A Personal Map of the Resistance Movement in France

For many reasons, the 80's, years of the Mitterand socialist government, were years in which grass roots movements got institutionalized and traditional activism was "out". The logic of the Republic (everybody is equal without distinction) allied with traditional individualism and clanic behaviour ("la guerre des chapelles") forbid the emergence of non dominant/non normalized subjectivities. This tradition is still alive today. The 68 generation didn't feel necessary to pass on their knowledge to younger generations. From their point of view, they created new ways to go about the world by themselves, so should the new generations. The notion of alternative and activism became stigmatized. It wasn't a very tactical in those years to position oneself in terms of an alternative. As a result, by the beginning of the 90, the most visible part of the intellectuals and the grass roots movements seams to be lobotomized.

If there were a strong movement in favor of the liberation of airwaves for free radios in the early 80's, commercial stations quickly and quite illegally took over those airwaves, only a few are still alive today. This set a precedent and to this day, there isn't accessible means to broacast television, outside the breaks of main stream media. The notion of public access, fairly understood in most industrialized country, is an almost inconceivable concept in France. Public access isn't a magic solution, yet in a country were diffusion was so controlled, it seem to be an emergency. Free access meant free of all excess for the legislators who for the longest time suggested that the public wasn't mature enough for such venture. It is only with the generalization of internet in 95, and the uncontrollable flux of information going both ways implied in the medium, that the government had to find an other logic. In june 98, pushed by a group of media activist, the CSA (french equivalent of US, FCC) bent the law to allow Ondes Sans Frontières to broadcast for 3 month as an temporary experiment.

Highly supported by the government was the movement during the 80's was "Touche pas à mon pote" (don't touch my buddy) and the creation of the MRAP (a collective fighting racism with a strong focus in the media). The 2nd generation of people coming from emigration had finaly a new and fairly good visibility in dominant media for a time. However, it is only a couple years ago, that the documentary "Mémoires d'emigrés" by Yasmina Bengigi managed to find funding and its ways on the airwaves. This documentary is so unique that many appropriated this document and set it as the only trace of an erased memory. Today, the movement take quite a different turn >>>>Morgnis, or somebody else should writte>>>> after a highly repressive legislation, the movement of the "Sans Papiers" managed to gain visibility through multiple strategies of resistance. Combining occupation of churches, out of which they were trown out by police force, a 2 minute film shown before all feature in most movies theater in Paris and during the Cannes film festival, hunger strike well medialised in main stream media, and a growing international force, this movement, if it manage to escape internal dissention is a mobilizing force in the public debate.

The women's questions was confined into a ministry of women affairs. If nowadays they still don't have a strong media strategies, and there is only crumble left from the ministry of women's affairs, the battle is fought on the legal ground of parity in political representation. Emergence of the works of the Penelope through their web site is extremely useful tool for mobilization. However access for women to the net is still a problem.

As for the establishment then (government and medical institutions), they were contaminating part of the population with blood stocks. AIDS wasn't a concern really since it touched from their point of view of the Republique only Haitians, and gays. In 1994, a newspaper as "Le Monde" could still title a short article reporting on the gay pride "le carnaval du sida" (the aids carnaval). In fact Act Up started to wake up the native at the beginning of the 90's. Their famous media strategies revealed the distance between political representation, medical potentats and the people represented and the patient.

In 95 things seemed to change, Chirac was elected and decided to test nuclear weapon in the Pacific. The mobilization was strong and well connected to international outcry, this was most visible in the demos which had high graphic visibility. The department of short programs at Canal+ decided to schedule an evening of gay and lesbian programs, far from dealing with the painful problem of homosexuality, it was an affirmation with multiple entries. Since then the media works as we know, the press and TV started to produce a different image of queerdom. On those grounds, today, a law is being debated in the chamber giving the same rights to gay and lesbians as to the others...

Since the fall of 95, after the big public transport strikes, the involvement of intellectuals like Bourdieu in those strikes, we see a new consciousness emerging.

Unemployed like AC!, or groups of squatters like Droit Devant, developed spectacular strategies which allow to name themselves insted of being named. Design Department, Nous travaillons ensemble, Graphistes Associés, Les Périfériques vous parlent... Ne Pas Plier are graphists. Together they managed to further this consciousness and rendered it visible, to review what representation is about.

France hasn't been for a long time a place to look for tactical media, however, tactic media cannot exist where the social resistance is not.