Defending the ZAD, creating autonomy: Notre-Dame-des-Landes

On the 20th of October, the french prime minister, Manuel Vals, speaking before the country’s national parliament, reaffirmed “the engagement of the government and thus of the State to advance with the project and to put an end the challenges to State authority on the part of a violent minority.” (Le Monde 24/10/2015)  The project that Vals was speaking of is the construction of the new airport of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, some twenty kilometres north of Nantes.  The “violent minority” is a reference to the Zadists, the hundreds, at times thousands, who have squatted the forests fated to be destroyed for the airport, and who since the winter of 2012-13, have both resisted persistent and violent police harassment and interventions and created an autonomous, self-managed community.  The forest of Notre-Dame-des-Landes has become a ZAD, a zone à défendre/zone autonome déterminé against State-Capital.

Occupations of buildings in the area continue (on October 10th, an abandoned 160 square metre house was taken, in the Noë Verte, with the aim of providing housing and developing a small scale production of local preserves), while the veteran zadists engage in variety of projects, ranging from vegetable and fruit gardens, animal rearing, a bakery, an auberge … in sum, some 20 sites where new agricultural practices and a way of life in opposition to capitalism are assumed.

Activists organised around the Association citoyenne intercommunale des populations concernées par le projet d’aéroport have also pursued all manner of legal actions against the project, and this has served to slow political and economic ambitions.  But Vals now threatens to begin construction even before all legal recourse is exhausted.  In calling the zadists a “violent minority”, the french government is but seeking a cover of legitimacy for what is itself the State’s violent appropriation of land and rural ways of life, along with the destruction of local biodiversity and the repression of all resistance to such violence.  And the precedent has already been established with the violent police repression of the ZAD of Testet and the murder of Rémi Fraisse in October of 2014.

With every day that passes, we learn, if we still need to, that all dissidence, all protect, all disobedience to State-Capital is illegal and will be put down by any means whatsoever.  Yet in every protest, the fissures and cracks in the reigning order reveal themselves.

The greatest solidarity that could be shown with the zadists Notre-Dame-des-Landes would be to create ZADs everywhere.


Along with earlier posts on Autonomies on the ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes and the ZAD Testet that may be consulted, we republish below a zadist text from 2012, which places the occupation in political context, along with video documents …

The struggle that we engage is not a local struggle.

In reality, the airport project and what is at stake in it largely surpasses the territory of the ZAD and the surrounding local communes.  This project is a tool amongst others of the global logic of development of capitalist infrastructures that destroy lands and lives.  It is necessary to go beyond the fictional distinction between local and global.  Fictional in the sense that there virtually no longer exists any place on the planet which is not connected to the globalised movement of energy, merchandise, capital, information… An airport, a high tension line, a motorway, a high speed train line, a supermarket, is the concretisation through cement, steel and blue uniforms of the management and control logic of capitalist society. 

It is not for the ZAD threatened with building that we fight, but for all zones of urban periphery across the whole world that suffer the extension of metropolises, lands invaded by motorways and shopping centres, city centres cleared of their poor relegated to peripheries.  This phenomenon is global; to question this or that project without combating the entire system leads to an impasse.  Because all of these projects are not mere mistakes or blunders on the part of governments and multinationals.  They obey a logic of ensemble, they are thought through, measured to generate as much profit as possible: they serve the economic development of States and companies (Vinci and company).    

If these projects are not useless, they are nevertheless very much imposed.  The airport project, as all the others!  A handful of people in an office tower have decided that the life of a few farmers and inhabitants of the area are worth nothing, or at least less than an airport.  The inhabitants that have lived here for years now have a clear idea of the violence of the democratic tools that the state and local authorities have equipped themselves with to reach their ends: the masquerade of public inquiries where all is decided beforehand to judicial procedures under the mantle of concern for public utility, not to speak of all harassment and psychological pressures. … many could serve as witnesses to the repression that befalls those who struggle. …

Here in the ZAD, we are a certain number who have decided to occupy lands and houses threatened by the airport following an appeal by a group of inhabitants.  Today, more than thirty locations are occupied.  We have decided to remain to try to stop each stage of the project: preliminary works, public hearings, visits by judges and police.  But we remain also to establish relations with local inhabitants, to experiment with forms of life and solidarity in opposition to those that capitalism imposes upon us. … We share a know-how that engenders autonomy to reduce our dependence on salaried labour and the commodity system.          

We occupy illegally these places, but in a few months time, it will be the ensemble of the inhabitants of the region that will be considered by the State as without right or title … as undesirable squatters.  We believe that the legitimacy to live and to make live a place is not a matter of rent or private property.

Vinci dégage, résistance et sabotage !

(The original text in French may be found here)


Images from the ZAD …

An example of the ZAD’s autonomy …

Two excellent documentaries covering the history of the struggle …


The principle source of information regarding the ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes remains the site Zone A Défendre, which has more modest english language version.


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