On the 17th of May, 19 squadrons of military police (that is, between 1,500 and 1,700 police) entered the ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes for a second operation of destruction and eviction.
We return to a reflection on the ZAD, on its significance as a struggle for autonomy; a reflection that can be extended to all “okupations” …
What is the ZAD the emergence of? What do we want to defend?
To anger. To exceed. To move forward.
Since the abandonment of the airport project and the brutal offensive of the government, many strategic dissensions have broken out on the ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes. Lundimatin readers who went there sent us these few thoughts.
The last months and weeks have, by turn, filled with joy, anger, enthusiasm, doubts, questions, approval, discouragement, determination, reserve, disappointment, misunderstanding all those who are convinced that the ZAD must be defended. We are among those who do not live there and yet are intimately connected. This ferment culminated in the State’s decision to invade, destroy and occupy half of the Zone, and, in our view, this has given rise to two polarized positions:
On the one hand, a certain reserve, the consequence of a disapproval of the decision to negotiate; on the other hand, the approval of the search for a consensus around the negotiation. This second position, like the first, was able to generate a certain doubt, when the consensus did not seem to be reached.
We, who do not live in the ZAD, asked ourselves: what position do we adopt that is not just a comfortable view from the outside? Our answer was to go there to help defend it. But once we said that, we still had not said much. The question remains “How to defend the Zone?” which presupposes that we have answered the question “What are we defending? ”
It is obvious to us that the ZAD is and has become something in the historical moment where we are that we want to defend. This something we would like to try to reveal after having experienced it with all its force – although confusedly – by spending a few days on site.
We spoke and heard a great deal about the conflicts that cut cross the ZAD, which could even threaten to break it up: conflict over the future of the Zone and its occupants (agricultural/non-agricultural), conflict over the defense strategy to be adopted (in the field/in the administrations, globally/by neighborhood, to negotiate/to barricade). These conflicts unfold among the different actors in the struggle (Copains 44, Acipa, Cedpa, Occupants, Peasants, Support Committees …), but also among the occupiers and the inhabitants of the Zone itself.
We have also seen friends from the outside dejected, and who just distance themselves from it all, afraid to go their, others distressed by the divergences, others still strongly take part in one or the other of the disputes that animate the Zone, while lamenting and regretting at the same time the lack of consensus, unity. And all of this gave us the curious impression of completely missing, without even seeing it, the remarkable historical dimension of what has happened and what is still going on there.
Basically, it is not a matter so much of defending particular projects or a certain land use, whether agricultural or not, to defend a wetland or protected areas … All of this is of great importance, we agree, but it does not constitute in our eyes the so desirable singularity of what we call the ZAD.
For us, what is already being prepared and is being played out in the ZAD is the free and fantastic abundance of the many ways in which life can be invented incessantly. That is what we have more than anything else in the world to defend – a place where existence finds various forms, profuse and singular in which to incarnate, a place where these expressions are freely tested; where, therefore, they come into friction with one another outside of any mediation by an abstract and superior entity. But it is true that this is so rare that many of us have lost the habit and sometimes even the memory of this free game, so much has its emergence in history quickly become a mere date to commemorate distractedly.
All of this to say that shouting, pecking, fighting, disagreement, quarreling, conflict, screaming and fighting (in assembly or elsewhere) should not scare us. As long as they are signs of a vitality that deserted by force the great mummified social body.
Much has been said about the conflicts that currently characterise the organisation and the discussions within the ZAD, that they are the result of State tactics, the resurgence of the old imperial adage that one must divide, to better rule. It seems to us that this may be true in some respects and completely false in others. Let’s try to explain why. A State is not strictly speaking a power of division. Its specificity is, on the contrary, to tend always to a greater unification, under its aegis, of the groups that it claims to govern by reducing them to a sum of individuals. To do this, it must spread to everyone, willingly or forcibly, the feeling of the need for unity, the only affect ultimately able to cause a more or less consensual adherence.
Let us now consider what, from this point of view, is at stake in the ZAD, both for those who occupy and/or defend it, but also for the French State. For the latter, the ZAD appears precisely as the upsurge of the attempt by a certain number of human groups who wish to live and deploy a social organization in a portion of territory outside of the desired unity. This amounts to challenging, in action, the very possibility of this unity. These different groups, ultimately animated by the antagonistic feeling towards the harmfulness of unity, place their existence under the sign of the multiple: multiplicity of forms of habitat, activities, ties, organisation, thoughts … This multiplicity goes indissolubly together with, within each group, band or other, a desire to establish and maintain their autonomy (their undivided being), obviously against State unification, but also within the multiplicity of the other groups that occupy the ZAD and other elements. The whole point of this reflection is therefore to grasp the complexity of this interlocking phenomenon, to understand that the conflicts that exist in the ZAD are not the effect of an exogenous power, but are rather consubstantial with the organisation itself of the Zone; in what is its historical singularity.
Until the abandonment of the airport project, the different groups of inhabitants and occupants, as well as the other opponents in struggle, had in common the will to counter a state-economic project. It is on this basis that the inhabitants and occupants, between each other, then with the other elements and the elements among themselves, established a series of alliances against a common declared enemy. It was later said that the abandonment of the project, which is a clear victory, was the trigger for the conflicts, or at least their catalyst. In reality, the abandonment had the effect of revealing the very essence of the singularity of the ZAD at the time, but also of modifying the bases on which a certain number of alliances were made. In doing so, the alliances appeared for what they are: conjunctural alignments between singular, autonomous elements, anxious to preserve their singularity and their autonomy, before a common enemy. It also had the effect of drawing roughly and yet very clearly what these alliances were not and are not: a unified contractual consensus around identical and permanent interests. The abandonment thus questions from all sides and puts into question the alliances to which all groups, components, had agreed upon, as at the end of any battle. In our opinion, it can not be otherwise, since what constitutes the nature and the force of the movement derives precisely from its radical multiplicity and its capacity, from within this multiplicity, to make, to undo, to redo alliances that do not have anything automatically obvious about them. And herein lies the difficulty: to wage a war against a state that wants to unify us while assuming a permanent conflictuality in our midst. This is a necessary situation when groups that try to maintain an autonomy which is by definition threatening and threatened, join with each other for a common purpose. The great difficulty comes from the fact that it is necessary to constantly keep at bay the specter of unification, while managing to redefine and reinvent alliances ceaselessly, following new ways that maintain the horizon of a victory. This is why the conflicts that emerge especially in the Assemblée des Usages [the general assembly of the ZAD] are in no way to be feared. We are at peace with this conflictuality. Rather than lamenting it, we make it ours and defend it.
By contrast, we see a considerable risk in the reactions which consist in regretting the absence of unity on the one hand or in categorically rejecting any form of alliance on the other hand. They both echo the State’s ambition, because the State seeks to unify precisely those who do not want to be and cannot be excepted to be, under penalty of being annihilated. To conjure away conflict is to destroy the being and the future of the ZAD. It would be a defeat by abandonment. To refuse any alliance is to believe that one can lead a war alone, and it is implicitly to expect that everyone will ignore their autonomy and abandon it to integrate and merge in this refusal. To refuse any alliance in the name of the fact that the previous ones would end is to seek to contractualise the links between everyone for all eternity. From this point of view, the two positions describe a substantially similar horizon: unity in internal peace, unification by absorption.
It is an art of war that we must reinvent. It is vital to fully assume the conflict by reaffirming the singular autonomy of each group and element. In a certain manner, our situation is similar to that of primitive tribes whose social being is marked by war, being-for-war (P. Clastres) and which saw the European colonists assail them. Alliances are undone, others are to be found. To preserve at all costs the old alliances on changed bases or to not make any alliance at all: it comes to the same thing. It is to refuse the war that is made against us, it is to refuse the social being for war which characterises stateless societies. “The best enemy of the State is war” because it allows the many, literally, to get along better.
This is all that the ZAD historically expresses, in our time. It is the upsurge of the Commune, and it would be very wrong to think of it as a bubble beyond which one can dismiss the noise and fury of all that attempts irreducibly to live.
The Situationists were more attentive to the episode of the Paris Commune in which a group of Communards, determined to destroy Notre-Dame of Paris, had found themselves face to face with a group of artists and poets from the Commune resolved to prevent them. The outcome of the brawl that ensued, favorable to the cathedral, is known to all.
Let us remember all these disputes, however violent and virulent, of which we are the heirs. They are the spirit of the Free and Living Commune.
Let us not make of ourselves distant jurors of what is happening on the spot. Let us take part, no matter how, for that is not the question. Or rather, yes, but as regards to how things are done. Only the extension and the sharing of this experience of dispute will make us grow in Common.
To beware of the Unique.
To care for our conflicts.
To constantly reinvent.
To undo on one side.
To redo from another.
To anger. To exceed. To move forward.
“Vent d’ouest”: A short by Jean-Luc Godard (or not), for the ZAD …
Autrefois, il n’y avait que des cinéastes. On ne parlait pas de techniciens. Méliès, Thalberg, Grémillon. Les mains des monteuses soviétiques, comme celles des ouvrières de la Rhodia, disaient l’exception partout où l’on aménageait la règle.
Aujourd’hui, c’est le règne des techniciens. Techniciens de grande surface, de télé mobile, techniciens de l’audiovisuel, de la gendarmerie.
Le cinéma s’est niché dans chaque arcane du capitalisme. La technique a pris le pas sur le geste. Et l’humain a déserté l’œil de celui qui regarde.
Ceux qui croient à la technique la disent objective, là où elle n’est qu’objectif.
Objectif de sécurité, de surveillance, de peur, de mort.
Et la mort, pour ne pas avoir trop peur, a substitué à son propre silence non pas un son d’outre-tombe, mais d’outre-vie.
Le son latent de l’agonie, celui du capitalisme, de la catastrophe permanente.
L’industrie et ses machines ont toujours généré leur propre musique. Des images et des sons émis par la vie, et comme subtilisés, retransmis par une agonie et destinés à la mort, aux structures de la mort.
Et dans ces structures de béton, fleurit toujours dans les interstices, là où l’humidité subsiste encore, cette herbe que l’on dit invasive lorsqu’elle ne fait que nous protéger de l’érosion, et c’est le Gourbi, le Far West, les 100 Noms.
Inverser la trajectoire, revenir à la vie depuis la mort, supprimer l’agonie.
In the past, there were only filmmakers. We did not talk about technicians. Méliès, Thalberg, Grémillon. The hands of the Soviet assemblers, like those of the Rhodia workers, were the exception wherever the rule was laid out.
Today, it is the reign of technicians. Large-scale technicians, mobile TV technicians, audiovisual technicians, the gendarmerie.
Cinema has tucked itself into each arcane of capitalism. The technique took precedence over the gesture. And the human has deserted the eye of the one who looks.
Those who believe in the technique say it is objective, there where it is nothing but objective.
Objective of security, surveillance, fear, death.
And death, so as not to be too frightened, has substituted for its own silence not a sound from beyond the grave, but from beyond life.
The latent sound of agony, that of capitalism, of permanent catastrophe.
Industry and its machines have always generated their own music. Images and sounds emitted by life, and as if made subtle, retransmitted by an agony and destined for death, for the structures of death.
And in these concrete structures, there flourishes always in the interstices, where the humidity still remains, this grass that we speak of as invasive, when it only protects us from erosion, and it is the Gourbi, the Far West, the 100 Names.
To invert the trajectory, to return to life from death, to suppress the agony.
To suppress the agony.