Socialist Worker

Student revolt in France grows despite state repression

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2495

Students in Paris barricade their college

Students in Paris barricade their college (Pic: Jules Rondeau)


The student revolt against France’s new employment law grew further yesterday, Thursday, despite manoeuvring by the government and attacks from cops and university bosses.

Students shut down their colleges and universities, in many cases barricading the entrances, then took to the town centres to march.

The biggest student union, Unef, said that the numbers on the demonstrations had increased by from last week. Then students were protesting alongside trade unionists and mobilised 100,000. This week 150,000 students took to the streets.

Student protests against the new employment law have been steadily growing

Student protests against the new employment law have been steadily growing (Pic: Photothèque Rouge/JMB)

More college students from the working class suburbs were reported to have joined the demonstration in Paris.

The movement has been organised through mass general assemblies of students in requisitioned lecture theatres.

One of the strongest has been at the Sorbonne in Paris. It was one of several universities where bosses locked students out yesterday. So they had a mass meeting in the street in the heart of Paris.

Later police attacked students there viciously. Cops also teargassed and baton-charged protesting students in Strasbourg in the east and Lyon in the south. To see such violence under a centre left government that calls itself Socialist has horrified many.

Another stronghold has been Paris VIII university in St Denis, where delegates from every general assembly were set to meet on Saturday to discuss future action.

Jules Rondeau is a history student there and a member of the Communist Youth Movement. He told Socialist Worker, “We blockaded the university from 7am and picketed until lunchtime. All morning classes were cancelled. Hundreds joined the demonstration.

“The university has been under occupation since last week. Several departments have been fully shut down with teachers striking. We had 800 at the general assembly on Wednesday, and there have also been course assemblies where less confident students can start to express themselves.”

President Francois Hollande’s Labour-type government has tried to mollify resistance to the law with minor modifications.

In particular it has removed a proposed cap on employment tribunal compensation payouts—a major sticking point for the right wing CFDT union federation. CFDT now says the reform is “potentially progressive”.

But the key attacks that would affect most workers are upheld. Bosses could work people longer for less, and sack them more easily.

Students were not fooled—and the CGT and other union federations declared support for their action, with some union branches joining the demonstration

In practice the anger is only growing. The government provoked public sector workers with an insulting one percent pay deal, announced just as the student demonstrations were gathering.

It follows sporadic but militant pay strikes in the public sector, and could be the trigger for more walkouts, even alongside the students.

The last coordinated college student strikes in 2013 opposed the deportation of 15 year old student Leonarda Dibrani.

Now 17 and working as a waitress in Kosovo, she gave an interview this week saying she still wanted to return to France. She added, “I still hate Hollande—he ruined my life.”

This is adding up to a storm of anger that the government can't easily ignore.

New Anticapitalist Party spokesperson Olivier Besancenot spoke for many in a TV interview on Thursday afternoon. “We’ll keep going to the end,” he said. “The only place for this law is in the bin.”


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