Selected texts translated from Lèse Béton, a publication from the ZAD, 2010-2012, exploring the history and context of Europe`s largest land defense struggle.
The zine's two introductions, one by the translator and one by the original creators of Lèse-Béton are reproduced below.
For Those Who Don Know: Translator's introduction
The Zone à Défendre, or the ZAD, is an area of about 2000 hectares in western France, near Nantes, in the town of Notre-Dame-Des-Landes. Since the 1970's, elites in the area have been trying to transform it into an airport, though this project was held at bay by the opposition of local residents.
However, in about 2008, a new round of political will emerged to push the airport project forward again. To prevent the fields and forests from being destroyed, a diverse group of people began squatting abandonned houses in the zone.
These ZADists planted gardens and larger scale farming projects, built dozens of structures, opened bakeries, operated a pirate radio station, and published several papers to communicate primarily with the residents of surrounding towns, but also with the world at large. This networking became especially important in October 2012, when the state began a massive campaign to clear the ZAD by force. The ZADists rallied thousands of people to retake the site, and a formally local struggle suddenly had an international profile.
Perhaps the most well-known of the pre-eviction ZADist publications the most well known of these is Lèse-Béton. I have translated Lèse-Béton as Breaking Concrete, but that misses most of the connotations of the French verb léser, which, when hyphenated, also occurs in such contexts as "crimes lèse-humanité", meaning crimes against humanity. It has a sense of to wrong, injure, or harm, which directed against concrete could maybe be understood as to undermine.
Lèse-Béton published its last issue in January 2012, before the evictions were seriously underway. There have been some translations of ZADists texts written since October 2012, and there has been original writing in English by anglophones who are now participating on the ground. My hope in releasing these older texts in English is to provide a sense of the ideas and motivations of some of the people in the ZAD before the struggle became focussed around resisting the evictions.
More than half the Lèse-Béton texts are included here. In the interest of length, I ommitted the reportbacks on international campaigns against large infrastructural projects. There was also a crossword puzzle in every issue that is totally worth downloading the originals for -- find them on http://zad.nadir.org/spip.php?rubrique12.
An Introduction from the creators of Lèse-Béton
The idea for this humble journal sprouted three autumns ago from the acknowledgment of our own isolation. Many bonds have formed since the beginning of the occupations of the fields and houses on the ZAD, bonds that today have resulted in an extraordinary solidarity movement as the state and its army tries to kick out the recalcitrants who inhabit this woodland.
But these meetings seldom went beyond the border of the ZAD. This is what motivated some of the occupants to write and distribute this journal in order to tell why some came to live and struggle in this zone following a call from the collective known as “The Residents who Resist” in 2009. Because a struggle isn't just a fight against identifiable enemies and projects. It also involves building community and changing our lives. It starts with social relations.
The form taken by the occupation was quite unfamiliar in the local area, so it was necessary to conceive of some sort of newsletter to go between the occupiers and the inhabitants of the towns around the ZAD.
Lèse-Béton was conceived and designed as a collection of analysis and reflections about this fight and also about struggles elsewhere. All the occupants of the ZAD were not involved in the writing. This journal is intended to be the voice of one fringe from among them. These texts reflect their authors limitations; we had to shrink several articles to save space, and we didn't always all hold the same positions. Each issue was an excuse to meet over drinks. Each distribution bike ride was a chance for sometimes passionate conversations with the locals.
The pages of Lèse-Béton are not for political parties, unions, or not-for-profit organizations to express themselves. Instead, you will find in them words from occupiers who have decided to self-organize and to describe their political vision and their opposition to the airport and its world.
The texts in this journal, suspended for the time being at the fourth issue, are only one of the publications released in this struggle. The websites zad.nadir.org and nantes.indymedia.org offer others.