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The ZAD: an autonomous zone in the heart of France

By Martin Legall - ROARMag, January 26, 2017

It all started decades ago with the local resistance against the construction of a second airport near the city of Nantes in western France. Eight years ago, this resistance culminated in the establishment of a self-organized autonomous zone, commonly known as the ZAD (Zone à Défendre, or “Zone to Defend”). Since then, the ZAD has been under constant threat of eviction and has withstood multiple attacks by militarized police forces set on clearing the area. With the support of individuals and collectives across France and from abroad, the occupation continues to this day.

Half a century of planning and resistance

Plans to build a second airport in Nantes were first developed in the mid-1960s. The authorities wanted to decentralize economic activity away from Paris to other cities in France. In the 1970s, the regional council designated the town of Notre-Dames-des-Landes, north of Nantes, as the site for the construction of the airport. At the time, farmers and local producers started to organize to resist the construction and raise awareness.

The construction of a rail network for high-speed trains in the late 1980s pushed the plans to build an airport north of Nantes to the bottom of the agenda until 1994, when the government revitalized the project in order to reduce air traffic at the two Parisian airports of Roissy and Orly.

In the 2000s, the government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin reaffirmed aspirations to decentralize economic activity and to turn Nantes into an international hub. After being pushed by political elites at both state and regional levels, the project was recognized as “promoting the public interest” in 2008. Two years later, the multinational corporation Vinci was selected to build and run the airport.

As early as 2000, a network of groups and organizations was created to organize an awareness campaign and to undertake actions in the area. In 2009, local activists and residents invited the French climate action camp, resulting in hundreds of activists visiting the zone. They occupied buildings that had been left empty by the authorities and built their own yurts and shacks.

Little by little, self-organization and collective decision-making structures were put in practice. Soon, support collectives were set up in various cities across the country and beyond: it was the beginning of one of the longest struggles in the recent history of French social movements.

Notre-Dame-des-Landes (France): Defend the ZAD: a call for international solidarity

By Defend the ZAD - Anarkismo, September 2, 2016

October 8th-9th, 2016

For over 50 years, farmers and locals have resisted the building of a new airport for the French city of Nantes (which by the way already has one). Now in these rich fields, forests and wetlands, which multinational Vinci want to cover in concrete, an experiment in reinventing everyday life in struggle is blossoming. Radicals from around the world, local farmers and villagers, citizen groups, trade unionists and naturalists, refugees and runaways, squatters and climate justice activists and many others, are organising to protect the 4000 acres of land against the airport and its world. Government officials have coined this place “a territory lost to the republic”. Its occupants have named it: la ZAD (Zone À Défendre), zone to defend.

In the winter of 2012, thousands of riot police attempted to evict the zone, but they faced a determined and diverse resistance. This culminated in a 40,000 people strong demonstration to rebuild some of what had been destroyed by the French State. Less than a week later, the police was forced to stop what they called “Operation Cesar”. For the last three years, the zad has been an extraordinary laboratory of new ways of living, rooted in collaborations between all those who make up the diversity of this movement. There is even a set of 6 points (see below) to radically rethink how to organise and work the land without an airport, based on the creation of commons, the notion of usage rather than property and the demand that those who fought for the land are those who decide its use.

Now, the entire zone is due for evictions to start the construction of this absurd airport. Prime minister Valls has promised a “Rendez-Vous” this October to evict everyone who is living, working, building and farming on the zone.

On October 8th, tens of thousands of people will gather on the zad to demonstrate that the determination of the movement is as strong as ever. Honouring farmers struggles from the past, we will come with wooden walking batons and leave them on the zone, as a sign of the commitment to come back and pick them up again if necessary. We will also raise a barn, built by dozens of carpenters during the summer, which will be used as a base, should evictions happen.

We are calling on all international groups and movements to either come to the zone on October 8th or show their solidarity with the zad through actions directed at the French government or multinational Vinci in their own towns and cities on that day.

The airport will never be built. Life on the zad will keep on flourishing!

EcoUnionist News #106 Addendum - French General Strike

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, May 31, 2016

A special supplement to Eco Unionist News #106:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

EcoUnionist News #81 - The #COP21 Greenwash

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 15, 2015

Paris, France: COP21 has concluded, and the results could be summed up as less-than-inspiring, but just about what many of us in the green unionist movement (small thought it still is) expected: a complete and total capitalist greenwash designed to make it look like more business as usual was somehow a change from business as usual. Without going into all of the gory details, the so-called "agreement" which took two weeks to hammer out doesn't even rearrange deckchairs on the Titanic. It rearranges the fabric on the deckchairs on the Titanic while at the same time proclaiming to seal the breach in the hull and pump out all of the water, yesterday.

In short, the backers of the deal (capitalists, politicians, mainstream Big Green environmental NGOs, and all of the fossil fuel capitalists pulling the strings) are proclaiming that somehow this "achievement" is "groundbreaking" because it advises, suggests, or pleads (depending on which part of the thesaurus one chooses) that the capitalist class voluntarily reduces the world's GHG emissions to a point "substantially lower than" 2°C (but doesn't even specify what many believe to be the needed limit of 1.5°C).

Of course, there are no hard limits, no enforcement mechanisms, no penalties for "ignoring" the suggested reductions. Worse still, the agreement removes all references to the rights of Indigenous peoples, does not address the disproportionate effects of capitalist GHG emissions on the Global South, women, or the working class. The excessive hoarding of wealth and disproportionate emissions caused by the Global North are not referenced. No mention is made of agroecology (thus paving the way for capitalist driven "climate-smart agriculture" (read "privatization")). No limits are to be placed on air travel. Nothing is said of energy democracy or just transition.

Worse still, all of this deal making took place in the shadow of what has become a fascist police-state atmosphere in Paris, France, in response to the tragic bombings and attacks that took place on November 13, 2015. While capitalist delegates and their enablers were allowed to seal the fate of the rest of us with near impugnity, dissent was smashed by placing restrictions on where protesters could demonstrate, and several clmate justice leaders were placed under house arrest (though, at the end of the two week clusterfuck, many defied the bans anyway, but only after many of the NGOs had demobilized the 100,000s more that would've joined in had the ban not been in place). Meanwhile, other events that had nothing to do with protesting COP21 were allowed to happen with little or no restriction.

While this is not the worst possible outcome one could have envisioned, it still leaves an enormity to be desired, and all of the self-congratulatory fawning over it by Big Green and the capitalist class won't change that.

Fortunately, this is not the end of the story.  In spite of the capitalist greenwashing attempts, most climate justice activists are not buying the official line, and have declared, rightly, that the struggle doesn't end here. The power does not lie in the hands of the capitalists or their enabling delegates. It does not lie in the halls of state or the inside-the-beltway offices of the Big Green NGOs. It belongs to the many who make up the noncapitalist class of the world, and when we realize it, organize, and act accordingly, this sham of a deal, and the capitalist system that spawned it can be banished to the dustbin of history where it rightly belongs, and replaced by a truly effective and tranformative framework for achieving the systemic change that is needed. An essential part of that change will involve the workers of the world organizing as a class along industrial lines. While this is not the only part of the strategy, it is nevertheless an important one.

There are many stories to be told about COP21, and they simply cannot be summarized into a single article, certainly not without much reflection.

The French government told us a big lie, and we believed it

By Jonathan Neale - Global Climate Jobs, December 8, 2015

After the killings in Paris, the government immediately banned all public demonstrations under a state of emergency. They told the climate coalition we could not march. That seemed to make a sort of sense to most people in the climate movement. Isn’t it terrible, we said. But most people in Paris thought they understood why the French government was doing it.

Except, when the Charlie Hebdo killings happened earlier this year, the French government called for a massive demonstration. No one – not one person in the world – suggested that demonstration interfered with security.

And I have been in Paris for a week. This is not a city under martial law, or a state of emergency. Police presence is light – hardly noticeable in most walks of life. In reality only one thing is forbidden in Paris – protesting to save the world’s climate.

The French government did not want a march of 500,000 in Paris on November 29. They saw their chance. They forbade the march. They used the deaths of all those people to stop us trying to save hundreds of millions more. Most of us were sick at heart, and shaken, and some of us were afraid. So they fooled us.

Why did they do that? Because this COP will end with an agreement that will make sure that global emissions rise next year, and in 2017, and in 2018, and in every year until 2030. At the end of the COP on Saturday the French government, the American, the Chinese, and all the rest, plan to trumpet that disaster in triumph across the world. To do that, they had to make sure we were not heard.

The French government have also ordered us not to demonstrate on Saturday at the end of the COP. But we have decided: we will protest together on Saturday in Paris. We hope you will protest or hold vigils – whatever you can do – across the world, to say this is not the end of the planet, we will fight on, in the living hope that we will win.

There will be trade unionists on that demonstration too, for many reasons. But one of them is that the right to free assembly, the right to meet in groups of more than two, the right to protest, is bedrock for trade unionism. Without those rights, working people cannot defend themselves.

Please join us.

Merde! Protesting French farmers dump tons of manure at govt buildings!

Staff Report - RT Times, November 6, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

For the accompanying article, please see this page.

France halts Sivens dam construction after protester’s death: Council suspends work on contentious project in south-west Tarn region after Rémi Fraisse died during clashes with police

By Agence France-Presse in Paris - The Guardian, October 31, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

French local authorities have decided to suspend work on a controversial dam after the death last week of an activist protesting against the project.

The executive council in charge of the project in the south-western Tarn region decided to freeze work on the dam but did not definitively scrap it.

It was impossible in the light of the tragedy to continue any work at the site of the Sivens dam project, said Thierry Carcenac, head of the region’s executive council. “What happened was terrible and should never happen again,” he added.

Remi Fraisse, 21, died in the early hours of Sunday during violent clashes between security forces and protesters against the project. It was the first death during a protest in mainland France since 1986.

Initial investigations showed traces of TNT on his clothes and skin, suggesting he may have been killed by a police stun grenade.

France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, who has come under fire over the incident, has since banned the use of the grenades, which are designed to stun rather than kill.

The already unpopular government of President François Hollande has come under more pressure over a perceived slow response to the death, as well as allegations that police mishandled the riots.

The death has been followed by renewed clashes. Overnight on Thursday, 200 protesters rampaged through the western city of Rennes, with some overturning cars and breaking shop windows. Further protests are planned throughout the weekend and authorities are bracing for further unrest.

Ecology minister Ségolène Royal will next week gather together all warring parties to discuss the future of the Sivens dam.

Those opposed to the project say the dam will destroy a reservoir of biodiversity and will only benefit a small number of farmers. Those promoting the project, meanwhile, retort that the dam is in the public interest as it will ensure irrigation and the development of high-value crops.