In France, students mobilise against the CPE: All together in the struggle against capitalism!

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University and high-school students, future unemployed, future part-time or temporary workers: All together in the struggle against capitalism!

Since early February, despite being dispersed by the school holidays, university and high-school students have mobilised in most of France’s major cities to express their anger at the government and the bosses’ economic attacks, and against the CPE (Contrat Première Embauche).[1] And this is happening despite the blackout by the media  (especially by the television), which have preferred instead to focus their attention on the sinister exploits of the "Barbarian gang".[2]

The university and high-school students are right to be angry! 

The educational system (colleges of further education, high-schools, universities...) has become a factory for turning out unemployed workers, to fill a reservoir of cheap labour. It is because they have understood this that mass meetings of students, like the one in Caen, have sent delegations to meet the workers in neighbouring factories and the unemployed youth in the council estates to call them to join the struggle. The CPE is nothing less than organised precarity. But this precarity does not only concern the young. Every generation is affected by unemployment, precarity, and poverty.

This is also why in some universities, like Paris III Censier, the teachers and maintenance workers have also gone on strike in solidarity with the students.

The CPE is an expression of capitalism’s bankruptcy!

The ruling class and its government restored order in the face of the riots that exploded in the suburbs in November, by imposing the curfew and deporting young immigrants who had failed to show respect for their "new country". Today, our rulers want to continue "power cleanse" the children of the working class and no slogan is too cynical for them: they intend to impose the CPE  with its precarity and low wages in the name of... "equality of opportunity". With the CPE, those who are lucky enough to get a job at the end of their studies will find themselves at the mercy of the bosses without any hope of finding a home, of starting a family, or of bringing up their children decently. They will go to work every day with the fear of receiving the recorded delivery letter that pronounces the sinister sentence of REDUNDANCY! This is what wage slavery means! This is what capitalism means!

The only "equality" offered by the CPE is the equality of poverty, of being heaped up in sink estates living from hand to mouth from one temporary job to another, living on unemployment benefit or the RMI.[3] This is the "bright future" that the ruling class and its "democratic" state are offering the children of the working class!

These children’s parents are the ones who mobilised in 2003 against the reform of the pensions system. And it was Prime Minister Villepin’s predecessor Raffarin who had the gall to tell them "It’s not the street that rules!".

After the hammering handed out to the "old" workers and future pensioners, now it is the "youth" and future unemployed who are the target! With the CPE, capitalism is showing its true face: that of a decadent system with nothing to offer the new generations. A system gangrened by an insoluble economic crisis. A system which, ever since World War II, has been spending gigantic sums on the production of ever more sophisticated and deadly weapons. A system which has not stopped spreading blood across the planet ever since the Gulf War of 1991. It is the same bankrupt system, the same desperate capitalist class which here condemns millions to unemployment and poverty, and which is killing in Iraq, in the Middle East, and in the Ivory Coast![4]

Day after day, the capitalist system that rules the world demonstrates that it must be overthrown. And it is because they are beginning to understand just that, that a students’ mass meeting at Paris Tolbiac supported a motion declaring that "It’s time to put an end to capitalism"! This is why, at Paris Censier on 3rd March, the students invited a theatre company to come and sing revolutionary songs.  The red flag flew, and several hundred students, teachers, and maintenance workers joined in singing the Internationale. Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto is being distributed. In the grounds of the university, the word REVOLUTION is heard and repeated. Discussions begin on the class struggle, we hear talk of the Russian revolution of 1917 and of those great figures of the workers’ movement like Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, murdered at the hands of killers directed by the socialist party in power.

If they are to confront the "Barbarian gang" in suits that rules over us, then the young generations must remember the experience of their elders. And in particular, they should remember what happened in May 1968.

The mass strike of May 1968 shows us the way forward

In the wake of the movements that had swept the universities of most of the developed countries, the United States and Germany in particular, French university students mobilised massively in May 1968. But their mobilisation took on a wholly new dimension when the whole working class joined the struggle with 9 million workers on strike! Then, the most militant and conscious students went beyond their specific demands to proclaim that their struggle was the same as that of the working class. They called on the workers to come to the occupied universities to discuss the situation and its perspectives. Everywhere, revolution and the need to overthrow capitalism was the subject of debate.

May 1968 did not lead to revolution. It could not, for capitalism was still only at the beginning of its crisis. But the bourgeois had the fright of their lives. And if the government managed to get control of the situation, it was only thanks to the unions, which did everything they could to send the strikers back to work; it was thanks to the left-wing parties, the very ones who pretend to defend the workers’ interests, who called for participation in the elections called by De Gaulle.[5]

May 1968 showed that the revolution is not some dusty museum exhibit, an idea belonging to the distant past, but the only possible future for society. Moreover, this huge workers’ movement showed the ruling class that it could no longer enroll society’s exploited behind the banners of nationalism, that it did not have its hands free to unleash a third world war, as it had already done in 1914 and 1939. If the economic crisis did not lead to world wide slaughter, as it had in the 1930s, then this was thanks to the struggles of the working class.

The future is in the hands of the young generations

The movement of the youth against the CPE shows that the seeds of a new society are germinating in the bowels of moribund capitalism. The future is in the hands of this new generation. The university and high school students are beginning to realise that, as future unemployed or precarious workers, the vast majority of them belong to the working class. An exploited class that capitalism is more and more excluding from the productive process. A class which will have no choice but to develop its struggle, to defend its living conditions and the future of its children. A class which has no choice but to overthrow capitalism to put an end to exploitation, poverty, unemployment and barbarism. The only class which can build a new world based no longer on competition, exploitation, and the search for profit, but on the satisfaction of all the mankind’s needs.

In 1914 the children of the working class – the vast majority no more than adolescents – were sent to the trenches as cannon-fodder. Wallowing in blood, capitalism mowed down the young generations that Rosa Luxemburg called "the fine flower of the proletariat".

In this 21st century, this "fine flower of the proletariat" will have the responsibility of destroying the decadent capitalism which massacred the children of the working class, sent to the front in 1914 and again in 1939. It will do so by developing its struggle alongside all the generations of the whole working class.

At the university of Vitoria da Conquista in Brazil, the students recently showed their desire to debate the history of the workers’ movement.[6] They had understood that it is by learning from the experience of past generations that they will be able to take up the torch of the struggle waged by their parents, their grandparents, and their great-grandparents. These students wanted to listen to those who could transmit this past to them, a past that they must make their own and on whose foundation the young generations will build the future. They have discovered that the history of the class struggle, living history, is learned not only in books but in the fire of action. They dared to talk, to question, to disagree, and to confront their arguments.

In the universities of France, it is time to open the lecture halls and the mass meetings to all those – workers, unemployed, and revolutionaries – who want to put an end to capitalism.

There is only one way forward: unity and solidarity of the whole exploited class! 

For several months, across the planet, the world of labour has been shaken by strikes in the state the and private sectors, in Germany, Spain, the United States, India, and Latin America. Against unemployment and redundancies, everywhere the strikers have put forward the need for solidarity between the generations, between the unemployed and those still in jobs.

Students! Your anger over the CPE will be no more than a 9-days wonder if you let yourselves be isolated behind the walls of the universities and schools! You are shut out of the productive process and have no means of putting pressure on the ruling class by paralysing the capitalist economy.

Workers, unemployed, and pensioners! It’s time to mobilise, it is your children who are under attack! You are the ones who have produced and still produce all society’s wealth. You are the driving force of the class struggle against capitalism!

Unemployed youth of the suburbs! You are not the only ones to be "excluded"! Today, the capitalists are calling you "rabble": in 1968, your parents who revolted against capitalist exploitation were called "wreckers".

The only hope for the future lies, not in blind violence and burning cars, but in the united struggle and the solidarity of the whole working class, of every generation! It is in the strikes, the mass meetings, in the discussions in the workplace and the schools and colleges, in street demonstrations that we must UNITE TOGETHER to express our anger against unemployment, insecure jobs, and poverty!

Down with the CPE! Down with capitalism! The working class has nothing to lose but its chains. It has a world to win. 

International Communist Current, 6th March 2006

(leaflet distributed by the ICC's section in France)

[1]    A new form of labour contract for young workers (less than 26 years old) proposed by the Villepin government. The most notable measure included in this contract is the 2-year "trial period" , during which the employer has the right to fire a worker without notice or reason. The same measure is already in application in the "Contrat Nouvelle Embauche" (CNE) for workers of all ages in small businesses (less than 25 employees). In effect, these two new labour contracts, together with the "CDD Séniors" (a limited period contract for older workers) are intended to demolish piecemeal all the existing French labour legislation and the limited rights that this currently affords to workers.

[2]    A gang of hoodlums who carried out a particularly horrific kidnapping and murder of a young shop worker in the hope of extorting money from his family.

[3]    "Revenue Minimum d’Insertion": minimum income for the unemployed, currently et 433 euros per month for a single person – in other words not even the cost of a month’s rent.

[4]    Where the French army is currently "maintaining order".

[5]    The president of France at the time.

[6]    See our article node/1711


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