This book investigates the Comité Régional d'Action Viticole (CRAV), a loose affiliation of militant winegrowers in the southern vineyards of the Languedoc. Since 1961, they have fought to protect their livelihood. Using guerrilla style military tactics, the CRAV has surfaced to mobilise the aspirations of Languedocian winegrowers at moments of specific economic and social crisis throughout the twentieth century. They were responsible for sabotage, bombings, hijackings and even the shooting of a policeman. In French history more broadly, 1907 remains a strange moment, with the left supporting a seemingly anti-Jacobin uprising, Socialists, Monarchists and anti-Dreyfusards voting in unison, and the hero of the revolt eventually forsaken by his own movement. 1907 was the founding myth of viti-cultural radicalism in the Languedoc. The 1953 crisis had a transformative effect on the Languedocian wine industry, drawing cooperatives towards increased production despite government inducements to improve quality. After the tumultuous summer of 1961, the CRAV was clearly on its way to becoming a prominent force in the winegrowing Languedoc. The interaction of Oc and vine illustrates the Régional narrative which developed throughout the twentieth century. In the decade after 1976, the compact between winegrowers, local elites and the Socialist party in the Midi slowly disintegrated as a new development strategy supplanted the Défense movement's rebellious appeal. The CRAV's history ends in 1992 with the condemnation of CRAV activists as 'terrorists' by Colonel Weber.
This introduction provides an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book examines the politics of wine in the Languedoc region since 1944 to unpick the contentious issues of regionalism, protest and violence. It focuses on the winegrowing departments of the Aude, Hérault and Gard as the heart of an area that produced the lion's share of French wine. The book argues that the winegrowers of the Languedoc can be situated within this period by understanding their relationship to the social pressures which motivated 1968 activism and the after-images of the May-June events. The book argues that the Comité Régional d'Action Viticole (CRAV) became emblematic of a region struggling to react to the modernisation of the French economy. The CRAV's historical point of reference was the great eruption of 1907, the 'Révolte du Midi'.
In French history more broadly, 1907 remains a strange moment, with the left supporting a seemingly anti-Jacobin uprising, Socialists, Monarchists and anti-Dreyfusards voting in unison, and the hero of the revolt eventually forsaken by his own movement. 1907 was the founding myth of viti-cultural radicalism in the Languedoc. This chapter outlines the events of the grande revolte and how they were read at the time. Fostering inter-classisme was perhaps the greatest achievement of Marcelin Albert, the cafe-owner and small-holding winegrower who was to emerge as the leader of the 1907 events. Dr Ernest Ferroul began to assume the leadership of events, capitalising on Albert's success in creating a simple, mobilising message and constructing a unified inter-classiste platform. One of the most important aspects of the memory of 1907 was the way in which it seemed to speak to a narrative of southern difference.
The decades which followed France's Liberation witnessed rapid developments in both the Languedoc's wine industry and its structures of representation. The 1953 crisis had a transformative effect on the Languedocian wine industry, drawing cooperatives towards increased production despite government inducements to improve quality. The 1953 crisis had generated a new momentum in the Défense movement, energising new and vocal leaders to suggest tactics for resisting exigent demands for change. As the Comité Régional de Salut Viticole (CRSV) was challenged, the Défense movement underwent a period of comparative democratisation. The Algerian war preoccupied France's south, a product of proximity as much as it was of concern for the departments across the water. By combining immediacy of action, a radical message, historical lineage and a sense of grievance, the Comité Régional d'Action Viticole (CRAV) inherited and developed the ideological mantle of the Défense movement's collective experience.
After the tumultuous summer of 1961, the Comité Régional d'Action Viticole (CRAV) was clearly on its way to becoming a prominent force in the winegrowing Languedoc. In the Languedoc, the societes d'amenagement foncier et d'etablissement rural's (SAFER) presented an interesting pitfall, whereby young growers offered preferential sale could buy up marginal vineyards and uproot them for subsidy as part of the arrachage programmes. Embodying the sum of the Défense movement's experiences, the CRAV displayed a unifying radicalism set apart from political parties and dedicated to advancing the interests of Régional winegrowers. Yet 1967 was only the beginning of the Languedoc's 'crisis moment' which was to expand beyond the year of 1968. The permutations which created the nucleus of the CRAV were forged in the post-war period and the floundering reaction of the French government to the problems of the viticultural south.
This chapter analyses the interaction of Occitan (Oc) and vine to illustrate the Régional narrative which developed throughout the twentieth century. It discusses the impact of the annees 68 and notes that an increased national appetite developed for discussing the role of the regions in the centralised state. The newly politicised Occitan movement became grafted onto major moments of protest such as the miner's strike at Decazeville and the later peasant camp at Larzac after 1970. The alignment of the Occitan movement with the Défense movement was a worrying development for the forces of order, yet in both instances the Languedoc's republican inheritance prevented them tipping into revolutionary violence. Montredon arose as a result of the impunity with which the Comité Régional d'Action Viticole (CRAV) had conducted itself in the preceding year, now loosely allied with a group of Occitan nationalists railing against the internal colonialism of the north.
In the decade after 1976, the compact between winegrowers, local elites and the Socialist party in the Midi slowly disintegrated as a new development strategy supplanted the Défense movement's rebellious appeal. Bentegeac's plan favoured large producers and different areas within the region. In later years, the model for Bentegeac's style of modernisation came to be termed the 'Bordeaux model'. The Comité Régional d'Action Viticole's (CRAV) role as the armed wing of the Défense movement charged it with resisting these notionally external challenges - essentially becoming the voice of the losers in this modernisation drive. The presidential election of 1981, however, offered hope that this dip in the fortunes of the wine industry might be arrested, and that the traditional faith of the Midi in the Socialist party would presage a new era.
The year of 1984 was a turning point for the Comité Régional d'Action Viticole (CRAV), as long-vaunted modernisation programmes began to genuinely impact on the demographics of the winegrowing heartlands in the Midi. The Leclerc attack came against a background of steadily worsening news for the small-holders and mass producers of the Languedoc who were the mainstay of the Défense movement and the foot soldiers of the CRAV. The changing economic climate of the 1980s in the Languedoc was largely a product of two differing aspects of European integration: the desire to usher in a programme of structural agricultural reform and to widen the European Economic Community. The modernising agenda of Mitterrand's government remained consistent, even as it moved into cohabitation. The CRAV's violent protests increasingly drew comment about their sustainability. The Midi Libre asked if this phenomenon marked the 'burial or resurrection' of viticultural activism.
The meaningful narrative of the Comité Régional d'Action Viticole's (CRAV) history ends in 1992 with the condemnation of CRAV activists as 'terrorists' by Colonel Weber. Yet it is also possible to connect the CRAV and the Défense movement into the larger anti-globalisation movement in France and demonstrate the bonds between the core of the CRAV in 1992 and the broader 'new peasant left'. The endurance of the term peasant owed much to the organisations which had continued to fight for representation throughout the 1980s and 1990s. This was happened during European integration and the influence of the Common Agricultural Policy had fundamentally challenged the role of agriculture within modern French society. The anti-globalisation movement has translated the legacy of the 1970s Défense movement into a new force which was neither bound to the Languedoc nor reliant on the economic importance of winegrowing.
CRAV BOUM! Change and continuity in the role of the CRAV
Andrew W.M. Smith
European integration changed the context of winegrowers' demands, and opened the government up to new constraints as it harmonised with integrated markets. Despite the challenges delivered to the Défense movement in the wake of the shooting at Montredon, the appeal of the Comité Régional d'Action Viticole (CRAV) proved supple enough to withstand the shocks of changing political and economic climates. The CRAV's story offers a different view on modernisation theory, and in particular the prevailing trend of France's post-war rejuvenation. On the margins of the French state, the Languedoc experienced modernisation differently, and sought desperately to accent those changes in a series of confrontations of which the CRAV became emblematic. After electoral failure and the stain of spilt blood had excluded it from the political mainstream, the CRAV's became a story of radicalisation and alienation.