~ by Stavros Stavrides ~
Forte Prenestino is an unbelievably large squat in Rome. It is actually an occupied castle (dating from 19th century) and has been developing to a self-managed cultural and social center from 1986 on. It includes various laboratories, as they call them, devoted to a certain mix of activities that characterize an area of collective creativity. For example, the Laboratorio di Lotte a la Gentrificazione (laboratory for the struggle against gentrification) organized recently a series of talks and events that explicitly focused on the idea of “taking back the city”, a veritable gesture towards the idea of commoning the city. Other initiatives in Forte are an Enoteca, a place to drink wines made form local organic producers who also exhibit their products in an annual feast in the castle that hosts thousands of people visitors, a vegan food place, a tea room, a cinema lab, an information lab, a radio station, a gym, places for music bands rehearsing, a theater, a cinema and a bicycle repair lab
Each initiative has its own assembly for decisions that consider its activities but every main decision has to be discussed in the general assembly in which all take part. The general assembly is open and is explicitly focused on inclusive decisions based on the diversity of opinions and identities. As the members of Forte insist, they are open to all of the stances and ideological positions within the movement provided they respect and support each other. Although being connected to the long history of Italian autonomia, they work together with anarchists, Marxists and people that come from movement initiatives as well as with people that simply see in Forte something that inspires them and challenges the everyday routines they have to suffer. Without always explicitly referring to a commoning ethos, their practices and their ways of deciding and creating are deeply immersed in such an ethos. Collaboration and mutual care are at the base of every initiative and connections between those initiatives are developed along practices of sharing, coordination and solidarity.
The crucial aspects define the character of Forte squat are:
- Its self-financing process based on contributions made through the low-price entrance fees for major music events and on affordable subscription fees for using the gym and other similar labs that need maintenance. “The subscription and the cost of all the activities promoted inside the Fortress have a political and accessible price, decided in the assembly, and contribute together to keeping the social centre alive” (in the Forte’s statement see: https://www.forteprenestino.net).
- Its self-managed autonomy that does not depend on any authorization for the use of the place by a local or central state authority. As they themselves describe the Forte: “an illegal place by necessity and by choice”.
- The Forte’s code of ethics that describes it as anti-fascist, anti-sexist, anti-racist and anti-prohibitionist. Anyone who shares this code may participate in the activities organized.
These three characteristics can be easily translated into the language of commoning: an economy of solidarity based on commoning resources and responsibilities, the blocking of any practice which may support the accumulation of privileges or power: power commoning, and a commoning ethos: the creation of a common ground based on diversity and inclusiveness.
CSOA Forte Prenestino | https://forteprenestino.net/
Text and photos by Stavros Stavrides