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(en) France, UCL AL #318 - Politics, Local activist in Angers: the Spark goes out but the flame remains (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Mon, 9 Aug 2021 10:42:39 +0300

Opened in 1997, the local association, self-managed and militant Angevin, the Spark will close its doors in July. A Mecca for local political and counter-cultural life, a fragmentary return to the eventful and movementist life of L'Étincelle. ---- When you live in a medium-sized city, you don't necessarily always have the means to be as sectarian as in other cities. Thus, at the end of the great social movement of December 1995, the groups of the Revolutionary Communist League (ancestor of the NPA), the Anarchist Federation, the No Pasaran network, Agir contre le unemployment !, feminist activists , counter-culture activists, revolutionary activists from various horizons, decide to come together to set up a local in Angers. The Spark project is launched.

In 1996 a room was found. After a few months of work, the place officially opened its doors in February 1997. The adventure was launched. L'Étincelle then became an essential place of the Angevin social movement. For our part, it was in 2002, when a Collective for a Libertarian Alternative saw the light of day in Angers, that we joined L'Étincelle and never left it until today. Since then, we have not stopped investing in this room which is for us a tool to put into practice one of the strong ideas of our current: self-management.

Self-manage the difficulties
It is clear that supporting a local activist in a self-managed manner is not always easy. How many comrades have worn themselves out carrying the daily life of the place? When emptying the garbage and sweeping is reserved for a handful, there is a real problem of organization and involvement. But until today many have been able to rely on this small minority who did their best to keep the premises afloat.

And the administrative problems did not help. The premises were initially rented to a private owner. But in the mid-2000s the town hall became the owner of the premises with the aim of destroying it as part of the "urban renewal of the neighborhood", also known as gentrification. From then on, the local found itself in a precarious lease renewable every three months. The administrative sword of Damocles was above us. Difficult in these conditions to embark on major projects. We avoid the most in a hurry, we continue our activities year in and year out.

This situation lasted for more than ten years. And one beautiful day in 2017, as we were getting ready to celebrate the twenty years of the place, we received the letter from the municipal services. We had to move as quickly as possible. But don't panic, in its great leniency the right-wing town hall offered us relocation. Faced with the rapid development of town planning in the city center, it seemed difficult for us to resist this eviction. We have therefore collectively made the choice to accept the relocation of the town hall, not without a large number of conditions. Leaving our premises on rue Maillé was not easy. It certainly had a lot of flaws, but it was our historic location, where we had built this project.

For some this decision was seen as a betrayal, we threw ourselves into the arms of the town hall. For others, including us, the main thing was to defend and safeguard the tools, with pragmatism. We would have lost everything if, by opposing this move, we had found ourselves with nothing, unable to relocate decently on our own.

Out of sight out of mind
After much negotiation, we therefore manage to obtain premises in which we could continue our activities. And the services of the town hall are clear: there will be no project on this premises for several decades ... After several weeks of work, l'Etincelle reopens its doors on Boulevard du Doyenné in the fall. We now have a garden, storage spaces in the basement, separate spaces, central heating and windows (when we told you that the old room had some flaws...).

After a long-lived quarter of a century, the activists collectively decide to shut down the Spark rather than let it die slowly.
And we continue our activities: concerts, conferences-debates, screenings, workshops, etc. But attendance is down. Already in our old room we felt things crumble little by little. There, the situation became more difficult and it was sometimes complicated to recoup our expenses.

How to explain this lack of interest in the Spark? Already we were no longer in the city center, but on the outskirts. And then other alternative places were able to open on the city. Places where the organizational framework was undoubtedly less restrictive than the Spark.

The icing on the cake, in the midst of a pandemic, while the Spark has been almost at a standstill since March 2020, the town hall is definitively removing us from the premises for the summer of 2021, this time without a relocation proposal. So what to do ? Negotiations are automatically excluded. We have nothing more to do with these people. Start again and relaunch the project in another place ? There the lack of energy points the tip of its nose. Never mind rather than slowly dying, the Spark decides to scuttle itself and declares the end of the adventure for the summer of 2021.

At the height of its means, the UCL Angers group and its activists have always participated in this adventure. It was a concrete way for us to realize that self-management is far from easy. But if we equip ourselves with the right tools, we can bring together people with very different political backgrounds and make them move in the same direction. So of course the life of the Spark has not always been rosy: attack by fascists, sexist and sexual assaults, ordinary racism, etc. But we have learned to manage all these events collectively and this has nourished the Angevin social movement. In short, we were a melting pot on many questions which then irrigated our entire social camp.

And all of that won't go away overnight. Already local projects are flourishing and ideas are flowing. We can bet that within a few weeks the city will equip itself with a new tool in the service of social struggles. And as we chanted during the May Day demonstration if "the Spark goes away, we'll still be there" !

The UCL Angers group

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