Austerity, opportunity, and solidarity

Gaja Maestri on the unexpected ways recent rounds of austerity measures in Rome are opening up spaces for solidarity building in support of Roma and other disadvantaged groups: 

... the example of the Roma in Metropoliz, together with other squats organised by the BPM and RAM groups, teaches mainly two important lessons, one about the effects of crises, and the other about the effects of Roma mobilisation for housing rights through class-based solidarity rather than ethnicity. Crises, as mentioned before, have an ambivalent character: they can exacerbate social conflicts, they can produce new cleavages, but they can also create the conditions for new forms of solidarity and productive contestations of previous divisions. The second lesson is about the possibility of changing the Roma housing situation by organising mobilisations on the basis of their socio-economic status rather than their ethnic identity. In a way, this supports Fanon’s ([1965] 2005) idea of the revolutionary potential of the lumpenproletariat as opposed to Marx’s, as those that are revolting and creating new solidarities during the crisis are not Roma and Travellers in general, but the most oppressed among them. This aspect also opens the question of the extent to which the ethnic definitions employed by pro-Roma NGOs and international institutions, such as the COE or the OSF, really work for their integration, mainly in times of economic crisis.