Ward_Housing -An Anarchist Approach

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Transcript of Ward_Housing -An Anarchist Approach

COLTN W3 is well-known as an authority on housing and as an anarchist propagandist. Ho w do these two themes combine? Thi s book brings together articles and addresses covering thirty years of advocacy > an anarchist approach to housing. DIRECT ACTION, the first section, includes his nu* s classic account of the post-war squatters' movemen t and relates it to the current signii^cance of t' a squatters in Britair and elsewhere.

Colin Ward

HUMAN NEEDS identifies the missing component in public housing policies: dwelle involvement; and r anticipate today*; anxieties about the sqciai effects of imposing official policies on people ipho^e ow percep+ ? n of cheir housing nee'is has n n been, systematical:! ignored. y SELF HELP includes accounts of do-it-yourse]f hous ng in Britain and abroad, the remarkable achievements of the si uatter settlements in the 'cities the poor build' in the Third World. - . , sketches the outlines f n anarcnxst approach .R . fro C . cityBH

PROFESSIONALS OR PEOPLE? is the question raised in the fourth sec+ion of this book. Wha t went wro.g with architecture and planning? Ca n we transfo" them from bein? th concern of a bureaucratic elite into a populist and popular activity? DWELLER CONTROL argues that the only future foj public housing, whether in our decaying cities O T on new estates,, is the tenaiat take-over. *jjrMffiP

an anarcnist approachFREEDOM PRESS



ISISN 0rui Mr. Crosland . . .I I'lK il 1 SSIONALS OR PEOPLE?

65 72 80 87 93

Pluming and Designing Things We Can Live With \i< ihe Architects to Blame? 10 Hi' Spectre of Planning Education in. .ilion for Participation rimming and Human Needs Printed atEXPRESS PRINTERS

99 3 114 119 129




(.in 11v and Power in the Urban Jungle I'lirlli'lpnlion or Control? II WOn'l Work Without Dweller Controltin I'rwmls lake Over

142 147 158168

INTRODUCTIONThin little book is a collection of articles and lectures of mine over a period of thirty years which attempts to present an anarchist i'i"""li to housing. The criticism is often made of anarchist i>f>l>iiftundists that they are solely concerned with a blanket litii in of existing society, and with postulating a future "free widely", and consequently have nothing sensible or constructive to .sity about alternative solutions to contemporary problems. Wlion F attempted to refute this view in my book Anarchy in Icthn, consciously trying to show that anarchism has something in I mid useful to offer to people looking for interim solutions (which nrc the only kind of solutions we are likely to see) to !' problems of today, one reviewer dismissed it as "trendy WHNIH" to which I can only reply that I yearn for the day when iho left catches up with the anarchists. Anarchism (the origin of the word is the Greek phrase meaning Miliary to authority) seeks a self-organising society: a network of autonomous free associations for the satisfaction of human M ! inevitably this makes anarchists advocates of social revoln. for the means of satisfying these needs are in the hands I i ipitalists, bureaucratic, private or governmental monopolies. 111' ii' [( no doubt that Engels was right in seeing the housing pnbltm as a permanent aspect of capitalist society. But it is nlm> a permanent aspect of those societies where the governmental y*lrm and the production system are alleged to be socialist, ml NIIICO people have to be housed, whether they live in a ipiviilntor's jungle, a people's democracy, a fascist dictatorship[7]


or an anarchist paradise, there must be some underlying principle for an approach to this universal human need. There is, and it is an anarchist principle, that of dweller control, enunciated by my friend John Turner thus: "When dwellers control the major decisions and are free to make their own contribution to the design, construction or management of their housing, both the process and the environment produced stimulate individual and social well-being. When people have no control over, nor responsibility for key decisions in the housing process, on the other hand, dwelling environments may instead become a barrier to personal fulfilment and a burden on the economy." It is the same principle of autonomy and responsibility that anarchists apply to industry, education, social welfare and every other sphere of human activity. The anarchist position is at a tangent to the normal political continuum. As Turner says, "The common debate is between the conventional left which condemns capitalism and the conventional right which condemns personal dependency upon state institutions. I agree with both, so nobody committed to either side can agree with me." What the anarchist has to attempt is to change the terms of the debate, to change the way in which people perceive the issue, to suggest a different and libertarian way of stating the problem. The assumption in the kind of welfare capitalist society we live in, is that the magic of the market will satisfy most ordinary human needs, and that govemment^administered welfare bureaucracies will meet the rest. The ideology of the passive consumer is assumed in both sectors. But the system is collapsing, and people are just beginning to take heed of the alternative solutions which anarchism offers. In 1948 a young anarchist architect, Giancarlo de Carlo, wrote an article for the Italian anarchist monthly Volonta, which I translated for Freedom (12 and 26 June, 1948), in which after describing the housing situation in Italy, he remarked that "The situation today is no new phenomenon, but it is worse than ever before, because its effects are more extensive, more dreadful, and, in view of the advances in technique which could be available for us, more absurd. Yet the social organs of today, capitalism and the state, are able to do nothing to resolve this desperate crisis. New materials, new constructional processes are of no avail as long as the principles of privilege and authority prevail." Well, nothing in the experience of his country, or ours, has since invalidated his conclusions. He went on to point[8]

H that capitalism was not building, and was not going to i imilil. houses for the underprivileged classes, because that sort i Investment had simply ceased to be profitable, and then he iin no! to the role of the state: "The state is the principle of authorityan abstraction masquer"iiiig us something real, and can have no real contact with the concrete realityman himselfwhom it treats and manipulates HH though he were just an abstraction. The home is an organism in direct relationship to man. It is his external environment, his /tflli million in space. Thus the home cannot have any relationship to Hi. .into, which recognises man not as individual but as a number, i 11.n lion of some greater number. Every time that the state has i 1 en upon itself these relationships, the results have been disastrous. 1 Wi' could look back into history in order to demonstrate the truth of this, we could describe the city under the ferocious UltOCratic states of ancient Egypt, of Imperial Rome, of the I i ... i, monarchy, but it suffices to think of any Italian town today. . . ." In looking for alternative approaches, he examined building ((^operatives, tenants' co-operatives, housing strikes (i.e., rent xli Ikes), and the illegal occupation of empty houses, and finally wont on to consider an anarchist attitude to town planning: "It is possible to adopt a hostile attitude: "The plan must necessnilv i niiinate from authority, therefore it can only be detrimental, i he hanges in social life cannot follow the planthe plan will be i . on i-(|ucnce of a new way of life.' Or an attitude of participation mild l>c adopted: 'The plan is the opportunity of liquidating our prONent social order by changing its direction, and this changed is the necessary preliminary for a revolutionary social inn lure.' The first attitude is based on two main arguments. i Iritly, that authority cannot be a liberating agentperfectly true; MVUIHIIV, that man can do nothing until he is freea mistaken view. Mini cannot be liberated, he must liberate himself, and any progress irds Hint liberation can only be the conscious expression of his n will. The investigation of the full extent of the problems of iHMo i . itv and home, is such an activity. To find out the nature of thl problems and to prepare their solution is a concrete example i direct action, taking away the powers of authority and giving them back to men. The attitude of hostility that really means 'wnlllng for the revolution to do it', does not take into account thl fin I thai the social revolution will be accomplished by clear hi "I inil by sick and stunted people unable to think of the [9]

future because of the problems of the present. It forgets that the revolution begins in the elimination of these evils so as to create the necessary conditions of a free society." Giancarlo de Carlo was arguing two important propositions. Firstly that whatever kind of society he lives in, it is important for the anarchist to push forward those approaches to personal and social needs which depend on popular initiative and which postulate alternatives to dependency on capitalism and the state, secondly that "urban planning can become a revolutionary weapon if we succeed in rescuing it from the blind monopoly of authority and making it a communal organ of research and investigation into the real problems of social life." I found his point of view important and helpful, because I had become convinced, and am still, that one of the tasks of the anarchist propagandist is to propagate solutions to contemporary issues which, however dependent they are on the existing social and economic structure, are anarchist soluti