Students as Touchstone of Civilization’s Development

Gregory TINSKY (Russia)

Recent protests of British students, which had developed into the mass disturbances, attracted the attention of various commentators, trying to figure out the reasons of what happened and link these events to the political-economic situation in Europe.

Events that took place in Great Britain this November have their own history, linking the British protests with events in other European (and not just European) countries. Besides the memorable students’ turmoil in Greece, Italy, France and Serbia, 19th century brought the wave of youth protests in Canada and Latin America. All of them were bound by the same reasons, rooted in the economic life of these countries. Rebellion of the “One and a half grand euro” generation is a hopeless attempt of the youngsters to find a decent place in the structure of consumer society, coming into the crisis stage of its development. €1.500 is an average salary of young specialists, graduated from the European university. In Europe young man can make both ends meet, being paid like this — but he’d hardly be able to afford decent apartment, car and live up to the European life standards. Global economic crisis hit the youth pretty hard, having deprived it of hopes to find their own place in the European establishment. Members of the European Union are having huge problems in the economic sphere — the most attractive sector of the European project. Young men — sharply feeling the social unfairness — were the first to hit the streets. While two years ago lack of opportunities to get a decently-paid job after graduation was the incentive for the student’s rebellion, today the very possibility of getting a higher education is under threat — college fees are gradually becoming a prohibitive bar for the young men from not too wealthy families. Economic injustice gives birth to the social and political unfairness — and the latter pose threat to the political system itself.

If we’d remember 1968, which figured in history of the 20th century as the year of youth riots, the difference between today’s situation and the events that took place 42 years ago become obvious. French and Polish events make up the most vivid example. Parisian Sorbonne was lightened by the flames of the burning cars, which students set to fire. Warsaw University became an arena for the strong-arm clashes between students and Polish militia. At that time economics had nothing to do with the riots. European youth, being very estranged from the inside, protested against the political systems of their own countries. In France it were lefts (including Trotskyites), in Poland — applying the contemporary political classification — it were rights, protesting against the communist-like totalitarianism. Despite all these seemingly fundamental differences, both of them fought against the ruling political regimes that they treated as unfair, judging from pretty much the same positions. How did it end? There is no socialistic Poland anymore, that’s how. Adam Michnik and Jacek Kuroń — in 1968, leaders of the Polish students — became the detonators of famous Lech Wałęsa’s “Solidarity” that eventually crushed not just Polish socialism itself, but an entire socialistic bloc along with the Berlin Wall. Leaders of the French rebellion made up the establishment of contemporary Europe. They include former FRG Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Daniel Cohn-Bendit — leader of the Euro-Parliament “Greens”. These people have changed Europe, unified it and completely altered the scale of social and political values in their own countries.

Will today’s rebels repeat their destiny? I don’t know. We may be confident of the only thing: student protests clearly show us the development vector of European civilization. Modern leaders of the student movements, whose names we don’t even know today would change the face of Europe in the next 30–40 years. We may only guess how this face would look like.

Source: Russian Interests

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