International Meeting in Paris (Feb.11-13) – A Personal Account

Posted: 16/02/2011 by Eddie Unity in Chat Minutes, Europe, Top Stories, World News
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What meeting?

Since organisers extensively made use of the International Student Movement (ISM) mailing list to inform about this meeting, which took place last weekend, I believe most of you are aware of it. It was Edu-Factory, “a transnational collective engaged in the transformations of the global university and conflicts in knowledge production”, which called for the international meeting under the banner headline “For a New Europe: University Struggles Against Austerity” in the French capital Paris. According to the Edu-Factory website the primary aim was “to create a powerful European network of struggles within and beyond the university”.

The meeting.

About 300 activists followed the call and arrived from various regions. Although the vast majority came from within Europe, some even travelled from as far as Canada, Japan and Chile. Friday was mostly used as the day of arrival and to give participants the opportunity to inform about their local situation. Saturday was spent mostly in various workshops, some focussing in creating a communication infrastructure on an international level others on the “production of knowledge and austerity measures”.

Edu-Factory and ISM

As mentioned above the primary aim was to create a stronger network on the European level. As the meeting progressed it also became clearer that a common “action plan” for March was being envisioned. Consequently some activists, among them myself, thought that it is a good idea to inform participants about what is already existing and being coordinated on the international and global level. Some people actively involved on the ISM platform therefore decided to introduce the “Spring of Resistance” as well as the ISM itself. Once, during an assembly session in the afternoon, two of them announced a round of discussion to explore possibilities to network and coordinate protests together in the future as well as to collect what is already existing in the evening of Saturday, an Edu-Factory organiser furiously approached them to make clear that this initiative is not welcome. To make the confusion perfect it was then half-heartedly announced to fuse this initiative with one of the upcoming workshops (exploring ways for an international communication platform). During the workshop only various tools, such as a new website, twitter or social networks were explored. That’s all.
This whole experience was rather confusing and in some way shocking, since it indicates that Edu-Factory understands the ISM and the coordinations on the platform as some sort of rivalry. This reaction intimidated the activists, especially after another person of the organisers confirmed that the idea to shortly introduce the ISM and SoR during the final assembly on Sunday (before agreeing on a parellel “International Week of Action” during March 21-26) would be perceived as an attempted “ISM take-over” of the meeting.

Why so hostile?

This fear by Edu-Factory is totally baseless, since, from what I can observe, Edu-Factory and the ISM are actually two different things. Edu-Factory itself is network basing its work on a specific political analysis. It is mainly based in Europe, focussing on further developing and propagating its analysis, bringing out its own publications (e.g. the Edu-Factory book), arranging meetings and having its own manifesto. Their main focus seems to be the university, “the crisis”, “” and “financial capital”.
In comparison, the ISM is simply a communication platform (overview of the tools are online here), which is being used and shaped by individuals and groups identifying themselves with the struggle against the increasing privatisation of education and for free emancipatory education for all. The idea behind it is to increase the flow of information, bring people worldwide closer together and enable those fighting for a free education to network and coordination actions together across all borders. Nobody can speak for the ISM and as a whole it does not represent any specific positions. Things like the Spring of Resistance (SoR) and the International Joint Statement are initiatived and can only be supported by a collection of groups/individuals on the ISM, but never by the ISM itself.

I had the impression that many of the participants were not really sure what Edu-Factory really is or stands for. Some even assumed (at least at the beginning) that the meeting was being arranged by the ISM (which of course is not possible, as explained above). To me it seemed, that many people just came because it is now more obvious than ever that worldwide people are fighting for free emancipatory education and that therefore is seems a good idea to connect more and unite internationally. Therefore I think a clarification on what kind of structures already exist would have been quite useful. But I assume that at least some activists within Edu-Factory feared that this might hamper “their” process “to create a powerful European network of struggles within and beyond the university”.

Results

In the end most participants of the meeting agreed to call for common days of action (March 24-26) and set up a group on crabgrass to continue coordinations. Maghreb and London were mentioned as potential locations for meetings in the future.

A “common statement” is being circulated on the net (see below), which was actually never really discussed during the meeting in Paris itself.

Due to time pressure towards the end of the final assembly several positions were not really discussed. Instead the focus was put on producing output in forms of symbols, slogans and names for the new network. Consequently some inputs by participants pointing out that they primarily came to network with people internationally and see no reason for discussions on a concrete framework went unnoticed.

Crabgrass group: https://we.riseup.net/parismeeting11feb (which everybody should be able to access after signing up here)
At the meeting it was announced that all who want to subscribe to the mailing list to further coordinations (especially for the common days of action in March) should send an e-mail to the list itself: list@makeouruniversity.org
All in all, it was still very nice to meet some people personally, who I have been in touch with through the ISM for quite some time. And also to get to know some new activists.

Feel free to clarify any misunderstandings from my part by leaving a comment below or dropping a line at: united.for.education@gmail.com

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