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Coming to the ZAD...or not?

Sunday 16 June 2013

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Contribution to the discussions about the welcome-space

Welcoming visitors has been part of life on the ZAD for years, the reverberations made by the struggle against the airport and its world since the attempted evictions last autumn makes us scared that the ZAD will become the activist holiday destination this summer. It is a divisive question currently being discussed amongst the occupants. We felt the need to share “our analysis” so everyone could draw the conclusions they find most fitting. It is not the aim of this text to question the richness of the interactions we have had with new people or even less, because we want to live in a bubble. However, life on the ZAD has only just started regaining a more long term rhythm, and some of us think that it’s time to make our links stronger. That’s why, by writing this text, we try to challenge an idea often taken for granted: that coming to the ZAD strengthens the struggle.

Six months ago operation ’Cesar’ started, aiming to get rid of the ’illegal’ occupants of the ZAD. A failed attempt, it only made the struggle gain in intensity. Responding to call-outs, tens of thousands of people came to make their contribution and fight against the evictions that started on the 16th October. The enthusiasm and energy brought for a few days, weeks or a month made our presence on the ZAD stronger. Today there is many more living-spaces and gardens than there were before the evictions and we’ve never been so many.

The past few months have led to drastic changes for everyone. The re-installation and reconstruction of living-spaces, the re-composition of groups and the organizing of counter-offensives left little space for welcoming the new people that arrived. Those who were there before the evictions did not necessarily find the time and energy to transmit knowledge about the local context, the history of the struggle and the complexity of what happens here. Cutting barbed wire might seem harmless, but represents hours of work for others who are part of this struggle. Having a campsite and a collective kitchen on Hors Control as an emergency response to the massive arrival of newcomers has its limitations. It seems that a lot of the arrivals have had to fend for themselves in this mess, for better or for worse. Plenty of good things have come out of it but also a lot of misunderstandings and trouble.

After this intense period requiring responsiveness and continuous adaptation, we hope that in the coming weeks we establish ways of living together that are more sustainable. Life on the ZAD is regaining a steady rhythm: organizing between the different actors in the struggle, the construction of cabins, the clash of different visions of the situation, the start of food growing, life with the neighbours and their diversity. It is only recently that interactions between the occupants of the area and new arrivals have started to deepen. Each groups and individual has their own story, experiences, views on the struggle, ways of living.

In this context, it seems necessary for us to continue to put our energy in strengthening the links on and around the zone. During periods of resistance against the evictions, the amount of comrades that came to participate in the struggle on the zone has contributed to our strength. But in a calmer period like now we believe that what makes us strong is not necessarily the amount of people on the ZAD but more the intensity of our relationships. Getting to know each other, sharing our feelings, our understandings of the situation, our analysis... all this takes time and energy. An energy that is necessary for us to understand each other, to find accomplices to start projects with. A time that is needed to be able to live the struggle not only for the next few weeks, but for years.

Unlike the last months, where resisting evictions and reconstruction were the main focus, there is not really anymore a clear collective direction unifying the people that pass through the ZAD and those who are more rooted. It is definitely now more difficult to navigate for those who just arrived than it was during the evictions. For the last couple of weeks we have been discussing the issue of ‘welcoming’ on the ZAD. As we write this text there is no longer a big campsite where everyone could put up their tent, nor a collective kitchen. The center of the ZAD is already very busy. What is the impact that we want to have on the zone? Where would it be relevant for new places to be installed? How should we welcome people that are passing through? What ways could we use to transmit information to newcomers for them to understand the situation and act accordingly? While the cultivation of fields, start of gardens and friendships keep us busy, these questions are on the way.

Hosting visitors has been part of life on the ZAD for years. And it is important for the struggle to do so. The many links that were created played a big part in the massive mobilization during the evictions. What is happening here is crazy, with a rare complexity and richness that is necessary to share.

For months, years even, groups from further away have been bringing clear projects and initiatives to the ZAD (helping to organize demos and actions, making prefab cabins, making the Chataigne live, etc). This has been very important to us and it is as important to keep it going.

On the other hand, through the last few months the struggle against the airport and its world has made an unparalleled buzz. Some of us fear a disproportionate flow of visitors this spring and summer. Will Notre-Dame-Des-Landes be the destination for the “activist holiday” this summer? In this case, it doesn’t seem clear that coming here for a couple of weeks will contribute much to the struggle on the ZAD. On the contrary, when we are just learning to live and fight together with the new occupants, it might not be the best moment to welcome lots of new people that don’t have any links yet with groups or places here. We are not ready, and don’t have the collective energy required.

For us, fighting against this project is more than anything fighting against the capitalist world that wants to build it. Struggles against this world are happening everywhere and we don’t want Notre-Dame-Des-Landes to overshadow them, but rather strengthen them. It seems essential to us that the struggle continues to intensify on a bigger geographical scale. Vinci and the Socialist Party are everywhere, in the same way that they want capitalism to be woven in all the aspects of our lives. To take part of the struggle in Notre-Dame-Des-Landes means to fight everywhere.

It is important to continue building links and interactions between people willing to act against the dispossession of our lives and living. But we think that doing this on the ZAD will demand a lot of energy from people present on the ZAD. We have experienced the difficulties of having a permanent welcome-space, facilitating the transmission and allowing everyone to live a moment on the ZAD, a source of enrichment for the people and the struggle that links them.

In this calm period, as we hope these coming weeks will be, we think that specific call-outs (from discussions to demos, collective workdays to actions) are more favorable moments to interact on the zone and to allow an interesting exchange. We think that when people arrive outside of special events, their welcoming structures, discussions and moments of transmission, the discovery and encounters won’t be facilitated, especially alongisde mass arrivals.

It is when work starts, evictions or other attacks on the zone that mass arrivals will make us stronger, in all their diversity. It is also to be ready to welcome in such moment that we write this.

See you soon for great adventures!

Some occupants of the ZAD.

Attached documents