The rent in a public housing complex in a small Dutch town suddenly increased by 50%. The efforts of the Tenants Committee to lower the increase were refuted. Some people, not living in the complex, formed an Autonomous Club to correct this gross injustice. I was involved in the activities.
The management of the complex violated many laws and benefited financially from repairs and insurances of the building. This corruption, misuse of power for private gain, was never prosecuted. Two high civil servants of the Ministry of Housing approved the excessive rise in rent though they knew that the activities of the management were dubious. They had not consulted the tenants nor taken into account media reports about embezzlement, corruption and other punishable activities.
The Autonomous Club decided that the civil servants were the prime targets because they failed to protect common citizens and had the power to reverse the decision of the management of the complex. The media had written about the wrong decisions, the rise in rent was vetoed by the tenants and now the Autonomous Club started to punish faulty leaders.
Flyers were distributed in the complex and sent to the media (no reaction), the management, the high civil servants and some other involved people:
“The rent of your flat suddenly increased by a vast amount. Take another example. You buy a TV-set for 600 euro. A year later the salesman asks you another 300 euro because he had miscalculated the price. Then you ridicule him because you paid a reasonable price and you handled in good faith. For a reasonable price and in good faith you rented some years ago a flat and now they want more money because they did something wrong”.
The flyer contained the names, the private addresses and the telephone numbers of the two civil servants who were in first place responsible for the ridiculous increase of the rent. The flyer continued:
“You and your family can spend every month 200 euro less. It is right that people who are responsible for your loss will suffer also …….. You only have to make sure that in the coming years the two mentioned persons will time and again be remembered of the irresponsible and unfair decision they have taken. Of course you can attack the managers of Saint Hippolytus but they have not the power to bring your rent back to the level you paid before. You have to pressure people who really are to blame and who have the power to turn the decision around…….. Your private life is disturbed by these responsible persons while they continue to live their own pleasant life. You have to undertake something”.
The flyer contained some practical tips about what tenants could do against leading persons.
“1. Call them time and again by preference at a time they do not want to be disturbed.
2. Ask the Telephone Company to connect his telephone to some unknown number in a foreign country.
3. Send telegrams by using their telephone number to arbitrary persons. The costs will be subtracted from their accounts.
4. Send them all kinds of goods by ordering them on their name from mail-order companies.
5. Organise a demonstration in front of their private houses and not in front of the Ministry.
6. Try to use their signature to remit some money from their account to a charitable institution.
7. You may also use some actions that are punishable – they have committed many crimes and will never be punished. Break a window, throw a can with paint over their car, empty a can with used oil in their garden, do something against their second house, against their boat, etceteras.”
The flyer ended with the words: “These are only some hints, you can think of much more that disturbs their private life.” A second flyer said: ….. the burden of faulty decisions cannot always be laid on the shoulders of common citizens. It is necessary that responsible persons are also disturbed in their life”.
In the meantime members of the Club countless times called the civil servants by phone and carried out several actions in their private living sphere. The reactions on the phone-calls showed that pressure was mounting.
Suddenly without any explanation the increase in rent was lowered by 40%. The Club was not satisfied and continued its actions. Then the rise of the rent was again lowered by 40% and this was accepted by the Tenants Committee.
A clear success of the Autonomous Club. Some unknown tenants joined anonymously the actions of the Club by also intruding in the private life of high-placed civil servants. The full story can be found in Chapter 7 of my book “The Power of the Autonomous Human, theory and practice of attacks on persons”.
“The attack on the private life of a leader has to be done in secret. Nobody wants to be attacked in his private life. The English say indeed: my home is my castle. Political parties are opposed to attacks on private persons, because political leaders fear that they also can be attacked. Actions only seem to be illegal. It is allowed to ask a civil servant why he has agreed with a ridiculous increase in rent. When he refuses to give a reasonable answer you may ask him again to explain the case and again and again and again. It is also permitted to ask this question at a time the civil servant is off guard, for example at three o’clock in the morning. Maybe then he will tell the real reason for the increase”.
“Most tenants said that such actions were a bridge too far. Later some of them admitted that the attacks on the private life of the civil servants had been an important factor to get a better decision. Next to their own activities the Club had perceived many other actions. Some people who openly said they did not like the actions obviously had secretly also carried out actions to reduce their powerlessness in regard to high-placed gentlemen who take decisions that disturbed their life”.
The action was completed in a reasonable short time. “It lasted only a few months. Most actions against private persons take longer before you see any effect. But something had to happen to change the decision. Now citizens are damaged by activities of higher-placed who themselves are never disturbed. This inequality must disappear”.
The Golden Rule for Actions did not work quite well for me. While distributing flyers I was arrested and three days imprisoned on a police station. Later I was acquitted in court. Remain careful but there is always some risk. But less risk than in street actions that are mostly without any positive result.
Joost van Steenis