The changing face of the anti-CPE movement

The CPE France blog takes a look back at the past fortnight and traces the changing face of the anti-CPE protests.

Submitted by alibi on March 23, 2006

From being a university student led movement centred around their campus buildings, the protest has become something '1000 times as revolutionary' according to France Soir.

It is hard to believe that only ten days ago, much of the mainstream media were comparing this revolt to an attempt to recreate 1968. It was labelled 'a middle class revolt', and some right-wing critics were condemning these students as selfish, in aiming to block a law that they believed would help the deprived youths of the banlieue.

Since then, the face of this movement has changed substantially. Today, the momentum now comes from high-school students of all classes. On Monday, some 313 high schools were shut as a result of anti-CPE blockades, strikes, or in some cases as a security measure. On Tuesday that number had nearly tripled, with 814 schools affected; the “movement grew amongst high-school pupils more and more”, as Le Figaro put it.

This represented around 19% of all French high schools. The FIDL pupils union body but the figure at around 25%. By Wednesday, it appeared that the Ministry had stopped releasing such figures.

On Saturday, we carried the analysis of the Financial Times, who had gone to the suburbs to find out what people in the 93 (the departement most associated with the socially excluded youths who rioted last November) actually thought of the CPE. Their headline said it all: "French poor and students keen not to be 'Kleenex generation"

On Monday, we reported the afternoon riot of up to 500 school students in Drancy, Seine-Saint-Denis. By Tuesday, altercations were now being reported in Courneuve, Raincy, Saint-Ouen, Lilas, Bobigny, and Clichy-sous-Bois.

On Wednesday, clashes were reported in Noisy-le-Sec and Villepinte. Elsewhere, the Independent said that "a group of 200 to 300 pupils from two schools stoned riot police and smashed car windows after trying to halt lessons at a lycee in Blanc-Mesnil, in the département of Seine-Saint-Denis, north of Paris."

But the this form of unrest has not been confined to the suburbs of Paris, in Corsica on Monday, riots erupted as Nicolas Sarkozy visited the island. Yesterday, youths rioted again outside the Sorbonne.

And of course, at the weekend, rioting was reported in Rennes, Tours, Lille and Nantes, whilst in Paris hundreds fought running battles with the CRS in the Place de la Nation. Prior to this, several days of rioting had ensued in the vicinity of the Sorbonne, after students had been evicted from the occupied campus nearly two weeks ago.

How very long ago that now seems. A movement born largely within the occupied campuses of French universities has morphed into a protest that now includes almost all young French people.

One thing though has not changed - it is still the opposition to the casualisation of labour, the threat of job precariousness and the CPE that unites the youths. At this stage at least, they are demanding nothing more and nothing less than the withdrawal of this law.