• Dibab : Self-organisation for political power in Brittany

    Political and linguistic characteristics of Brittany

    Like Ireland, Brittany was once united. Like Scotland, Catalonia or the Basque Country, Brittany was once independent. As in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall and the Isle of Man, the Breton people have their own language: ‘Breton’ is also a Celtic language, spoken by 200,000 people in a country of 4.5 million people.

    The word ‘country’ tends to be used by the two independentist political parties (Breizhistance on the far-left and Parti Breton, on the right). The word region is more typically used by the autonomist parties (Union Démocratique Bretonne, on the left, Nous Te Ferons Bretagne, centre-left and Breizh Europa, centre-right).

    Although the mainstream French political parties receive heavy majorities across the various elections, the independentists and autonomists do see people elected in the city and county councils.

    The French territorial reform of 2014

    What is a region within the French State? As the French state is extremely centralised the fifteen regions do not possess significant political power and have only a very limited budget to work on their local economy, focusing on transport and land issues, as well as their educational authorities. Only 1.4 billion euros is allocated to the budget of the region of Brittany which translates to 437 euros per person. There is no devolution as there is in the UK with the Welsh Assembly or the Scottish Parliament.

    Since 1941, the official French region of Brittany has been without the department of Loire-Atlantique, situated in the south of Brittany with Nantes as its main city. Since the beginning of the 70’s, the movement for the reunification of Brittany has fought to recover it. A lot of Breton people saw the French territorial reform of 2014 as a chance to see Brittany unified again.

    Between April and September 2014, three large demonstrations took place in Nantes to demand the reunification of Brittany. These demonstrations however had no influence on the French government’s decision to keep Loire-Atlantique out of the region of Brittany. The law was duly voted in March 2015: Loire-Atlantique remains in the region of Pays-de-la-Loire.

    Why create Dibab ?

    The organisation Dibab began in September 2014 as the French government was developing the new regional structure. The French territorial reform was decided between politicians most concerned with their own power who did not listen to the aspirations of the people, who did not consult the people.

    After more than 40 years of demonstrations, in September 2014 many activists for reunification realised that it was time to select another way to reach our objective. Protest is not enough. This is happening at the same time as more and more people in the French state are giving up on elections and on political life altogether.

    Taking into account these two points, a group of activists for reunification have decided to create the organisation Dibab. While some of us are activists in Breton politics, culture and language preservation, Dibab is not linked to any political party.

    Self-organisation for political power

    Our organisation has decided to organise a series of local democratic votes in Brittany that we call votations, named after the Swiss direct democratic elections that tackle societal questions and styled after the votes on independence that have been held in Catalonia since 2008. The electors have to answer two questions :

    – Are you in favour of the reunification of Brittany ?

    – Are you in favour of the creation of a Breton Assembly?

    With those two questions we want to create a debate that works toward a better future for Brittany. A future that is more democratic and closer to the people. We wish to create a space for rallying the citizens, the economy and the environment.

    As the French government did not ask for the opinion of the populace, we are going to do it! These votes we are organising and funding ourselves. As in Catalonia, the votes are not official but through their results and the sheer number of votes held there will be an impact on the debate as has happened in Catalonia. In 2008, the first Catalan town council organised the first vote, by 2015 hundreds of town councils had taken part over seven years.

    Of course, our thoughts have been influenced by the process underway in Catalonia as well as that in Scotland. On the 25th of October 2014 in Rennes, we invited representatives of these two countries to share their experiences with us while we formalized the creation of Dibab in an international meeting: Quim Arrufat (MP for the far-left political party CUP) and Robin Bruce (activist for Yes in the Scottish independence campaign).

    What would being united change for Brittany? A united Brittany possesses 2,800 km of coastline, 4.5 million people and an area of 34,000 km2 (for comparison Belgium is 30,500 km2 and Slovenia 20,200 km2). It also has an important economic potential related to the development of renewable energy, such as water and wind power.

    What would it change for Brittany to have a Parliament? The Parliament would unite all five Breton departments with the present region of Brittany. Adding the budget of the departmental governments to that of the current region, the budget of the Parliament would then be more significant: some 6 billion euros. With sufficient power, the Parliament would be closer to the people and would be able to work towards the equality of the territories.

    Votes in progress

    We have organised three votes since November 2014 in the communes of Saint-Viaud, Langouët and Soudan. There has been a turnout of 20% of the population each time (in Catalonia it has very often been around 30%). Between 75% and 80% have voted in favour of reunification and the establishment of a Parliament.

    In June, we’ll organize more votes : 8 will be in the five districts of the country. That will be 17000 people who will be able to give their opinion about the 2 questions in the votes self-organised. Here it is the towns where it will be holded : the 7th of June in Nozay and Rougé in Loire-Atlantique, Plounévez-Moëdec in Côtes d’Armor, Riantec in Morbihan, Chevaigné in Ille-et-Vilaine, Commana and Le Cloître St-Thégonnec in Finistère. People of Le Petit-Auvené will them vote the 14th of June.

    And will carry on doing so through to the end of the year !

    Fabris CADOU for the organisation Dibab .