Sonntag, 8. November 2009

Schools on fire – Austria, Greece & beyond

After more than two weeks of student revolt in Austria, the spark of protest has jumped abroad and ignited protests and actions in other universities in Europe and even worldwide. On Thursday 5th November, an international “Warm-up Day of United Action” was followed in countries as diverse as Austria, Croatia, Colombia, Germany, Switzerland and Canada (there with actions in 14 different towns). On Saturday, high-school students in Budapest took the streets for a protest rally, showing posters with the german slogan “Schule brennt” (School on fire), while student activists from Lublin (Poland) and France send solidarity addresses to the Austrian protesters.

The repercussions of the Austrian protest were particularly strong in Germany, where students in several towns occupied at their turn lecture halls and spaces at their universities (Münster, Potsdam, Tübingen, Heidelberg, München, Darmstadt, Marburg) or organized other forms of actions inspired by or connected to the Austrian events (Frankfurt, Berlin, Paderborn). For the coming week, the General Student Board (AStA) of the university at Kiel (in northern Germany) has set off a solidarity convoi in direction to Vienna, starting on Monday, which will stop at several German universities.

Also in the UK, where leftist students were particularly engaged, during the last weeks, to organize support to the striking postal workers and to the Hondurian workers of Fruit of the Loom, the Austrian movement had already some resoundments, as the british website “Education ist not for sale”, on November 5th, published a manifesto, asking for “a new coordination of campaigning students unions” in the UK.

After all, during the last weeks, there has been a growing wave of school occupations in Greece, which started already in mid-October. It has apparently no relation to the Austrian unrest, but it is rather connected to the events of the anarchist Greek December Uprising, following the murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos. Because this Greek pupils movement is grossly underreported in the media, we join here an article from libcom about these events, posted on November 4th:

"High-School occupations snowball in response to repression in Greece

(Submitted by taxikipali on Nov 4 2009)

The decision of the State Persecutor to press charges against pupils occupying their school in Salonica has led to a snowball of occupations of high-schools in northern Greece.

In the last month, there has been a silent wave of high-school occupations across Greece. Given the national elections and the the urban guerrilla saga in Athens, these have been grossly undereported and generally overlooked as an endemic start-of-the-school-season phenomenon.

This general public disregard of high-school pupils actions and demands is what has led the State Persecutor of Salonica, Mr Papageorgiou, to believe it was the right time to implement one of the most reactionary legislations of the last Socialist government (2000-2004), which allowed the persecution of pupils for the occupation of their schools, a long established practice of struggle in relation to educational reform in the 1990s. The penalty amounts to maximum 5 years imprisonment.

During the last two weeks more than 35 high-schools in Salonica alone, and an unidentified number in the cities of Volos, Pyrgos, Ptolemaida as well as smaller towns of the mainland and the islands have been occupied by pupils with various demands concerning the operation of their schools. The media blackout on the subject has been quoted by the Nuclei of Fire urban guerrilla group as a reason for bombing the house of the ex-Minister of Education last week. Moreover, several occupied schools in Salonica came under fascist attack by parastate elements last week, with no human injuries reported.

The legal persecution of the pupils has been oposed by OLME, the teachers national union, while even policemen ordered by the State Persecutor to arrest the accused pupils have publicly refused to do so, claiming that this "would only inflame the situation, leading to an automatic reaction on the part of pupils at the mere sight of policemen".

As a result of the persecution warrant, a dozen more schools have been occupied in Salonica, as a warning by pupils that the implementation of persecutions will be faced by a mass pupil movement, the prospects of which trouble the State after the struggle experience gathered by 14-17 year old pupils during the December Uprising.

At the same time, at the 17th lyceum of Athens, pupils have staged a successful abstention from class in response of a pupil being disciplined for not standing at attention at the sound of the national anthem during a national holiday last week. The pupils gathered in protest at the schools gates refusing to enter the premises and thus forcing the school director to reverse the disciplinary measures. In the words of the pupils "The results of our mobilisation have encouraged us, as they proved that with collective action nobody can beat us". "

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