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(en) France, Union Communiste Libertaire AL #302 - Puy de Dome, A self-managed grocery store to revive a village (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Sun, 16 Feb 2020 09:41:04 +0200

Passing the door of the Alternator is discovering a citizen store where the concrete notion of collective and self-management takes on its full meaning. Promoting local producers, this Auvergne association allows the inhabitant of a small village to experience direct democracy while revitalizing their village. ---- It all started with the closure of the local supermarket in the Auvergne village of Sauxillanges, a small village of 1,200 inhabitants, not very far from Issoire. In order to find a solution to the programmed desertification of the village and at the initiative in particular of four women, architects and activists, a vast survey is being carried out with the inhabitants. It appears that the inhabitants are " waiting for a bulk food store, a grocery store or a friendly place " recalls Sandra, active member of the association from the start.

Everything is organized very quickly: a first group of women mobilizes and begins a multitude of research, visits co-ops, alternative places, approaches producers, examines the different legal statuses. A first constitutive assembly made up of 25 inhabitants met in July 2017 to refine the papers, the operation, the time slots. Finally, to start and cover the first costs, " keeping tables on the markets will raise 5,000 euros " .

Between July and September 12, the association is registered and premises of 100 m 2 are open. The association will have been set up in two months! Today it includes 180 members and 65 volunteers from the village and its surroundings.

Revitalize the city center thanks to social ties
The Alternator organizes workshops on ecological transition and sets up screenings-debates, offers board games, joins the Issoire toy library. A cultural association and another for migrants are being created. Clearly, " the association has become a place of mutual aid and a bridge between local associations " . Inform, advise, support and spread while being as transparent as possible, these are the group's claimed leitmotifs. Thus the association participates " in all unifying projects " like that of the rue du Trac festival, at the end of September. She also created an association called Roue libre, a bicycle repair workshop that organizes parties.

And because people meet " by working together, each and everyone talks about things that are happening in the surrounding villages, upcoming events, the latest news. The social bond is revived " .

Promote local productions
Fresh local products, organic or in conversion, are presented in bulk. Concerning the producers, Sandra reveals to us, still a little astonished, that " although that does less work for them and that the margins can be very interesting they did not immediately respond present. They thought they were wasting their time and did not really see the group's objectives " , before adding, " now, convinced of the merits of the approach, they come to offer their products. And there are more and more. The consumer also benefits thanks to the very low margins on certain products " . The Alternator therefore works very well and generates a turnover similar to that of a small business.

A great initiative should be noted: the hiring of two employees part-time for a few months of the year. It should be noted that at the beginning " this principle was not unanimous but the discussions at the general assembly (GA) ended up validating it. The people hired have been involved in the project from the start, and everyone, both volunteer and employee, is gradually learning to find their mark within the group, according to their personality and their life experience " . Difficulties, whether personal or organizational, are not all resolved, however.

Direct democracy
The collective notes that, strangely, some and some do not imagine practicing self-management or direct democracy " when they do it concretely " . They are so dispossessed of these tools " that they have to relearn how to work in a collective, without hierarchy, by talking and doing together!" But how this is organized direct democracy ? It is through the collective meeting that the proposals of the various working groups are validated (or not) and that the monitoring of their application is decided. The positions and responsibilities, the methods of each and everyone then evolve according to comments or claims, in order to embrace the multiple facets of daily work. In this way, " the collective therefore constantly refines its practices " . Yes, we can say today that the collective card works and that it saves time.

The collegial mode which governs the association allows a priori not to have a hierarchy. And if the volunteers, members end up recognizing the benefits of this type of functioning " it was necessary to achieve this result to fight some habits and remove doubts " : training volunteers in different tasks " is a challenge!"" . Is the regulation too complicated? How can we improve the functioning of the organization? Some do more than others and collective and administrative management is time consuming, etc.

One thing is clear today within the collective: members today would really need to meet more often and have adequate premises. A place where could be organized, as Sandra says, " debates without stakes, where could deepen certain points and solve more collectively the problems ... " Challenge which, given the motivation of the members, is far to be insurmountable.

To the order of the next GA: how to increase the number of volunteers, look for a larger room, organize events, parties, refreshments to collect more money, " and above all that, by owning the premises and practices, living democracy " . Because it appears that " many people make better decisions, decisions that are more virtuous for the collective, fairer, more courageous, more ambitious " .

Long live the collective !
And if there was a lesson to be learned from this adventure, " it is that we all, as Sandra declares with enthusiasm and conviction, individually, need others to evolve, that if the operation does not leave the possibility to deepen democracy, it is the latter that will disappear ... "

Thank you to Sandra, Agathe and the whole Alternator team!

Nicolas (UCL Auvergne)

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