The statement posted on the FB page of the group of Second Home circulating around following events at Autonomous Factory Rog asks for a response. The following text is a statement from Rog´s users who were part of these events, who are more aware of the details and know the circumstances at Rog better.
First, we need to reject the sensationalism already present in the title of the statement ("I am not scared of nazis with shaved heads") that assumes the team of Second Home as helpless victims of the fascist mob. With the following statement, we aim to open a more realistic discussion about these events at Rog.
To begin with, there is a need to make the circumstances of Wednesday´s event (April 18th 2018) at Rog public. In relation to these events, we are surprised that a group of Second Home wants to present themselves as victims, while they have not been physically present for many months at the space or at Rog in general - obviously long enough for them not to realise that the space in question was meanwhile renamed into "The Vampire", completely renovated and its activities changed. What is even more unusual, is that this space is known over all Ljubljana. Meanwhile, the users of The Vampire started their own activities, where the role of their space was two-faced: it served as a temporary accomodation for people in need, while at the same time it became a strategic point for certain economic and teritorial interests; consequently, police visits became an everyday reality.
Despite disagreements about the use of the spaces, other users of Rog - especially those from the migrant community - all understood the specific situation of The Vampire team (the temporariness of their presence, discrimination and criminalisation by the larger society). Nevertheless, the Rog users still communicated with the Vampire team, shared equipment, ate together, debated with them. We can assure that we know that team better than activists of Second Home that wrote a statement on their behalf.
Of course, tensions arose in Rog´s community. Because the logic of power prevailed in The Vampire team, the number of fights, thefts, gender-based violence, consequent police presence amplified.
Thus, many users distanced themselves from Rog, even some of the most active members of the migrant community, that didn´t want to be exposed to additional criminalisation.
The situation escalated when users of The Vampire started to abuse their position at Rog to take over other spaces. The logic of territorial battles started to prevail. Soon there was a violent attempt to occupy the middle building at Rog that was already used by others. One of the users witnessed a break in, tried to prevent it, and consequently got stabbed with a knife. Afterwards, police raid followed.
The situation demanded a reaction from the broader community of Rog that promptly gathered at an extraordinary meeting. Some people from The Vampire and the previous Second Home were not invited to participate, since in many previous attempts to solve similar problems we had not been able to establish any dialogue at all - they always sabotaged such meetings and turned their own responsibility to others.
At this meeting, following the initative of an user of the previous Second Home, it was collectively decided that "The Vampire" space would be temporarily sealed, and that the users should be unambiguously told that such behavior at Rog is not allowed. It was expected that the closing of The Vampire space would be settled peacefully.
Unfortunately, due to interventions of individuals from Second Home, the situation sharpened. A group of Rog´s users was met with people holding a gas bomb in their hands on the windows of The Vampire, and they also guarded the stairs with a machette and threatened Rog´s users by their names. In our opinion, this was an extremely unresponsible baiting, in which we were lucky that the situation didn´t escalate into even more violence.
Next morning after holding a long dialogue, other users of Rog made an agreement with the remaining users of The Vampire. The latter group agreed upon closing the space, as the situation also became uncontrollable for them. They only wanted accommodation for two persons for some days, until they would find accommodation elsewhere. Thus, together we moved their stuff into a small room in the middle building of Rog, and currently we are solving their accommodation issue.
All the talk about "lynching" and "expulsion" is not only untrue, but also demonstrates the purpose of the Second Home team to impose a sensationalistic interpretation, and to use this situation to preserve their own power position, which is shown also by their attempt to personally settle accounts with other collectives from Metelkova and Rog.
Since the Second Home team opened up other broader themes in their statement, we find that a good opportunity to answer some of them. We are aware that this event didn´t happen in a vacuum, but it was preceded by structural reasons that we as a community weren´t able to solve properly. Unfortunately, the interventions of Second Home lead this discussion into another dead-end street.
Interestingly, the statement of Second Home served as a historical parallel of Ambrus (village at Dolenjska), where the users of Rog were compared to angry fascist villagers. Thus, a parable can be drawn, in which Second Home becomes the new Janez Drnovšek (ex-Slovene president) as the illuminated arbiter coming from liberal institutions lecturing the uneducated crowd about solidarity. At Ambrus, the situation was much more complex than the one Second Home tries to make an interpretation of. Namely, there was no division between the so-called stupid Slovene mob and the marginalised Roma residents, that despite all their cultural and class differences had to find ways of creating a common space – ways that escaped the bourgeois imagination about how to run the commons.
The distinctions between these two groups deepened due to the rise of social inequalities that could not have been influenced by villagers, as this separation was only increased by liberal interventions that interpreted the situation solely on identity basis.
However, let us seriously look at the critique from Second Home that says that Rog is actually a village community… Let's take it even further, and use the concept of "community of small proprietors" that attempts to invent ways of doing democratic communal activities, while these attempts are being obstructed by the specific structure of the surrounding squat.
Clearly, there are discrepancies between political goals of migrants' associations and the actual running of Rog's spaces – such discrepancies are also an obstacle to political organising, as they divide communal political interests into territorial ones. However, considering that lots of structures are co-run by a large number of male and female migrants (The Vampire team is a minority among them), it is hard to assert that this is a racist village community. In the worst case, Rog could be asserted as a community that is forced to invent new means of cohabitation, into which structural social conflicts are transported and imported into what is beyond the community´s powers.
In any case, it is legitimate to make the critique that autonomism per se doesn´t offer a sufficient response to the large structural pressures of capitalism, although our political experiments and simultaneous running of the factory spaces cannot be reduced to "village fascism" by any means.
Second Home interpreted this structure with a quasi-radical discourse that is hard to grasp at some points, which implements the same plastic form of identity politics as liberal institutions do. Suddenly, male and female migrants got their "representative" chosen by a delegation of Second Home activists; furthermore, becoming a commodity that is used in applications for funding. Their physical presence at Rog is then preserved only to the extent that is needed for the activists to maintain their legitimacy in leftist circles. Thus, migrants become their "soldiers" in preserving the space in activists' symbolical proprietorship. In that way, they do not feel any need to ask who these migrants really are, what are their real interests and if they see themselves as members of this activist organisation at all. When Second Home speaks, it presents itself as the voice of "all migrants", although the only ones speaking are Slovene intelectualls, who are projecting their political ideals onto migrants´ situation.
However, the other collectives that are active at Rog try to take seriously the political interests of both male and female migrants, and also try to be in continuous dialogue, while at the same time we try to re-examine our structural inequalities, and be aware of our political limitations.
We do not consider Wednesday´s events at Rog neither lynching nor violent outbursts of "folk anger". A process of maintaining reciprocal relationships has been going on for a long time, where the heterogenous community of Rog needed to solve an extremely complex problem without any external arbiter. Despite tensions, we did it without violence and without segregation. We take full responsibility for the sealing of the space as well as we take full responsibility for people leaving. We also take responsibility for Rog remaining an open, inclusive and indiscriminatory space for gathering.
Group of users of Autonomous Factory Rog