Occupying One’s Factory and Producing: Combat or Survival Strategy?

Occupation Movements
The Fragile Politicization of the Occupations of the Lip Factory (1973-1977)
By Guillaume Gourgues

Do the productive occupations of working places—and especially factories—carried out by workers prepare the ground for a global alternative to capitalism? To contribute to current debates on this issue, this article proposes a historical case-study focused on the occupations of the French watch factory “Lip,” in Besançon, between 1973 and 1977. By paying attention to the changing practices of occupation during this “mythical” conflict, by way of a longitudinal study of archives, we want to emphasize the difficulty faced by workers in terms of fixing the political meaning of production restarting within their occupied factory. As they simultaneously try to struggle and survive, workers and their trade unionists permanently re-invent the daily routine and concrete rules of occupation. According to this, the case of the Lip factory is more than an emblematic example of the “post-68” period in French labor activism, but may also question the political dimension in current experiences of occupied and reclaimed factories.

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