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Title: Xenophobic demonstration by Parisian students. Paris, around 1935.
Creation date : 1935 -
Contact copyright: © Collection Roger-Viollet / Roger-Viollet
Picture reference: 5079-5 / RV-378961
Xenophobic demonstration by Parisian students. Paris, around 1935.
© Collection Roger-Viollet / Roger-Viollet
Publication date: April 2016
The medical student strike in February 1935
In 1931, with the global economic crisis affecting France, xenophobic themes and far-right speeches gain strength, accusing foreigners of all evils: unemployment, insecurity, disorder or even a threat to the country's identity. ("Race", culture, religion).
Traders, craftsmen and liberal professions in particular denounce unfair competition and lead a virulent campaign to obtain the protection of the law. The law "protecting the national workforce" was, for example, passed unanimously by Parliament on August 10, 1932.
Refoulements, expulsions, surveillance and repression are on the rise with regard to immigrants (regular or not), whom an increasingly large part of the French population rejects. In February 1935, the authorities of the medical university, certain medical unions and several medical student organizations organized a large strike movement to protest against the "invasion of the medical profession" by foreign immigrants. The latter, mostly Romanian and Polish Jews, are accused of "stealing" university places, diplomas and clients from "native French".
Inscribed in a context of strong economic, political and identity crisis, the protest took on a rather exceptional scale, taking place in a xenophobic and anti-Semitic climate. In the provinces, but especially in Paris, demonstrations are multiplying, like the one immortalized by this cliché which, precisely, "launches" the movement.
"Against the Metic invasion"
This photograph is probably the work of one of the strikers or one of their supporters. Indeed, the students gathered here voluntarily take a break, with good humor, as evidenced by several smiles or other knowing looks, benevolent, it seems, with the author of the shot.
The scene takes place in front of the school of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris, located in the Ve borough. The old building can be seen in the background, partially hidden by the more rudimentary wooden structure which constitutes the entrance to the practical school (that is to say the part of the university where the dissections are carried out). and the other practical exercises), as indicated by a sign above one of the two doors.
Grouped into a compact mass, the striking students present an overall similar profile. These are exclusively white, moderately young men (mostly in their thirties, which refers to the length of medical studies), and whose dress (suits, overcoats, hats) denotes a relative ease as a student.
Seeming to be responding to a photographer's instruction, the young people look at the lens to express their determination at that precise moment. While most of the faces and looks show a form of "good-natured", almost schoolboy, joy at being reunited with young strikers, others are more closed, more vindictive, darker.
The students form a body behind a banner that proclaims in large black block letters on a white background: "Strike against the Metec invasion. "
Some students seem to be shouting something; others, a minority, salute an obviously fascist type with outstretched arms and hands (although there are also more innocuous salutes, simple hands raised).
Banner xenophobia and anti-Semitism
Far from being "spontaneous", this photograph seems to have been composed to convey a message that is simple and understandable by all.
The written elements which appear there summarize and directly deliver the exhaustive meaning of the movement. It is, in fact, the students of the faculty of medicine (the panel) who meet, at the same time in solidarity (we “stick together” while taking the break, as we do for the cause), determined (a few glances), to fight "against the Métic invasion" and encourage the strike movement which is beginning.
This staging of the students by themselves reveals an indisputable violence. This is due first of all to the xenophobic, and more particularly anti-Semitic, content of the banner's words, which speaks of an "invasion" against which one should defend oneself, including by force. The extremely pejorative word "metic" refers to the foreigner in general. In the extreme right-wing lexicon since Charles Maurras, it refers above all to Jews, who are numerous in medicine.
Violence also emerges in the postures of the group which, despite the good humor already indicated, expresses a certain vehement, bellicose energy. Compact and ready to fight, these virile youths offer the objective a show of force that draws on the codes of a symbolism typical of the extreme right. This impression is of course confirmed by the fascist salutes that we hear here and there. Many striking medical student organizations were effectively infiltrated by the extreme right (notably Action Française).
Almost a year after the events of February 6, 1934, the day and night of 1er February 1935 were chaotic: several clashes with the police and acts of violence against immigrants were indeed reported in the capital.
- social crisis
- French action
- Maurras (Charles)
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To cite this article
Alexandre SUMPF, "Immigrants, eternal undesirable"