences without being guided by emotion or name calling. 

Epizentrum is really a microcosm of all the fissures, divisions and contradictory tendencies within the radical left. These issues will not go away. They must be dealt with immediately. If not, the revolution will never advance. The revolution cannot happen without men and women working together. If there is a gender based political conflict, this more than totalitarian capitalism and its tools of state repression, will derail the movement.

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