Welcome To Fortress Hampstead

March 28th, 2014   Submitted by Gyorgy Furiosa

HampsteadNestled between two golf courses in the Hampstead area of North London lies a row of colonnaded mansion houses, each looming from behind stern borders of black iron fencing. Lush vegetation, old trees and rhododendron bushes subtly screen the opulence from full view of the street. Estate agents advertise them for sale with features such as a car lifts, indoor pools and libraries. Many remain dark, and lifeless as they await the return of owners who seem to have forgotten them.

Stepping through the titanic porticoes into capacious reception areas, one could imagine the ghostly vapors of a party serving pyramids of Ferrero Rocher, echoing through the labyrinthine hallways. The poltergeists of debutantes could be seen chuckling lustily at the base of the marble stair-wells, sweeping up to an immodest mezzanine. How many servants had suffered in an ignoble silence within these walls? Could we guess which nobles and dignitaries had attended bunga-bunga parties of underage prostitutes within these magnolia Bastilles? What dark pacts and conspiracies had been hatched in these innocuous suburban palaces?

Many people without secure housing, and the comforts of a stable home have been to the mansion mausoleum of Bishops Avenue. In a low-budget tribute to the housing porn available on mainstream media, and the high-street frontage of estate agent’s shops (in full view of both children and the homeless, I might add), my friends and I used to saunter through the absentee-millionaire’s row at curious hours of the morning. With star-spangled eyes we would goggle incredulously through iron bars and wire-mesh fencing at the decaying ruins and rewilding garden-forests.

They looked like the kind of places you would choose to occupy, and defend during the zombie apocalypse: places where a community could sow their crops, raise their kin, and live a peaceful life, undisturbed by the violent cannibal insanity outside of their walls. How many families could live in such spaces, if they had to out of necessity? Some rooms within could surely take two traditional sized families, even those infected with the virus. We hypothesized where the vegetable plots could be dug in, the children’s playground erected, the trailer park leveled, and where to put the machine-gun nests to fight off wandering zombie herds.

Yet within each cavernous hulk, shipwrecked in the doldrums of the heath, no lights glowed, only the slow-motion creak of things falling into disrepair. The waste of it all brought moments of mania, and in a frenzy we would attempt to climb in, to begin to bring the space back to life, but our saner friends held us back and cried not to even try, not to even dare, as we had heard the tales of what happened to those who snapped before.

Police helicopters had been the first warning sign when associates of ours had attempted to occupy one building in the area, and re-actualize it. Searchlights had hit the windows of the vast mansion they had found access to, joined shortly by the sound of sirens in the distance, and guard dogs in the garden.

Insecure, they fled in terror of the ferocity of the action taken against them. Abandoning the mansion, they dodged the pursuing armies, and escaped into the streets, but to no avail. Eventually they were found hiding under a car parked in a nearby street, and arrested on burglary charges.

In fear for our liberty, we are pressganged into leaving the great resources of Bishops Avenue by urban foxes and security guards. With the focus remaining clearly on near mythical benefits fraud, rather than endemic tax evasion, the rich will be allowed leave mansions empty whilst the government crows about under-occupancy in two-bedroom council housing.

The argument that clangs lumpenly into view when the question of unoccupied buildings is mooted is that if the owner of said property wishes to leave it empty, it is their prerogative. The sacred right of property is hegemonic – do what thou wilt with what thou own. But the law of necessity answers back that needs must when the devil rides. In times of inequality and imbalance, ownership of property is a privilege, not a right, and in the hierarchy of needs, shelter is surely more essential than security of abandoned property.

Regardless of the legality, morality, or practicality, the necessity of use means that empty buildings will always be targets when there is inadequate housing for people. The palaces of Bishops Avenue serve as totemic identifiers of the gross disparity of our present situation, where monolithic mansion-houses are left to rot, their corruption defended by armies of security, whilst people sleep on mattresses in shop doorways in other boroughs of London Town.

Let me conclude with an image from the Bash The Rich protests of yesteryear, when mobs of crusty scum-punks marauded through sleepy neighborhoods howling at the opulence and indulgence. As we collectively slip deeper into Austerity Europe, I can envisage pitched battles between these hungry platoons, and the security guards who will hopefully lose faith in their role, and defect to help people house themselves. Once the employing class can no longer find willing lackeys to defend their properties, it is hard to imagine that they would step up to defend it themselves, which is all the more reason to condemn the collusion of the oppressed class with their presumptuous masters.

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20 Responses to “Welcome To Fortress Hampstead”

  1. Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

    I like the sentiments, but you’re dreaming. There’ll never be a shortage of men willing to wear a uniform and earn a bit more than the squatters they’re paid to exclude from the state’s grants of monopoly. You may call them homesteaders rather than squatters, and I may sympathize with your nomenclature, but if any police ever defect to the homesteaders, homesteaders will defect in the opposite direction even faster. God didn’t protect the Sicarii at Masada, and He seems no more willing to protect a similar group today.

    The only hope for squatters is a sufficiently powerful but non-violent counter-force that doesn’t lead to a suicidal confrontation. If this possibility exists, it involves new technology that states have not confronted in the past. In an age of unprecedented technological innovation, we should be exploring these possibilities. Crypto-currencies may be part of the answer, but handguns from 3D printers are not. Sure, states have more powerful weapons as well, but a state’s weapons of mass destruction don’t counter the sort of defenses we need, if these defenses exist outside of my imagination. Do they?

  2. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    This is a very eloquently written article.

    That being said, there are so many problems in the statist system that squatting just doesn’t seem like a long-term, practical solution. I can think of a million other things I’d rather be doing to fight the state. Of course, if I were homeless I suppose finding shelter would be number one on my list of things to do.

    The rich homes on Bishop avenue are currently protected by the state. The state gets its funding not only from the rich people, but from the poor people as well. In other words, the poor people are subsidizing the defense of the homes on the rich people.

    It seems to me that priority number one would be to do everything in one’s power to STOP funding the state. This way, the rich people will be forced to pay 100% for the defense of their homes. Then I would have much less sympathy for attempted squatters. But as of now, I sort of root for the squatters only because the more damage they do, the more likely the rich will see that the state is doing a poor job of defending their homes and the more likely they’ll look towards private defense agencies.

    Any anarchist that isn’t doing everything in their power to use Bitcoin, and still uses fiat money is fighting a losing battle. Until a person is completely weened off of government money, they will forever be dependent on, and supporting of, the government.

    • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

      Ultimately, squatting seems the only solution in the long term. Essentially, anarchists want to secede from established states, and this secession necessarily involves securing a claim to territory that a state claims to govern. It’s not about the nominal “property owner” whose property we’ll squat upon. This “owner” is not our problem. The state enforcing his claim to exclusive use of the territory is our problem. Imposing respect for monopolies is the core business model of any state. If he expects others to respect his ownership regardless of their consent, a property owner is a constituent of the state, which is why anarcho-capitalism is a contradiction in terms.

  3. VanmindNo Gravatar says:

    You seem to be making the all-too typical mistake of thinking that monopolies form in the market and then governments step in to help those monopolies perpetuate themselves. Perhaps I just misread, since that is, of course, the source of much “corporations own governments” nonsense.

    Here’s the deal: if owners of multiple State-enabled properties cannot keep each post-State property under their specific control through either regular residence (which might include a remote cabin that one visits every two or three years) or contracted worker productivity (which might include hiring someone to be landlord of a property where others are tenants), the disused land in question reverts (after a time that is considered reasonable within the adjoining community) to being available for new homesteading. “Squatting” as it is can only ever be immoral behavior, trying to get something for nothing just like the State’s cronies always try to do (e.g. through gating off properties that remain vacant for many years — all while insisting that they still own the place because of pieces of government paper).

    So-called fighting fire with fire (“If you gate I’ll squat”) is the very kind of miscalculation that inspires generation after generation of useful idiots to foment self-harming revolutions. Do not confront socialist criminality, but rather avoid and ignore. Eschew inherently immoral political activism and become instead economic activists (which involves non-fraudulent market activity — squatting is no more economic activism than is mugging). Alternative markets are your friends, even if they — like all legitimate markets — include occasional scams like bitcoin, because the closer a society gets to being a Total State the more everyone considers it necessary to scam everyone else through “official” channels. Eschewing one for the other means avoiding the “official” markets cataloguing those properties about which squatters pretend to have some mugger-type claim. As with all bogeymen, the way the State will fade from ever existing within any individual’s thought pattern is by no longer paying attention to it. Before long the State will become the Grimmest fairy tale of all time.

    Only anarcho-anything-but-capitalism is a contradiction in terms. It is the NWO which tried to trick the masses into the false impression that capitalism means government intervening on behalf of corporations, much as it tried to trick the masses into the false impression that socialism means government intervening to help those who can’t help themselves (meanwhile the State exists only to grow itself by intervening in ways that harm all individuals as well as the businesses they try to keep afloat). To be accurate, one must consider those two words in “use of” terms: capitalism means “use of capital” while socialism means “use of society” (in other words: use of people or using people).

    Again, it is the NWO which tried to trick people into believing the lie that capitalists use people by way of contracting for “slave wage” human resources (exploitation of excess value and all that Marxian malarky). It is only socialism, forcing people either to do something or to refrain from doing something, based not on any contract but rather on “official” threat and intimidation, which constitutes fraud. The cops keeping people out of gated properties are fraudsters. The squatters pretending to be entitled to something into which they put no sweat equity are fraudsters (“I’ll sweat plenty after I move in” doesn’t count). It is fire against fire, fraudster against fraudster. It is not the market.

    Anyone out there know someone who likes to use people? They’re a socialist, an aspiring social engineer — and even if they call themselves an anarchist they’re guaranteed to dream up “official rules applicable to everyone and not just to those on my property” by which they hope to continue being able to use people in a non-contracted sense (they will of course insist that the rules they dream up are legitimate contracts binding all to all). If they’re in a boardroom, they’re known specifically as a corporatist/mercantilist kind of socialist, and ignorance causes the masses to reach an unreasonable conclusion that such rules from the boardroom’s mouth to god’s ear (i.e. government’s ear) have something to do with capitalism.

    Capitalism is, by definition, laissez-faire. No governments allowed, and therefore fraud is guaranteed to be minimized (bitcoin scams aside).

    • VanmindNo Gravatar says:

      Oops, that comment was intended for the Martin Brock avatar.

    • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

      I don’t assume that monopolies form in the market. Monopolies necessarily precede the market, because monopoly rights are what we exchange in markets. I can’t sell you a parcel of land unless I monopolize it in the first place.

      Corporations don’t own governments. The state is the largest corporation, and other corporations are constituents of it.

      I don’t know what “post-state property” means. The whole idea of a land lord presumes a state. There are no land lords without a state. The state is precisely that organized force imposing respect for monopolization of the land by titular lords. Every classical liberal understood this fact.

      Every homesteader gets something for nothing on a Lockean frontier, because land never touched by humanity is nonetheless valuable to humanity, i.e. land has a marginal value distinct from the value added by any human being. The antithesis of this assertion is the labor theory of value, which classical liberals abandoned centuries ago.

      Capitalism is government intervening on behalf of capitalists, whether or not they incorporate. The state enforces the rights of capitalists to monopolize particular resources. Fundamentally, that’s what a state does.

      Socialism since the early twentieth century has meant direct state ownership of the means of production, so accepting this linguistic convention, I oppose socialism.

      • Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

        “monopoly rights are what we exchange in markets.”

        If I may, I’ll suggest you’re mixing up two quite different concepts here; ownership and monopoly.

        Ownership is the exclusive right to control property. Assuming you didn’t steal it, if you own something it is yours to use or dispose of in any way you please. _That_ is what you exchange, when selling land.

        “Monopoly” on the other hand is a term used about a particular market for goods or services in which there are many participants, going about the business of exchanging, making profits and creating wealth; and in which one particular player has gained a dominance so large as to reduce buyers’ choices to zero or close to it.

        Both in theory and in practice, it’s been well shown that no such monopoly can be long sustained without active government support. “Long” is not an exact term, but it very rarely exceeds two decades.

        I used to work for IBM, which around 1970 was accused of monopolizing the computer market. We never did. We did – by excellence :-) – achieve around a 70% market share, but very soon afterwards that was eaten away fast by rivals who were smarter; DEC, who developed distributed computing to replace mainframes, and then Apple, which extended that to the desktop PC.

        In a free competitive market, that is always the case. Giants in one decade become also-rans in the next. Very few companies in the Dow 30 in 1900 were still there in 2000.

        • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

          I am not mixing up the concepts. The concepts are fundamentally related. “Exclusive right to control” is a definition of “monopoly”. “Monopoly” is not a dirty word in my way of thinking, but there’s no point in pretending that threatening to shoot people for crossing the boundary of a parcel of land without your consent is not “monopolizing” the parcel. That’s precisely what “monopoly” meant to the classical liberals.

          “Monopoly rent” is the value of excluding others from the use of a resource regardless of any value the owner has added to it. Monopoly rents are part and parcel of the classical argument against the classical labor theory of value.

          Clearly, the owner of a particular parcel of land has an advantage over others in the market for this parcel of land, so nothing you say contradicts my assertion.

          You’re right that an individual’s monopolization of a parcel of land cannot be sustained without a state. That’s precisely my point.

          I worked for IBM as a college coop in the early eighties. IBM clearly did not monopolize the market for computers in the eighties. A dominant position in a market is not a monopoly. A monopoly is granted by a state. An individual’s entitlement exclusively to govern a particular parcel of land is a monopoly.

          • Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

            “You’re right that an individual’s monopolization of a parcel of land cannot be sustained without a state. That’s precisely my point.”

            If I ever said that, I apologize. It’s rubbish.

            Ownership is about exclusive control of property. Monopoly is about total domination of a specific market. I prefer to keep the terms separate, but am not going to take time arguing that point.

            I anticipate the arrival of a zero-government society. (Do you?) When that happens, there will still be ownership of property. It will not in any slight degree depend upon the existence of the State.

            My “Vision of Liberty” happens to open with a chapter on ownership. You may like to read it; see TakeLifeBack.com/trilib.

  4. Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

    “In times of inequality and imbalance, ownership of property is a privilege, not a right…”

    Gyorgi, how did you reach that conclusion?

    Seems to me property ownership is a right as absolute as that of one’s person. How, then, can the needs of other people have any bearing upon it?

    Something, even so, must be very odd about the Hampstead properties if they are going to rot. I recall they are in a very pleasant area not far from the center of London, yet you say they are neglected. Why? If you owned one, what factors might cause you to neglect it?

    If you preferred to live in a warmer clime, you might leave it unoccupied in the winter. Understood. But you would surely have it maintained well, so that it would be in good nick when you returned for the summer, or if you wished to sell it. Leaving it to rot makes no sense; it’s a valuable asset.

    Has there possibly been a “planning blight” – the government has decreed that the Heath shall be developed for some State purpose, thereby decimating the market value of these fine houses? Has there been a government prohibition (zoning law) forbidding their remodeling as multiple-unit apartments? Have the rates (prop-taxes) been multiplied so high as to render the asset a dead loss? Inquiring minds would like to know.

    If an asset is going to waste, government is the culprit in some way. Will you check, and let us know?

  5. Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

    Here’s another thought, for your friends who wanted to squat.

    A penniless but trustworthy friend of mine contacted owners of a few fine but apparently unoccupied houses, until he found an owner who agreed to let him live in one, free or rent but in exchange for taking care of it in his absence.

    Keep it clean, maintain the garden, do minor repairs where needed, etc.

    Probably the owner would want his lawyer or estate agent to look over the applicant and for sure to sign an agreement, so that there would be no nonsense about government-imposed “squatters’ rights” claimed at the end of the term – which might well be extended if all was well. But that way, no property rights would be violated and your pals would have a handsome pad.

  6. DaveNo Gravatar says:

    I wanted to read this when I saw the title, but finally got around to the article and the great comments…..

    What this comes down to is what constitutes property ownership. It seems to me that what is called “squatting” here is somewhat related to expansion in the US West during the homesteading days – unused property (you can say it was stolen from Native Americans, but I guess we have the state to thank for that, too) that is being occupied, lived on, and used for productive purposes (productive meaning as determined by consumers). The only reason this is not happening now is due to state force. Since I would assume that at least some of these properties are in foreclosure, or under state control in some way (and certainly, the state collects taxes on those homes still owned), then the situation seems very much like homesteading.

    I also agree with the comments that anyone wanting to squat on an abandoned property is currently living in dreamland.

    • Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

      I hear you about Native Americans, but it’s surely plain wrong to say that “unused property” is in any degree comparable to Lockean wilderness and therefore open to anyone wishing to stake a claim.

      This needs to be verified, but I bet those Hampstead homes are well and truly owned with their titles recorded in the only available place (thanks to a State monopoly over title recording.) There is absolutely no right for anyone else to make use of them without the owners’ permission.

      Now, one of the possible reasons they are unused may be that they are upside down; that the prop-tax makes them unaffordable. Perhaps the local council has wielded its pen and taken ownership by theft. Even then, the above applies. If they were literally “abandoned”, there would be a paper trail.

      • DaveNo Gravatar says:

        I hear you, and don’t disagree. At some point, however, ownership should revert to a condition where homesteading should be acceptable. This happened in towns in the Midwestern and Western US – after abandonment, and after which an estate could not longer afford to pay taxes, “ownership” reverted back to the federal government. I don’t think it then went into homesteading at this point, but it should have, IMHO. Perhaps this is the part that is missing in modern society? The state shouldn’t run everything that fails – the failings should be left to homesteaders.

        I have to think that mansions like this would eventually slip into this category.

        • Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

          “The state shouldn’t run everything that fails” – I’ll raise you on that. The state shouldn’t run anything at all, period; the state should not exist. everything that happens while it continues to exist is a compromise or contradiction.

          TakeLifeBack.com/trilib offers my “A Vision of Liberty” which visualizes what things will be like after the state has evaporated. Then, there will be a huge amount of “property” that the state previously “owned”, which will need to be transferred to actual owners. Complex process; the book describes one way in which I think it will be done, but there may well be others.

          “State property” that has been (eg) seized for nonpayment of taxes will make up just a small part of the total. A lot of it will go free, for it will command no price in the market. Some will have a negative value. There will be no shortage of brain-strain.

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