Saturday, May 12, 2018

France: Call of the National Student Coordination

Original in French available here
6 May 2018
We mobilized from 20 universities, gathered on the 5th and 6th of May at the Faculties on Strike at the University of Nanterre, and reiterate our determination to achieve the withdrawal of the ORE law [which increases selection processes for entrance processes from the current guaranteed entrance for anyone with a 10/20 from the Baccalaureate (BAC) exams], abandonment of the student plan and the roll back the of the government's whole antisocial policy. From the rail reform to the Asylum-Immigration Act, to the increase in the CSG [General Social Contribution - a compulsory payment which helps to fund France's pension system]and the reform of the BAC, Macron, the proud representative of the interests of employers, attacks us on all fronts.

For two weeks, despite the holidays and the arrival of the mid-year exams, thousands of students, in the street and in general assembly, pursue with determination their strike movement. Everywhere, convergence is intensifying with employees, railway workers, hospital workers and high school students, with a view to ending the ongoing pro-employer project. This particularly scares the government because it is this strategy that will allow us to win against a government that seeks to break our social gains for the benefit of a minority.

Faced with the growth of the youth and employee movement, the government is trying to break the student movement by all means, as a stakeholder in interprofessional mobilization. As if the intervention of the CRS in Nancy, Censier or Clignancourt, was not enough, Minister Vidal plays on the anguish provoked by the exams to try to break the strike. Final exams are replaced by online mid-year exams, homework assignments, or relocated to stop mobilization and avoid blockages. The government and the university presidents argue that they standing in defence of the value of the diplomas and the future of the students to justify the holding of the mid year-exams. But if the strike movement continues in the universities, it is precisely because of the desire of students to defend their conditions of study, save their future working conditions, and to ensure continued access to a degree for all.

In view of the national situation, we reaffirm our determination to continue our mobilization against the ORE law and will not allow the exams to interfere with our commitment. That's why we invite all the teaching-research academics, BIATSS (Librarians, Engineers, Administrators, Technicians, Service and Health staff) and students to take all the forms of action that seem most relevant to them. (10 améliorable (50% pass mark), partial boycott, automatic pass, etc.)

In the event that the examinations are held, we call for the holding of general assemblies at the beginning of the mid-year examinations, as done at Paris-1, to allow students to meet and decide collectively, regarding the holding or not of the examinations. These General Assemblies should thus decide on the score to be applied for all (resulting from the cancellation of the examination). They will also be a means for disrupted universities to maintain collective frameworks for discussion and decision-making as part of the strike.

We applaud and support the choice of the staff gathered in the CNU (National Council of Universities) to go on strike until the withdrawal of the law and to call for the retention of notes.

Anger at this government is expressed in many sectors: in hospitals, the SNCF, the private sector and the universities, among others. This is the response of our social camp against the all-out attacks of employers. The scale of demonstrations in early May has shown, one year after the election of Macron, that young people and employees are determined to inflict a defeat. Thus, we call to amplify the strike and the blockages underway in the universities and to descend massively in the street. We call on students to make May 9, a day of a railway strike, a national date for mobilization and local action coordinated nationally. Already, the trade unions of Education and the National Coordination of the Universities call to mobilize on May 16th, we call the students and high school students to make this date a day of strikes. We will also join the May 22 strike called by the public service, the day of publication of the first results of Parcoursup [the new website which will publish student admission into university].

In the coming weeks, many sectors will take to the streets, especially on May 14 and 15, respectively for the railway and hospital workers. We call on students, where possible, to support these strikes and join them. However, we deplore the scattering of sectoral mobilization dates that push the isolation of our respective struggles. In the face of a government that is attacking us all the time, we are stronger when we take to the streets together, at the same time. That is why we are calling on employees and high school students to join us on May 16 and 22, with the aim of spreading the renewable strike in as many sectors as possible. It is by the total blockage of the economy that this government can be bent.

In order to expand the movement, we seek to actively connect with other sectors in struggle. Thus, we will take part in the general assemblies of railway workers, the gatherings in support of the hospital workers and we will address the striking high school students who will meet for a new National School Coordination, May 26th and 27th in Paris.

We demand:
- the repeal of the ORE law, the abandonment of the Parcoursup system and the maintenance of compensation and catch-up system [a process for determining whether a student who failed to attain a passing average for a unit (due to missing a piece of assessment) can still have the unit count towards their degree].
- a massive investment by the State to meet the needs of the universities, in order to guarantee free, critical and open education for all.
- stop the prosecution of mobilized students, stop police interventions on universities.
-the CNE affirms its unwavering support to all the sectors in struggle and their demands against the anti-social measures of the Macron government: against the cuts to public services, the general precariousness of the world of work and all the racist and xenophobic laws

We warn about the rise of reactionary acts and ideologies and condemn the attacks of fascist militia in the universities, as well as the blocking of the migrants on the border by groups the of extreme right.

We are calling for a next National Student Coordination on May 19th and 20th at Toulouse 2 Le Mirail University. We are particularly interested in universities that have not yet participated in the CNE so that they send delegations to help develop the coordination of the student movement at the national level.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

France: The UNEF condemns police violence at Paris-Nanterre University

CW Police violence

By Angela Lopez
Originally published by Union Nationale des Étudiants de France
(National Union of Students of France - UNEF)
10 April 2018

For several weeks, students and staff at Paris Nanterre University have been mobilized against the so-called Student Orientation and Success Act. In this direction, yesterday morning, the students made the choice as a mode of action to block a number of campus buildings. Following this came a general meeting where the students were able to debate the direction to be given to the movement and the next steps to be taken in protests against the reform of the Students Plan. In response to this, an administrative closure of all the buildings was ordered by the president of the university and denied to allow students to access their course buildings.

The president of Paris-Nanterre University decides to use force against students.

Faced with the mobilization of the students, the president of the University Paris Nanterre made the decision to respond with force and to send onto the campus companies of the CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité - Republican Security Companies). Once on site, the only purpose of the CRS was to dislodge by force the students who were in the social and human sciences buildings. These are students who have been gassed, hit and worse. Many of them have been wounded, one of them seriously. Added to this is the arrest of seven students, even though they did not put up any resistance, among whom is Victor Mendez, a UNEF activist.

It is unacceptable that the response of a university to students' claims to be able to mobilize is a response of force, the police have no place in our universities!

Angela Lopez is president of l'UNEF in France's Department 31


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

France: Hundreds of thousands join protests/strikes in defence of railway workers and public sector

Lisbeth Latham

On March 23, more than 500, 000 people joined 180 protests across France to oppose looming changes to both the French National Railway Corporation (SNCF) and to France's Public sector. These changes are seen as direct pushes to privatise the SNCF and to break the social mission of France's public sector. While these were the primary drivers of the mobilisations numbers were also bolstered by striking air traffic controllers calling for increased recruitment, teachers concerned that increases in teacher numbers announced for the new school year will be insufficient to enable teachers to deliver on the government's pledge to deliver additional teaching in areas of teaching priority, and university and high school students campaigning against changes to university entrance.

The largest mobilisations occurred in Paris where marches by 25, 000 rail workers linked with 40, 000 public sector workers, teachers, air traffic controllers, hospital workers and students.

The rail workers march achieved a significant mobilisation of the SNCF workforce. This was despite not all rail unions supporting the mobilisation, the CFDT did not support the mobilisations at all, although a number of its militants participated, and that there had not been a firm call by the CGT (the largest union within SNCF) for a strike with the union instead simply calling on workers to mobilise. The size of the protest had also been undermined by SNCF management cancelling services which would have brought workers from regional centres to Paris for the mobilisation - l'Humanite reported that some 6, 000 workers were unable to make the trip to Paris as a consequence and instead joined the public sector mobilisations in their cities and towns.

As a consequence of strikes, SNCF services were disrupted with some 50% of regional services,  60% of TGV high-speed trains, and 75% of intercity trains being cancelled. In addition, three-quarters of the high-speed trains between the centre of Paris and its suburbs were also cancelled. 40% of short-haul flights to and from Charles de Gaul and Orly airports were cancelled, while 30% of flights to and from France's other airports were also cancelled. Whilst the teachers' strikes were supported by 14.5% of teachers resulting in school closures across France.

The rail strikes are primarily driven by concerns over plans for the SNCF to be further broken up and privatised in line with European Union directives. Whilst union mobilisations often have a wide resonance in France - the government has been actively trying to paint rail workers as privileged and the mobilisations as aimed at protecting this privilege. This push does seem to have had some resonance with l'Monde reporting an opinion poll conducted in early March found that the rail strike was seen as unnecessary 58% of respondents.

The public sector mobilisations are driven by ongoing concerns over Macrons campaign pledges during the 2017 elections to cut the public sector by 120, 000 jobs and the government's recent decision to freeze the sectors normal wage indexation and to reintroduce a measure where public servants will not receive pay for the first day of any period of sick leave. In addition on March 7, the government began a nine-month period of consultation around "reforms" to the public service - which has generated concern over the possibility of increased reliance on contract workers rather ongoing employment and the introduction of performance pay. In addition, there is a fear that the reforms will lead to a greater corporatisation of France's public sector following the trajectory of the public sector in other countries such as Britain, the US, Australia. Despite these concerns, both the CFDT and UNSA refused to support the public sector strike with the CFDT leadership arguing it is too early to mobilise against the reforms. Despite these two unions not supporting the action, the mobilisations were only slighter smaller than the public sector strike in October 2017 which had been supported by all public sector unions.

On Thursday evening, a number of general assemblies were held across France by militants including by student activists. A number of these were attacked by armed gangs. The worst example of this was at the University of Montpellier 2 where the Dean of the Faculty of Law had invited and facilitated the gangs entrance into the Law Building where students were occupying - the widespread anger generated by this attack across the French progressive movement forced the Dean's suspension and his and another academic being charged by police. These attacks have given impetus to student organising and helping to build campus GAs - with subsequent GAs at Montpellier involving more than 2000 people.

The unions supporting the mobilisation have been clear that this is a start of a new round of mobilisation. Workers at Air France also struck on March 23, with 30% of flights cancelled as a result and their second strike on March 30 saw 25% of flights cancelled. Air France's unions have called a further four days of strike action for April 3, 7, 10, and 11.

Unions within the SNCF began three months of rolling strike action at 5 pm on April 2, workers will carry out 48-hour strikes every three days. The trade union Solidaires initially called on their members in the public service to take public action in support of the public service on that day in the form of "gathering, actions, leafleting, demonstration ... outside of train stations, hospitals, financial centres, Post offices, job centres". The CGT has also called for a national day of protest of protest for April 17. The New Anti-Capitalist Party, which last week hosted a meeting of France's left organisations to build united supported for the strikes and protests - is calling for April 17 to be transformed into a general strike. On March 28, Solidaires held an extraordinary National Council meeting to discuss "the best ways to build interprofessional convergences between the sectors mobilized ... It is up to the workers and each sector to decide what to do next". At this meeting, Solidaires resolved to issue an unlimited strike notice for the entire public sector beginning on April 3. In announcing their strike action Solidaires stated "we know that to win, we must anchor and strengthen each mobilization to make them the most massive and visible. It is also necessary to create bridges between the employees and the users. As well as it is the general assemblies of strikers who must decide the modalities of actions and the renewal of the strikes, we must associate the whole population with the defence and the improvement of the public services, our common goods". While Solidaires is a smaller union within France's public service, their notice aimed at constructing GAs will enable it to draw members and supporters of the other public sector unions and non-aligned workers into their discussions regarding ongoing action in defence of the public sector.

While there is a clear convergence of struggles within France, there remain considerable divisions with the movement - with the left unions still struggling to unify themselves and draw in the more conservative unions. As Solidaires said in their March 22 statement "union unity is essential to face a government that seeks to reduce collective rights, to oppose and divide the population thinking that it can hide that it is at the service of the rich".


Sunday, March 25, 2018

France: Joint Declaration - Defend all public services! Solidarity with railway workers and railway workers!

Originally published March 19,  2018
Original in French

For years, successive governments have chosen to support privatization of transport against the interests of the climate, equality and society: underinvestment in rail and massive investment in motorways and cars, privatisation, which particularly promotes the explosion of the transport goods by heavy trucks.

Since 1997 and the creation of the French Rail Network (RFF - a subsidiary company which was created to run the infrastructure France's rail network it was succeeded by SNCF Réseau), the French National Railway Corporation (SNCF) is still more segmented, enabling the breaking the social character of the railways and to continue the privatization recommended by the European "directives". Today Macron pushes the logic, the destruction of the SNCF. Throughout Europe, the revenues he wants to achieve will result in the disappearance of lines, the explosion of prices, dilapidated facilities and trains, the disappearance of freight. It is the whole population that pays the price three times: financially, by creating territorial inequality and in its health impacts caused by the resultant pollution.

After 20 years of increased liberalisation, the accumulation of European directives pushing in this direction, Macron proposes to complete the privatisation of public rail service via ordinances with dramatic consequences for the users and the development of the territories. To get there, he seeks to vilify railway workers, making them look like privileged people who, just like Macron says of pensioners, students, and the unemployed, would ruin France. The reality is different: they are fighting to save the jobs of future generations.

The train is not only a means of locomotion, it is a public service, an essential tool for ecological transition and it is unbearable that it can stop at the doors of major cities. The battle for public rail service is first and foremost a battle for equality.

Faced with this government, which wants to complete the transformation of a public service supposed to be guided by the general interest of a CAC 40 company [the 40 largest French companies], the railway workers are not accountable for anything. Neither do students who lose part of their PLA, retirees who see the CSG increase, health care workers, teachers, unemployed or all civil servants. No more than migrants who suffer under contemptable policies.

Macron and Philippe want to make scapegoat? We collectively affirm that the railway workers are the victims of the liberal policies that have been going on for so many years, which explain the rise of the far right across Europe.

They want us divided? We answer that we will be on the street on March 22 to defend access to public service, starting with the railway, the railway, but also all officials and the interest of users.

Signatories Libertarian Alternative (AL); Europe Ecology-The Greens (EELV); Ensemble; Democratic and Social Left (GDS); Generation; France Insoumise Parliamentary Group; New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA); New Deal; French Communist Party (PCF); French Workers Communist Party (PCOF); Left Party (PG); Republic and Socialism.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

France - Militants, we denounce sexual violence and sexual violence in the UNEF

In an open letter in Le Monde November 28, 83 members denounce the "real control of women's bodies" imposed by several leaders of the student union for many years.

[Le Monde published this letter signed by eighty-three women, former unionists of the National Union of Students of France (UNEF), denouncing sexism and violent behaviour which they were subject to or had knowledge of within the movement. Ordinary activists, local and national leaders and executives of the organization, they are mostly from regions. They sign their first name, the initial of their family name and specify the length of time they have been active in the union. Le Monde was able to verify the identities and the commitment of each one. In parallel, we publish today an investigation revealing a "predatory system" that took place in the very heart of the UNEF.
The young women are speaking after Libération's revelations of harassment and sexual assault in the Young Socialist Movement (MJS) and the original article in Le Monde revealing the sexist behaviour of the student union. These investigations acted as an explosion in the union organization: for a fortnight, the testimonies mount. On November 16, a mailbox was even opened to receive them. Offensive, these former activists call for this release of speech affects all trade unions, political and associative.]

Tribune. For several weeks, the voices of thousands of women victims of harassment and sexual assault have risen. Generations of activists, feminists and progressives, committed to the UNEF at the local or national level since the early 2000s and members of different trends, we now also dare to denounce this violence and their systemic scale.

Many of us have been victims of violence within our organization. For a longtime, we felt alone and ostracized by the number and severity of the facts. We are now aware of the extent of this sexist and sexual violence. How have we been able to campaign with so much energy and self-sacrifice in an organization while letting women, ourselves, endure such violence?

Now united, we want it to stop at last. Some reminded us of the need to "protect the organization". This argument helped to silence the victims all these years. It allowed aggressors to act with impunity; protected them. This argument, we will not hear it anymore. Errors and deviations should now be able to be denounced, victims able to speak freely, accompanied by the exclusion of perpetrators to protect activists. In our view, this is the only way to really and effectively protect activists and therefore the organization.

A Chavinist Mentality
On a daily basis, the chauvinist mentality crushed the progressive values that we defended, notably through an exacerbated expression of physical and sexual domination. Many people praised the omnipotence they exercised over their partners, mocking degrading practices in order to shine in front of their peers and to accentuate a little more the discomfort of their female audience.

The springs of this triumphant masculinity were multiple: hunting charts, scary and systematic classification (physical attributes, sexual performances ...). In their intimacy, women were continually categorized, evaluated, controlled, and watched. Under the guise of sexual liberation, it was actually a real control of women's bodies.

The extremely hierarchical pyramidal functioning with ascension by cooptation, as well as the social dependence and the socio-economic isolation of women some of whom were only just independent for the first time, favoured the mechanisms of influence, allowing the amplification and systematization of sexist and sexual violence.

Silence was in order
We have often referred to our guilt. We had to keep quiet so as not to weaken the organization. And finally, was it so bad? Was it that? Did we have evidence of what we had seen and/or suffered? It was clear that to question the behaviour of some in the leadership would mean in turn to be accused of treason, of being unstable, jealous, bitter or of not having a sense of responsibility.

How many times have we been asked for the phone numbers of younger comrades? How many times have we refused? How often have these notorious predators obtained their contact information by other means? During the national meetings, some men made use of the weaknesses of the organization to develop particularly grave strategies: to approach their prey, sometimes very young, to make them drink, even to drug them, to do without their consent.

Those who resisted were stalked and harassed right in front of the door of their home. In case of pregnancy, silence was needed. The responsibility rested entirely on the shoulders of young women, who had to overcome this ordeal in the most complete isolation, even as cadres rose to the platform to defend women's rights to dispose of their bodies, access to abortion and to contraception.

Collective awareness
We already know a number of the attackers. We will not name them. But we will no longer avert our gaze, we will not be bowed again. We respect the victims, so we will not usurp their status and respect their word, like their silence. Because neither social networks nor forums are intended to replace the work of justice.

"United, we will help those who decide to file a complaint against their aggressors"
United, we will help those who decide to file a complaint against their attackers. We will support each other to help survivors overcome feelings of awareness, anger and multiple trauma.

To those who try to exploit this approach to throw discredit on the UNEF, we want to remember that it is also thanks to the progressive struggles and feminists discovered and begun during our commitment that this collective awareness is made possible. We also know the work undertaken by the current activists and activists, leaders and leaders of the UNEF, is also presided over by a woman for the first time in sixteen years.

Finally, we appeal to women from all union organisations, associations and politicians to take the floor in their turn. We know that we are not the only ones. One in two women in society is facing violence. To deny it is an additional violence inflicted on those who have already suffered it. Beyond our political opinions, our disagreements, our past sectarianism, what binds us is our condition as Women.

Alexia S., militante à l’UNEF de 2007 à 2010, Annaïg P., 2003-2010, Anaïs H., 2007-2009, Anne L., 2003-2008, Anne-Sophie A., 2004-2007, Anissa B.-F., 2007-2012, Anouch Z., 2007-2010, Amandine E., 2008-2014, Aude L., 2005-2009, Aude L., 2007-2011, Aurélie M., 2005-2008, Béatrice L., 2007-2010, Beril B., 2003-2008, Charlotte B.*, 2005-2008, Camille M., 2011-2013, Camille M., 2003-2009, Camille P., 2005-2012, Catarina V., 2006-2009, Catherine M., 2003-2007, Céline A., 2008-2011, Chloé D., 2010-2017, Claire F., 2010-2013, Claire J.*, 2009-2015, Coralie B., 2008-2009, Delphine B., 2006-2009, Elise G., 2009-2012, Elodie L., 2003-2009, Erell D., 2004-2007, Estelle D., 2011-2015, Eve R., 2006-2008, Gaëlle K., 2005-2008, Hayat L., 2008-2011, Hélène P., 2002-2009, Houda N., 2002-2007, Julia C.*, 2001-2015, Julia V., 2007-2011, Julie B., 2007-2011, Julie C.*, 2012-2013, Julie E.*, 2009-2016, Julie J., 2006-2009, Julie N., 2003-2009, Julie T.-F., 2007-2012, Julie T., 2008-2012, Juliette B., 2008-2011, Juliette G., 2005-2009, Katia B., 2010-2014, Lara B., 2012-2017, Lauranne W.-G., 2011-2015, Lauriane V., 2006-2010, Laurianne D., 2003-2007, Laurine B., 2004-2008, Léa D., 2011-2016, Léa D., 2007-2013, Lisa R., 2007-2014, Lorédana A.-B., 2012-2013, Louise B.*, 2007-2011, Lucie F., 2007-2009, Lucile J., 2005-2010, Lucile M., 2010-2016, Maëlle J., 2003-2008, Maeva B., 2007-2011, Manon A., 2007-2011, Margaud A.-F., 2008-2012, Margot P.-B., 2009-2014, Maria C., 2005-2011, Marianne M., 2002-2007, Marie-Anne B., 2004-2008, Marion O., 2005-2010, Marine B., 2008-2012, Marine F., 2007-2010, Maud J., 2003-2008, Mélanie V., 2011-2016, Mélodie G.-B., 2006-2009, Ophélie M., 2008-2011, Pauline G.-M., 2009-2011, Sahra A., 2006-2010, Salomé M., 2004-2010, Sandra C., 2007-2014, Sarah B., 2011-2016, Sayna S., 2007-2013, Sorayah M., 2008-2012, Virginie C., 2006-2009, Viviane B., 2007-2010 (* These first names have been modified).


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

France - Sexual assault allegations rock France's main student union

Content Warning: Descriptions of Rape, Assault, Rape Apologism
[This article originally appeared in the French left-wing daily Libération. It follows revelations in Le Monde in November of widespread sexual abuse within the National Union of Student of France - one of France's largest student organisations. It comes after 83 former women activists of UNEF published an open letter in Le Monde condemning sexual violence within UNEF. I'm reproducing these due to the similarities with how power has been abused in albeit much smaller left-wing Anglophone organisations].

Sexual abuse: the testimonies that overwhelm the UNEF
By Laure Bretton and Ismaël Halissat
February 19, 2018

Libération gathered the testimonies of sixteen women victims who have reported harassment, sexual assault and rape by leaders of the student organization between 2007 and 2015. Long inaudible, or silent, these former activists recount years of union sexism and its apparent laissez-faire attitude to sexual violence. 

When she settles down to sleep at the Fête de l'Humanité, in September 2014, Laurie* is exhausted. Having only recently become an activist of the Unef (National Union of Students of France), she just spent the day running the union stand with her friends. Like the end of every summer, this meeting of a substantial part of the left is the occasion for the organization to recruit new members. Despite the fatigue, Laurie is not going to sleep.

A member of the leadership of the union, and having joined UNEF in the mid-2000s, Grégoire T. insists on following her to her tent, pitched in the campground of La Courneuve. They have already had several sexual encounters but were not in an ongoing relationship. But tonight, Laurie does not want it. "I had planned to sleep with another activist but he invited himself, says the student. He hoped to be able to sleep with both of us. " Soon, the second young woman falls asleep. "He tells me he has the right to a blowjob in compensation, which I refuse," says Laurie. He begins to press my head. I refuse again. He is pressing more and more strongly. I beat him back again. He puts his hand in my pants and kisses me with force. And starts again for several minutes. " The activist cannot take it anymore. She wants it to stop: "I ended up letting myself go." For a long time, Laurie does not really realize what she's experienced. Today, she's talking about rape. Three years after the events, Grégoire T., who became a journalist, had another version of the evening, assuring that his partner was consenting for a blowjob and that everything went "without coercion".

A complaint of "rape"
Two years later, Laurie became a seasoned activist, she is "up" in the instances of UNEF and is now part of the National Office (NO), the body that supports the leadership. With Grégoire T., the exchange of text messages has continued since September 2014. They talk about trade union activities and sometimes invite each other to spend the night together without this ever happening. In June 2016, Laurie saw recently in a campus nearby local union in the XIXth arrondissement of Paris. That night, she drinks shots of alcohol with fellow comrades in the leadership. As she prepares to go home to sleep, Grégoire T. announces that he will accompany her home. Without asking her opinion."I told him," I do not want to, "and I left," recalls the young woman.

But when she arrives home, Grégoire T. is there and waiting for her. Laurie repeats that she does not want to spend the night with him. Then follow negotiations. Tired, the young woman finally accepts that he goes up while clearly stating that nothing will happen between them. But hardly the door of the open apartment, Gregory T. undresses completely and tells her to do the same. Laurie refuses. According to her, he forces her to lie on her bed. She drank too much, her head is spinning because of alcohol. "He's starting to undress me. I try to push him away, to tell him I do not want to, but I have no strength left. At that moment, I feel like a doll, lifeless. He rapes me. There are no other words, Laurie says coldly. The next morning, Grégoire T. will try to impose a sexual relationship again, but she will have the strength to push him away. She then locks herself in the shower and stays there for forty minutes hoping he leaves. But when she goes out, Grégoire T. is still there and retries one last time before leaving.

"I cried all day and then I forgot," says Laurie. When this story is told to him, his contests and assures that they had agreed to return together, that they had sexual intercourse without violence and that he did not insist the next day. In a relationship with Grégoire T. in the summer of 2014, Joséphine* also tells of being a victim of rape. One night in July, "I woke up because he was penetrating me," she says. I did not understand what was happening. I asked him at least to put on a condom. It stopped at that moment. " Asked about this scene, Grégoire T. explains that he was also asleep at that time.

In mid-January, Laurie decided to file a complaint of rape against Grégoire T, reveals Libération today. And Josephine, who has just surrounded herself with a lawyer, is about to do the same. The end of long years of silence in what was for a long time the premiere student union in France.

A direction where "men think, women organize"
An omnipotent leadership - "deified", in the words of a former leader - women removed from power and sexual abuse at least minimized: for several months, Libération investigated the top of UNEF. Its leaders for a few years given and expected everything from the union. Forty interviews to collect testimonies and stories of sixteen victims of declared harassment and, for some, sexual assault and rape. When the UNEF bends the Villepin government, forced to withdraw its first-time contract in spring 2006, the student union is at its peak. A year later, Nicolas Sarkozy is elected, the left is organized against the president and relies on its youth battalions. At the height of its power, the National Union of Students of France will have up to 30,000 members from just over 2.4 million students. A heterogeneous group in which it is - statistically - normal to come across cases of harassment and aggression."Not impervious to the ills of society".

After Bruno Julliard, it is Jean-Baptiste Prévost who takes the orders of the Unef in 2007. A student from Sciences-Po, this former parliamentary counsellor inherits a powerful organization where sexism and machismo have always had a free reign. In the leadership, "it was said: men think, women organize," says Marion Oderda. Former national leader, she will be one of the few to openly oppose the very personal management of the union by its president. "I will not be your pimp," she says slamming the door of UNEF in 2010, an expression reported by at least three activists interviewed by Libération. An incident and an early departure that Jean-Baptiste Prévost puts, down to a just being a result of an internal union dispute.

The Prévost presidency will, however, be marked by many excesses. Seen as legitimate by some, these practices seem to have given an implicit green light for many leaders. The UNEF then becomes a sexual hunting ground. On the other side, Prévost appears on television sets to defend the student cause and campaign against the power of the right. On the flip side, the man draws phone numbers from the union files to access multiple sexual partners. "The regional training weekends, it was the supermarket", recalls Elodie Le Moigne, ex-president of the Unef at the University Paris-XIII. "There was pressure from the local presidents and members of the national office to retrieve the numbers or addresses of activists. They were acting for themselves or on behalf of the National President". "Jean-Baptiste chose girls, it was a typical profile of girl", speaking of this side of him, Annaïg P., a former member of the national office. "They are often young, moreover provincial, isolated and beginners, so fragile. At the Unef, we say a "little girl"".

In 2009, one of them, Marine*, an activist in the provinces, thought to have kept secret the relationship she has with the President for a few months. One September night, she tries to escape discreetly at the end of a meeting to join him at his hotel. Some comrades wince but a friend of Prévost releases her with a wink, "It's the boss, when he demands something, we run." "I took it smiling at the time," says Marine. "Prévost took advantage of the organization. He did not need to be violent, he had his status as president". When an activist finally dares to complain about the actions of a member of the management, regardless of his rank, it is suggested to keep quiet. Because"Unef is not a people's court, " that "it is a valuable companion" or that one suspects always "a political machination". Pretexts to minimize. And, in fact, impose silence. "At each stroke, I was answered:" You have evidence of what you're saying? You cannot say that it's the president, " says Elodie Le Moigne. "Under the term "big rehearsal", there were many different things and nobody really wanted to see the reality that it covered", explains Sarah Aoudia, former president of UNEF Nîmes and member of the national office. "And in fact, the circle of the national leadership had a kind of invisible protection".

To "follow" the faculties for which they are responsible, the members of the national office crisscross France. During these years, also sets up a funny game, to which the members of the leadership devote themselves: to get number and address of a militant whom they spotted before calling her down from her house in the middle of the night and insist on being lodged. Methods that Jean-Baptiste Prevost completely refutes, explaining that he "never searched or found a number in the files of the Unef" and that he never chose "himself" his accommodation in the provinces. These evenings sometimes end with sexual intercourse. Then the question of consent arises. Tacitly granted, forgotten, extorted?"They were playing on solidarity, compassion and their status as national leaders: we were in the middle of an abuse of unequal power" says Maria C., a member of the organization's leadership from 2006 to 2009, for whom "many cases at the UNEF do not fall under the law because it is inadequate".

What most of the women interviewed by Libération tell us seems at least to be harassed by Jean-Baptiste Prévost. But the rest, all the rest? We enter a grey area. Initially, most activists accepted the game of seduction and sexual intercourse. And since they said nothing at the time, they fear not to be believed or to be the target of pressure from their former comrades. "To survive the Unef, you have to be a strong woman, it's impossible to be perceived as a victim," says Sorayah M., member of the national office from 2008 to 2012. "We were taught to arm ourselves, strength was valued and allowed you to progress in the union, to speak would have been an admission of weakness, adds Florine Tillié, former president of Unef Champagne-Ardenne. But the psychological consequences of such a devaluing system for women are destructive, even years later. "

Single-sex meetings and vote on a "feminist motion"

The leadership screed cracked little by little. Single-sex meetings have been in place for a few years to allow women to speak freely. Thanks to the mobilization of some leaders and men more sensitive to the feminist cause - Julie Mandelbaum or William Martinet -, the union goes year in year out to continue its change. "To blame the organization is too easy: it is about individual behaviours, explains Lilâ Le Bas, the current president of Unef. A host of sexist schemes have been deconstructed by our tools, they now allow women to speak without fear of harming the image of the organization".

In 2013, at the Toulouse congress, the UNEF activists voted for a "feminist motion". From the back of the room rises the song of the MLF (Women's Liberation Movement): "We recognize, women. Let's talk, let's look at ourselves. Together, we are oppressed, women. Together, let's revolt. " Half of the room sings to heart and applauds wildly. At the podium, one of their comrades pushes the point: "Tonight the organization is saying goodbye to sexism. Good Djebara! " The pun, transparent, aimed at Azwaw Djebara, vice president of Unef on departure. He is very close to former President Prévost. Indirectly targeted, it reflects a large deep anger in the room, revolted treatment that is reserved for his friend. For him, a man of the direction, it is respected."When Prévost became president of Unef, he twisted, analyzes today a former general secretary of the union. His attitude has unlocked stuff in the heads of other guys in the national office. They felt allowed to mix everything up. "

No medical support or court report
Entered the UNEF in the mid-2000s, A., 30 years old today, illustrates for many the laissez-faire of the UNEF in the face of sexual violence. For several years, the reports about him will go up to the top of the pyramid, without anything move. The testimonies collected by Libération nevertheless seem to allow to trace at least half a dozen criminal facts wrong.

Sometimes, her victims have never spoken, as Laurence*, an activist in the Paris region. Before confiding in Libération, she had never even "said aloud" what happened to her one evening in December 2007, after a party with activists of the Unef in Paris. The hour of the last subway passed, Laurence has to sleep on the spot and settles in a room which one lends to her. A comrade arrives next to her on the mattress on the floor. It's A. "After a while, I felt something hard against my buttocks. I'm panicked: I did not want any relationship before marriage, recalls the former activist. I say no, I ask him to stop. And he says in my ear: "If you want to remain a virgin, you can suck me, or I take you from behind." " Far from stopping in the face of resistance from Laurence, the activist continues: "He touches my buttocks even more intimately with their fingers. " Terrified, she finds the strength to leave the bed, the bedroom and the apartment: " I preferred to be alone in the street at 2 in the morning rather than stay in this situation. " During his years at the UNEF, Laurence never slept with other comrades and will keep anger.

But often, the victims of A. have alerted. In 2008, Sophie*, a provincial activist, sympathizes with him. After an event at his college, he waits at home for his train to Paris. While they are discussing, the young man gets up, goes behind the militant and begins to massage her shoulders. "I went into a state of stupefaction, says Sophie. I remember then being on my bed, I think he carried me there. He acted like an animal, my head dissociated from my body. I see my naked breasts, my body was not responding. He said to me: "Come on, we'll do it quickly, we can do it in fifteen minutes, we both know how good it is."The activist's cell phone rings, interrupting what she now calls sexual assault. She lies, says that her sister arrives. But A. insists. "I just want him to leave, I'm scared. I smile, " recalls Sophie, who gets rid of the activist after a long negotiation. Quickly, she reports what happened to her to the leadership. They believe it but they do not act. "We'll have an eye on it," says Sophie. But no medical accompaniment or court report. Nothing. Perhaps because he is the archetype of a dedicated unionist, always available, able to stand up to other union forces. "A. was the complete activist," confirms a former executive.

Protecting Individuals
Today, A. does not dispute the facts, although he explains that he did not know at the time that this was under the criminal code. In the long written answer which he sent to Libération, the thirty-year-old teacher in Ile-de-France recounts his heavy family history. He does not give in - "the facts are true" - but he explains his background: a father who mistreats his children and ends up convicted for the rape of his two sisters and a young cousin, the family that explodes in flight, the union as a refuge. "When I arrived at university, the Unef seemed like an outlet for my family context," he explains.

After passing through several Parisian schools, he landed at the University Paris-I to finish his studies. The Sorbonne, the largest local UNEF, including several activists will speak of having been victims of sexual assault on his part in the year 2013. Like Diane*, who spent an evening at home with other members of Unef, in July. The last subway missed, she asks to sleep there. "He proposed to me to sleep in his bed telling me that he was going to sleep somewhere else," recalls the activist, who falls asleep before waking up with a start in the morning. "He had his hands on my breasts and in my panties. I tried to push him away, he insisted. I dropped from bed to escape and left without saying anything. "This time, A. argues the misunderstanding but again recognizes a sexual assault. After much hesitation, Diane talks about what happened to Marie D., the local president, who decides to conduct her investigation and accumulates several stories of aggression. At the start of the academic year, Diane worries: "I was afraid for new students who did not know him. We organized ourselves never to leave him alone in the room with the younger ones. " Individual protections. The actions of the militants are no longer described euphemized the local ranks. "Before, all these cases were below the waterline," says a former leader. "The water level is falling and issues are coming back to the surface. Little by little, thanks to UNEF's progress on these questions, A. was less and less protected".

But it will take more time for management to officially position itself on his case. Given the testimony that accumulates, many women will try to obtain a sanction from the board of control of Unef against A. What they are denied. The body is nevertheless responsible for deciding on the most serious cases and allows - normally - the official exclusion of activists. "In 2006, during the campaign against the CPE, members of a minority trend of Unef had punctured the tires of one of our trucks in the middle of a protest, they were expelled this commission," says a former leader. Nothing like that for sexual abuse. "We were told that it could not be about sexual violence, we were strolled", remembers Lauranne Witt, a former Unef executive, who hoped to put in place a valuable tool in case similar events happen again. "The way we managed this is very revealing, says Sebastien Chaillou, treasurer of the Unef at the time. It was not organized and it was about the will of a few people. We protected the union, but not its members."

"A written record"

In February 2014, the National Council, which includes all Local Presidents, will end up voting on a resolution directly referring to A's behaviour. "It happened, is happening and will happen that women in the organization are victims of violence or harassment. It is important to be able to provide an answer that will build the union", reads the text, but A. was erased at the last minute. We still pray the activist not to come in the official meetings of the UNEF.

Far from the "militant cadres", A. continues however to frequent the friendly evenings and maintains his connections to the Unef. Having become a teacher, he takes his card at Snes and tries to recruit supervisors. In early summer 2015, he posted an ad on Facebook. Recently enrolled at the Unef, looking for a job, Charlotte*, a barely major activist, contacted him without worry. She finds A. in a bar in Paris: "He paid me glasses without asking my opinion. One, two, three, five ... Then we went to his place. I was drunk, I drank too much, " says Charlotte. A. undressed. "I was lying on the bed, he undressed me, tells the young woman.And then he was on me and penetrated me. I told him that I did not want and that I was tired, he tried to kiss me, I was totally stuck. "

Today, A. disputes this version of the facts: for him, this sexual intercourse was consensual. Charlotte will erase this moment from her memory for months. But in March 2016, she finally decides to file a complaint of "rape". Near the Halles, in the centre of Paris, a police officer at the police station reception asked her to tell him about her rape. Outside and without a written statement. "His reaction was between humiliation and the gritty joke, I left," says Charlotte. She then crosses the Seine and goes to another police station. There, listening to her story, a young police officer dismisses her. For him, "it was not a rape," and "it was enough to just say no".

On the advice of an officer and a police more responsive to Charlotte eventually came to the head of Paris's 3rd judicial police district. She remembers the brigadier who never asks her about the facts but about her reactions: "Why did you not fight?", "Why did not you scream?" ... It also makes Charlotte understand that with a complaint, she will face her attacker and that the procedure will be long and expensive. As a result, she is content with a diary entry. Consulted by Libération, the entry of March 17, 2016, ended with these words: "I just want a written record of these events to exist". A little paper evidence in the middle of the silence.

* names of individuals have been changed


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

France: We call for action and strike for women's rights on March 8th!

Feminist struggles have won rights and made progress towards equality between women and men. But this equality is far from effective. This is why the day of March 8th does not "celebrate" and is not the "day of the woman" but that of the fight for the rights of women! March 8 is an international day of convergence of all our struggles, those of women here and elsewhere.

Equality between women and men is unavoidable for us: it contributes to social progress. To allow inequality to continue, to exert violence against women and girls, is to bear the responsibility that retrograde ideas progress, patriarchy endures. And we will not stop repeating: the "cause of women" is neither secondary nor a communication operation. It is not limited to feminizing management positions by forgetting the majority of women glued to the sticky floor of part-time and precarious work. It requires not only political will at all times, but also significant human and financial resources to achieve it and sanctions against employers who do not respect professional equality. Our conclusion is irrevocable: the French government never put them in place. The employers put all their energy to fight any restrictive measure. And so in 2018, the urgency to achieve equality is still there.

Many women are mobilized. They denounce sexist and sexual violence at home, in public, and at work. They protest about persistent gender stereotypes in the media, at school, in public and private life. They condemn precariousness, poverty and unemployment. They refuse inequalities at work in terms of wages, access to employment, career, working time. And they recall the consequences of all these inequalities on the size of women's pensions. They denounce the consequences of the unequal distribution of domestic tasks on women's lives. They fight against the questioning of the right to abortion, to access contraception. They require the guarantee of public services for all, services to develop and balance across the territories, from early childhood to loss of autonomy. They fight lesbophobia and all the stereotypes relating to any other marginalised identity. They support migrant and refugee women. They do not admit to discrimination, such as against women with disabilities ...

This long list shows that there is a social system behind all these inequalities. This domination we reject and refuse. Until it stops. And for that we call to act throughout the territory, through strike actions, walkouts, rallies, demonstrations. Equality between women and men is a question of social justice and democracy. It is a lever to win the emancipation of all.

This is why we call on all our organizations to prepare the mobilizations of 8 March 2018 for the territories as a whole.

First Signatories: Collectif National pour les Droits des Femmes, Confédération Générale du Travail, Fédération Syndicale Unitaire, Union Syndicale Solidaires, Action Aid France Peuples Solidaires, Femmes Egalité, Union Nationale des Étudiants de France, Chiennes de garde, Encore féministes, Zeromacho, Réseau Féministe "Ruptures", Le Planning Familial, Mouvement National des Chômeurs et Précaires , ATTAC, Femmes Libres Radio Libertaire, Marche Mondiale des Femmes…


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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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