("Défense d’une caution", France)
03 / 1993
Jean Cadiot, a member of the "Solidarité Paysans" Association (which gathers the local defence associations of farmers in debt in France), told us how acting collectively helped solve a conflict between a bank and a farmer.
In 1979, a baker in Couéron decided to make a loan from the Crédit du Nord bank in Nantes. A relative of his, a farmer, accepted to give a guarantee for him. Unhappily, the baker, having to file his petition, proved unable to refund the loan, and the bank decided to sue the farmer bondsman. The latter was the owner of a 9 ha (200 acres)estate near Ancenis, also comprising a farmhouse. With this small farm, the bondsman could sustain a family of 9 persons. The accrued interest had brought the debt from the initial sum of Fr 190,000 to 460,000, according to december 1990’s bank statement. The bank was about to put the farm up to auction, and even planned to sue the heirs.
Then "SOS Agriculteurs en Difficulté" (the "SOS Farmers in Difficulties" Association)came into action by creating a support committee for the farmer bondsman’s family. There were 50 people at the beginning, neighbours, near-by villagers, but one month later, they totalled 500. It was decided to organize a meeting in Nantes in front of the bank offices . This collective action idea caused the bank to give way and led to opening a negociation process. The bank is not widely known in the region, and its central offices are in Paris. The general manager of the "Crédit du Nord" did his best to prevent the meeting, giving leave to his local lawyer to entering into negotiations.
The committee could only negotiate what the family was willing to negotiate : In fact, however unjust the situation they were experiencing might be, they felt responsible because they had stood surety to the debtor. One of the sons even thought that the bank should be refunded some money, because a commitment had been taken at family level. Eventually, the 9 hectares of land went to private sale, but the house remained property of the father as long as he lived. Afterwards, the children could sell it. The heirs would be spared any suing.
The "SOS Farmers in Difficulties" Association organised a festival to celebrate this victory and prepared a text so that the participants might debate over the experiment.
Collective action is not enough, therefore it has to be acccompanied with information and training actions. Defence of persons who accept to as an a guarantor is the best way to guarantee social balance. It is quite clear that nowadays banks are reaching the level of law abuse. If we can make the future bondsmen aware of the objective reality of their rights, the bank will have to declare on which grounds it has trusted the borrower’s project (which banks never do). Besides, the "bondsman" will be able to ascertain warrants from the borrower, such as bailings, etc . Finally, through this information, people will become aware of what they are signing. This is long term action, though vital to reach a level of law in comformity with the interests and will of future "bondsmen".
The result of this action is not simply a judicial victory but a social pressure victory. This generation of law is the result of militating motivation. It was not the law itself that permitted the victory, but rather the building up of social pressure.
This action can be inscribed in the scope of the legal practice developed by "SOS Agriculteurs en difficulté" ("SOS farmers in Difficulties")associations which, since 1985, have been striving to support, defend, inform and train small producers and breeders, the victims of the European agriculture policy current ...
Original card in French in Dph data base. The ’title/sub-title’ field corresponds to the ’translated title’ field in the French card.
This experience was recounted during a meeting of Juristes-Solidarités (27/2/1993). Two other cards on "farmers in difficulties": "Explosion de solidarités nouvelles en agriculture" = Explosion of new solidarity movements in farming (1°Synthesis)et "SOS Agriculteurs en Difficulté" = SOS Farmers in difficulties (Courrier de Juristes-Solidarités n°1).
Solidarités Paysans, CADIOT, Jean, 104 rue Robespierre - 93170 Bagnolet - France - Tel : 43 63 83 83, person to contact: BIJON, Mari Jo
Compte rendu de colloque, conférence, séminaire,…