Nico Dessaux reports from the 1/2 April meeting of the National Co-ordination against the CPE.
THE meeting of the National Student Co-ordination against CPE gathered more than 300 delegates from 110 universities and colleges. As a delegate from the “Cross-Struggle General Assembly”, the labour movement liaison committee in Lille, I was allowed to stay as an observer for the whole debate. It began at 2pm and I left at 8am the following morning, at which point there were several votes still to take.
Our delegation (from the “Cross-Struggle General Assembly”) met beforehand to prepare our speech, which was delivered by the regional representative of the SUD trade union. We called for a general strike after 4 April, and explained that 12 unions across four regions had already called for a “renewable” general strike (i.e. voted on every day). Our speech received a lot of applause, with many delegates shouting “All together! General strike!” and singing the Internationale. The media presence was high, as the students had allowed them to enter and film this part of the meeting.
Discussions at these meetings have been very, very long. Many students are participating in large-scale political activity for the first time and don’t really know how to speak clearly in front of large numbers of people. Their speeches reflect a variety of local situations and struggles, all of varying degrees of organisation. There were also strong calls for active support of “sans-papiers” [immigrants without the proper documentation] and migrant workers.
An emphasis was placed on the necessity to blockade the country’s economy through direct action at roads, ports and railways, and the need to be mobilised against police brutality was also raised. The delegates also discussed ways to cancel their exams for the year, or at least to postpone them until September.
The spokespeople for the Co-ordination, who were elected last week after lengthy discussions (there had been strong resistance against the idea of leaders or a leadership), explained that they were finding it difficult to get a platform in the media as they are relatively unknown. As such, the movement is publicly represented by Bruno Julliard, the leader of the main students’ union, UNEF. However, most students don’t consider UNEF to be representative and it has come in for a lot of criticism due to its undemocratic practices in some of the Assemblies. Most students are also very determined to focus on class struggle, and one spokesperson explained that the only real strength of the student movement is to push the trade unions into a general strike.
The lack of coherent political perspectives led to some problems. Almost no-one talked about overthrowing or replacing the government and only talked about replacing Chirac as President. Most students don’t want to allow the “old left” [i.e. the neo-liberal Socialist Party] to hijack the movement and use it as an opportunity to regain power, so feel uncomfortable talking about the issue of governments.
It is clear that the right wing is trying to escape from this situation. Sarkozy — the Minister of the Interior — has continued his attacks on Prime Minister Villepin. The government announced that it will not provide any documentation for the CPE, meaning that even if the law passes it will be essentially impossible to enforce it. However, as the movement grows in radicalism there will be fewer chances for the right to squirm out of danger in this way.