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Mauvaise Troupe: Zad NoTAV and the affective connections of contemporary struggles

The zad and NoTAV struggles in France and Italy are some of the most dynamic activist struggles today. This extract from the ebook Zad and NoTAV by the French collective Mauvaise Troupe, asks about the affective connections between contemporary struggles.

2 April 2023

Mauvaise Troupe: Zad NoTAV and the affective connections of contemporary struggles

The zad and NoTAV struggles in France and Italy are some of the most dynamic activist struggles today. This extract from the ebook Zad and NoTAV by the French collective Mauvaise Troupe, asks about the affective connections between contemporary struggles.


From occasional mutual aid to the network

One of the most obvious links between the different struggles is the occasional support they bring to each other, pooling their resources in common to confront an offensive from power. The NoTAVs go to Sicily in great number to demonstrate on the side of the No MUOs. Several cars leave Notre-Dame-des-Landes to participate in a Lyon demonstration in December 2012 against the Lyon–Turin line, or to help support the occupied neighborhood of Lentillères. There are many such examples, and they contribute to creating a circulation between the sites of struggle. And yet, these sites do not all have the same capacity to help their comrades, something that reinforces a bit the centrality of the bocage and the valley, themselves limited by the number of struggles to reinforce and their geographic distance. It also raises the politically equivocal question of the existence of ‘capitals of insurrection’.

Attempts at horizontal coordination that are supple and multifaceted have begun, like the interzad encounters at Notre-Dame in the summer of 2015, whose invitation was addressed to ‘the different components of struggles relative to a territorial development project, with occupation as the point shared in common (ongoing, projected, or terminated)’ and concluded with a call to ‘form a network’ to go beyond ‘mutual aid from zad to zad’.

For several decades, the establishment of a network has been the canonical form of organization of most of the political movements that lie outside of the classical structures of party or union. The absence of constraints that preside over reticular aggregations fills a number of the needs of each individual point in the network: preservation of its own specificity, of its singular goals, its discourse and autonomy of action. Some connections are activated, condensed or stimulated when an event occurs, and then disappear after the action, in an almost spontaneous and natural manner. In addition, the growth of the network, through mutual attraction of the parties more than through recruitment, gives rise to the thought that from one point to the next, it could extend infinitely.

But its particularity is that it is not itself anchored; the network is, in a certain manner, virtual, like the internet and the technologies of managerial capitalism that use similar terminology. It is easy to understand its popularity in the anti-globalization movement, which was expressed mostly during enormous rallies between which only an empty space seemed to exist. For the purpose of linking together grand moments in the way we link points together, the network appeared adequate. But struggles are sometimes more than punctual events, and this is particularly true of those that take root in a territory. When a real space continues to exist in all its subversive materiality, we need to construct relations that are more engaging than those, versatile and loose, of the network. The connections will draw from a different material, where the affective counts at least as much as the proximity of ideals or political practices.

Convergence or big bang

That affective connections, in their solidity and their entanglements, might be the best cement holding a vast conjunction of revolts together should not prevent our looking to extend that conjunction beyond the forcibly limited scale of personal acquaintanceship. To give the realm of emotion its part in political elaboration, against a militant tradition that, at best, relegated it to the back burner and at worst to the status of an impediment, does not mean the one can be content to subsume the other. To trace out a path in reality for ‘zads everywhere’, a path that would be more than a slogan, or a ‘party of the No’, that would indeed be something other than a party, we need imaginaries, images.

The idea of the convergence of struggles, frequently invoked these last years, has played the role of an incantation capable of overcoming compartmentalization and increasing power. But the part-timers did not join up with the salaried workers, who did not join up with the students, who themselves failed to ‘join up with’ the ghettos. These different worlds never succeeded in being reunited under the same banner. The ambition itself is dubious, and the idea of a convergence presupposes all the struggles, each as a singular destiny, could tend, in the end, toward the same point, when they each have their own rhythm, objectives, contradictions, disturbances, and so forth.

Convergence conceived of as the search for the lowest common denominator means the only unity one risks ending up with is not one reuniting that which was divided, but one eradicating all differences instead.

Nevertheless, something of the ghetto riots of 2005 was evident a few months later during the anti-CPE movement, just as something of the 2006 agitation was taken up again in 2010 by workers on strike over their pensions. Practices, ideas, and dreams too. The points in common are numerous, and not only conjugated in the future tense. They are fulcrums rather than a final end. Points of passage, pass- words, through which may transit detours and shortcuts. Around each one, solidarities are reformed, and sometimes also divergences, opening up the field of possible transformations. Thus, the participation of some of the occupiers at Notre-Dame-des-Landes in support of the refugees of Calais and moving some of them to the zad creates a blueprint for a much larger junction between the anti-airport struggle and that of immigrants. Such a junction will not take shape because of some decree proclaimed at some zadist congress, but through the multiplication of contact points, as when in Anger, a Zone d’Accueil à Défendre (Welcoming Zone to be Defended) was invented to receive thirty Somalian refugees.

The geography of struggles evokes in this way something more like a big bang, in its expansion and its proliferation of stars in formation, than the confluence of straight lines. And to find passageways between trajectories travelling towards unexplored confines, it is sometimes useful to identify what it is that seems to polarize them. The zad and NoTAV are poles around which the political lines of force of our era align themselves.


Filed under: zad