Pedro Levi Bismarck
The Community against the State
The eviction of the Es.Col.A Project in Porto
The novelty of the coming politics is that it will no longer be a struggle for the conquest or control of the State, but a struggle between the State and the non-State (humanity), an insurmountable disjunction between whatever singularity and the State organization.
I believe in the unbelievable, in the magic things,
In the occupation of the world by roses
There is nothing worse to the ‘state’ than to see true democracy at work. And Why? Because it recalls the ‘state’ itself that vaguely unformulated terror present in its own origin: that the self-management of the public thing and the construction of the community could be done outside its limits and sphere of action (and, therefore, outside its control). In brief: that society can be able, by itself, to substitute and make what the ‘state’, the Town Council, the politics, were incapable of doing and thinking. The police acts in defense of the ‘state’, because what is at stand is the failure of the ‘state’ as ‘state’ and the sudden exposure of the wounds of its apparently and trustful democracy.
The eviction of the Es.Col.A Project from a small abandoned school in a Porto depressed area, it’s an example of this fact. And only this open wound can explain the way Porto Town Council managed this process. From the excessive use of force, to the incapability of dialogue and to ideological prejudice, what grounds Porto Town Council’s action is the awareness that the Es.col.A movement has replaced the municipality in a task that it was not able itself to perform (or nor even attempted to), leaving a school (and its community) for five years in a pure state of abandonment.
We can lose ourselves in many technical and, mostly, legal problems around this question, but the theoretical and political fundament at stake is: for once, a community organized itself around an educational and culture program, without the necessity of the ‘state’, proposing a communitarian platform in a depressed area of the city; for once, a community organized itself to react against the city center abandonment and desertification and was able to do what the Town Council always refused; for once, democracy had wings to work and, once more, the Porto Municipality refused democracy.
Above all, the Porto Town Council is the epitome of the authoritarian ‘state’ but absolutely ineffective, that nothing has done and allows nothing to be done. And is this same Council, that in its own defense uses the public property argument, that no more than sixth months ago has sold the Miradouro da Vitória (a public space and historical landmark) and has rented all the main public infrastructures of the city (recognizing, at that time, its non-vocation to manage them). It has been the Porto Town Council who has mostly contributed to the spoliation of our physical and cultural heritage, who mostly has contributed to the mediocrity of our urban environment. And, for that, the dilapidation danger of the res publica, of what is property of the community, is not in the action of the Es.Col.A project, but on the contrary, in the whole political action of Porto Town Council.
But in order to inscribe this question in a real debate one has to situate the problem of the Es.Col.A in the sphere of politics and not reduce it to a problem of law. The tendency of the actual pragmatism that seeks to reduce everything to a problem of law is the great danger that impends over the emptying of politics. It’s the ethic that grounds the law and not the law that grounds the ethic.
Most of all, what is absolutely necessary is our capability to use all of this, once more, to think what can and what is the essence of the everyday exercise of democracy; to think how can we re-inscribe politics in the center of everyday practice and reclaim what thirty years of economical growth, consumerism and well-fare, had despoiled us, that is: our access to politics, our ability to think politics and the ‘state’ as fundamental part of our life in community.
Image: Es.Col.A : Escola da Fontinha’s rehabilitation by members of the Es.Col.a Project.