Autonomous Terrace

I’m starting this blog to encourage myself to write regularly, to get down some disconnected fragments on Wilhelm Reich, revolution, the body, meditation, film reviews and anything else I deem worthy. I’ve named the blog after an image I encountered online somewhere, probably on Alistair Livingston’s Green Galloway site. The image dates from 1979, and is taken from Radical Technology, a journal focusing on “green”, alternative solutions to questions of energy supply, housing, agriculture etc. It contains some quite thorough and detailed solutions to infrastructure problems, based on sustainable models.

The image that below shows a suburban terrace repurposed for a way of life that is self-sufficient and communal – “after the revolution”, if you like.  The accompanying text states that a space like this might arise as the government and local authorities withdraw and relinquishes burdensome costs of building upkeep, leaving housing units empty, awaiting demolition but therefore ripe for reoccupation, so it’s a situation of the slow withdrawal or “withering away” of the State, rather than a post-revolutionary utopia. In a way it prefigures ideas like Hakim Bey’s TAZ or PM’s Bolo Bolo, and reminds me of what’s occurring in cities like Detroit.

Why did these images grab my attention so much? I think it’s the grafting of some kind of utopian or communal sentiment onto the top of everyday, suburban life. An everyday space we all recognise, repurposed. Walford Square flying the black and red flag, worker’s rule declared on Coronation Street. Further, these images sparked a great deal of nostalgia in me – I remember growing up and distinctly feeling that a better society was possible and worth for fighting for. To me this was allied with the struggles of the Left, unions, CND, all engaged in one way or another in building a better future – not that I was directly involved much, but it seemed like part of the background colour of the times. And of course, the last 30 years have seen the wholesale retreat of these possibilities. The Right triumphant, with record levels of inequality, wholesale privatisation of former State services, and the the marginalisation of any discourses about class and power. These images seem to capture a moment of belief in progressive social change, the idea that it would continue, and revolutionise the average street, and thereby social life. They pull me back to a point where change seemed possible and make me aware of the slippage between then and now. What was once a solid proposition, now melts into air, and seems as likely as a fairy story. How did this happen, and what are its consequences?