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«The London School of Economics and Political Science Wine In Their Veins: France and the European Community’s Common Wine Policy, 1967-1980 Maria ...»

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Since World War II this conflictual relation has continued, but is largely if not exclusively limited to areas of gros rouge and gros blanc. In the Midi especially, growers’ organizations are forces of combat. They view merchants as the enemy, indeed as subversive elements, as the equivalents of a Trojan horse, allowing the enemy, Italian wine, to enter the city.’48 Merchants were known as négociants, or, in the case of those merchants who were also involved in aspects of the wine-growing process (usually maturation), négociants-éléveurs, together made up the négoce. This imagery of the Trojan horse was not entirely unwarranted.

Merchants were habitually more interested in the low-cost, low-alcohol ‘gros rouge’ of the Languedoc-Roussillon, which they blended with low-cost, high alcohol Algerian or Italian wines, selling them as superior table wines. They were not particularly interested in encouraging innovation to improve the quality of wines in this area while the products they churned out were still profitable, banking as they did on consistency and decent value for price. Rather unfortunately, before the 1970s, ‘cooperatives for decades did nothing to change this situation, since most of them churned out simple reds.’49 The vignerons in the south sought ways to wrest some power from the hands of merchants, and their movement to join and increase the mandate of organised local groups in the 1970s Paul Arnaud, a grower from Ste. Cécil in the Côtes-du-Rhône, remarked, ‘…when I was president of the winery, my dream was to expand direct sales [to customers] as much as possible, because otherwise we’re subject to the will of wholesalers…we’re still under the thumb of merchants.’ From an interview recorded in Loubère et al., The Vine Remembers, 149.

Loubère, The Wine Revolution in France, 190.

Ibid., 194.

was certainly connected to their desire to cut out the middleman and was greatly intensified by the introduction of the CWP. The pressure of the Languedocian vignerons reacting to the CWP caused this issue to become a top priority for the government – the Prime Minister and Bonnet decided that they would need to ‘recherchera en permanence ‘la moralisation’ du négoce et de l’importation du vin’ and that it seemed essential that ‘d’une manière générale, les négociants seront soumis à une procédure d’agrément’,50 the idea being that, even if the details of a situation like the one above might be difficult to flesh out, in principal, the négociants should decrease their import volume, which would be another way to aid efforts to decrease imports in general, and possibly increase the consumption of domestic wine.

–  –  –

One of the major results of the experience of the Common Wine Policy for the Midi was the rise of the regional syndicalism movement. Syndicats were the broad term for unions of individuals involved in a particular trade. This movement in the Midi took form in the increase in the number of local and regional groups, of which two major types had existed in the wine industry: syndicates and wine cooperatives (caves cooperatives).

Syndicates had the longest history of these groups. Their legality was established by the Waldeck-Rousseau legislation of March 1884, which allowed industrial workers, merchants, and the agricultural sector to form syndicates to defend their interests. Syndicates were primarily known for defending the interests of their members, for example by lobbying politicians, and for disseminating important information on new regulations and directives affecting growers subscribed to them. The syndicate system drove the creation and 'SECRET: Relève des decisions du Comité Restreint du vendredi 12 Decembre 1975 à 10.30 - Organisation du marché du vin.' December 15, 1975. 19920339/4, AN.

development of several other closely linked organisations, primarily wine cooperatives, mutuals, and rural banks, as syndicates helped establish the stability of the wine profession.

The first cooperatives appearing in 1902 were largely created by syndicates to buy and sell pooled agricultural goods and produce consistent volume which would have a reliable consistent buyer. Members in cooperatives would mix their grapes together, which a négociant-éléveur would expertly blend, bottle, market, and then sell. In the 1970s, the average vigneron faced the serious challenge of modernisation, which for them meant purchasing new equipment or upgrading existing ones. Cooperatives allowed many of these farmers to pool together resources in existing organisations in which they trusted and cooperatives as a result became important sites of equipment sharing. Vignerons, through this decade in particular, were putting their liquid capital into land purchases, modern equipment, and replanting. The high cost of new farm equipment required to modernise, such as tractors or mechanical presses, meant it was prohibitively expensive for many farmers to buy and maintain this equipment themselves, and by 1975, 45 percent of French wine was made in cooperative cellars. The French government looked encouragingly upon these endeavours and as a result, these cooperatives were practically exempt from government taxes. The interest of various segments of the French government and political elite were sparked by cooperatives not only because they were useful for decentralisation but also because they were seen, for the Left, as sites of socialist experimentation.

There are two major existing interpretations of the rise of syndical movements in France. The agrarian thesis of syndicates, advanced by Pierre Barral, suggests that these syndical movements were part of a general agriculture movement reacting against urbanisation and industrialisation.51 He emphasises in particular the myth of the unified rural community and its use in galvanising those in the countryside to unite despite class differences. In contrast, Philippe Gratton emphasised the particular importance of class conflict in rural areas, an analysis missing in the agrarian movement interpretation, and discusses the nature of inequality in the context of rural areas and the idea of the universal opposition to the urban as a deliberate attempt by powerful leaders to prevent the depth of the inequality in the countryside itself from being fully recognised.52 A newer interpretation, of which the best proponent is Marc C. Cleary,53 emphasises the development of the relationship between syndicates and the state: ‘If, at their inception, most organisations sought to remain independent from the state, the pace of change in the post Second World War period, and the increasing involvement of the state in agriculture has meant that syndicates have inevitably been drawn inside the apparatus of state intervention and management. What this has meant is that government policy on such issues as land reform, price support, the development of new markets, and installation of young farmers has increasingly been mediated through and implemented by farming groups.’54 Cleary is right to argue that ‘the history of the movement cannot be understood without reference to its broader political and ideological context. Policy towards the rural exodus, on the issue of family farms as against large, capitalist units, on national and European farm policy inevitably involves broader political considerations.’55 However, Cleary’s work has scant analysis of the European dimension.

Pierre Barral, Les Agrariens français de Méline à Pisani (Paris: Presse de la Fondation nationale de sciences politiques, 1968).and Pierre Barral, 'Le département de l’Isère sous la Troisième République, 1870-1940,' Presse de la Fondation nationale de sciences politiques, no. 115 (1962).

See both Phillipe Gratton, Les Luttes de classe dans les campagnes, Paris, 1971 (Paris: Anthropos, 1971).

and Les Paysans français contre l’agrarisme.

Cleary, Peasants, Politicians and Producers.

Ibid., 30.


While wine cooperatives and syndicates have had a longer history of sizeable influence in the Midi, a new group that came to prominence in the 1970s under Community pressure was the interprofessional group, which was aimed at creating links between members at all stages of production, processing, marketing, and distribution, and were given significant support by the French government through the enshrining of the principles of interprofessions in the 10 July 1975 Law of Interprofessions, in the thick of the feverish debates and negotiations over the wine crisis and the illegal French tax on incoming Italian wines. Interprofessional groups exercised a kind of disciplinary control over their members, and more often had quality requirements. This greater emphasis on quality and restriction seemed to have been picked up as a way forward – a major article in LJV announced that the issue of the coming years was quality and that the way to achieve this was via interprofessional groups: ‘There is no doubt that the only way not to find ourselves in the current situation again is to develop interprofessional measures which engage in certain disciplined methods to return to more normal quantities and assured quality.’ Before the creation of ONIVIT in 1976, the major organisations operating in the Midi were local and mostly represented growers. There was the FVTP, of which Maffre-Baugé was famously president for several years, and the Confédération Générale des Vignerons du Midi (CGVM), whose birth on September 22, 1907 was an outcome of the massive protests against serious price drops of 1906-1907 as a result of overproduction. The producers believed this situation had come about as a result of fraudulent methods in vinification, such as adding sugar or using dried grapes to make wine. The creation of CGVM, and the conditions under which it happened, set the tone for the kind of fiercely independent and militant-leaning groups which would soon characterise the Midi agricultural scene. CGVM wished to represent all wine growers in the Languedoc area but a challenge to their dominance came in the interwar period, when wine cooperatives began to organise on a departmental level. The CGVM was the lead organisation during the wine crises of the early 1950s, but its behaviour during this time prompted cooperatives from 1953 onwards to set themselves apart, as they criticized the CGVM for being neither aggressive nor firm enough in its demands, and for favouring large producers.56 One particularly strong national organisation that had a markedly unimportant position in the Midi was the Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d'Expoitants d'Agricoles (FNSEA), whose aspiration was to be the only ‘voix des paysans et réunir sur sa tête représentativité, légitimité, et unité’ and the organisation, solidifying power through the 1950s and 1960s would ‘finir par s’imposer comme représentant officiel de la profession.’57 But a region that would defy the power of the FNSEA and the trend of its subsuming other local and regional syndical groups was Languedoc-Roussillon, whose wine growers continued apace with creating and expanding the influence of their organisations, operating mostly independently from national agricultural syndicalism.58 CGVM joined the FNSEA in 1946, but this was really only in name.

For example, both the Confédération nationales des caves particulières (CNCP, since 2003 the Vignerons Indépendants de France) and Confédération nationale des coopératives vinicoles (CNCV, since 1989 the Confédération des coopératives vinicoles de France) were created by those in the Midi. CNCP was created in 1978, and CNCV made major changes to respond to the dual pressure of Brussels and modernisation by protecting its members against Martin, 'Wine Growers' Syndicalism in the Languedoc: Continuity and Change,' 333.

Ronald Hubscher and Yves Rinaudo, 'France: L'unité en péril,' in Les syndicats agricoles en Europe, ed.

Bertrand Hervieu and Rose-Marie Lagrave (Paris: Harmattan, 1992), 100.

Martin, 'Wine Growers' Syndicalism in the Languedoc: Continuity and Change.' market fluctuations and helping with vinification. The first cooperative winery, Les Vignerons Libres, which was founded in 1905 in Mauraussan, a commune in Hérault, underwent several operations and expansions in the 1970s in response to the increased wine production of other southern European countries and the grubbing up policies of the CAP.

Despite their efforts to respond to these pressures by attempting to improve their production capacity, such as by introducing electronic weighing systems and holding vinification workshops, this was insufficient to deal with the changes of exposure to the currents of free Community trade and new policies.

Les Vignerons Libres responded by looking towards more successful neighbours. The Centre d'Expansion et de Promotion des Vins du Haut Biterrois (CEPRO), centred in a larger closeby town, Beziers, was itself founded in 1973 through the union of two local caves cooperatives. Their ability to reach official status as a ‘groupement des producteurs’ on July 5, 1976, signaled to less successful groups that, despite the reluctance the two local groups may have had at giving up their independence, there was strength in numbers. ‘Groupements des producteurs’ were groups whose members provided the same product under a joint organisational structure, and who received priority in government aid and other benefits, in return for controlling their collective production level and preferably operating with set targets and quotas in mind. Between 1977 and 1979, six new cooperatives joined CEPRO, including Les Vignerons Libres, losing its proud marker as the first French wine cooperative in folding into the larger local organisation.

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