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(en) European PGA* Conference Newspaper - Toulouse

Date Sun, 15 Oct 2006 14:45:27 +0200

Debate on Access to the land
In Toulouse we occupied a field during a week, trying to interact
with a neighbourhood that is threatened by speculative urban development,
organising autonomous building workshops, creating a garden... Then we
went to Baluet, a place occupied by a collective trying to develop
autonomy in the countryside, that has to deal with with land ownership
issues. In these two places we had debates about the issue of access to
the land, with alternative farmers or "neo-rural" people.
How can we strengthen the numerous attempts made to appropriate
land, in a collective way, fighting against speculation on land,
capitalism and patriarchy, knowing that many groups have split, and
that private property can quickly take over ?

The difficulties are huge: Under the reign of capitalism, we changed
from a farming system that produced its own food and only sold its
excess production, to agricultural companies and farmers that buy
their food in the supermarket and basically have the same lifestyle as
residents of the city. Speculation on land is rising, in some regions
rich people's secondary residences from the north occupy the
market, the "cool" opportunities to get land are sometimes just don't

Which alternatives will really be able to fulfil people's basic needs
(food, habitat...) on a collective or even global scale? This question
will become crucial with the oil peak. How is it possible to gain
autonomy in the unlivable metropolis created by capitalism? Cuban
and irish experiences suggest that urban community garden are an
important issue: creating poaches of food autonomy allows to make
cities partly sustainable , to create community bonds, to make a first
step towards global issues for many people.

In the countryside, more and more groups are developing and face
constant problems, like the power of some institutions. These
groups practice different struggles and compromises to keep the land
in the long run. Occupations often lead to buying part of the land and
buildings (like in Baluet), for which different legal tools are used.

Which compromises are most accurate when we set technical tools
to prevent speculation ? The groups willing to buy land in a
collective way in France gather as a GFA (agricultural land
ownership group) or a SCI (real estate civil society) to buy land that
they rent to one or more farmers. GFA has basically a capitalist
structure with speculative aims, but these groups, that need a legal
status, try to use this tool in an egalitarian way but on the long run
(mortgages...) many become speculative again. It seems a SCI
allows to build associative structures that one can define more freely.

To build that kind of project is, according to the concerned people
that were there, a compromise taking account of the fact that an
agrarian revolution is unlikely to happen soon, while trying to create
collective dynamics that differ from private property, to practice
agriculture and keep a few pieces of land out of speculation.
Nevertheless, this won't be enough to stop speculation: Are we not
limited with this kind of approach, to "cool" opportunities in the
margins of the system? That's when we come to the issue of
building up strength to struggle.

All kinds of questions arise: How to develop solidarity networks, be
they "town-countryside" or "countryside-countryside"? Such
networks exist in a few regions, like between urban squats (out of
which many "neo-rurals" come) and rural communities , giving
place to exchanges and helping each other. Between different
alternative rural places, some pf them existing for more than one
generation, experiences should be shared more systematically,
although it is sometimes already done through meetings, workshops,
independent media...

It's important to have in mind that some relationships developed in
the local villages can be crucial sometimes to prevent eviction or
destruction. Relationships can also be created through AMAPs
(associations to maintain proximity agriculture) or "vegetable
deliveries" systems, if non-monetary trades are possible, otherwise
the price select people on their income, making no connections with
poorer people.

Buying land is unimaginable for urban poor people. How can we
break the limits of small affinity groups? How can we make bridges
with other worlds, in which different codes and norms are used? It
demands much work of deconstruction of our norms, and also much
perseverance in approaching other environments. How to invite and
welcome people that land in places whose ways to function are
unfamiliar? A meal or working together to know each other,
discussions to identify expectations and talk about projects... A
whole work that demands much attention, that we're often not ready
to give.

De facto we are now in a paradoxical situation : on the one hand
many people are looking for places, on the other hand many places
lack people, or have even been abandoned. So it's really important
not only to make sure we keep the land, but also the group and the
will to live together.

How can we dismantle domination situations inside our groups?
Building strength against state institutions seems possible only if we
consolidate our groups, deconstructing the kind of relationships
coming from patriarchy that recreate oppression among ourselves
and caused so many groups to split up. Various tools exist: task
sharing, regular assemblies, speech appropriation groups, to make
our feelings visible and analyse our mechanisms, role playing,
external mediation, sharing experiences between different

We should also think about how much of our time do we want to
spend for survival, how much for political action, how much for
human relationships, how much for playing and creativity... Not to
fall in a dynamic of work separated from life! If the system's
constraints let us the choice...

Finally one can't separate all these issues from the global context of
capitalism, its globalisation, the dispossession we all know. In the
struggles for access to the land, one one gets to oppose to many
institutions, so the pressure we can create on them with our actions
is also necessary. Which brings us back to the interest of structures
such as PGA to help to coordinate struggles.

To keep going on about these issues we've opened up, an help to
organise la solidarity between the places, we've established a contact
list (mainly in the south-west of France, but not only thanks to
PGA), and we hope it's going to be used, depending on everyone's

Returning to the discussions on the suburbs and how to deconstruct
the normative discourses that govern us

This year, there's been a lot of actions at the Reynerie. How to
continue these actions and motivate more people ? A lot of
associations demands like Reflets following the national music fest
organised at the Reynerie.

Work has first to be done on the theme « we're not going to carry
them the good word ». It's a matter of deconstructing a premade
discourse. Not wait also that the events to fire up to act. Some
discussions have taken place at Sans-Titres after the riots. The main
observationwas to say that it was useless to to act in precipitation.
The question is rather to create long term connexions. One has to
remind the history of the relations between town and suburbs.

The question to ask ourselves first so is a bit like « what makes
that we're driven to prejugements, with premade discourses ? » We
have to express our fears, in relation to the lack of respect for our
intimate space. This fear can be managed notably with the help of
discussion groups.

The malaise of a first confrontation comes from both sides, cause by
the use to different modes of expression. Talking about the
prejugements can also have the opposite effect by creating new
psychological barriers. We mustn't forget also the collective
subconscious about the suburbs, created within an educational and
mediated contexte.

The door to door is a efficient way to meet and has allowed to rapidly
create connections. The listening was big on the part of the
inhabitants, breaking the prejugements, breaking notably the usual
veiled understanding, of the youngster with sport shoes, that the
mass medias convey.

The submission of women is an understanding coming out of the
(still too much) present social context. At the example of this group
of veiled women of the Reynerie, who intervened by taking the guns
of the anti-criminal police, during the national music fest. The mass
medias in fact constructs social closure.

The malaise also exists in a strong manner for the people of the
suburbs who come downtown by the fact they use other modes of
expression. It is indispensable to pass by a phase of deconstruction
of the cultural baggages. The cultural baggage draws its origin in our
« roots ». We should accept them, and not pacify them with a «
french way » integration. The majority of the young rioters spoke
in the mainly about their roots.

The greatest danger is to talk of an egalitarian « we », and not
taking in account of the differences to better admit them. Fighting
against uniformity is essential.
* PGA is an antiauthoritarian anticapitalist direct action network
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