The movement of student protest is clearly international. High school and college students played a leading role in the movements in Greece at the end of 2008, following the police murder of a young anarchist, and they have been active in the various general strikes against the government’s austerity packages. The movement in Greece in 2008 showed a very high degree of internationalism in many of its declarations, and we saw this again on 2 December, when 2000 Greek students, also fighting their own government’s education ‘reforms’, marched on the British embassy to express their solidarity with the student protests in the UK. After clashes with the police, 5 students were arrested, after which the march proceeded to the police station to demand their immediate release.
In France this autumn, university and high school students were massively involved in the widespread mobilisations against the government’s attack on pensions, just as they had been in the movement against the ‘CPE’ (a law underlining the precariousness of employment for those in their first jobs) in 2006.
But at the time of writing, there is an even bigger battle going on in Italy against the ‘Gelmini reform’ which uses the trick of privatisation to push through budget cuts and increased fees. Here is an extract from the blog Italy Calling (http://italycalling.wordpress.com), written on 1 December and also published on www.libcom.org:
“Last night the Chamber of Deputies approved the Gelmini reform. 307 votes in favour, 252 against, 7 abstained. The reform will be passed over to the Senate on 9th December for its 3rd reading, then to the Chamber of Deputies again for the final vote.
Today thousands of students went back to the streets. Assemblies and meetings are being held all over the place to decide about mobilisation tactics for the next few days, and many more schools, colleges and faculties have been occupied.
In Naples, students have occupied the train station. Up until 3pm all train circulation was completely stopped. In Bologna, students have occupied the Council House. The local airport has been broken into again in Pisa. In Palermo the students spent last night in the occupied Council House. Faculties and schools already occupied have decided to keep the occupations going till the 14th December, when the Chamber of Deputies will give its final vote.
Yesterday’s protests paralysed Italy: At least 18 major train stations were completely stopped for hours; motorways and airports were targeted for direct action and pickets. Other targets, just like in the last few days, were monuments and government buildings. The protests got fiery in Rome when students gathered outside Montecitorio (Chamber of Deputies ) and tried to break in just when the Chamber was voting on the reform. Marches in the city centre very violently charged by the police, who used teargas”
Many will be reminded of the student protests of the 1960s, which were often the swallow announcing the summer of workers’ strikes in many countries, most notably France in 1968 and Italy in 1969. But today ‘higher education’ is far less a privilege of people from better-off families. A far larger proportion of young proletarians expect to go to university as part of their training for a life of wage labour – and many are also compelled to work part time to fund their studies. The present revolt in the universities and schools is much more directly a part of the working class struggle in general; and it is much more strongly supported by the working class as a whole, who see their own children struggling against government attacks which are part of the general austerity offensive of the capitalist state. The promise of direct solidarity between students and workers is already beginning to be realised.