Since 8 o’clock this morning [monday decembrer 13th, 2004], a group is occupying a Minatec’s building site’s crane, in order to interrupt the construction for a day. The occupiers, supported by demonstrators on the ground, have unrolled a banner against nanotechnologies (« here the industry of totalitarianism ») and distributed some tracts to the passers-by, calling them to join them fast.
Over with Minatec (before it starts)
…or why we’re climbing up Minatec’s cranes while they’re building it.
Minatec will be, provided nothing unexpected happens, Europe’s most important research, teaching and implementation center on nanotechnologies. It seems that most people are bound to ignore to some extent how much social and urban harms due to the existing Grenoble’s technopolis are bound to get worse: creation of an Isère Silicon Valley, fast increase of rents and trafic jams, soaring prices, mass arrivals of executives drawing away the poors to the suburbs… However, local authorities keep putting forward the fact that « this future european innovation center, designed by people involved in research and teaching, as well as local authorities, is already internationally famous1. » But, politically, socially, what does this Minatec project imply?
What on earth are nanotechnologies?
Nanotechnologies deal with experimenting on and reproducing mecanisms that occur to atoms and molecules at the nano-scale ( one nanometer= one billions of a meter). Some corporations are already patenting matter’s constitutive elements. Carbon’s nanotubes, considered as « miracle molecules » of nanotechnologies, are implemented in pharmaceuticals, electronics, aerospace industries, in energy and cloth-manufacturing. A company owning key-patents on nanotubes might gain a huge economic power over various economic fields.
When medias deal with nanotechnologies, they mention « smart » fabrics, super-strong coatings for vehicles (to reduce breaking and crumbling in collisions), but they conspicuously omit to mention what this kind of research is mostly about: more and more powerful, less and less visible weapons, biocensors and chips, destined to localize very precisely those who wear them.
In the name of medicine or progress, are being launched research programs, aiming at body manipulations, cerebral control, and human beings standardization, whose practical uses are closer to eugenistic and orwellian nightmares, and do not deal with any kind of promotion of individual liberties, or social links and diversity.
All this research work is clearly aiming at increasing more and more the state’s control on the people in the name of security (with a little interested help from some multinationals), and dependency to constantly emerging machines handled by others. In the same way as with GMOs or nuclear stuff, marketing is the priority, without any knowledge or perfect consideration of risks.
Nanotechs for war…
The most important goal of research on nanotechnologies is obviously military. State power and capitalism rely partly on war economy. The great love story between research and army is illustrated by the close partnership between CEA (Commissariat à l’énergie atomique) and DGA (Direction générale de l’armement) on the Minatec project. « Weapons based on nanotechnologies will be mass destruction weapons, and to such an extent that nuclear, chemical and biological technology can’t hope to reach2. »
Employment or life…
Even if Minatec’s morbid goals are easy to show, one of the most popular point made by local politicians to justify its existence is the usual employment blackmail. So, aren’t our lives worth more than our jobs? Do we exactly know what we’re doing when we’re doing these jobs? Should we submit to this blackmail if these jobs make us responsible of crimes and catastrophes? What power should we have upon our lives? Economically speaking, Minatec is the number one investment for the Isère departement. The figures are so gigantic- and constantly raising- that it is difficult to give a precise account. Let’s say that for Minatec, it involves hundreds of millions of euros (half of which coming from local authorities), and more generally, if we include other high-technology projects (Crolles 2 and Nanotec 300), it involves billions of euros. All this naturally contributing to the enrichment of a handful of start-ups and multinationals. Never was the investment of such amounts, with such implications, decided by the population as a whole. Allowing Minatec to build itself would mean accepting once more to surrender our powers and our lives to a future that doesn’t seem to us (voting once in a while being the only political statement the State may tolerate from us). There’s no reason why we should accept as a necessity the pressure put on us to yield and bend our backs. During the winter 2003/2004, the occupation of the « parc Mistral » showed (among many autonomist initiatives close to ours) that an important part of the population from Isère (and elsewhere) is willing to put its desires to life, here and now, through direct and collective action on the city.
Nor obscurantists, nor scientists…
To cut short on all sorts of silly accusations that are frequently made to criticisms of technological development in Grenoble, let us state clearly that we are neither obscurantists nor « against science ». Unfortunately, it turns out that, in this social context, potential consequences and benefits drawn by research can’t be nor debated nor controlled by the populations. Until now, this research consists only in furnishing new power instruments, gimmicks to be sold by those who fund them and naturally expect to make huge and immediate profit out of them. On the other hand, technologies such as nuclear or nanotechnologies are not neutral: they imply such degrees of specialization, power and money accumulation that they constitute an essential part of a centralised authoritarian and militarised society model, liable to protect them.
Over with Minatec…
In this world there’s not much left for us to loose (except our chains). And we know for good that Minatec perpetuates the surrendering of our lives to an economical, political and technological system whose logics point to totalitarianism. Minatec is a war project. Weapons and social control improvement will be as useful to make wars abroad, as to renforce national security and a general control of population… It is for all these reasons that we’re occupying Minatec’s construction site. Shutting this site for only a couple of hours is attempting to stop a project that we refuse. It’s an opportunity to launch once again the idea of a necessary social change, here and elsewhere. To stop and think. It seems to us essential to interrupt « development »’s headlong rush. What we want more than anything are not « revolutionary3 » (and « smart4 ») microscopic chips but revolutionary and smart ways to reorganize our lives.
The occupiers of Minatec’s building site, in Grenoble.
(1) « La première pierre de Minatec est posée », V. Grangier, Isère Magazine, p. 29, october 2004, n°56.
(2)J.P. Dupuy, teacher at the Ecole Polytechnique, Stanford University and member of the conseil général des Mines, in L’Ecologiste, n°10, june 2003.
(3)« La première pierre de Minatec est posée », op. cité.
(4)« Dossier -Minatec, une chance pour l’Isère », Isère Magazine, p. 48, n°57, november 2004.
The occupiers of Minatec’s building site