Socialist Worker

Inside the occupation movement: ‘Together we are recreating our university’

One of the strongest and best organised of France’s student occupations is at Paris III-Censier university. Marie Périn, a student activist at Censier and member of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, writes about how students are building solidarity

Issue No. 1992

We’ve been on strike at Censier for a good two weeks now and we’re entering the third week. The whole university agrees with the strike, including teachers, admin staff and other workers – it’s just the president of the university who opposes it.

This means there’s no need for us to sleep in the building overnight – it’s an occupation without an occupation! Instead we run picket lines and a series of events at the university site from 7am to 9pm each day.

We’ve made a real effort to reach out to all the workers in the university. For instance, the cleaners here strongly agree with what we’re doing and we’ve invited them to speak at our general assemblies.

Many of them work two jobs to make ends meet, so they are spreading news about the occupation to other workplaces such as the airports.

Every day we hold a general assembly that makes the big decisions, but for specific tasks we’re organised into various commissions. I’m part of a commission that organises debates and weekly concerts at the university. Next week we’re hosting a debate on May 1968 with the Marxist philosopher Daniel Bensaid.

Another commission deals with the press – we’ve been profiled in L’Humanité, Libération and on the front cover of Time magazine. Another organises the picket lines.

Together we are recreating our university – people have organised themselves and everyone knows what they have to do.

The picket lines have been very important in explaining the occupation to students and building support for it. We now get around 800 students turning up to our general assemblies.

We’ve also made strong links with the teaching staff. They came to our general assembly to tell us they agreed with the strike and picket, and that we would learn more from the experience of organising an occupation than we would sitting in lectures!

This movement is really growing. There are 82 universities in France and 60 have joined the national coordination committee against the CPE youth employment laws.

Some 45 of them are involved in strike action and 25 are completely occupied. There’s a real determination among students to win.

We’re now building for the joint demonstration called by youth organisations and trade unions on Saturday. The student national committee has issued a call for strike action on Thursday of next week and we’ll be trying to win support for that.

We are also creating links with the wider movement against neo-liberalism in France.

One of the vice presidents of the university is a member of the local no collective that organised the campaign against the European Union constitution last year. We’re going to hold a joint meeting with the no collective in the university next week.

The other key strategy is to build support for the anti-CPE movement among lycée (high school) students.

We’re sending delegates to lycées to try and get them out onto the streets. This movement began in the lycées and in the suburbs. If it grows, we will win.


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