A report from one of our Paris correspondents, who spent the past five days in Rennes and took part in some of the anti-CPE protests there.
Rennes was interesting. I spent the last 5 days there, sampling the delights of the most militant, unified, unmediated resistance to the CPE in the country.
Rennes II, Social Sciences, was among the first universities to be occupied and it shows - while other universities, including Rennes I (hard science) which this week lifted the total blocàge, are getting fidgety, Rennes II reasserts itself. At the last General Assembly (AG), a motion was passed to block not only undergraduate courses but also also all masters and post-grad courses. There were also a number of scuffles when teachers attempted to organise secret seminars, and where prevented first with moral force then with physical.
The cops in Rennes have given up on active policing and have chosen a policy of disengagement for most actions, standing back and allowing many actions to go on uncontested for fear of antagonising the movement. This means that the blockades of the periphery that occured daily last week and the train station occupation on tuesday were both left alone by police for the first 3-4 hours. Official demos are policed by union stewards - the only state cops involved are traffic ones at the front of the march.
It takes manifs sauvage (wildcat demonstrations) to manifest the 'forces of order'. When it became clear on the tuesday that nothing interesting was going to happen at the train station occupation that had happened uncontested at the end of the demo, a spontaneous march of 2000 took off into the streets of Rennes. Moving resolutely through the streets, we were lead either by the city or by some few at the front of the march to the headquarters of the Socialist Party, whose shutters were down and which was protected by CRS and BAC.
Everything kicked off then. Cobblestones, chunks of iron, gas and flashballs, smashed estate agencies and temp agencies, BAC charges. It's moments like that - unity between student, lycée (high school) and banlieu casseurs (suburban "hooligans")- that makes Rennes so interesting. There was no tention, no mugging - unity behind the barricades. For the first time in Rennes, there were also the same pacifist scum that; along with the unions, ruined Paris for a little while. Posing themselves as human shields for the cops, standing in cop lines, they sought to deny the violence palpable in our everyday lives, the violence of the CPE, the violence of the CRS in the banlieu. After the cops launched gas and flashballs and drove us back onto a square, they took to rioting with the cops against the manif (demonstration), stoning us and defending the BAC as they launched charges and snatch sqauds.
Scum. Thankfully in Rennes they are isolated. Even the most hippy node of resistance in Rennes, the protest camp in the square opposite the old Breton Parliament, voted last week to explicitly allow casseurs into the camp. Rennes II's AG still holds policy that 'nous sommes tout les casseurs' ("we are all hooligans". The unity is palpable.
As I left with the militants I had come with, yesterday afternoon, we saw a manif of 1,000 lycéens. The militants didn't have a clue what it was about. It seemed to be heading to the centre comerciale, where a blockade had been organised for the next day. But it was a day early.
When people refuse to wait for organised days of action but just begin; when militants don't know every demo's time and place; when the cry of 'vive la commune' goes up from 2,000 on a spontaneous demo in Paris against the propagation of the CPE - we live in interesting times.
It is all or nothing.