"The pugnacity of the French in a riot has to be seen to be recognized as a native strain in their character," Janet Flanner wrote in May 1968 in her "Letter from Paris" to the New Yorker. "Had the young French soldiers fought like rioters against the Germans in June, 1940, Paris might not have fallen," she added, sardonically.
They are very good at fighting, the French are. They have to be– someone’s always trying to screw them over, whether it’s the bank or the butcher or the government. It’s just that they’re not so good at constructing viable systems after the fighting has calmed.
Looks like we’re approaching a stalemate here, as the government refuses to withdraw the CPE and several student unions refuse to meet with the government to discuss other possibilites. The CPE is set to go into effect in April, which is rapidly approaching.
The university is going into its third week of closure. The two-week long Easter vacation begins April 8th, and it looks doubtful if it will reopen before then.
Flanner wrote that the students of ’68 "have [...] stated that they do not believe in university examinations, since they are repressive."
The students are saying they’d rather have this semester invalidated than give in and go back to school.
Some professors are organizing online courses as ways of continuing this semesters’ work. I’ve received several emails from study abroad programs looking for teachers to fill in part-time until the strikes are over, if ever.
But unlike in May 1968, there seems to be a destructive strain in these riots that the students insist has nothing to do with their cause, attributing the violence to anarchists and extremists of both the right and the left.
Research facilities have had ten years’ worth of research destroyed. The military training grounds of les Invalides have been overcome by the casseurs [French for "people who break stuff"]. Numerous shops and cars have been trashed and burned.
The weird thing is: I haven’t seen any of it firsthand, despite a fairly consistent pattern of movement between the 9th and the bottom of the 5th. I’m glad they’ve stayed away from my neighborhood(s), but I can’t help noting how odd it is that all this can be going on in the center of my city, and if I didn’t watch the news or read the papers and the blogs, I’d have no idea.
So I’m working from home, thinking about nineteenth century French social movements, 1830, 1848, 1871, debating with my boyfriend the extent to which the Communards were Communists, reading the emails I get from French graduate students who are attending the manifestations, and thinking how right Kristin Ross is in her book on the student uprisings of May 1968, where she argues (via Baudrillard, and excuse me for paraphrasing from memory) that an event is not an event until the media tell us it is. And until you tap into the media, you might not even know what’s going on a hundred meters away from your apartment.