Longo Maï

From Anarchy In Action

From Peter Gelderloos, Anarchy Works:

Longo Maï is a network of cooperatives and autonomous villages that started in Basel, Switzerland, in 1972. The name is Provençal for “long may it last,” and so far they have lived up to their eponym. The first Longo Maï cooperative are the farms Le Pigeonnier, Grange neuve, and St. Hippolyte, located near the village Limans in Provence. Here 80 adults and many children live on 300 hectares of land, where they practice agriculture, gardening, and shepherding. They keep 400 sheep, poultry, rabbits, bees, and draft horses; they run a garage, a metal workshop, a carpentry workshop, and a textile studio. The alternative station Radio Zinzine has been broadcasting from the cooperative for 25 years, as of 2007. Hundreds of youth pass through and help out at the cooperative, learning new skills and often gaining their first contact with communal living or non-industrial agriculture and crafting.

Since 1976 Longo Maï has been running a cooperative spinning-mill at Chantemerle, in the French Alps. Using natural dyes and the wool from 10,000 sheep, mostly local, they make sweaters, shirts, sheets, and cloth for direct sale. The cooperative established the union ATELIER, a network of stock-breeders and wool-workers. The mill produces its own electricity with smallscale hydropower.

Also in France, near Arles, the cooperative Mas de Granier sits on 20 hectares of land. They grow fields of hay and olive trees, on good years producing enough olive oil to provide for other Longo Maï cooperatives as well as themselves. Three hectares are devoted to organic vegetables, delivered weekly to subscribers in the broader community. Some of the vegetables are canned as preserves in the cooperative’s own factory. They also grow grain for bread, pasta, and animal feed.

In the Transkarpaty region of Ukraine, Zeleniy Hai, a small Longo Maï group, started up after the fall of the Soviet Union. Here they have created a language school, a carpentry workshop, a cattle ranch, and a dairy factory. They also have a traditional music group. The Longo Maï network used their resources to help form a cooperative in Costa Rica in 1978 that provided land to 400 landless peasants fleeing the civil war in Nicaragua, allowing them to create a new community and provide for themselves. There are also Longo Maï cooperatives in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, producing wine, building buildings with local, ecological materials, running schools, and more. In the city of Basel they maintain an office building that serves as a coordinating point, an information hub, and a visitors’ center.

The call-out for the cooperative network, drafted in Basel in 1972, reads in part:

What do you expect from us? That we, in order not to be excluded, submit to the injustice and the insane compulsions of this world, without hope or expectations?

We refuse to continue this unwinnable battle. We refuse to play a game that has already been lost, a game whose only outcome is our criminalization. This industrial society goes doubtlessly to its own downfall and we don’t want to participate.

We prefer to seek a way to build our own lives, to create our own spaces, something for which there is no place within this cynical, capitalist world. We can find enough space in the economically and socially depressed areas, where the youth depart in growing numbers, and only those stay behind who have no other choice.[1]

  1. “Longo Maï,” Buiten de Orde, Summer 2008, p.38. My own translation.