Midnight Notes on gentrification and utopian urban planning in Zurich in the 1980s.
Most cities are too big to be really liveable. Actually, they are monsters, anonymous ulcers without any shape or character. They're planned to keep us isolated, lost, and dependent. Ideas to carve out specific neighborhoods of 10,000 or 20,000 inhabitants and to transform them into real communities with an inner life have appeared repeatedly. Yet autonomy doesn't necessarily mean things will be different. You can also manage the old shit "independently" - just look at the new nations in the third world. It is not enough to say "Let's split" - you must also develop truly new ideas, new ways of living together.
A neighborhood can't be considered in an isolated way. Ultimately, its life depends on what's going on in the whole planet. There is no such thing as "independence" or "delinking" or "doing you own thing" (except in your fantasies). What you do in your neighborhood (or what you plan to do) must - in its basic framework - be compatible with solutions for the whole planet. You can only do what could be done everywhere.
I don't want to go into too many details. Just keep in mind that industrialized countries of the north use up to 80% of this planet's production, 81% of its energy, 88% of its steel. Whereas the median income per person in the southern part of the world is $982 per year, in the north, it is $9,675 - ten times more! Instead of one car for every two persons, which is the Swiss average, we are only "entitled" to one for every 15 persons, the world average, and so on. All of this means that cars, extreme meat-diets, suburban life styles and money-economies cannot be part of our plans for new ways of life since these forms cannot include everyone. Since we can't live on $2,400 per year, which is the global average, we might as well look for another system.
Global compatibility doesn't mean misery or sharing the poverty, as even the defenders of the actual system can tell you. There are ways of using resources in a better and more efficient way, there is life beyond economy. Not old style "Communism" of course, but something new. You can also say: "Fuck the planet!"— but it wouldn't be wise. You might end up being a soldier in one of the wars against our sisters and brothers in the South. Unsolved problems, forgotten injustices, and repressed crimes will always pop up again some day. And then you will be put in the position of feeling that you would rather gang up with our enemies here than be the victim of our infuriated planet-fellows of the South. That would be the end of "autonomy," be it in your neighborhood or your city.
The city of Zurich has 350,000 inhabitants, with one million living in the metropolitan area. Together with London, Paris, and Frankfurt, it is one of the major financial centers of Europe. In 1980-81, an outbreak of riots with incidents of looting, massive destruction of the downtown area and big demonstrations destroyed the city's image as a paradise of absolute political stability (Midnight Notes #4, Space Notes).
Over 80% of the Swiss and 90% of Zurich live as tenants. Switzerland has the lowest portion of land owners in the world. There are fewer people living in their own house in Switzerland than in any "Communist" state. A Swiss household spends 20% of its income for the rent; for lower incomes this can amount to one third and more.
As land is so expensive in Switzerland, agriculture is only possible with big state subsidies. Even with these subsidies, a kilo of butter costs $15, while the world market price is $2. Average per capita income in Switzerland ($16,390 in 1986) is one of the highest on this planet. However, if you consider the actual costs of living, "being at home" is more expensive than anywhere else; that's why the Swiss are the most active travelers of all nations.
Land in Zurich is essentially a piece of dirt to prevent banks from falling to the center of the earth and melting. In the inner city, one square meter cost $20,000 to $50,000 as of 1985 (and has risen since). In residential areas, a square meter costs between $2,000 and $8,000. A two to three room apartment costs $500 a month for the use of the land alone. Such an apartment ends up costing $1,500 per month in rent once the building, maintenance and heat are included — 30-50% of the average wage. If you tried to live in the downtown area, it'd be 20 times more and you would spend a yearly wage for a month's rent.
The message is quite clear: you can't live in Zurich. The only possible use of the city is for banks, insurance companies and administrations of big companies. Their profits are so huge that the cost of land can be maintained at such ridiculous levels. Swiss banks are involved in South African business, they take care of Marcos' billions, and of Duvalier's account. They control a large part of the world gold and foreign exchange market and they launder drug money by the billions. The last large sum of drug money—discovered in 1988— was one billion dollars. The husband of the Federal Minister of Justice and Police (and vice-president of the confederation), Mrs. Kopp (that's her real name!), was vice-president of a drug money laundering company, Shakarchi Trading AG, until November 1988. She resigned in order not to embarrass the state too much. But business goes on as usual. The banks not only control money and land, but also large portions of the state ("democracy" notwithstanding).
In the last ten years, 80,000 people have been forced to leave Zurich - they got suburbanized in a common worldwide fashion. What is happening in Zurich is not even "gentrification" but a deportation of anybody wanting to live here. Even people with higher incomes can't afford it. In the inner city, the battle has definitely been won by the banks. In the last ten years they've started attacking the surrounding residential neighborhoods. A semi-official battle plan drawn up in 1968 looked like the adjacent diagram [below].
The black shape is the banking area. Important directions of expansion are along the lake-shores and into the western neighborhoods, along the railroad area. In 1968, space was reserved for industrial zones, but these are being cancelled, as industry can no longer compete with banks, both because banking is now the international function of Zurich in the world capitalist economy and because industrial labor power is being phased out throughout the first world. Factories would simply bring the workers back into the area in new form.
The destruction of Zurich by the banks has nothing to do with Zurich itself, or with any special aversion of Swiss bankers against the people living there (or insisting on living there). Zurich is just one of those anonymous international places where planetary "planning" (by loans), supervision (getting back the interest), accumulation, and capital-redistribution is done. These movements will become more massive and faster because shortening the time of circulation of world capital is of prime importance in a period of high organic composition and relatively small profits per unit of production.
Switzerland is a "neutral" central place, socially stable (yuk), technically well equipped and ideal for these functions. Zurich will become even more important with the integration of the European market in 1992, the further integration of state-capitalist ("socialist") countries (perestroika!) into the world market, and the return of industries to good old Europe. A new Stock Exchange is being built and a- huge $650 million service center is planned to cover the rails of the Central Station (called HB-Sudwest). Everywhere buildings are hollowed out to accommodate offices. Masses of commuters will be transported by a new system of express trains which are now under construction. The whole country will become a perfect little machine around its international function of keeping the accounts of the planetary work machine. Some ecological technocrats even assert it'll be clean, with lots of protected landscape in the cheap niches.
One of the areas under heaviest attack is a neighborhood called Aussersihl. Its name means "beyond the Sihl" (river) and it's situated to the west of the inner city. On the map a long arrow is pointing into its very heart.
Traditionally, Aussersihl has always been a place for outcasts. In the Middle Ages, the lepers' hospital was here, the only egalitarian community that ever existed in Zurich (no joke!). The hanged were buried here, battles were fought. In the 19th century it was a working class neighborhood, soon with a larger population than Zurich itself. Most of the buildings still standing today were built by workers from Italy and Russia around the turn of the century. The neighborhood named "Little America" was built by Russian emigrants who later moved on to "Big America," to Detroit or Brooklyn.
Nowadays Aussersihl is a mixed bag of Swiss workers living in cooperative projects (mostly social democrats, mainly retired rail workers), workers from Italy, Spain, Yugoslavia, or Turkey (holding jobs in restaurants, construction, cleaning, and other service sectors), students, artists, retired Swiss people, pimps and prostitutes (many from Africa and East Asia). The percentage of people originating from outside Switzerland is somewhere around 40% or 50%. Very few Swiss families holding better paying jobs earning between $50-70,000 per year (with children, cars, and big Bernese dogs) live there.
Politically, Aussersihl has always been to the left: first social democrats and communists, now social democrats and assorted radicals/alternativist/feminists/greens. Whereas the left usually gets about 30% of the vote city-wide, they get 60% and more in Aussersihl. Interesting referendums (tenants' rights, shorter work-week, higher pensions) are accepted in Aussersihl while they fail in the rest of the city or the country. In 1984 there was a proposition to declare Aussersihl an "autonomous community" that got a lot of sympathy among its population but was voted down in the city parliament. Unlike "better" neighborhoods, where fewer foreigners live, racism is not very strong in Aussersihl. But old Swiss people (retired workers) often feel a bit displaced when they see African people walking down the streets and Moslem housewives in their exotic clothing. The problem is not that foreigners are "strange" though, but that life is so isolated and there aren't enough places to meet and talk.
In 1932, Swiss Nazis, supported by the bourgeois parties, organized a march into Aussersihl. They were stopped and beaten up by socialist and communist workers right on the bridge to Aussersihl. Since then, Fascism in its official form hasn't had a chance in Switzerland. This history of struggles is very important in understanding the neighborhood today.
The invasion by modem-day Swiss banks is felt very similarly to that of the fascist invasion of 1932. And aren't they linked with everything that could be called "fascist" on this planet, from Pinochet to Franco to Botha? History is also important, because it provides a "code" for (dys-)communication among the different sectors of the proletariat living there. In the city, and in certain suburban areas, the proletariat is much more homogeneous than in Aussersihl - yet there is no social life, no culture of resistance, a more "fascist" and pro-automobile/pro-discipline attitude. So, economic interest, "objective" unity alone doesn't produce struggles - on the contrary.
A Successful Incineration
Strength comes from the land, from touchable history, from old and new places and possibilities of cultural exchange, from diversity, from "strangeness," and from certain "idiotic" fantasies of being somebody special. All these factors are lacking in newly constructed, rationalized, de-historicized projects in the suburbs and even more in areas of single family houses. This process is not a pure accident of the expansion of the city, but also an implicit plan of capital to disarm the proletariat (be it "rich" or "poor"). So from the point of view of struggles, land is much more than just housing, it is part of our identity. Historical, mythical, traditional and magical elements are essential and you still don't have to lose your wits because of this. (For example, geomantic tests done in the cellar of the Stauffacher buildings, the future Karthago, with a rod by a woman have revealed exceptionally strong energy lines.) Communication is pointless if there's nothing to tell, if there's no common code, no common history of spirits and struggles.
In 1980, a real estate investor, Victor Kleinert, proposed a shopping center for the buildings near the bridge to Aussersihl, the so-called Stauffacher. In 1982, a referendum against this project was passed in Aussersihl, but rejected city wide. Kleinert's residence was bombed in 1983 and he renounced his project. In 1983, a new syndicate took over. This time it was a group of 16 pension funds, headed by Buhle-Immobilien AG. Buhle is an arms production company involved in business with Central America, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. In January 1984, 70 squatters occupied the building for three days until the police forcibly removed them. Actions against the pension funds (handcuffing oneself to employees) followed. There was street-theater, a mock tribunal, a soccer match, and various little actions such as the successful incineration of a branch of McDonald's. In 1986, the city denied building permits for the project. In 1987, a new project was presented. The beginning of construction in now expected (or feared) for fall 1989.
During this period, there were lots of episodes of squatting, sabotage and a few demonstrations. The rising rents and the expansion of office buildings have stimulated them. The pension funds, which have accumulated 150 billion dollars of "idle" capital, are legally restricted from investing "too heavily" in stocks and shares, so they are very active in the real estate market, helping to push prices up. All the struggles around housing have been defeated. Squatting is answered by police intervention within a few hours. Similar events in other Swiss cities (Zaffaray in Berne, Stadtgartnerei in Basel) were also resolved by police violence. Capital, through its political and state organs, has been very successful in isolating and repressing all groups that have tried alternative uses of land buildings. They have been able to exploit the cultural gap between the "chaotes" and the regular Swiss family. Whereas they are ready to spend some money on alternative culture, there is no money for alternative living.
Why resist? Why not do what you're told, work in the city, commute to the suburbs and spend your vacations in Kenya? It isn't so much that living according to capital's necessities makes you unhappy—on the contrary. Resistance can make you more unhappy and certain people get a stiff neck from it. There's just a certain numbness about this life. You see the neighbor's sons take drugs, you hear of suicides (the most important cause of death in Switzerland for men under 34), you feel an urge to do more shopping. Nothing serious, but no real life.
"We want to live in Zurich. We want to stay in the city because in it we can be part of a world wide exchange of ideas, products and lifestyles; because the city could be our home and world in one, a place for encounters with foreigners and friends."
This is the introduction of the manifesto of "Karthago." It is the vision of a multicultural, multiracial city of functioning independent communities. A city not organized around money, but around people and their social and cultural wealth. This vision of a new city (Carthage means "New City" in old Phoenician) has many aspects:
Social: anonymous masses can't have power nor develop (counter) cultural identities. Extended households of 100-500 people can guarantee autonomy, a stable social basis to fall back on, equal possibilities for men and women.
Countryside/city: since their beginnings, cities have been designed to exploit the peasants. Without a new relationship between city-life and the production of food, this fact will continue to produce its monstrous effects (oppression of peasants, Third World problematic, agribusiness, erosion of soil). The above mentioned communities must therefore have direct ties to the country, a kind of city/countryside production cooperative. Heavy agricultural work can be reduced to a minimum, but the balance must be shared by everyone who eats. The new city will not be a dull garden city, but it must be a city with organic ties to the surrounding countryside.
Women/men: the ones who suffer most from a return to the country or suburbs are usually the women. Village life is no alternative to the city. Most "traditional" women's work can be avoided or distributed more equally in a lively city context. Large "households" are an ideal frame to free women and men from housework.
Cultural: city life can create the equality that is a spring-board for more cultural diversity. Extended households are well adapted to develop or preserve an original cultural life. At the same time, the presence of different lifestyles on a small spot can guarantee against cultural sclerosis or the persistence of oppressive elements of certain "traditional" lifestyles (women, e.g., can more easily unite with women of neighboring communities).
Ecological: the resources of this planet are limited, but not the social and other pleasures they allow. At the moment, the metropolitan countries use about 80% of this planet's resources and they're ruining its ecological balance rapidly. At the same time a lot of people in the Third World are dying because of a lack of resources that are wasted by us. There can be a more equal and ecologically sound use of our resources, if we use them for more communal luxury (turkish baths, haute cuisine, big salons) and if we get rid of unnecessary and unpleasant uses (commuting, small bathrooms, small kitchens, work, packaging). An extended household can reduce the use of essential resources to 30% and still allow a more enjoyable life on a planetary scale.
Economical: most work that must be done nowadays is pure faux frais of our mode of production. Extended households could easily produce, exchange, and recycle so many products and services that the "outside" economy could collapse to a harmless 10-20% of its actual volume. Capital ceases to be "structurally necessary" if these "households" take over.
A concrete vision of such a planetarily compatible and enjoyable new city has been formulated in Zurich by the group Karthago.
In 1987, some tenants still living in the Stauffacher buildings and friends from Aussersihl decided not only to fight against the invasion of the banks, but also to present a project of their own. Engineers were consulted about the best methods of energy use, architects volunteered labor, friends living on farms were contacted to estimate how much land 100 people would need to feed themselves, artists made drawings and helped produce graphic materials. In the end, Karthago, as it was named, was born—a concrete, practically realizable project that looked like this:
-The single houses are connected to one living space for about 100 persons.
-The ground floor is reserved for common usages like: a big kitchen, a library, a turkish bath, a bakery, a big hall, work-shops. This space—together with a large backyard—is semi-public, between private and public. The idea is that all first floors in the whole city should be used like this and so allow people to walk through the city, always being away and at home at the same time.
-Floors two to five are extremely private, not accessible to uninvited visitors and not even to other inhabitants of Karthago. This private sphere is described as a "holy," individualistic space for various lifestyles: singles, families, communities, women's or men's groups.
-The roof garden is again a common space, mainly used as a retreat.
-A farm of 17 hectares (about 42 acres, or an area about 17 soccer fields long by 17 wide) can furnish about 80% of all the necessary food for the 100 people. There are already contacts with possible farms. At the same time, every Karthaginian will spend 10 days per year working on the farm, which is sufficient to do 3/5 of the work there, mainly unskilled work. The price of the food (organically produced) will be reduced accordingly - ordinarily organic food is prohibitively expensive.
-With very few but efficient measures, consumption of energy, and its cost, can be reduced to 30%. The most efficient technology is common living (washing, cooking, household). Other measures include insulation, ivy on the walls, thermal pumps, and more for decorative purposes, a windmill on the roof.
-In its workshops, Karthago will produce a series of goods such as preserves, pasta, bread, books, furniture, music and exchange them with other producers - avoiding money.
-One apartment will be reserved for ten non-paying guests. Third World people will always have priority. Considering planetary, ecological and social principles, a city could look like this:
-People living or moving into the same block would form basic communities ("isles") of 200 to 600 persons. The neighborhood could consist of 40 isles of different shapes (see diagram).
-The isles would have about the same size, but from the point of view of architecture, cultural identity, lifestyle, language and inner organization, they would be completely free and different. This diversity is the main wealth of the neighborhood. So, there could be: family style, community style, single, monastic, active, quiet, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, Moslem, Christian, Heathen, Thai. "yuppie," chaotic, vegetarian, alcoholic, Shaker, exclusively male or female, and mixed or just "regular" isles. People of the same inclinations could move together and also move out if they change their mind.
-Each isle would be something like a "cultural center- of its own culture. So you could walk around your neighborhood and visit them, sample their food, hear their music, listen to their stories or learn their languages. Of course, such isles can't be formed overnight, but rather must emerge by themselves.
-Each isle only needs one street of access. This means that only two big roads (East-West, North-South) are needed. Most other streets can be used as common space, for herb gardens or open-air workshops. As each isle only has one or two trucks and a few cars, almost no parking space will be needed. The highway along the river Limmat can be transformed into a river-side park with gardens, pavilions and bathing areas.
-A network of covered bicycle paths will link the isles. So you can cross the neighborhood in about 5 to 10 minutes. On the two main roads, tramways and buses (for goods and passengers) will connect the neighborhood to the city.
-Along the walls of most buildings there will be arcades, so that you can walk around without getting wet. All first floors will be semi-private, open for visitors. Even in winter you can wander around the whole neighborhood, sit down here and there, have chats or help friends who are working.
-Each isle is only the city end of a town/country compound. That means that for each isle there is a farm (or several farms) of about 220 acres located about 10 or 20 miles from the city. If each member works four weeks per year on the farm, the isle can feed itself almost for free. Under these conditions, leisurely, organic, intensive farmwork is possible. A small truck is sufficient to transport all the food once or twice per week. This saves energy, chemical fertilizers, space and packages. Waste can be brought back to the farm and be turned into compost or food for pigs or hens. The whole food industry becomes unnecessary.
-The isles will have their own workshops for the treatment and preservation of food, their restaurants, depots, cellars and breweries. Individual cooking can be reduced to a minimum. Food, energy, water can be saved and at the same time, more care can be put into the preparation of meals. It's actually "cheaper" to have a first class kitchen in your isle than to prepare second class meals in your badly equipped little kitchen.
-Besides food, the isles can get into the most varied types of production: furniture, clothes, metal, machinery, books, art and construction. Products and services can be exchanged within the neighborhood and beyond. The community can get rid of shop keepers, inn keepers, small businesses of all kinds that are mostly parasitical and which demoralize collective solutions. No business is good business! Direct exchange makes possible access to a maximum of wealth to everybody without the risks of money economy.
-All the isles together can organize enterprises for the whole of the neighborhood: repair workshops for machines, trucks, taxis, a hotel for guests, food reserves, swimming pools, and cinemas. Instead of paying taxes, the isles simply donate work and keep these common enterprises going. This system can be applied city wide to public transportation, electricity, water.
-Instead of schools, there are public academies based on mutual exchange of knowledge and know-how. You just offer your knowledge by teaching a course and take other courses in exchange for that. Primary schooling can be done within the isles. The project would allow its inhabitants to work only part time, as the costs of living could be reduced drastically. Karthago is not seen as a unique experiment or utopian island but as a model for a new life in the city for everybody. While the defensive struggle is going on, Karthago has allowed the activists to break the social and political isolation of the struggles for housing. It appeals not only to people who are looking for cheap apartments but also to those who already have found one, but are not satisfied with their life in isolation and very little space. Since 1987, Karthago has been invited by unions, schools, ecological groups, cultural centers, to present its project. Support has always been very strong. Karthago has also taken part in city wide actions and demonstrations around the housing/land problematic.
In the buildings, a long series of (illegal) performances, artists' exhibitions, concerts and plays have culturally animated the neighborhood. There are Karthago books, a record, paintings, videos. In a symposium organized by Karthago in 1987, renowned engineers, anthropologists, doctors, agronomists and architects supported the project publicly as a solution to all the major problems of our society. Artists, writers and journalists joined a support committee. All this propaganda work has given Karthago a permanent presence in the Swiss media and has finally motivated politicians (left, center and green) to launch parliamentary actions to get money from the city or the canton to finance Karthago. A recent city wide vote went 59-47 against financing Karthago. Its cost will be $20 million, with $15 million for the land alone! So it's not just a cheap way of getting rid of disagreeable people.
Karthago is a constructive proposal, a serious "utopian" project. At the same time - and not less important! - it is also meant to be a point of struggle against the New Enclosures in Zurich. It has made it possible to block a profitable use of this land for capital for eight years. The buildings are an "ugly" spot in an otherwise manicured city landscape.
The connection with the expansion of the banks and with their international role is consciously made. As a branch of the Swiss Union Bank opened across the street, a dozen sacks of coal (coal is a slang expression for money in Germany) were emptied into the lobby. In a communique that was published in the press along with photos, Karthago denounced the bank for ruining the reputation of the neighborhood because it's dealing with South Africa and other fascist regimes and laundering drug money. Actually the same banks that are active in and around the IMF and the World Bank to destroy debtor countries are also those that finance the destruction of our neighborhoods. This connection between the debt crisis and the housing crisis was openly made on banners at recent demos in Zurich.
At the moment, almost all legal possibilities to realize Karthago have been exhausted. There is one last appeal due to be decided in Fall of 1989. Whether Karthago (and similar projects that are being proposed now in the city) can be realized or not depends entirely on the development and the quality of the struggles. There is a new increase of demos (one every Thursday, others in between) in Zurich and other Swiss cities around "housing." The main problem will be the "attack on the heart of the Swiss state," i.e. to mobilize that 60% or more majority of "happy," silent and rich Swiss who make more than $20,000 a year and who still think they've got a good deal. The inertia caused by the illusions of "relative" wealth (compared to Uganda, Bolivia, Beirut, or even the U.S.!) will be difficult to overcome, but once they move, they can't be stopped. A double tactic of breaking the "peace" with demos and offering tempting new deals like Karthago can eventually achieve this. If you want to mobilize "yuppies," you must offer yuppie-communism. Moral lectures have never moved anybody - and if they have, usually in the wrong directions.
Bolo'Bolo and Karthago - An Author's Note
Karthago is seen as an invitation to transform the whole city and the whole planet. It is obvious that such a transformation can only be the result of struggles - against land-owners, industry, banks, and the state. Lots of intermediate steps might be necessary. Time is needed to bring people together, to create cultural identities, to study agriculture, and to get in touch with farmers interested in cooperation. Success also depends on what's going on in the city, the nation, the world. Modest steps in the right direction cannot be despised, but it is important to talk about the direction. The ideas presented in this paper aim at promoting such discussions. Which way shall we go? Shall we just try to mend a system that's fundamentally flawed or shall we look for life beyond capital? Plans for a neighborhood can be a good way of starting out. But it would be fatal to forget the big picture while doing so.
Note: A party to celebrate the death of Karthago was recently held in Zurich. Long Live Karthago!
*p.m. is the author of bolo'bolo. bolo'bolo can be ordered through Autonomedia in Brooklyn, NY.
In Switzerland, pollution caused by cars led to the first resistance in the late seventies. People blocked streets and demanded a reduction in car traffic. Since then there have been protest demonstrations against cars in most cities. On the political level there have been attempts to ban the most dirty cars and introduce catalyzers, to close certain streets, to reduce maximum speed, and to improve public transportation. But it is not enough.
Attacking the car has opened many possibilities of struggles, both individual and collective. In Zurich, groups calling themselves Rust or Basta slash tires, smash wind-shields, scratch bodies, and firebomb car showrooms. Almost every week such incidents of sabotage are reported. Stickers showing a burning car and the slogan "Cars have no future" have appeared. Cars are burnt at demonstrations, not only to use them as barricades, but because they're cars. In 1988, there were demonstrations in many cities when smog situations became particularly serious. In Geneva, squads of angry demonstrators pulled car drivers out of their vehicles, gave them bus tickets and led them away. Does "habeas corpus" apply to people circulating in "civilian" armored vehicles or much more to those who have to live near busy streets? Whose freedom is more important?
The increasing refusal of cars has caused a unique phenomenon in the political sphere of Switzerland: for three years there has been a Swiss Car Party defending car traffic. This party has one seat in the national parliament and gets from 5-10% of the vote in cities and cantons (states). It's one of the most successful parties of the last few years, only matched by the Greens who get a few per cent more. Actually, there is a symmetry between the gains of the car party and those of the Greens. The program of the car party is right wing, its rhetoric fascist. Its president, Dreher, even proposed - jokingly(!) - to put all car haters against a wall and machine gun them. On other occasions, he proposed using flame throwers. The traditional right wing parties are a bit embarrassed, mainly because the car party has led to a radicalization of the Right. The Right is also embarrassed because the car party reveals loudly many of the secrets of the capitalist organization of life: that cars mean "freedom" (so much for this), that cars are "fascist" (and so can rightfully be attacked by any democrat without bad conscience), and that without the car the system must collapse (a good hint for us).
Since the car has become a political item in Switzerland, you can't just park it, drive it, or wash it any more as before. You are politically active in doing so. The car is an ideal enemy: it's everywhere, quite vulnerable, and visible. Individuals can contribute to the struggle on moonless nights, neighborhoods can block streets and get rid of planned (or actual) parking lots. The car is a big organizer against the system. No cars also mean: we want to put together the different aspects of life again. We don't want to self-deport ourselves twice or more per day to those places capitalist planners have assigned us to. Cars and computers, which are forms of self-isolation in the field of communications, are the vulnerable links, hinges, and connections of the parts of the system. In this function, these two technologies of oppression are destructive - be they less polluting than today and yielding 100 miles per gallon (as a French prototype does). Cars and computers simply don't bring us together.