Al Carrer!


When you walk through some of the largest European cities you will notice that major monuments are connected by a single road. For example: in Amsterdam it’s possible to walk from the central station tot the Royal Palace by only using one street. The need for these big roads connecting important places originated in 19th century Paris. In 1853, emperor Napoleon the third appointed Georges-Eugene Haussmann as the city planner of Paris. By then, Paris had become one of the mayor industrial centres in the world. Although a city which became more modern by the day, the Paris city plan was still thoroughly medieval. Small and tortuous roads prevented Paris to organize itself efficiently according to the new industrial-capitalistic standards. When Haussmann was confronted with this problem, his solution was brute but simple. He simply demolished most of the medieval infrastructure by building big roads which connected the major monuments and which guaranteed quick transportation within the city.

It’s interesting to look from the perspective of revolutionary history to the Haussmann restructuring of Paris. Having been a  prominent side of revolutionary action before, one of the goals of the emperor and Haussmann was to make Paris less ‘revolution-friendly’. The demolishment of the small streets, which were perfect for creating barricades, should have taken care of this. Yet, the  Paris Commune, arguably the most radical leftist revolution the world has ever seen, happened in 1871; Only one year after Haussmann was relieved of his job and most of his restructuring had been realised. It turned out that although the erecting of barricades had become more difficult, it was now possible for the newly formed proletariat to march the streets in huge formations, maintaining the status of Paris as a side of revolutionary action.

There is an important lesson to be drawn from this history of 19th century Paris: Revolutionary action is able adept itself to new, even anti-revolutionary, forms of infrastructure. We can see this phenomenon today as well. Although completely capitalistic, digital infrastructure like Facebook and Twitter are used by contemporary protest movements to create networks of solidarity. Another example would be the empty buildings which lost their struggle within capitalistic competition and are now squatted by people who reclaim these sites for the community. Caution should be taken into account here though: Facebook tends to put its users in information loops which gives them only information which they ‘liked’ before. Thereby abandoning them to an isolated part of the internet with only like-minded people believing in their own truth. Squatting loses its support within a community much more easier then it gained by the hands of biased, mainstream media outlets. Although the streets can be reclaimed, it’s still up to us what we do with them.

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