Social Centres And Struggle For Housing: Organizing With Immigrants In Italy

A short article from London Notes #1 1992

About needs, and struggles, and squatting, and immigrant, and circulation of struggles

We report here the text of the leaflet used for the discussion meeting with a comrade from Bologna last March in London

Examples of recent struggles taking real and immediate needs as their starting points

Immigration, as opposed to internal migration, is a recent phenomenon in Italy, unlike other European countries where it has been happening for decades. Thousands of immigrants have arrived in the main Italian cities in the space of the past years.

The situation which came about has been "explosive" right from the start and the problem of housing became the first area of unity between Italian and immigrant proletarians.

The self-organised squatted social centres have had a central role in the initiation and development of immigrants' struggles. Together they have gone on to use various forms of direct action; above all the mass squatting of housing. In Italy, the first squatted social centres were set up in the late seventies and gradually this practice spread throughout the national territory. The social centres were created and spread as places for people to get together politically and socially and to experiment in being separate and autonomous from institutions. The presence of the social centres immediately highlighted the property speculation going on in working class districts. They opposed the commercialisation of creativity through the self-production of music, videos, etc. They are therefore one response among many to the real need for the self-organisation of spaces and the reappropriation of time as reappropriation of life, refusing (although there are unfortunate exceptions) to become ghettoes or pseudo-"alternative" spaces separated from their locality.

It has been exactly this refusal to self-ghettoise themselves, that has allowed and still allows the social centres to be continually present within the territory, in the struggles against heroin pushers in working class estates, in anti-fascist and anti-racist struggles, in the struggles for the defence of squats and so on. This is the only way to practise real politics, the only way "that pays". It is therefore necessary to continue along the path of direct action and politicalisation of needs, to ground our political activity directly on our real proletarian needs.