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Reflections on the future of the ZAD and the airport

Monday 10 December 2012

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

For three years, activists, farmers and local residents of the ZAD (Zone d’Aménagement Différé - Deferred Development Zone) have been resisting the development of an international airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes in Western France by occupying land expropriated by the state on behalf of the Vinci Corporation. The zadistas rebaptized the ZAD Zone à Défendre (Zone to be Defended), moved into abandoned homes, self-built houses or cabins, and have been using these 2000 hectares of wetlands to develop activities outside the commercial capitalist system and to preserve the area’s biodiversity by gardening, breeding animals, engaging in knowledge-sharing, and other activities.

Locals, farmers and activists have been united in the resistance against this outdated airport project, first planned in 1973 (see for the background) . Though the project and the requisite land expropriations were approved by the government in 2003, this development represents an economic, social and environmental failure.

Successive governments and the municipalities involved have resorted to stratagems and irrational and partial arguments to foist this project upon a misled population. These arguments, putting forward passenger numbers, aircraft rotations, safety, noise pollution, employment and the new High Environmental Quality project, have all been discredited by a number of independent assessments which contradict the official analysis. The government has refused to consider any alternatives to its pharaonic project, such as simply renovating the existing airport in Nantes. which just last September received the airline companies’ ERA Award 2011-1012 for best European airport. These independent studies show, amongst others, that the overall economic gain, using monetary values assigned to such factors as time saved in travel, the environmental impact, and the attractiveness of the region, was grossly overestimated, as were the prospects for air traffic growth in the Nantes region, given the current state of the economy and the increasing cost of fossil fuel. On the expenditure side, however, the total cost of the project, including its ancillary developments, such as roads and public transportation, was understated by a large margin at 550 million euros. It might be of interest in this context, to establish a parallel with other large-scale projects such as the EPR nuclear power plant, the Millau viaduct, or the Channel Tunnel, which all incurred costs far in excess of the initial calculations.

The sole purpose of the new airport, to be built and operated by Vinci under a 50-year concession agreement, is to provide the local well-to-do and the megalomaniac authorities with an opportunity to place their own interests ahead of the common good. Major suspicions of conflicts of interest have been brought to bear in this case. (Extensively documented counter-arguments to this project are available at

Beyond these technical and economic considerations relating to issues of capitalism, it is the rationale underlying the organization of society that we must fight. Similarly, the resistance movement against the airport cannot be reduced merely to environmental or climate change concerns, however important these may be. For the farmers, the landless, local residents and activists, the goal is to fight against land grabs, privatization, speculation, and commercial profiteering for the benefit of a few and the detriment of the commons. Let us reject any new concrete deserts and agro-industrial wastelands. The rejection that is being expressed today symboizes the opposition to any enforced productivist developments, in France or elsewhere.

This project epitomizes a society and a state at the service of capital. This resistance is therefore a resistance against a republic and a pseudo-democracy that are bound to disappear.

Since October 16, 2012, the gendarmes mobiles, the French military police, have been occupying the ZAD, expelling people from the houses, and destroying the latter. The state military occupying force, on behalf of the Vinci Corporation, resorts to extreme violence on a daily basis. Hundreds of persons have been injured, including a number of serious cases. There has been a systematic use of sting ball grenades, which may cause injuries similar to gunshot wounds.

Therefore, we demand the withdrawal of all armed forces from the ZAD and an immediate halt to the airport project of Notre-Dame Des Landes, and to the building of high voltage power lines and of the EPR (PWR nuclear power station), just as objectionable.

This battle is a key step in the fight against exploitation, capitalist dictatorship, liberalism, and violence against humans and animals. It is the very symbol of the battles that need to be fought.

We are at the core of the convergence of the battles against servitude and the exploitation of humans and their environment. The Definitive Autonomous Zone rules out capitalism, liberalism, productivism, wage slavery, sexism, racism, and any form of domination and power.

This battle is meant to spread. Definitive Autonomous Zones should be developped all over the country and even go global, operating on the basis of resistance against the useless and destructive projects of our governments, and with a view to bringing about a society based on principles of equality, freedom, solidarity, self-governance, and horizontal cooperation in decision-making processes, as well as respect for the whole of biodiversity.

It is on these premises that workers, farmers, wage-earners, the unemployed, retirees, students and others, can naturally spread this resistance movement and mobilise to bring down the oligarchs and despots of the world by fighting to collectively regain the power of over our factories, agricultural production, education, health, and all the sectors that are vital to the liberation of peoples. Let us bring about the necessary changes in society and develop universal cooperation between peoples.

The ZAD, everywhere, by everyone!