House occupation Mariannengasse 16-20, 1090 Wien

Since two years now, a pandemic has been raging through the world and claimed several million lives up to this point. All of us are experiencing the effects of the pandemic and the Austrian governments barely functioning strategy against it. As a consequence, the separation of public and private space is becoming more striking than ever: while it may not be so tragic for wealthy people with a garden in the countryside to have to stay at home when all leisure activities are closed, many people are locked up in cramped apartments where they are expected to hold out until they had to go to work – we all were expected to put our private lives on hold to dampen the effects of the pandemic, while the compulsion to work for a salary continued. Now more than ever, the public consumption-free spaces became a place of repression during long periods of the pandemic. Instead of meaningful measures that would actually do something to control the pandemic, people were oftentimes accused of senseless violations of government measures when police saw them sitting on a park bench or when two people were meeting up for a beer outside. However more recently, inconsistently as ever, a strategy of contagion was suddenly pursued – instead of sensitive protective measures, we were all exposed to the virus, following the motto “If the economy is doing well, we all do”. We have had enough of it: The public space belongs to us all – in the name of “the economy” everything has to continue as it was before, while we have to restrict our private lives even further. The measures as well as non-measures of the government have once again shown us that the prevailing conditions have to change and we all have to contribute to it. That’s why we squatted a building at Mariannengasse 16-20,1090 Wien today – we are taking back the space ourselves! 

It’s not a coincidance that we chose this house: At the beginning of the 20th century, the building housed, among others, the Dr. Anton Loew Sanatorium, a prestigious and well-known clinic. In 1938, after years of financial difficulties, the sanatorium had to close down for good. Soon after, the then sanatorium director Gertrud Loew was forced to flee to the USA through Belgium to escape Nazi persecution due to her Jewish origins. In the course of Aryanization, the building was looted from the owner, who had already had to flee. The buildings were subsequently used by the Nazi Reich-Air-Ministry. From 1960 forward, the building is owned by ÖBB; but it has now been empty for several years. As early as 2001, the building should have been returned to its original owner, Gertrude Loew, but this never happened. Austria once again refuses to come to terms with its history, to acknowledge the antisemitism that still exists and to give the victims what is due to them. 

For us, the symbolic importance of the clinic’s past also lies in the fact that the Corona crisis made us aware of the precarious situation in which nursing and hospitals find themselves. The health care system must not continue to fall victim to profit interests, but it must be focused on the needs of staff and patients. 

As an association of various radical left-wing contexts, groups and individuals, it is clear to us that the state of the world was, to say the least, already absolutely catastrophic. The pandemic only contributed to the aggravation and increased visibility of the existing problems that are already inherent in the capitalist authoritarian state. Without question there are numerous reasons why we have occupied this house, why we are dissatisfied with this world – but we would like to explain some of them to you in more detail below. 

In the past two Corona years, our private lives have been constantly restricted, while profit maximization and exploitation of the labor force had to continue almost unrestricted. But not only that: Even already existing measures have been chosen in a way that restricted socioeconomically disadvantaged people proportionately much more. While meeting under compulsory consumption was and is apparently considered completely safe, people were given penalties for doing the same in places free of this compulsory consumption. Homeless people for example were increasingly driven out of public spaces under the pretext of fighting the pandemic and harassed by absurd nighttime curfew restrictions instead of reasonable measures. 

Meanwhile, rents and heating costs continue to rise and become barely affordable for many. Instead of considering housing as a fundamental right, capitalism treats housing as a commodity, houses stay empty while people have to live on the street – housing is seen as an object of speculation and an investment opportunity, thus creating an artificial scarcity that has a noticeable impact on everyday life. Hence, those who own apartments and earn extra money from the rents of others, or even just live off them, are becoming richer and richer. For many poorer people, the fear of losing their apartments and being delogated increases. Public space was the only way for many people to escape their cramped housing situation or domestic violence during the lockdowns. At the same time, the danger of being at the mercy of repressive state behavior through racial and social profiling increased.

For us it is clear that public space must belong to everyone – all people have a right to free public communal space. But we also know that there is a lack of consumption- and repression-free, left-wing spaces in Vienna. With our occupation we want to take more space and create a new, radical leftist, self-managed place. This city belongs to all of us!

However, a city that belongs to all of us must not only have space for everyone, but also guarantee good health care for everyone. In the capitalist reality in which we live, health care is primarily oriented to the needs of the market; thus, clinics must be profitable. Therefore wages of nursing staff are cut, while hospital managers receive even more absurd incomes. 

It is no coincidence that nursing professions in particular, which are being regarded as female and done by migrants, are also poorly paid and their demands for better working conditions are ignored even during a pandemic. Work that is regarded in society as female and/or migrant is devalued and less important. Unpaid “private” care work, such as caring for relatives, is not considered “real” work by large parts of the population – it is justified by the need to take care of people instead of acknowledging the resulting burden and contributing something to relieve it. 

For many people, being confined to private space creates additional dangers. Most violence against FLINTA*s (acronym derived from the german words for women, lesbians, non-binary, trans and agender people) happens in private spaces. At least 33 FLINTA*s were murdered in 2021, almost all of them by their (ex-)partners or men in their close environment. In addition there are numerous attempted murders and other forms of psychological and physical violence. 

Violence against children and young people, who had to stay at home due to closed schools and childcare centers, also increased during the pandemic. Thus, the confined spaces, out of which there is hardly any way out, became a nightmare without escape. Even children and teenager who may not be physically affected by violence, were confronted with mental health issues: According to current studies, at least 60,000 minors in Austria would need psychotherapy – but they are unable get it because there has always been a shortage of spots in therapy programs paid for by public health insurance in Austria, which was further intensified by the pandemic. 

With our squatting we want to take space and create a place for utopias and common strategies in favor of a solidary society. We want a world in which all people can live freely. A world where our lives are not determined by wage labor and too little money at the end of the month. A world where rent prices no longer determine whether we can buy enough to eat. We are aware that all the problems we have described in the text existed before Covid-19 and have only become more visible because of the pandemic. The last two years have shown us that it is more than overdue that we fight together against this system and go through the crisis*es in solidarity! We can and will not accept the authoritarian state and capitalism as the end of history!