ICC intervention in the movement against the CPE

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Revolutionary organisations of the proletariat have the responsibility to make a clear and determined intervention in the struggles of the working class. They are also responsible for giving an account in their press of the intervention they have made. Because the ICC was able to identify the proletarian nature of the movement of students against the CPE rapidly, it was able to take part in this first struggle led by the new generation of the working class.

We were present in the demonstrations called and organised by the unions from the 7th February, despite the students’ holidays, in Paris and in the provinces. When we were selling our press many university and school students who were looking for a perspective, came to discuss with our militants and showed a real interest and a real sympathy for our publications.

But we were able to take part in the movement against the CPE above all from the beginning of March. On Saturday 4 March our militants were present at the meeting of the national coordination. The following week we intervened in the massive general assemblies (GA) which were held in all the universities and we were able to see that the question of the search for solidarity was at the heart of the discussions.

Starting from this question of solidarity (which the ICC has identified as one of the principal characteristics of the present dynamic of the class struggle in all countries), we intervened in the movement, producing two leaflets and a supplement to our monthly paper (‘Salute to the new generation of the working class’). All our press was widely distributed in the universities, in workplaces and at demonstrations. In addition, as in the majority of the countries where the ICC has a political presence, our organisation held two public meetings: the first, given the nature of the media black-out, on the nature and content of the debates unfolding in the general assemblies; the second, held at the end of the movement, had the aim of drawing the main lessons of this formidable experience of the young generation in order to draw the perspectives for the struggles of the working class.

The ICC’s struggle against the media black-out

Faced with the black-out and vile ideological manipulation by the ruling class and its media, it is our first responsibility to fight the reign of silence and lies. We immediately published our leaflets and articles on our website in three languages in order to re-establish the TRUTH in the face of the false information relayed by the bourgeoisie internationally. The press and TV, in every country, has shown an unending profusion of images of confrontation between ‘wreckers’ and the CRS. Nowhere has any of the media mentioned the massive general assemblies, the richness of their debates, their permanent attitude of solidarity. The ‘blockers’ were presented as hostage takers or ‘wreckers’ most of the time.

The international propaganda of the democratic bourgeoisie wallows in lies, falsification, disinformation, poisoning efforts to understand what is going on. At the time of the Russian revolution in 1917, the Bolsheviks were universally depicted as fiends with a knife between their teeth.

It is in large part thanks to the press of real revolutionary organisations, and especially the ICC, that proletarians looking for real answers in numerous countries were able to discover the truth about the movement in France.

Our intervention in the universities…

Thanks to the students’ spirit of openness, and to their ingenious initiative in putting out a “suggestion box” where all workers could put their proposals, ICC militants were able to intervene directly in the GA, first in Paris (especially in the faculties of Censier, Jussieu and Tolbiac), then in the other provincial universities. As soon as we went to the doors of the lecture theatres, as workers (paid or retired) and parents of students in struggle, to give our solidarity to the movement, we were welcomed with open arms. It was the students themselves who suggested that we speak in the GA, to give them our experience as workers and contribute our ‘ideas’. In all the universities where we were able to speak in front of assemblies of several hundred students, the concrete proposals we made were listened to with great interest and put to a vote and adopted. So, for example, on the 15 March at Censier, we proposed a motion that was welcomed and adopted by the majority. This motion called on the students in the GA to take charge of the direct and immediate extension of the struggle to the paid workers. It proposed that a leaflet to this effect be widely distributed, especially in the stations of the Paris suburbs. In the provincial universities (especially in Toulouse and Tours) our comrades intervened in the same way, proposing that demonstrations be organised to go to the enterprises, offices and hospitals, and that leaflets should be distributed in these demonstrations calling on workers to join the students’ struggle.

Our interventions in general assemblies have not had such an echo since May 68. The concrete proposals we made in all the GA where we intervened, with the aim of extending the movement to workers, were taken up by students and applied (even if saboteurs from the unions and leftists developed all sorts of manoeuvres to recuperate our motions in order to keep control of the movement, for example by making them disappear ‘discretely’ after the GA by drowning them in a multitude of proposals for superficial ‘actions’).

However, the students succeeded in partially thwarting these manoeuvres. The ‘ideas’ that the ICC has always put forward in workers’ struggles, for more than a quarter of a century, were put into practice by the students: they went to look for the active solidarity of workers by distributing leaflets appealing for solidarity and by sending massive delegations to the nearest workplaces (especially in the stations at Rennes, Aix or Paris). Above all the students understood very quickly that “if we remain isolated we will be eaten alive” (as one student at Paris-Censier put it). The movement was able to push back the bourgeoisie thanks to this dynamic to extend the movement to the whole working class, born from the openness of the general assemblies.

One of the proposals that we made, that of organising GA between students and striking university personnel, was also taken up (especially at Paris-Censier). However, the weak mobilisation of workers in the national education sector (which has not yet recovered from the defeat suffered in 2003) did not allow them to overcome their hesitations. The workers in this sector have not been in a position to join the students massively and put themselves at the head of the movement. Only a very small minority of lecturers has spoken in the GA to support the students in struggle. And it is necessary to recognise that where we have been able to intervene, according to our limited strength, the most courageous lecturers, the most solid with the students, those most convinced of the need to widen the movement to the workers in all enterprises immediately (without waiting for union directives) were essentially the militants of the ICC. [1]

Evidently, as soon as our proposals started to win a majority, and our comrades were identified as ICC militants, the unions and leftists started to spread all sorts of rumours in order to cause distrust, to retake control of the situation in the universities, and above all prevent those looking for a clear revolutionary perspective from coming towards the positions of the communist left. [2]

In the universities where our militants were presented as members of the ICC straight away we saw a classic manoeuvre to sabotage the openness of the GA to ‘outside elements’. So, at the Toulouse-Rangueil faculty (where the ‘national coordination’ was situated), our comrades who presented themselves at the door of the GA as ICC militants were forbidden from speaking by the praesidium controlled by the Trotskyists of the Jeunesse Communiste Revolutionnaire (youth organisation of the LCR of Krivine and Besancenot).

On the other hand, at the Mirail faculty, the interventions of one of our comrades who teaches in the university were welcomed enthusiastically. At the request of the students he made a presentation on the movement of May 68, explaining our analysis of the historic significance of the movement.

… and in the ‘coordination’ meetings

We also intervened in the meetings of the ‘national coordination’ on several occasions. On 4th March the ICC went to the entrance to the ‘coordination’ meeting which was held in Paris to distribute our press (which was welcomed by a large number of students) and attempted to intervene within the assembly. After two hours of debate the GA voted on the principle of allowing ‘outside observers’ into the hall, but without speaking rights.

However, faced with these politicians’ manoeuvres to close the GA and prevent us from speaking, numerous discussions took place among the students. It was essentially the non-union students, who did not belong to any political organisation, who were most determined to unmask the sabotaging manoeuvres of the UNEF and the leftists. At Paris-Censier the students decided to allow ‘outside elements’ to speak and to open the GA to workers who came to solidarise with their movement.

So our comrades, parents of students in struggle, were able to intervene in the 8 March meeting of the ‘Francilienne coordination’ to defend the necessity to widen the struggle by going to look for the solidarity of workers (especially in the public sector such as the SNCF, hospitals and post).

At the end of the movement we saw the manoeuvres of the politicos in the ‘coordination’ (infiltrated by the whole ‘broad church’ of the left, from the Socialist Party to the Trotskyists, who viewed the students as fair game and the universities as a hunting ground) to sabotage the dynamic of openness at the meeting of the ‘national coordination’ held a Lyon, just before the official withdrawal of the CPE, on 8 and 9 April. Not being able to keep ICC militants out of the meeting completely, without discrediting themselves in the eyes of the students, the ‘leaders’ of the ‘coordination’ succeeded in voting through the denial of speaking rights to … ‘outside observers’! This assembly of delegates (who, for the most part, had come without any clear mandate from their universities) was a real fiasco: for 2 days the specialists in sabotage made the delegations of students vote on what they must put to the vote! Many students left sickened by this ‘national coordination’ meeting and turned again to the orientations we had put before the GA. They showed great maturity, courage and remarkable intelligence in voting for the lifting of the blockade of the universities after the withdrawal of the CPE, in order to avoid falling into the trap of ‘commando actions’ and the rotting away of the movement through dead-end acts of violence.

The impact of our press in the demonstrations

As we have always said, our press is our main means of intervention in the working class. We were able to distribute our press massively in the demonstrations (several thousand copies).

The ICC was present at all the demonstrations from 7 February in Paris, Toulouse, Tours, Lyon, Marseille, Lille and Grenoble. Our leaflets, like our paper and supplement, were warmly welcomed by many students, school students, workers and pensioners.

At the demonstration on 18 March many groups of students came to our stall to show us their sympathy. Some of them asked if they could stick our leaflets up at the bus stops. Others took our leaflets away to distribute around them. Others took photos or filmed our publications. A small group of students even said: “it’s fantastic to see your publications in all these languages: evidently you are the only real internationalists”. Others came several times to thank us for the ICC’s support for the students “in making our movement and our GA known about in other countries” in the face of the lies hawked by they media. It is precisely because of this evident sympathy that the Stalinist bigwigs and the union stewards didn’t dare attack us as they had at the 7 March demonstration.

In the whole history of the ICC, our intervention in a class movement has never had such an impact. We have never had so many discussions with so many demonstrators of all generations, and especially among the young looking for a historic perspective.

It is obvious that the ICC press was a real reference point in the demonstrations, among a stream of leaflets by tiny groups (leftist and anarchistic), each one more ‘radical’ than the next, and which grew like mushrooms on the streets of the capital as in most of the large provincial cities.

The sympathy shown to us by a large number of students and workers who were mobilised in the demonstrations encourages us to continue our activities with great determination. If today we can draw a very positive balance sheet of the echo of our intervention in the movement against the CPE, it’s not to congratulate ourselves. It is because the opening of the new generation to revolutionary ideas is a sign of the maturation of consciousness within the working class.

Just as our intervention contributed to developing the confidence of the young generation in their own strength, the enthusiasm it aroused cannot fail to strengthen our own confidence in the historic potential of the working class.

In spite of the democratic, unionist and reformist illusions that still weigh very heavily on the consciousness of the young generations, their spirit of openness to revolutionary ideas, their will to reflect and debate, show the great maturity and depth of this movement, its enormous promise for the future.

Sofiane, June ‘06.

[1] In fact we have been able to see with our own eyes that the great majority of teachers in the universities where we intervened (in Paris and in the provinces) were conspicuous by their silence within the students’ GA. Some were even openly opposed to the movement, as at the faculty of clinical ‘human’ sciences at Paris 7-Jussieu (sometimes having no scruples about using violence against the student “blockers”). In other universities the licensed ideologues of the bourgeois democratic state made out that they ‘supported’ the movement in words, to better imprison it with the reformist ideology of the ‘broad church’ of the left. In reality, by their position in the movement, many of the professors in ‘higher’ education showed that they belong, not to the working class, but to a class with no future in history: the petty bourgeois ‘intelligentsia’ (whose main political role is the dissemination of ruling class ideology in the universities). All these boot-lickers, short of ideas, contributed to injecting the democratic values of citizenship and trade unionism enshrined on the banners of our beautiful republic. This was when they were not smugly carrying out the orders of Monsieur Gilles De Robien (whose grossest TV appearance showed him exhibiting books he claimed had been torn up by students at the Sorbonne!): supporting the police, informing on strikers and certainly taking exam sanctions against ‘agitators’.

[2] Towards the end of the movement a number of students from the universities at the spearhead of the movement (like Censier) and who were most favourable to our interventions, suddenly took a step backwards: “What you say is good, but we don’t want to make a revolution, we just want to get rid of the CPE”; “You are too critical of the unions. We can’t struggle without unions”. Or again: “we don’t want to be recruited by political organisations. Our movement must be apolitical”.

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