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by Sebastian Gerhardt

The ancient greek word for "oikonomia" used to mean a real construction for domestic life, administration and housing instead of public, political issues. A "political economy" was unbelievable for the ancient greeks, it seemed a contradiction in itself. Only the new generations with new relations and a greater distance to the history of words could bring together "Politics" and "Economy" into one word.

Still, a simple house administration can be a political case. Like all other riches in the world, the objective tools for political work are neither distributed fair nor for everyone open. The more the access to those tools is being complicated, the easier people are controlled by the higher instances. It might be irrelevant for a historical mission of the comunist party whether they live in "a house with many telephones" (Bertolt Brecht). But on the other hand it makes a huge difference nowadays whether you can call a group of likeminded or whether you have to travel hours to meet them, especially when you are not paid for your political work and when you have to finance yourself all along.

For this reason the DDR opposition demanded more working possibilities in the autumn of 1989. The already weakened government gave in and organised a delivery of a grey, dead but central building with many telephones. The former "Kreisleitung" of the SED Berlin-Mitte turned into the "Haus der Opposition" (the house of the opposition). From there the old opposite groups had to experience the destruction of the DDR and their own marginalisation. In the new Bundesrepublic they fastly became the left, socialistic, ecological and grassrooted part, although they did not want to be left.

With that, the house in the Friedrichstraße 165 became a lost case and the new government in Berlin had been keen to remove it. The operator of the house received paying bills and removal requests. Finally after years of being tolerated marginalisation of the housing administration the deeply hidden political character of it became clear. It is not enough to own the building, you also have to be able to finance it. That is why the housing administration had to give in the house and just a small transfer money of 9,1 million DM was given to them.

With a loan of about 4,25 Million DM, the Haus der Demokratie und Menschenrechte (house of democracy and human rights), also containing Amnesty International, could have been funded. The new spot for the house in 1999 was the building in the Greifswalder Straße 4, where there was more (political) space for more tenants which also increased the influence. The host and head of the project is a foundation which rents offices and seminar rooms especially to human rights organisations and nowadays politics opposition. Only in a narrow way the foundation is able to set own political actions, like the work on Xenophobia and anti-semitism, history of politics or the protests on cuts of socal services. Almost 30 percent of the annual income (450 000€) are bound to the purchasing loan. In this meaning dreams of cheap rents are practically impossible.

The average cold rent for the offices is around 8 Euro per square metre. Many of the employers work voluntarily. This might be the price if you want to keep a house, which should not belong to the rich and powerful people on the one hand and on the other hand should not stand aside. The calculated using period is set for onehundred years - at first.

Read the whole article (in German) in „lunapark21. Zeitschrift zur Kritik der globalen Ökonomie“, Heft 5 (Frühjahr 2009)

The author has been active within the structures of the house since 1997. He has been part of the executive board of the foundation from June 2004 through June 2014.




Mi, 22. 08. um 19:00

Berliner Allianz für Freiheitsrechte (BAfF)

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