Report about the greek student movement (sept 2006-june 2007)

Sunday 16 September 2007 by Antoine

After the emerge of the student movement of May – June of 2006 against the governmental initiative (which reach more than 405 occupied faculties in a total number of 417) for the reform of the administration law of the public Universities, this year we had again a mass student revolt against the re-introduction of the some law (reform of the administration law) plus the reform of the constitutional article n.!6 -that do not allow the private capital to establish universities.

After the last summer the government forced to withdraw its proposals for changes of the status of studies accusing that their plans are to re-discuss their law initiative with the academic community from the next year.

At the first place, from October 2006 until December 2006 the student movement (don’t believing the sincerity of the governmental promises for a real and democratic dialogue) tried unsuccessfully to restart mass occupations of the faculties against the possibility of re-introducing the new administration law as also against the governmental declaration for the reform of article n.16.

Only two days after Christmas vacations, at 9 January, a mass wave of 300 occupied faculties (in a total number of 417) appeared right immediately against the governmental attempt to start the constitutional process for the reform of article n.16 allowing the operation of Private Universities!

The day that had been chosen by the government for the start of the process for the reform of n.16 was not by mistake. They were betting on the potential weakening of the student movement -almost one year after the great movement of Mai/June 2006- and on the lack of students’ reflexes -two days after the start of the studies of the New Year.

Although that the student’s exam period has started not more than 2 weeks after the beginning of this parliamentary process for changing the constitutional articles (where was included also n.16) and also that the students had already lost their summer exam period (having as a result to give their exams two times in September-October) there was again a mass, radical student movement with occupations, even in faculties that had already started their exams (!), demonstrations in each city and also national demonstrations in Athens.

In this phase of the movement we succeed to re-construct our resistances, re-build the national coordination and a national planning of demonstrations. At the pick of the movement we had more than 380-390 faculties under occupations –with decisions of general assemblies that were renewed every week. Although the more organized reactionary attempt of the right-wind student syndicate party to stop the movement and the occupations we manage to held our fights for 3 months!

At the national demonstration of 8th March in Athens –the day that finally the government voted for the opening the constitutional process for reforming the article n.16- we had more than 45.000 demonstrators in Athens streets. The biggest student demonstration the last 30 years!

This was the second round of the students’ confrontation with the government policy on education. A policy that aims at the total defeat of our right for public education and in favour of a university (corporative university) that tends to drop out the majority of the students that study right now!

And we must say that this round of our struggle was the most crucial one if someone takes into consideration what the immediate results of a defeat would be!

Trying to break our social isolation

The main task of the student movement was to break its isolation from the rest of the society in order to generate political and social pressure on the government. But this battle was much more difficult because the social-democratic party (PASOK) has changed its previous position against the constitutional change of the article that refers to the public education!

It is interesting to add that the social-democratic party had made clear from the start that the only constitutional change that they will vote in favour of (although they are parliament opposition!) was this one that refers to the status of public education!

This position, which also symbolises characteristically the social-liberal change of the social-democratic party, demoralized the support of the working unions to the student movement and eliminated the potential allies of us.

An additional problem for us was that the working union of teachers (a mass working union that could had been one basic ally of us) seemed to be unable to mobilize again after the defeat of their heroic 6-week strike at the last September.

At the end, there was only the union of university’s tutorials that came down the streets (from the start, we have to confess) with us.

The only reply of the government was –as usual- the police repression and –for first time- their attempt to accuse the Union of university’s tutorials and the radical wing of the student movement (which are –as they announced- EAAK and anarchists) as the suspects that raise convulsions and disorderly conductions!

The tactic of social-democratic

One month after the start of occupations the social-democratic party understood that they would probably lose the next elections if they didn’t distinguish their policy from the conservative government in the ’educational issue’.

And for this reason they announce that they will finally withdraw from this parliamentary process of the Constitutional reform.

It is interesting also to note that as they withdraw from this process they didn’t say that they don’t agree with the constitutional change of the status of public education. In contrary, they justified their withdrawn under the pretension that this is their react to the ’undemocratic way’ that the government run the whole process! At the same time the leadership of PASOK -in order to control a potential internal opposition- insist on claiming that they are in favour of the constitutional change of the status of public education!

Balance of our fights

Finally in this process there will be only the party of conservatives (which is in government) that will support the constitutional changes and that means that –as it seams now- they won’t be able to succeed any change! Or, if we want to be more precise, that it will be much more difficult to have an agreement with the social-democratic in the next parliament for the change of the Constitution.

Finally we had a second great victory against the government!

Unfortunately, 2 weeks after the failure of the government for starting the process of the constitutional reform of article n.16 they re-introduce and vote in less than one week the administration law for the public universities. At that time –more that one year after the start of the first period of the movement- it was impossible to sustain the dynamic of the student movement, after the vote of the new law...

So, in this long-term confrontation with the right-wind government the student movement succeed finally to have a great victory (stop of n.16 reform) with the cost of voting the new administration law.

For the next year our goal is trying to blogging the implementation of the new administration law in a local lever, in each one of our universities and our faculties

Some political features about the movements

As far as it concerns the political balance inside the student movement, it seams pretty much the same with this of the student movement of the last Mai-June.

The vanguard of the movement was EAAK. But on this time the forces of the Communist Party (CP) were inside the movement (without to be able to change the political characteristics of the movement or to present itself as the leadership of the movement). The forces of Synaspismos (euro-communists) had this time (with the CP inside the movement) a less important role.

One of the highlights of this movement was the common demonstrations and even more the common students’ blocks of the CP and all the others. Indeed the CP –knowing that they are not the leadership of the movement- accepted coordination with the rest political forces of the movement.

Features of that movement were also two others elements: The first one was the tremendous state/police we faced. Police tried to fright young demonstrators pro-justified the potentially dangerous situation in the student demonstrations, made –for first time- ‘precautionary’ arrests of students as also mass arrests of innocence students after each demonstration and beaten with extremely violence demonstrators that tried to reach the national parliament. That much was the extend of police brutality that even the association of public doctors condemned the police operations, the massive students’ injuring and the excessive use of tear gases!

The second feature we have to see is the organizational forms of our student movement. Having the exemplary form of the French students –during CPE movement- we have to confess our weakness to organize an open and democratic national coordination. In our movement we didn’t had elected representatives of students and all the political decisions (as also organizational decisions) were been made under the invocation of the status of ‘synthesis’ and ‘unanimity’. It shouldn’t be difficult for someone to understand that beyond those abstract words are hidden substitution and a strange mix of bureaucratization. The strangest was that EAAK were the mainly responsible for that situation, trying to expand their ways of coordination (as network of collectives) to the movement. This experience of coordination of EAAK is an attempt to imitate an autonomous function of direct-democracy and unanimity with the simultaneous function (inside the network of EAAK) political organizations (that insist to work typically in a more centralized way).

Because of that, a weak and not democratic political coordination of the student movement, we didn’t see new militants to involved crucially in the political debates of the movement resulting (by this way) to a more weak political base of our fights

The process of those reforms is a little complicated!

In this parliament delegation can be voted only the constitutional articles that will be changed after the next national elections. That means that the constitutional reform will be ended into the next parliament delegation (this one that will come after the next elections of 2008).

But the number of the MPs (members of parliament) that will vote the suggested constitutional articles’ changes is an essential factor for the success or not of this process!

If a suggested Constitutional reform is voted by more 180 mps that means that in the next parliament it is needed only 150 votes for this Reform to be approved. If not, if less than 180 mps vote in favour of a suggested Constitutional reform, in the next parliament it is needed at least 180 votes!

Take into account that the parliament comprised by 300 MPs and the governmental majority usually cannot gather more than 165 MPs means that no constitutional change can be done without the agreement between of at least two parties.

Opening the process of a constitutional reform of an article (which will be ended to the next one parliament delegation) is also a little bit a long process. The reform initiatives have to be voted like articles that will be changed by the plenary session of the parliament (with a majority less that the half of the MPs), after that to be set in a parliament committee (where is needed to have again a majority less than the half) and finally come to the plenary session of the parliament looking for more than 180 votes (2/3 of MPs)

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