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The Battle for Ungdomshuset

Nieuws, gepost door: nn op 01/03/2019 03:10:12

Wanneer: 01/03/2019 - 22:47

The Defense of a Squatted Social Center and the Strategy of Autonomy

Ungdomshuset was a four-story autonomous social center located in the Nørrebro neighborhood of Copenhagen. A stronghold of the workers’ movement since the end of the 19th century, it had served the community as a bastion of international squatting networks since the beginning of the 1980s. Twelve years ago today, on March 1, 2007, it was evicted and destroyed in one of the biggest police operations in Danish history. In response, supporters initiated some of the most intense rioting that Denmark had seen in generations. After a week of street fighting and a year of weekly demonstrations, the Danish government was forced to let the movement take possession of a new building. This stands as a major victory, illustrating the power that autonomous social movements can wield by means of uncompromising direct action.

Ungdomshuset is Danish for “Youth House.” The original Ungdomshuset was located at Jagtvej 69—hence the prevalence of “69” tattoos among Danish punks of a certain generation. Most European countries retain at least one social center from the heyday of the squatting movement a few decades ago: Norway has the Blitz, Austria has the EKH, Germany has Kopi in Berlin and Rote Flora in Hamburg, Slovenia boasts an entire occupied neighborhood called Metelkova. Over the past two decades, European governments have mounted new attacks on these last redoubts. In 2007, Ungdomshuset was the first squatted social center of its stature in northern Europe to be attacked; politicians across the continent were watching to see what would happen.

The stakes were high. Supporters rose to the challenge, wrecking Copenhagen and teaching bureaucrats around Europe a lesson that they would not soon forget. Today, the Blitz, the EKH, Kopi, Rote Flora, and Metelkova all remain free. All this underscores the importance of establishing a proper rapport de force with the authorities.

The strategy of autonomy that we saw in the defense of Ungdomshuset represents an alternative to paternalistic top-down Scandinavian state socialism. In this alternative approach, grassroots social movements refuse all dialogue with institutional power, instead aiming to force the state to relinquish resources and territory so that people can experiment with meeting their needs autonomously. Today, when it has become patently obvious that the state cannot solve the problems capitalism causes, this model may suggest a way forward. Where the previous wave of autonomous movements sought to create preserves in which subcultural rebels could maintain their traditions, we aim to create ruptures throughout society, creating spaces in which it will be impossible for capitalists to continue profiting on exploited labor and the destruction of the environment.

An earlier version of this article appeared in Rolling Thunder #5. Many of the photos are courtesy of, who continues to publish photographs from the new Ungdomshuset


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