The Quebec student movement: block the violence
By Marc-André Cyr
Translated by Maxime Gagnon-Gauthier
Originally published in Voir here
It seems that the Quebec student strike movement won't have an easy task achieving its goals. Nowadays, in Québec like anywhere else, social movements face a more and more powerful repressive apparatus . Never in history have we seen a more efficient arsenal of repression and control, and never has the consensus about respect for the law and legality been this firm.
The contemporary State in its hands a range of repressive devices historically unequalled: police forces have grown in numbers and been privatised , army and national security budgets have reached new summits, surveillance technologies are becoming ultra-efficient , etc. This summer, the government of Québec even equipped itself with a new squad, the Anarchist and Marginals' Activities and Movements Watch (GAMMA, in french ''Guet des activités et des mouvements marginaux et anarchistes''). This police squad is openly political(it's in the name!) and has already proceeded to arrest a few leftist activists, including some elected student movement leaders .
As the world is in crisis(it's clear enough, right?), governments of course count on this apparatus to fulfill their austerity politics. But this ''omnipotence'' of the State, which stands ultimately on our self-alienation, will always, and despite everything, stay relatively weak. The danger lies partially elsewhere...
A narrowing of perspective
More than ever, protesting is considered as a social pathology associated with ''violence'', even ''terrorism''. Beyond petitions, voting and symbolic action (normally media-staged), collective action becomes automatically suspect. Violence, and you'll notice that the logic is one of a 4 year old child, is always used by ''others''. And it's now in the name of ''peace'' and ''security'' that the State engages in war, prohibits strikes, deploys policemen and cracks down on social movements.
The narrowing of the right of contestation is a perceptible phenomena in Québec. Thus the government succeeded, during the 2005 student general strike, on the false pretext of ''vandalism'', to exclude the Coalition de l’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante Élargie (CASSÉE) from the negotiations in order to sign a weaker agreement with the representatives of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) . It's for this reason that the ''new strategy'' presented by Vic Toews at the beginning of the month, is to group terrorism along with ''anticapitalism'', and ''environmentalism'' . And it's for this reason too that we accuse students of cégep Vieux-Montreal of ''mischief', ''assault'', ''armed aggressions'' and ''conspiracy'' as they were attempting to resist a brutal eviction by the cops(an eviction also called for by the administration who had decreed a lock-out following the vote in favor of the strike) .
The State without violence?
No matter the humiliation, billy club hits, tear gas and the dozens of arrests (that have already begun), no matter the constraints of a draconian increase of tuition fees, the lies and threats of administrations, government and certain media. For every occupation, for every obstruction, for every overturned trash can, for every graffiti, students are accused of being ''violent''. Worst: they have to condemn the violence - not that of the State (definitely!), but that of their own movement.
And unfortunately, many students, probably because they fear ''public opinion'' who is observing them as if from heaven, endorse such repression. In doing so, they condemn the violence of those who suffer it and ask forgiveness from those who exercise it.
This posture obviously promotes the State, who has all the necessary leeway to make the strike movement totally ineffective. Because if it's the State, and only it, that dictates the rules of game, it has presently everything in its hands to make the strike ineffective. Anything that disturbs, literally, may be prohibited. The school administrations can obtain injunctions that prohibit picketing (as was the case at UQAM in 2007 and 2009), cops can systematically suppress all form of ''civil disobedience'' , massively arrest protesters , etc.
And the students' violence?
To this question, we're at first tempted to respond: which violence? Almost all students' actions were substantially festive, peaceful and respectful of the law. They're practically disquietingly calm. That's for this reason that the Journal de Montréal, always looking for facts to use in its propaganda, has found nothing better to prove the existence of ''violence and intimidation'' than the anecdotal remarks of a student who represented absolutely nobody .
And regarding the actions of disturbances, barricades and the few broken windows, they are in no way synonymous with "vandalism" or "mayhem". While students may use force and coercion, their actions are not violent. They refuse to both suffer and exercise violence. They aim to be liberated from control and constraint, not to reproduce them. It's for this reason they attack institutions and not individuals.
In that sense, the broken windows most often reflect the distance between the revolted individual and the institution she denounces. We can't understand the meaning of the broken glass without understanding first the violence which it was carrying out before breaking up. If our society seems to have forgot about it, let's wish that it is not the case for the students in strike. Because without disobedience and without contestation, our freedom has certainly not only beautiful days ahead.
 The title refers to the slogan of the current student strike: ''Bloquons la hause''(Block the hike)
 The philosophers Anselme Jappe even argue that our police's apparatus would makes jealous all totalitarian regimes who have existed throught the 20th century: Anselm Jappe, « La violence pourquoi faire? », Crédit à mort : la décomposition du capitalisme et ses critiques, Paris, Ligne.
 According to Statistics Canada, there are now three private security guards for ever two police officers, see: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2008010/article/10730-fra.htm
 The Canadian Army budget now surpasses by 20% the historic peaks of the cold war, see : http://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/news-releases/le-budget-de-la-....
In only 10 years, the budget of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service increased 170%, source: http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/canada/291792/renseignement-le-budget-...
 We could of course think about new spying technologies, but also about biometrics, DNA test, etc.
 To know a bit more about this horror: http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/montreal/327600/guet-des-mouvements-ma...
 Believe it or not, it is an episode involving false ''poop'' which the governement used to exclude the CASSÉE from the negotiating table.
 In Sherbrooke, last year, students were arrested because they sang a slogan to the Québec premier, see: http://www.radio-canada.ca/regions/estrie/2011/08/18/002-manifestation-u...
 The ''forbidden'' protests by the police don't constitute a new phenomena. In ten years, we can count dozens of them. In 2005, the UN condemned the SPVM (Montreal's police service) for is practice of mass arrests.
 To read this masterpiece: http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2012/02/22/intimidation-et-violence