"With Friends Like These...": A Critique on the Current Composition of the ZAD
The following text has been distributed in late March, during a protest against evictions in Caen. While serving as a prior contextual insight on it, it predates the recent aggression in the ZAD against anarchists...
"All the parties, unions and their bureaucracies are oppressing the proletariat. As much as the bourgeoisie."
- Committee for the Defense of the Occupations (CMDO), the original.
THIS LAST JANUARY 17th, the Macron government has decided to put an end to the Notre-Dames-des-Landes airport project. As one instance is not the custom, major project was stopped by its opponents. Which is not saying that "Manu" was conquered in his heart by the virtues of the bocages being saved from masses of concrete. His friendships and interests lie somewhere else entirely. Only that, there is, here, a strategic opporutnity to seize; that of disarming a movement of solidarity around the lives and imaginaries, that are inhabiting the space more than the bocages are.
And this, while normalizing a space where a struggle - of opposing much further than just an airport- has taken roots for a number of its protagonists. Sadly, and as it is often customary in such circumstances, some fringes of the movement have decided to positively answer to this normalization.
In the hours that followed the government's announcement, the movement's Assembly decided authoritatively de bend over to the prefecture's recommendations by clearing the way for a military occupation of the site, in accepting to clearing up the road blocks and other obstacles on road D281. And this, while evicting, against the inhabitants, two occasionally-occupie, more or less permanent shelters. Rapidly, troops of mobile Gendarmes took hold of the sites. Drones, video cameras and directional mics have invaded the landscape.
If this assembly has, in a six-points text, asserted to be willing to maintain the unity of the components in struggle, to oppose all the evictions and to take care of the future of the movement, its first gesture have been to "liberate" a portion of the ZAD to give as offering to its new partner, the State; and second, by negociating with power. So on March 19th, the Assembly was calling for a gathering in support of "a delegation that includes the entirety of its components - residents, peasants, elect officials, naturalists and neighbors." representing supposedly the whole of the movement. Once again the old adage prevails, that in politics we must always judge by the acts instead of the talk.
WHEN IN 2012, THE STATE ORDERS OPERATION CAESAR to be launched against the ZAD, it was not expecting to bite and chew on a bone.
In the space of a few days, the eviction mires itself in this damp zone before about 50,000 people decide to reoccupy the lands and build shacks. This day, where the political, nonprofit and union militants were invited to roll back their respective flags, marked a prelude to a massive and resolved resistance, the famous "kyst" of Manuel Valls.
In this corner, there's been plenty of struggles in the past, of ties between peasants and industrial workers, from '68 to the anti-nuclear struggles against the powerplants of Carnet and Pellerin. Fragile yet rich complicities that did not fail to be sewn, taking root in past struggles, just like a strong sentiment of sharp resistance from the occupations of a few years back.
Only, after the years and successes of this struggle, the legitimate complicities sewn within this resistance have paved the way for a strategic and instrumental way to approach the struggle: composition.
AS OPPOSED TO THE IMAGE that some did not stop short of spreading, the conflicts have always existed on the ZAD and through the movement against the airport. Conflicts on the ways of living the occupation on daily basis, between the herders and the anti-speciest, between antifeminists and feminists, etc. But equally on the ways to live the struggle between the proponents of direct action and civil disobedience, between institutionnals and autonomous, between the assembly people and the affinity people, between the pro-mediatizaton and the anti-media, between the "Against the airport" and the "Against this world". What is beng lived over there was built on a juxtaposition of logics.
The slogan "Against the great useless projects" was already covering at the origin totally opposed intents and operational modes. The Far Left sees an economic gabegie in it; to EELV, it's a green capitalist project that is hardly compatible with them; to the farmers, it's land they are stolen from; the primitivists, it's an attack against a sanctified nature; and to some radicals, one of the many accomodations of our existence by capital and the State. The first three are wishing for a development of the territory by the State and capital in a way that suits their desires, and the last two desire, for reasons that are sometimes incompatible, to end territory development altogether. As a matter of fact, some are managers, while others are promoting horizontality and self-organization.
What held everyone together, it is that every single person has needed the other for the struggle to continue. The ACIPA of the zadistes for occupying land targeted for being destroyed, the zadist farmers and organizations, to serve them as shields and to legitimate their struggle. The ties that bind these groups together are thus by now only relations of interdependance that tie by an instrumental mode. Even if of course life and the struggle are knowing much more fun moments than that.
Behind the vehiculated image of unity are hidden deep antagonisms only demanding to resurface every time the moment presents itself, like during a stoning of cops. There will always be a Julien Durand of ACIPA to denounce, like a Bové (an old activist famous for chopping corn fields as a form of civil disobedience, now a figure of satire for most zadists) or a Mélenchon, those dangerous "irresponsives" populating the doomed bocage, ou a team of the Green Party to sign the opening of a house equipped with boots bought the same morning in Montparnasse. Like the many cases where it happened, like during the protest in Nantes in February 2014 where Durand, as spokesperson of ACIPA, was playing acrobatics by dissociating himself from the rioting while avoiding to condemn the rioters... so to say, to mark disapproval while attempting to maintain unity with the occupiers of the ZAD that he still needed. In the months that followed, the pacification business will consist in refusing any new protest in Nantes. An injunction to which a portion of the "zadistes" will not fail complying to.
This composition organizes around components that keep piling up acronyms. ACIPA is one of the historical anti-airport associations. The coordination of opponents which reunites the organizations. The COPAIN (ironically the equivalent of "Friend") réunites agro-farmers tied to the Peasant Confederation. Then there is the Assembly of the Movement, initiated by the occupiers.
"For long, it remained a space for debate and commoning of ideas and projects from different sides, without pretending to any unitary decision. To me, the "movement" was connected to this creative space where different tendencies inform themselves and answer, assert and criticize, and without denyig their own autonomy of initiative. I believe that this is what some have started calling "composition", anyway this is where I heard the word for the first time. At first, I didn't bother too much, as they were talking about the "movement" and its "components". Later on, I realized that the concept of composition was more akin to a way of pacifying the situation, to talk about it through seductive words without letting conflict or contradiction leak through. Hence, well, to put us to sleep. As far as impoverishing this boiling up by continuously looking for a "middle way", and that in "movement" we end up forgetting the surprising diversity, in order to make us a mass that moves "all in unison".
- "Testimony, the Movement is dead, long live... the reform! - A critique of the composition and its elite", February 2018, by some insignificant grouping.
WE NEVER RUN OUT OF SELF-PROCLAIMED STRATEGISTS, revolutionary like reformist, who in the name of unity, of pragmatism, of urgency are imposing a direction and unicity to the movement. The leaders have finally emerged out from the occupiers, mobilising their material forces, their networks, their power... not only to the benefit to the entire community, but for structuring their ideological hegemony on the Zone and its struggle. Along with the "institutionnals", they have condemned actions... like the attack on the car of a journalist. But equally the one where an electoral conference by France Insoumise (the eco-socialist party of Mélencho) at the Vacherie (an occupied house on the ZAD) was sprayed with a jet of manure.
Their vision of composition translates to shutting down the divergence and impose a discipline on the movement. To the manoeuver is the Comité pour le maintien des occupations (CMDO) along with a few accomplices, sanctimoniously baptised as such in reference to its eponymous situationnist ancester of '68. An ancester who did not fail at the times to mark a crippling distance from the entirety of the labor union and leftist bureaucracies. In this committee of old glories of autonomy who do not hesitate to make themselves spokerspersons to the media, to acitvate complicities with bureaucrats of all kinds, to play the card game of negociating with the State. Hence, to become managers of the struggle.
These same glories, from the fact of their class origins, are monopolising ressources and discourses, systematically disqualifying their adversaries, insulting, threatening them. Those last remaining incontrollables who had not deserted the Assemlies of the movement, ended up quitting, in disgust.
THE COMPOSITION ENDS UP REVEALING ITS LIMITS once the objective has been reached or the struggle is defeated. If a six-points text officially calls for the management of the ZAD by an instance from the movement, the components of the movement are essentially looking for negotiation. For as much as, for the moment, the State won't let go of anything. An Assembly of Usages had remarqued during the few previous months the matter of thinking beyond the airport. On this ground, some like ACIPA and COPAIN had progressed already. The proximity of many of their protagonists from old timers from the Larzac struggle have allowed them to agitate a few old recipes. Those of a normalized Zone, under lease with the State, co-managed by the Paesant Confederation and the State's ecologists.
It is this option that José Bové, EELV activist, friend of Hulot and Julien Durant of ACIPA, has been promoting last January. The normalization of D281 marks the chokehold of this strategy. Used to its hegemony, the CMDO won't even take care of the form, for the occasion, as it no longer cares about the Assembly's vote. In the days that followed, about 200 people take part in demounting the barricades, not without showing around a few protesters, thus doing in advance the work of the police. Lama Faché, the shack on the road, is taken apart. Some will rebuild it further away. Since then the Assembly of struggle, that only represents a portion, althought major, of the occupiers and the people in struggle, is trying to negociate. For maintaining unity, the ideologues of the composition will have broken apart the unity of those for whom this struggle meant something else than conquerir a farm or a field negociated with the State. In so, this struggle has reminded us that the "Friends" are not necessarily friends, same for the COPAIN.
All this will have equally reminded us that a mere form cannot by itself insure horizontality. Some of us who've been otherwise hating assemblies have invested them. Not for potentialities of freedom and self-organization they may offer, but on the contrary for logics of government, control and submisson they could here be promising. If we remain attached to the Assemblies, it is for coordinating ourselves, making it possible to expose the power plays of the groups or gangs, avoid nourishing narcissist group postures, etc. So, for their anti-authoritarian potentialities.
COMPOSITION IS TO SELF-ORGANIZATION what the chains are to freedom. We have, on our part, always defended associations of individuals within assemblies of struggle, collectives, agaist the strategic composition between organizations or gangs. We are among those who have always refused to co-sign texts with organizations, and not only the "political" ones. The piling up of acronyms is not an identity and autonomous strenght, but on the contrary expresses only submission to the general staff. As if there was worry about the decomposition of the Left, which has never been more than a facade for submission, that we should be helping to put back on its feet, if not take part in it.
Composing is to be playing a role, to format yourself towards elaborating a large front. It is carrying your activities starting from an essentially strategic approch, not an ethical relation. And above this, all it produces is dispossession, and spaces where each and every one is required to follow one pre-traced route, instead of looking to brind complicities and build commons without shutting down divergence and different personal realities. To compose is essentially to be renewing the old political tradition in all its horror.
Today, this idelogical apparatus of the milieu seems to have spread like a fever. Assemblies of struggle for the asylum-seekers are allowed to receive the visit in their occupatons from an EELV senator previously allied to Valls, the anti-rep collectives are considering forming a local association with CGT (a major conservative labor union), that in 2016 had condemned the rioters away from its activities, the Maison de la grève (a social center in Rennes) are hosting Houria Bouteldja (an Islamist, regressive Left media figure who made antisemitic statements), membes of the parisian front protest group are defending the offices of Emmaus, a charity that is complicit with the deportation machine...
What the ideology of composition is spreading is a milieu discipline that privileges ties with the Leftist labor unions, associations and parties over any effective radicality. The ritualized spectacle of controlled direct action serves as much as a channel to evacuate activist impulses warrior affects than to maintain a false insurrectional image. The spectacle of protesting instead of the protesting the spectacle.
- "El Condor passa" committee
Caen, mars 2018
Source article in French: https://www.non-fides.fr/?Une-critique-de-la-composition-zadiste-en-cour...