Athens, Greece from unicorn riot, with thanks. – In the summer of 2017, folks in Athens organized the Networks of Resistance: 1st European Local Struggles Conference to “create an open source platform” to expand upon and share the experiences, knowledge, and ideas that have arisen from organically created resistance encampments currently building new alternatives outside of capitalism and nation-states.
The two-day conference was held in the self-organized Embros Theater, which is a squatted ex-factory in the Psiri District of Athens.
Navigating through the dynamics of building strong grassroots movements that impact radical change is a arduous task. The resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in the United States was monumental, but it didn’t stop the project nor the flow of oil. In Europe, resistance to development and fossil fuel extraction projects continues to grow in waves, similar to the USA, and like the resistance camps around Standing Rock, autonomous experiments of building an alternative society outside of capitalism and void of consumerism and hierarchy have existed for years now.
During the first day of the conference, activists from the frontlines of three European struggles, Hambach Forest, Bure, and the ZAD, converged in the smoky theater to share their experiences, ideas, and network among the dozens of audience members.
Activists from the Hambach Forest in Germany came with their experience of an ongoing forest occupation to resist its destruction for opencast lignite coal mining.
Activists from Bure, France shared their struggle against the construction of an underground nuclear waste repository (CIGEO);
From Notre-Dame-des-Landes, France, activists out of the autonomous zone of ZAD shared their fight against the construction of an airport.
The participants of these movements are not only actively engaged in a struggle against specific projects, but are also building alternative, autonomous ways of living outside of capitalism.
AUTONOMOUS ZONE OF THE ZAD NDDL, FRANCE
In one of the most historic examples of land defense, anti-capitalists, anarchists, anti-authoritarians, environmentalists, farmers, squatters, and more, have created the ZAD Notre-Dam-des-Landes (NDDL), an autonomous zone that has stood as a free space since 2009. It has built a network of occupied solidarity zones defending the land throughout France that are all ‘zones to be defended’ or Zone À Défendre (ZAD). ZAD is originally an abbreviation from “zone to be later,” that comes from the state’s tactic of buying land to be used in development later. “Zone to be later” got re-worded to “Zone to Defend.”
In Embros Theater, the presenter from ZAD spoke about the government’s attempt to build an airport and create new economic developments beyond Paris and in the Western regions of France. From the 1970s and on, the country of France continually bought land in the NDDL region in preparations for development.
In 2008, the French government gave the approval to facility developer VINCI to build the $789 million Grand Quest Airport with a then-planned completion date of 2017. Due to the massively successful occupation of the land to defend it from construction (ZAD), the airport in NDDL France, a country that has the most airports per inhabitants in the world, has yet to be built.
For four decades now, farmers and inhabitants of the land of NDDL have been struggling against the project. Nowadays, the residents of the area along with anarchists, anti-capitalists, environmentalists, biologists, and a large assortment of concerned citizens and community members have built a new existence while gathering behind one mission, to stop the airport. Preventing the construction of the airport stops the projected new developments from gaining capital and helps preserve the Earth’s environment, preventing wildlife and pristine woodlands from being cut down.
Since 2008, the occupation at ZAD NDDL grew out of festivals, mobilizations, and the broader airport resistance movement. Infrastructure was created by the horizontally-organized assemblies that were making decisions together as to how to set up their “free” society while resisting the construction, as well as resisting the authorities’ constant threats of repression and eviction.
“Our goals, in coming to live here on the proposed site of the airport, are many: to live on a protest site, where we can be close to those who’ve been opposing the project for 40 years and to have the power to act when construction happens; to make use of abandoned spaces to learn to live together, to cultivate the land and to be more autonomous from the capitalist system.” – ZAD website
After a couple years of occupation and movement building around the issue, the French authorities made plans, called Operation Caesar, to utilize over 1,000 paramilitary police forces and military to clear out the ZAD occupation in late 2012.
Intense resistance to this eviction attempt sparked riots for over a month with erected barricades and continued clashes with the police. A large showing of solidarity with over 200 committees of support prevented the eviction. The presenter said that “it was a real diversity of tactics that stopped the eviction“, as the ZADists had been organizing the resistance to any possible eviction for over a year before the police operation.
After the failed eviction attempt, the struggle at ZAD, which, in the winter of 2012-13, had brought over 40,000 people to Notre-Dam-des-Landes, grew itself into a self-organized village equipped with a kitchen, dormitories, and over 2,000 hectares of land to cultivate. Farmers standing in solidarity with the squatters and resisters that formed ZAD, came in droves, bringing with them the knowledge of cultivation.
“The farmers are becoming squatters … and the squatters are becoming farmers.” – Presenter on ZAD NDDL
“The moment of eviction [made] everybody in unity. When the cops came with their big machines to destroy everything, something happened” that showed that “we have to be united to be efficient” in the struggle. To create this unity, it was the organizing work of those within the assemblies, from all walks of life, “to see the struggle and to compromise” on, and accept, a diversity of tactics.
The presenter said that although squatting is not normal in France, “what we see today is the movement of the occupation [ZAD] is very legitimate … why is it so popular and very well accepted by newspapers and people around, is because there is a lot of people who are active in a different manner.” People have tried the “democratic” and the legal way “and they saw it doesn’t work,” so that has emboldened the solidarity around the resistance, said the presenter. Masses of the French population have taken part in numerous different actions against the airport in the last nine years. See a documentary of the resistance at ZAD NDDL below.
The speaker said that they use the large area of occupied space to discuss how to create their self-organized occupation. Among the over 200 assemblies working on different facets of the occupation, is one specifically focused on the cultivation of the ZAD and how its occupied communal life can be sustainable apart from capitalism. These assemblies work as working groups that regularly meet face-to-face to discuss and decide things in a horizontal manner.
When asked about how the community deals with internal problems, the presenter said that an assembly of around 400 to 500 people meet every Monday to find solutions to local issues. This assembly has a randomly picked and cycled group of twelve, which operates as a mediation spokes group that helps provide solutions to issues if occupiers have a problem with their neighbor that they can’t solve. In terms of domestic violence, the perpetrator is kicked out of the encampment.
People live in many different ways in the ZAD. There are at least “eighty places squatted, very different. There is farms, there is lands, there is a forest … caravans, houses and some are living in collectives.”
In terms of agriculture and food, which is shared collectively throughout the ZAD, they cultivate vegetables, fruits, potatoes, and more. There is over 120 hectares of land with a mill and two bakeries to make breads. There are sheep and goats and a place to make cheese.
“All of this food are shared in a market, but we call it ‘No Market’, because the food is not merchandised.” – ZAD NDDL presenter speaks about collective sharing of food
Having the occupation provides “a direct base to organize ourselves against the airport, but also against other struggles,” said the presenter, who then spoke about last year’s production of over 20 tons of potatoes and the ability of their agricultural production yields in feeding other ZAD encampments around France.
Along with the infrastructure built in the ZAD are places for assemblies, a cinema, medical facility, a climbing wall, a boxing gym, a house for children, mechanical garages, and more.
There is a newspaper called ZAD News, and a pirated radio station taken from radio frequency owned by VINCI (the planned developers of the airport) called Radio Horn, focusing on a variety of resistances, which according to ZAD’s website, “is a pirate radio made by pirates who have never made a radio.”
The presenter said most of the assemblies have weekly meetings on topics that include “self-defense,” because “it’s not very often, but it happens that fascists came to burn things or something, so there is assemblies organizing for self-defense.” Furthermore, they have medics, a legal team, a security team, and direct action defense teams to provided safety in the case of police incursion.
“The ZAD, now the police do not enter in. So, when police are looking for someone, people can come to ZAD to hide.” – Presenter speaks about the liberated zone of ZAD NDDL
Many hundreds of people live in the autonomous zone at ZAD Notre-Dam-des-Landes and have many different skills. They say they are living an existence “against the airport and it’s world” and are an example of building that “DNA for social change.”
In the midst of the 2015 terror attacks in France and the new labor law and NuitDebout movement, the speaker said that in “June of last year, they tried to evict us and they couldn’t.” The speaker then spoke about how the government “made a new law and they made what they call a consultation,” in which the public voted that they were okay with the new airport to be built. In June of 2017, France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe “launched a “mediation” programme on the construction” of the airport and a report will be delivered to the government on December 1, 2017.
The occupants of the ZAD are building an ‘intergalactic cabin’ during a week of workshops and activities at ZAD from August 17th to August 24th.
see also: Post-Capitalism is Already Arriving… help the Virus go Viral https://thefreeonline.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/post-capitalism-is-already-arriving/
from unicorn riot, with thanks.