French students have launched a wave of university occupations and other protests to express their fury at the presidential election ending with a run-off between the neoliberal Emmanuel Macron and the fascist Marine Le Pen.
Speaking from the Sorbonne university in Paris, history student Marie told Socialist Worker, “We reject the limiting of a contest to Macron and Le Pen. We refuse to choose someone who will wreck our futures, refuse action over the climate crisis, and bring racist, sexist and disablist policies.
“We know Le Pen is a fascist. We do not want her as president. But Macron opened the road to her and has assaulted our Muslim sisters and brothers. It is a really rotten choice. Democracy is more than the twisted system we are offered, We say neither Macon nor Le Pen and we will protest for our futures. We are shut out of the second round politically, but that does not mean we go quiet.” As she was speaking on Thursday afternoon, police had surrounded the Sorbonne and were harassing people taking part in the protest.
On Thursday evening armed police launched an assault on the Sorbonne, driving out students. The raid trapped around 35 occupiers inside who the police did not allow to leave for more than two hours. The assault was carried out by a special unit set up by the Paris authorities to suppress the Yellow Vest protests. Meanwhile, a group of Le Pen-supporting far right students attacked and removed occupiers at the Sciences Po university in Paris. Such repression needs the strongest response from trade unions and anti-racists.
Earlier over 600 students had joined a meeting and then an occupation at the Sorbonne on Wednesday. After gathering nearby for an anti-fascist event, they headed for the university where the college tried to prevent them from gathering. The students then began to shout “A lecture hall! A lecture hall!” until an amphitheatre was made available. They then voted to hold an occupation.
University authorities moved all teaching online in an effort to weaken the protest, but this had no effect. A rally was set for Thursday evening to demand the right of refugees—from Ukraine and everywhere else—to come to the university.
Some education unions backed the occupation saying, “Whatever the different judgments may be on the forms of action chosen, it seems to us that the desire to meet to discuss the current political situation is legitimate, at such a time when the extreme right is at the gates of power.”
At ENS Jourdan in Paris, and Science Po Nancy students also occupied university buildings. Students at ENS Jourdan since Monday said, “We refuse to be reduced to the possibility of ultra-liberalism and fascism in the second round.”
Sciences Po students said, “The qualified candidates in the second round of the presidential election are putting our future at risk. Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen neglect our social, ecological, feminist and anti-racist concerns. We cannot and do not want to endure another five years of unbridled liberalism or authoritarian nationalism.
“We do not deny the results of the elections which resulted after a democratic consultation, but we want to block the ideas of the extreme right, hatred and racism and unite against their rise to power. Faced with the authoritarian exercise of power by Emmanuel Macron, who, with the complacency of the media, suffocated public debate, leaving a red carpet for the far right, we must set up new democratic spaces allowing the emergence of ideas responding to our concerns.”
Further student gatherings were planned for Thursday evening in Bordeaux, Toulouse, Montpellier, Marseille and Rennes, backed by 15 student and youth organisations.
Meanwhile, anti-racists have called mass marches for Saturday 16 April. The anti-racist solidarity group Campagne Antiracisme et Solidarite, backed by hundreds of trade unions and campaigns and political organisation has already announced 31 demonstrations on the day. It says, “Here we are (again)! Five years ago Macron claimed to be the dam against fascism. The opposite happened.
“After five years of Macron in power, the far right has never been so high electorally. Never have its obsessions been so debated and repeated. Never have violent fascist groups been so confident to commit racist attacks and attack social movement organisations.
“Never has the candidate of the status quo power announced so much his intention to harass migrants and undocumented people, to attack foreigners and tear down social achievements. His Minister of the Interior even finds the far right candidate ‘too soft’! Wherever we come from, wherever we were born, from Ukraine, Syria, Sudan, Mali or France, our country is called solidarity. In every neighbourhood, in every village, in every city, let’s take up resistance.”
Students and anti-racists are showing the way forward to construct an opposition to whoever wins on 24 April.
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