Modern and open squatting

A new tool and propaganda method for squatting is
kraakapp.nl. This map with over a thousand markers gives an
insight and information about the squattability of locations
and hence is an accessible, modern and simple starting point
in the quest for a new squat in the Netherlands. The app is
still in development, but the raw prototype has already gained
quite a bit of attention.

The ban on squatting, established in 2010, needed to put an
end to squatting. The squatting society, already declining
before, received another slap in the face, but nevertheless
stood its ground. That says something about the sustaining
idealism which moves people to live this way, and the
determination of the core group. Still, (former) squats are
important for the infrastructure of the radical left. The cultural
attraction of squats and the related musical and art genres
drew many to radical politics, especially anarchism. The
question however is, if the importance of squatting and squats
will survive this decennium.

I could write a happy and optimistic article about my app:
“Great app, squatting prevails, yeaaah!” The responses over
the past weeks were heartwarming and it is tempting to keep
on harvesting this, so to say. Fact however is, that I haven’t
created this app only to give squatters in my surrounding or
even in general, a nifty new tool. This app is part of the
critique which I, and perhaps others, have about the
squatters’ society. Peptalk is toxic. Critique is fertile. Friends
tell each other the truth. I hope this attempt to honesty is

Squatting is difficult. Squatters stand across juridical
criminalisation, continuing urgent evictions, a growing number of expats and an urban environment which in general gets
more and more hostile. The social-cultural class from which
squatters traditionally emerge, has long been shrinking. These
are so-called objective circumstances and they are harsh. This
is what we fight against, but due to their nature, they are on a
daily level a natural phenomena.

Then the subjective. I would like to separate these from the
objective for argument’s sake. I do find these things that we
rather can solve. These are problems we have created
ourselves. These are missed opportunities. More often than
not, squatters respond to outsiders or newcomers rather
elitarian. More often than not, squatters respond to new
ideologies in a rather conservative way. More often than not,
squatters respond to people with different ideas, closed or
aggressive. Should you feel attacked by these words, then
count to ten and see if this also applies to you. Furthermore,
mayhem happens regularly within the scene. It is a complex
problem about which I shall talk more later, but which I
cannot justify. It is however something I respond to with this

If we look at these objective and subjective problems, and the
repressive wave that is soon to come, then why don’t we just
leave this sinking ship? Three reasons: first, squatting is too
important for that. Or at least it used to be, but I think it still
is, as I have already described. Second, I think that with a
more open and accessible policy, the squatting society can
revive. Third, squatting is more important than squatters. If
squatting doesn’t prevail, we all have a big problem. From the
student squat action at the Spinhuis in Amsterdam for
example, a few years ago, dozens of people have found their
way to long-term activism. Defending the squatting scene is a
task for all of us and for the left in general.

There’s multi-layered criticism on the squatting practices of
today embedded in the app. We are all emotional beings and
we all behave according to psychological types. I am
convinced that much of what I see in the squatting society,
are manners or coping mechanisms. How people have been
dealing with things collectively, continued existing, including
defeats and marginalisations. Mental defense mechanisms, so
to say. Natural responses which simultaneously make the
society inaccessible.

The cultural conservatism is a logical mental comrade of a
movement that is pulling back and defending itself. Think
about it. But how does this reflect on newly interested people
if your website hasn’t been updated for twenty years? If our
cultural expressions seem more like 1980 than 2020?
Internally, this brings a feeling of rooting, pride, status, etc.
To the outside, with the exception of those who in fact search
for this past, it feels like exclusive, otherworldly and obsolete.
It clashes with looking forward and being progressive.

Where squatting lost its fame due to the marginalisation, I
have meanwhile, in their own controversial response, seen
squatters cherish their fame. Squatters always were a bit
elitarian, but this has much grown. Squatting is now more
than before, mystique. A good example of this, is fetishising
the assumed continuous presence of secret agencies. I don’t
want to deny the realism of repression, but do conclude that
rituals have been created which are particularly inaccessible
and impractical. Among other things.

The squat app does not remove reasons for social problems
withholding people from squatting. What it does, or so I hope,
is offer a deep contrast. An impression of a more modern,
open and accessible approach. Regardless of the status within
the scene, the app will answer. No subculturalism, people needn’t be judged before they are welcomed. And regarding
the always spying General Intelligence and Security Service?
“Hello, my name is Sjerp and this is my squat app.” I hope
they will find us dangerous enough again to repress us a bit
more. At the moment, we are not interesting, is the spiteful
conclusion. Maybe I’m wrong, then I’m my own guinea pig.
They already know me, don’t worry about that. 

Defeats and shrink are demotivating. I hope to show potential
with a map full of markers. Call it postmodern, hipster, giving
in, call it what you want. I think it fits within the time frame,
to shop online for empty buildings. It hurts my eyes to read
my own words, but I think it’s true. Personally, I prefer to
listen inside the Amsterdam Minds Minor Threat. But the times
they are a changin’.

Check this out. ‘Brothers in the Hood’, Inlaagdijk 19 in Zwaag,
went bankrupt on the 19th of May and currently nothing else
is registered at that address. So this is a good address to visit
and put a twig in the door, and check again after a few days.
And what to do with the Amsterdam Film School B.V.? Located
in Amsterdam Zeeburg, it went bankrupt on the 28th of April.
Sounds fun, they must have a theatre hall! Via the Chamber
of Commerce, you’ll find two addresses: Panamalaan and De
Lairessestraat. The app currently shows on the latter: “see
CoC-link”. As said: it is still under development. But either
way, you will find out that this location too is bankrupt. Tag it,
I’d say. Although now that I published these addresses in this
article, they may have become a bit hot.

I have deliberately placed the app online while it is still under
development, because it’s nearly impossible to develop the
perfect product alone (or even as an organisation). You are
not your own audience. What has been published at the time
of writing this article (August 2020), is mainly there to gain feedback, so perhaps eventually I will toss the whole thing
and build something completely different.

I organised an official release in the Bollox in Amsterdam, and
tried to invite several squat groups. But I couldn’t reach
anyone or tried to act secretive. Those I could reach said they
didn’t want to exchange phone numbers but they would send
an email around. Really difficult to organise. Eventually, a
total number of zero squatters came to the Bollox. Explain
that, I said to myself. Was the organisation of the release a
disaster, am I perhaps the problem, or is it conservatism
standing in my way?

After a lot of thinking, I decided to just put the app online,
because I didn’t know anymore what to do. I did spend a few
hours trying to find some groups that had something to do
with squatting. One day later, more than three hundred people
had used the app, and I received screenshots from chat
groups in which the app was shared. My call for feedback was
answered with good advice and useful critics, people offered
to help and I’m currently working on a team. Big bang was an
interview with American magazine FastCompany. Now I hope
that people for example in those chat groups see the app and
think: “Gosh, squatting… I didn’t know there was so much
empty” and get inspired. I suspect the old core of the
squatters’ scene won’t be too happy with this app, but the
wider periphery is, which explains the wildly diverse response
to the launch and publication.

On the Anarchist Book Fair in November 2020, a version 1.0
was published. On this book fair, there are many people who
are not linked to organisations, but yet are interested. Let’s be
honest to them about the perspectives. With an open,
accessible and political point of view, we can potentially get
many people interested and we can certainly use that.

Translated from Dutch, originally written by Sjerp van
Wouden - First published in Buiten De Orde

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