Student Unions.

In France a student union is not a place to have some cheap drinks; it is a student organisation. You may have issues with the way they are run, and I hope to be able to shed some more light on this, but the fact is that three student organisations had set up stalls and were leafletting new students.

UNEF: L'Union Nationale des Etudiants de France.
Is the largest student organisation in France. It was criticised for dragging its heels during the CPE crisis in the last academic year and there were allegatons that the police selectively arrested some of its more militant leadership. The UNEF has come out arguing against the falling value of bursaries and students support and rising costs of living. The group is prioritising a petition, they are also asking, although less prominently, for students to join the UNEF for a subscription of 20E.

Collectif pour une UNEF unie et democratique: The collective for a united and democratic UNEF was formed by 40 'militants' expelled from the UNEF. Their demands are for readmission into the UNEF and for it to adopt a more democratic structure. They also have more militant demands. Citing the example of the CPE this group encourage students to form general assemblies immediately and to begin to take action as soon as possible. The issues that they highlight are:
professionalisation: only too familiar to UK students, the reduction of a university education to a simple preparation for what 'the market' wants. They rightly insist that a lack of jobs is the cause of youth unemployment, not a lack of qualifications.
regularisation: this is the process of escaping the administrative limbo into which immigrants can be plunged. This is not someone without documentation, simply someone who has not been granted a permanent right to stay. Recently French universities have been cracking down on immigrants, refusing to enrol and even expelling them.
CESEDA: reforms to this law have made it harder to get residency in France, they believe this is part of a continued assault against the rights of immigrants. One of the aspects they have noted is that it compels immigrants to study areas where recruitment is difficult. The aim being to fill a gap in the market and to bring down conditions further.
The group are making four major demands: calling for the "regularisation" of all immigrants; the withdrawal of the reforms to the CESEDA law; for possession of a student card to equal a permission to stay; and for equal rights for French and Foreign students. The third option seems to be the most likely to be gained and as it unnecessary if the others are attained seems to be a likely site of compromise. The group also call for an amnesty for all those arrested during the anti-CPE struggle.

Solidaires Paris
: part of SUD etudiant a syndicalist student union. Unlike UNEF this group does not have a president or a leadership structure and organises within autonomous groupings, with nationawide coordination but not command. They put forward the general assembly as the only site of negotiation. This group had the most material available as well as the most radical political outlook. The group explicitly state that militant actions, such as strikes, blockades and demonstrations are the only way to win change. Whilst they cite the CPE as a success they also qualify this by continuing to insist on the withdrawal of its sister law, the CNE and the 'loi sur l'egalite des chances' the umbrella under which both were enacted.
They also make further demands:
Social payments: they ask for a salary, following the Swedish model, to be made payable to students, to remove economic pressures from studying. Free travel for students and more student accomodation.
professionalisation: Sud etudiant also are against the creeping influence of the business world on education. Of the attempts to reduce learning to preparation for work.
repression: SUD etudiant have already organised a demonstration against the repression of anti-CPE protesters.
immigration: the demonstration also called for an end to the selective process of immigration that only allows immigration according to need within employment sectors, including the threat of immediate deportation for immigrant workers if they are sacked, a rule that leaves them open to even more exploitation. The organisation also argues that a deliberate process, blaming immigrants for France's economic problems, is under way. This is coupled by repeated attacks on those of foreign origin, even if they have french citizenship.
The group attacks the bowing to 'the market' and the move within France towards the neo-liberal model that has so successfully damaged workers' interests in other countries.

SUD etudiant look to be the most radical grouping, explicitly against neo-liberalism and not pandering to nationalism (all too easy in France). However even the least radical groupi, UNEF, were about as radical as most groups I encountered at university in England and with much more hope of achieving something.

Posted By

jef costello
Sep 20 2006 19:19

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Steven.
Sep 21 2006 09:59

alright jef, right so you're doing a blog. interestin. you settling in ok? are you being a student there then?

i'll set up a libcommunity index with user blog feeds on it soon...