Methinks they protest too much

July 1, 2010

The foundry in Shoreditch is set to close – Hackney Gazette Article – to make way for an ‘art-otel’. In response the building was recently occupied by people who advertise their presence through putting up signs that say ‘resist’ and ‘occupy’. You know the type. For those that don’t know it the building was a bar/art space with a large Banksy work on it and was frequented by a fairly eclectic mix of characters, not just scensters from the ‘ditch as far as I can tell. Apparently the building was rented from Hackney Council and the Council sold it to the hotel chain.

I think this is shame because it was obviously a popular place that put on a wide range of art shows and music that seemed fairly leftfield for the area. The owners are apparently looking for somewhere new and you hope they can recreate something similarly successful in another place. The art otel people are doing what capitalists have a habit of doing: associating themselves with a cool thing, sanitising it and then making as much money as they can from it. Not to my taste and i can imagine very annoying if it’s your thing they are bastardising; but I think the time for saving Hoxton from the moneymen – the wider purpose of the protest – has come a bit late.

Hoxton was lost to the developers long ago. There are signs outside the foundry protesting against the gentrification of the area, but I’m pretty sure these protests would have been better timed when the holiday inn was built or the expensive flats went up or the Saturday night in Blackpool feel started to descend. The horse has bolted. And some years ago at that. You’d be better heading down to Broadway market – an aching ball sack of arseholes if there ever was one – if you want to get in somewhere before the rot is terminal. But I feel it’s probably too late there as well. That’s the thing about a place being arty. Arty attracts the creative middle class, expensive retailers and finally the moneymen who eventually kill it through sky high property prices and appropriated cool. See the ‘Hacineda flats’ in Manchester as another example.

Surely it would be better accepting the inevitability of the end and moving on somewhere else, starting it all again. You might even view it as more creative. And if you wanted to get away from the uncertainty of being somewhere rented, at the mercy of market forces, then buy somewhere instead. Then The Man can’t come in and ruin it all. Sound fanciful? Well, I think it sure beats expecting to be given possibly one of the most expensive pieces of land in London – for free! – on the reality scale. Great swathes of Britain have cheap property where you can get a nice industrial warehouses for a couple of hundred grand. Get 40 of you together, all work your socks off for a year and put away 5k each and bang, you’re off. No more rent, you can do what you want. You could build a whole community in Dudley or Halifax if you wanted to. The opportunity to build a proper community of bongo players, uni-cyclists and the rest. East berlin, west midlands style. If you really want to create a ‘social space free from market forces’ as the protestors say they want to do there’s plenty of places you could do it.

Or wait. Is there a reason this not particularly revolutionary idea won’t be palatable. Yes, it means playing The Man at his own game and having to become property owners. But you could also view it as changing the rules of the game to suit your playing style. More so than putting up another ‘resist’ ‘occupy’ or ‘fuck george bush’ sign. But then it might be too pragmatic – or you might actually win a battle! And that wouldn’t do would it? Because we need The Man to win or there’s no reason to get our signs out again next week.

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One Response to “Methinks they protest too much”

  1. McCrack said

    As if to prove my point over in the Guardian some Marxist professor writes:

    ‘The Marxist left is thriving intellectually. The real test it faces is political: can it help to develop effective resistance to the coalition’s plans to devastate the public sector and the poor? Events in Greece show how neoliberal shock therapy can provoke social rebellion. The real future of Marxism depends on the scale on which these revolts develop and on the political direction they take.’

    No mate. The real test lies in coming up with some alternative answers rather than organising another sodding sit in.

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