Popular canteens, an essential asset in struggles SEPTEMBER 06, 2020 | BY LAMULEDUPAPE
They are called "Les Lombrics utopiques", "La Cagette des Terre", "The other canteen" ... Self-managed popular canteens have multiplied on French territory for fifteen years, supplying squats, disadvantaged neighborhoods, ZAD, festivals or events. Focus on a practice that is little highlighted and which has nevertheless established itself as an essential asset in the struggles.
Food self-organization at the heart of struggles
Self-managed canteens represent a popular response to the central theme of food. Feeding populations for free or at free price is not a new idea; in France, it can be traced back to the Paris Commune. It is commonly accepted that this phase of popular resistance will have been able to face initially the siege of the capital by the Prussians in 1870, then its rail blockade the following year, by organizing the distribution of bread and food (example Eugène Varlin's Marmites, created upstream to feed the working-class communities, and which continued during the Commune). The canteens were then subjected to very significant repression. At the time, food expenditure indeed represented the bulk of the population's budget, so their action was a thorn in the side of the authorities who sought to crush the protest.
We can also cite the International Association of Workers (AIT) which then set up the first cooperative of canteens for workers, a sort of network comparable to our current AMAPs. More recently, in Chile, the role of popular canteens was re-emphasized during the dramatic socio-economic crisis linked to the coronavirus, and a surge of global solidarity ensued to support this humanist practice that came to the rescue of a population considerably vulnerable by confinement. This type of action has also tended to develop in France for several decades, and is now highlighted by a “Festival of self-managed canteens” which is held annually in Montreuil.
"In the face of growing precariousness, in the face of repression and exclusion, it seems necessary to us to create and strengthen spaces for self-organizations wherever systems of oppression are felt; and in particular in working-class neighborhoods, rural areas, neighborhoods targeted by gentrification or exclusion, spaces of struggle. "
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