of the Hamburg network Right to the City
Preamble. The Right to the City lies in plain view. It’s hanging from the trees and you will find it hidden beneath the ground you walk on. It’s already being practiced and shall be recognized as a human right. It is directed against the sad status quo of the real existing cities of today. It is the promise of a world that will be appropriated and reinvented by the people regardless of nation, sex, religion or capital.
We are writing this agenda in a European metropolis during a time when it has become obvious that the crisis of urbanized globalized capitalism is leading to an attack on the civilized achievements of decades past. All resources and social relations are subject to capitalist exploitation and widespread valorisation. More and more members of the population have to face the ever increasing casualisation of employment and are pushed into precarity – while the wealth of the few grows unchecked. Racism has once again been institutionalized. Right-wing populist movements are gaining ground with their promise to solve the crisis as a nationalist community in a reactionary manner. They are striving unceasingly to create a new world order of a brutalized class society.
The Right to the City is a radically different response to this crisis. It stands for collective self-organization, participation of all in the wealth that everyone in society has worked for, as well as the socialization of resources. It stands for diversity and democratic cosmopolitanism and the right to centrality within the city.
The right to this centrality is the freedom of movement for everybody throughout the whole urban realm: To use the space for play and to meet and gather and to exchange ideas. The people need more than a place to sleep, a place to work, an event to visit or a shopping area to spend money. The People need access. Access to the whole arsenal of urban opportunities and resources such as housing, education, income and health care.
The right to diversity stands for the multitude of voices, the great heterogeneity of the people, solidarity in spite of differences, and the right to define themselves — independently of origin, color or sex. It is directed against the normative idiocy of capitalism.
The Right to the City has no upper limit. Half of humanity already lives in cities. For many, they are places of hope. Some were driven there by wars, land grabbing or unemployment. Some will finally be able to leave the segregating differences of origin, caste and identity behind them. To exclude people from these places, to select them according to biographical or economic contingencies, is deeply inhumane. It is precisely the diversity of the arrivals, which has always made urban life exciting and liberating.
The Right to the City means collective self-organization. It is about the creative power of the many in a new and democratic cosmopolitism. We are not going to humbly appeal to authorities and/or other parties to be allowed to participate and practice our activities. We will make the city ourselves. Democracy does not exhaust itself merely by means of citizen participation, elections and „Yay or Nay“ decisions in referenda. We start self- organized neighbourhood assemblies with desirable collective goals which we plan ourselves, and appropriate spaces and places by occupying and squatting.
The Right to the City spatializes social struggles. The struggle with the capitalist world order becomes concrete: Instead of privatization, division and commercialization of the urban realm, we demand equal access for all residents to urban resources and spaces.
The Right to the City grows from criticism into experiment. This experiment has many forms: we appropriate places. We act to permanently withdraw real estate from the market. We defend the rights of tenants. We oppose and fight against exclusion and repression. We are experimenting with collective models and methods of property ownership and self-management. We exhaust the current legal situation, and even exceed it if necessary. We are pushing forward to expedite legal changes. In finding new financing methods we attempt to realize prototypes and various model projects. We undermine the capitalist order in order to eventually arrive at a new, all-embrazing communization and socialization of the properties.
The Right to the City links urban struggles and conflicts. These diverse experiments and campaigns with or without conflicts – for housing and active participation, against gentrification, segregation, and oppression of all kinds – are elements of our movement for the right to the city. They pursue different strategies, and relate to each other by forming chains of cooperation that will neither be divided nor defeated nor in any way played off against each other.
The Right to the City never ends at its own city limits. The struggle for a right to the city takes place all over the world, from San Francisco to Mumbai, from Gothenburg to Durban. The urban revolution requires new forms of solidarity, exchange and joint action with other cities and other urban projects.
The Right to the City is indivisible. It applies to all.
This text does not by any means represent a completed program. It wants to be expanded, edited and modified. It is nothing without collective practice and urban action. Let’s get on with it!
Hamburg, 21 January 2017