Centros Sociales Auto-Gestionados

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Luis Moreno-Caballud :

“The collectives of the Fundación de los Comunes essentially carry out their practices of activist research, self-education, and publishing within the framework of self-managed social centers (or CSA,  from the Spanish initials of Centros Soaciales Auto-gestionados) or centers of civic participation. These are ‘spaces of aggregation or encounters’ with a particular vocation for durability over time. She added that therefore, one of the first objectives of the Foundation is ‘to serve as material and life support’ for these Social Centers. (Entrevista Marisa Pérez Colina, Fundación de Los Comunes (FdlC), MUSAC 2014).

In his research on TdS, Rowan also uses this concept of ‘channels of social production,’ which he thinks is fundamental for understanding what distinguishes the project from other ‘cultural enterprises.’ Following analyses originating in the Italian post-autonomist movement and in the French magazine Multitudes, Rowan explains that channels of social production would be ‘places where new kinds of knowledge, words, ways of relating, and new imaginaries converge,’ on which the ‘cultural industries’ feed in order to ‘capture certain flows and extract rents from them’ (2011). A classic example of this type of process on a small scale would be the appropriation of urban graffiti for the aesthetics of fashion design. On a more macro scale, we have the revaluation of urban land that these productive accounts produce, and of which the real estate speculation and tourism lobbies are the main beneficiaries. With a project like Traficantes de Sueños, this privatization of collectively generated wealth doesn’t occur, at least not so easily. The social wealth of the ‘urban productive channels’ that nourish TdS is constantly returned in the form of books with open licenses and a whole series of freely available cultural goods and infrastructures that will enrich those channels further.

The support given by the Fundación de los Comunes to connecting their projects of publication, investigation, and self-teaching with the CSAs in which they take place is essential, because it’s a way to indicate and pragmatically protect the concrete existence of those ‘productive channels.’ This makes their collective creation of wealth more visible, thus also making it easier to defend it from privatization of one type or another. It seems to me that this gesture to protect and fortify specific spheres of self-managed collective cultural production is what enables greater success in starting decommodification processes, since, as Wallerstein proposed, it makes it possible to work on particular ‘structures’ to open small spaces of resistance to the neoliberal logic.

Wallerstein was talking about hospitals and universities, but what is interesting about the model proposed by the Fundación de los Comunes is that it understands the self-managed social centers as ‘spaces of social production’ (and, we could add, simply ‘spaces of life’), endowed with a multifunctionality that, to my way of thinking, directly attacks the logic of dispersion and division of experience which is at the heart of neoliberalism. One of the most important expressions of this logic of dispersion consists of separating symbolic production, ‘culture,’ from its material support: universities on one hand, hospitals on the other; minds on one hand, bodies on the other.

‘The market is constantly assembling and disassembling ties according to its incessant quest to maximize profits,’ asserted Franco Ingrassia with regard to the phenomenon of dispersion (2011). In this way, the relations of constitutive interdependence that enable the material and symbolic subsistence of humans tend to be made invisible and subjected to profound inequalities. But if, along with open licenses and spaces for planned ‘cultural’ activities, the life of a nucleus of organizers is independently supported so they don’t have to depend on an outside salary, and useful infrastructures for the lives of those who participate in the project are provided, as occurs in TdS, the possibility of counteracting that logic of dispersion is very significant. And if, besides, all this is done within a context in which there is a daily tumult of other projects of decommodified life—like food or software cooperatives, spaces of community-supported sociability, etc.—the possibilities seem to multiply for the people who make and enjoy that culture to be able to establish its value for themselves, without the interference of external criteria based on maximizing profits, which bring dispersion with them.

The ways of knowing, the narratives, the research, and the learning that take place in places like Traficantes de Sueños do not depend entirely on neoliberal commercial logics for their production and maintenance. Thus, they challenge the neoliberal world’s separation and erasure of specific, interdependent lives from which ‘culture’ arises. Similarly, the CSAs provide bases where the value of the everyday, material collaboration that always enables any production of meaning is reserved and even ‘accumulated.’ And in using them, we could say that one can’t help but see materially those collective processes that would often remain hidden behind commercial means of capturing collective value, such as the privatizing, speculative uses of the author figure, his ‘work,’ ‘aesthetic quality,’ fashions, ‘hypes,’ etc.” (http://mloa.cch.kcl.ac.uk/index.php/mlo/article/view/102/126)