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Sat May 7, 2016, 10:24 AM

Nuit Debout: Building An Open Movement In France’s Squares

Nuit Debout: Building An Open Movement In France’s Squares

[font size="4"]Paolo Gerbaudo interviews Nuit Debout activist Baki Youssoufou on the driving force behind the social mobilization and the inclusiveness of the movement.[/font]

What is the driving force behind this movement? Is it the Labor Law or is it something broader than that?

I think that the Labor Law is what made people join this movement. But in a way it was just the initial pretext for the mobilization to begin. Most people are coming here because they think there is a problem of democracy in France.

There are two reasons for this feeling. First, the el-Khormi bill shows that there is no difference between the parties of the left and the right. It has been made by the Socialist Party but it is essentially a right-wing law. Second, people have realized that the security laws that have been introduced in the aftermath of the November 13 terrorist attacks are endangering civil liberties. The government has used the terror attacks as an excuse to curtail our freedoms.

Nuit Debout looks very similar to the movement of the squares of 2011. There also seem to be some differences in tactics, however. For example, instead of a fixed camp, people set up tents every day and pack them up again every night. Why is that?

Nuit Debout is not an occupation because we believe the movements of 2011 have been defeated precisely because they were occupations. The problem is that when you occupy, the army or the police can always come and evict you from the square. When we started this movement we said we are not going to set up an occupation. We are not occupying this space, we are just staying here, we are using the space to have conversations. We are not setting up structures, we are not setting up barriers.
How has the police reacted to that?

They don’t really know what to do, because when they come to disperse the crowd, people let them in. The movement mostly does not react to that. It just allows them to do that. Because then, as soon as they have left, we can simply come back again. We just use our communications and social media to tell people that we are going to meet for an assembly again. We do not need to have a fixed place for that.

Can you describe the different souls of the movement? How representative is the left-wing faction Convergence des Luttes and its intellectual figurehead Frédéric Lordon?

Convergence des Luttes only represent one part of the movement. They think that unions are still the main force capable of changing society, and they work within the political party of the left, Front de Gauche. Many people in the square disagree with that. We distrust both parties and unions because we think that they have also been responsible for the present situation. ...............(more)


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