VIENNA/AUSTRIA: AUTONOMOUS SPACES - MAR 2005
The Struggle for Autonomous Spaces in Vienna
29 Mar 2005 01:55 GMT
The Ernst Kirchweger Haus (EKH) in Vienna, Austria, was squatted in 1990 to become an internationalist, anti-fascist, self-run space. Including an autonomous living space and numerous political as well as cultural initiatives and groups, the project has played an important role in the radical left of Austria and beyond.
Since the 20th of October 2004 it has been known that the former owner, the Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ), has sold the building for much less than its worth to speculators from the extreme right-wing. Shortly afterwards, all users of the house were given notice that they have to be out by the 31st of December 2004, although they have valid tenancy agreements or have acquired rights through having (over)paid running costs for years. The new house management Gustav Petri & Co. made an "offert". If the users don't take legal steps, they could stay until summer 2005. The aim of the house management is to have the house empty by 30th of June 2005.
Some holders of tenancy agreements have bowed under the pressure and have agreed on the "offer" made by the house management, although it is still the intention to obtain the EKH. An action for possession [Räumungsklage] has been filed by the new owner. The court proceedings started on the 18th of February 2005 (report (en) | (de)). For the inhabitants of the EKH, these court proceedings are only a first step into a longer juridical dispute.
Upcoming activities: From the 11th to 18th of Mai 2005 (Pentecost), the international Congress of Vienna 2005 will be held in Vienna including different political and cultural events and actions. Contact: email@example.com
Links: EKH webpage | EKH stays Info Page | at.indymedia.org | summary of protests (en) | kanalB Videos | music, posters and dates
The Ernst Kirchweger Haus (EKH) in Vienna, Austria, has been squatted in 1990 in order to establish a internationalist, anti-fascist and autonomous centre. It takes its name from the Anti-fascist Ernst Kirchweger (de), who had been active in the resistance against national socialism during the Second World War. He was murdered during an anti-fascist demonstration in Vienna in 1965.
The EKH defines itself as a free zone for cultural, political and artistic activities. Some of the groups and projects which use space in the EKH are:
- Archiv of Social Movements - archive of the history of the left-wing movement
- Autonomous Bicycle Garage - tinkering with the vehicles of you or others
- ATIGF - Federation of workers and youths from Turkey in Austria
- Counsel for deserters and refugees - integrational project of the free counselling in questions concerning asylum and foreigners law
- The Airport Social Service - offers emergency sleeping places for refugees in the EKH
- Frauenbanden (women bands) - because so many women do music and so little know each other
- Womens' Creative Writing Workshop - women write, women read, women discuss
- Infoshop 10 - left-wing information, production and communication (with many books, zines, batches, music and small cafe)
- Kinoki - association for audiovisual self determination
- band rooms "skewed" sounds - non-commercial, autonomous d.i.y. music
- Que(e)r-Beisl - weekly political info-cafe for more than five years
- unzumutBAR - punk cracker-barrel/gathering against repression
- TATblatt - autonomous monthly newspaper: information, motivation, discussion
- VolxBibliothek (popular library) - anarchist library with more than 10.000 books about several serious issues
- Volxtheater (Publixtheatre) - popular theatre as a collective, non-hierarchical concept; doing arts and politicial action (u may have heared about the Publixtheatre Caravan, wich was arrested after the Genova 2001 protests)
- Autonomous Living Space - political commitment meets real-world implementation
- numerous cultural events and concerts, eg Ladyfest, more noise for life, and others...
Since the EKH was squatted, the relation between the owner of the house and the different groups amongst the users of the house is dominated by tensions. The KPÖ often used the police to confront activists, not only inside the EKH. An example is the 29th of May 1997, when parts of the recently freed and then squatted first floor was evicted by the police with the presence of the KPÖ officials.
At the end of 2003 it became known that the KPÖ wanted more money, either from the users or by selling the house. Most of the user groups, like eg the Archive, the Library or the integrational project of the deserters and refugees counsel would anyhow not have been able to pay more due to their financial situation. All projects are organised on an autonomous basis and receive no subsidies.
The KPÖ knew about this fact and also never made a concrete and acceptable offer. However, they continue to claim that they are in fact subsidising the EKH and that the house could not exist without the KPÖ.
Yet fact is that in 1991, an agreement about a symbolic rent of one shilling a year (0.07 euro) was made. Since then, in part exaggerated running costs have been paid.
The new owners: right-wing extremists
The users of the EKH were informed about the sale through the media. Details about the sale became clear little by little. The new owner of the EKH is the "Wielandgasse 2-4 Vermietungsges mbH.", represented by Christian Machowetz. He is also owner of a security company and has in the past been active in neonazi circles of the ANR (New Right-wing Action, ANR). What is absurd about the situation is that before the ANR was banned in the 1980s, they had anti-communism as part of their programme and their cadres ambushed KPÖ-localities several times. (see german reports: Zu den Käufern des EKHs und ANR, Neonazismus, Antikommunismus und die KPÖ)
The managing director of the "Security Management Christian Machowetz GmbH" is, according to public available information, Walter Jaromin, who also is a notorious and well-known figure in right-wing extremist circles.
The "Wielandgasse 2-4 Vermietungsges m.b.H." resided under the same address as the house management "Gustav Petri & Co." responsible for the EKH, in Hegelgasse 13/21, 1010 Vienna. As lawyer, yet another well known right-wing extremist appears: Dr. Johannes Hübner jr. (de)
Considering these connections, it doesn't come as a surprise that the boss of the Vienna section of the right-wing extremist governing party FPÖ, H.C. Strache, demanded that the demonstration for the EKH on December 18th 2004 be banned.
Only a few weeks after the sale of the EKH, it became known that the KPÖ sold yet another real estate object for 17 million euro. Considering this sum and the fact that the KPÖ still possesses several millions of euro, one can seriously doubt whether the sale of the EKH for mere 600.000 euro was indeed an emergency sale to consolidate the party's financial problems as claimed.
Malevolently, the new owners and managers of the house proceed against the users and inhabitants. The demanded from the users to remove living rooms, kitchens and offices.
Responsible for the execution of such undertakings is the so-called "bureau for urgent measures", a department of the Vienna municipal authority. In May 2004, during a visit with an immense amount of police to the EKH (de), three persons without residence permits were arrested and put into deportation prison, although said bureau came in order to remove doors in the house.
In the morning of March 15th 2005, the police arrested 3 person during a house search at EKH. At the same time, a afroshop and two appartments was searched, too, and an other person was arrested. Three person were released after some hours. The fourth person was released on Friday 18th of March 2005. (More in at.indymedia.org (de) and no-racism.net (de).)
Further intrusions of the authorities into the EKH are well possible.
Solidarity and protests
Numerous protests and declarations of solidarity have so far mainly been directed against the former owner, the KPÖ (see table of protests).
Because of countless differing opinions and criticisms of the authoritarian action on behalf of the KPÖ-leadership, a lot of protests took place. When rumours of a impending sale increased at the end of 2003, some KPÖ-events were visited in order to protest against their politics. During a speech at an event at the ESF in Paris, the "great chairman" of the party Walter Baier was ungently reminded of the situation of the EKH in Vienna.
Since the EKH was sold, there were yet more protests. In the beginning of November 2004, the headquarters of the KPÖ in Vienna, the regional offices in Klagenfurt and Salzburg and the "Cafe 7*" were visited. On Sunday, 7th of November, activists visited Mr Häupl, the mayor of Vienna. On the 12th of November, the responsible KPÖ-officials Claudia Krieglsteiener and Walter Baier were hit by flying pies during a conference of the Austrian section of the EU-wide election alliance "LINKE - opposition for a Europe of solidarity". (see european-left.org + members)
On Saturday, the 5th of December 2004, activists visited the 33rd party congress of the KPÖ in Linz in order to quizz the comrades about the sale of the EKH. Those however preferred not to talk about this issue, refused the discussion and had less criticism for the present police than for the activists. The police was called by one of the leaders of the party, Michael Grabner. (report (de) + pictures)
The KPÖ delegates voted in favour of the financial report and hence subsequently agreed with the sale of the EKH by the party leadership. They re-elected Walter Baier as party chairman.
On the 18th of December 2004, there was a big demonstration demanding the preservation of the EKH. It took place at Mariahilferstrasse, where between 500 to 1000 people, in part dressed as Santa Clauses, participated. During the run-up to the demonstration, there was a massive media dash against the destruction of Christmas peace that day. Police closed the area round the demonstration spaciously. The demonstration was stationary for three hours and then dissolved. ( img 1 | img 2 | video.)
During the night of 13th to 14th January 2005, the flats of some leading KPÖ-officials and the party headquarters were visited and prettified with paint and slogans. The KPÖ afterwards phantasised about a violent milieu around the EKH. ( img + report (de))
On 20th of January 2005, a demonstration aganinst detention and for the freedom of the detained illegalised people. One of the residents of the EKH got arrested after a racist control on 25. Oct 2004 (report (de) | img | Video). After several protests he got free on 14th of February 2005. (read more (de))
Next to those direct actions and demonstrations, it became clear that the EKH is an important cultural place in Vienna. During the last weeks and months, several thousand people visited solidarity events, concerts and parties. You can find dates at the homepage of the EKH.
During 2005 some bigger actions will take place in Vienna. Different projects and initiatives created networks to demand autonomous spaces. The so-called RäumungSchlussTage (End to Eviction Days) from 23rd to 26th of March 2005 (Easter) were organised by the KRItischPolitischeOffensive (KRIPO, critical political offensive). They started with a short-time occupation (de) ( pics).
From the 11th to 18th of Mai 2005 (Pentecost), the international Congress of Vienna 2005 will be held in Vienna including different political and cultural events and actions. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
On 29th of June 2005 parties to celebrate 15 years EKH and protests against a possible eviction will start - in the house, the yard and in the streets...
Further autonomous projects in Vienna
After different attempts in the mid 1980s, the association TÜWI was founded as a forum for interaction, integration and communication in 1994 by students of the university of tillage (BOKU). Since then, premises in Peter Jordan Straße 76/19 are being run autonomously. Now, a planned "general maintenance" of the building serves as a pretext to relocate the association.
On the 27th of January 2005, an action day took place at BOKU in order to highlight the impending loss of the TÜWI-premises.
More information can be found in tuewi.action.at | kanalB - Videos
Freiraum (free space)
After several squats and eviction at the "Altes AKH" (university campus Vienna) in summer 2004, the people from Freiraum continue their struggle for spaces that allow different ways of life.
further info: freiraum.at.tt | Print (de, pdf, 35mb)
Neue Liegenschaftsverwaltung (new property administration)
Different initiatives and projects like TÜWI, Public Netbase, association Echo, the women's cafe, W.E.G., Freiraum, and the EKH have started networking with a common intention: the preservation and extension of autonomous spaces. The network bears the name KRItischPolitischeOffensive (critical political offensive - KRIPO).
more in t0.or.at/raum
The freibesetzt exhibition and parallel happenings explore places and structures where attempts are made to create space for experimental living, working and thinking, paradoxically, both within and as autonomous as possible from the prescribed societal status-quo.
Beyond the insufficient or loaded terms like “Freespaces” and “Squats” exist creative designs and progessive practices which, due to their inherent variety in orientation and histories, often operate outside the all too confining corset of theoretical debate and justification.
Through contrasting parallel Dutch and Austrian developments, spaces and their respective “actors”, both past and contemporary, freibesetzt aims to initiate a lively discourse and intensify the knowledge-sharing over this (internationally) threatened domain. Through their diverse biographies, experience and means of expression can one discover the opportunities and struggles within these diverse strategies to “free space”.
June 29 - July 23, 2005: Kunsthalle Exnergasse, WUK, Vienna: freibesetzt
Further english articles:
- Observations of the 1st day of the Eviction-Process against the EKH, 18 Feb 2005
- Summary of protests and actions in support for the EKH (22 Mar 2005)
- The Struggle for Freespaces in Vienna (01 Mar 2005)
- first info/invitation for The Congress of Vienna (06 Jan 2005)
- EKH-Newsletter, 29 December 2004
- Statement from the EKH press group, 06 Dec 2004
- EKH - How it all began and where it lead to (historical facts, Nov 2004)
- European Communist Parties vs. Squats: European Social Forum Actions (02 Dec 2003)
- Kilakoltatás előtt az EKH! (23 Dez 2004)
- viď. novinky na praha.squat.net
- Komunistická strana Rakúska predala EKH pravicovým extrémistom (17 Nov 2004)