Quebec student movement on the warpath!
Quebec student movement on the warpath!
A set of translated summaries of key articles on the student strike appearing in Cause Commune, the newspaper of Quebec-based anarchist organization, the Union Communiste Libertaire just before the strike. We hope the analysis presented here is helpful in understanding the dynamics of the student movement in Quebec and the current general strike.
Translation by Maxime Gagnon-Gauthier and Gabriela Alfaro
Listening to the TV or radio might makes us doubt it, but the student movement is getting ready to strike back against the tuition fees increase announced by the Liberal government. Responding to the call of the Association for Student Union Solidarity(ASSE), a lot of student associations in colleges and universities are organizing a strike that could culminate in the coming weeks.
Several comrades of the student movement, for several months now, have realized that a general strike would be necessary to stop this new increase in tuition fees. Mobilization is going well and information is circulating. People are organizing in order to have the maximum number of students on strike to make the government reverse its decision.
Looking back at the last general student strike in 2005, we can already predict that occupations, economic blockages and theatrical displays, among other steps, will lead the fight. The State will condemn the movement, accusing it, and blaming it for its own disastrous management of public finances, and will condemn any violence carried out by the infamous strikers, even though those who hide behind the badge and gun will run the streets in search of a strike to suppress. The scene is set. All that remains to be seen is if the student movement will go on with the general strike, showing to the government that its threats will push the government up against the wall. The student movements' truly democratic nature, involving as many members as possible and rejecting representative leaders, its fighting spirit, its creativity, are some factors that will determine the success of this struggle.
Born from the ashes of the youth movement protesting in the 1960s, the student movement in Quebec is unique because it has preserved within it a radical faction that still favors the principles of a fighting unionism, a french concept of syndicalism that values action over negotiation in order to obtain gains. Direct democracy, building of counter-power, mobilization, the general strike: these are words that are alive for many students.
However, for others, the student movement is more about political and career opportunities. The Quebec Federation of University Students (FEUQ) and her younger sister the Quebec Federation of College Students (FECQ) embody this tendency since their foundation as the "right wing" of the movement. Operating with a top-down hierarchy that is
well-established, the heads of these organizations are struggling to convince the students that only a ''play-fair'' negotiation with the government could lead to improvements in the students' conditions. It is by looking towards the history of these federations that we can understand the hypocritical opportunism that characterizes their rhetoric, and this is why we devote a section - "For a fighting lobbyism?! - An analysis of the role of these two organizations in the context of the current movement''(article in French here).
But FECQ and FEUQ don't have the monopoly over opportunism and pseudo-democracy. In the Quebec political scene, the social-democratic party Québec Solidaire is also well positioned to undermine the prospect of a student victory. Taking advantage of the recent downfall of the Parti Québécois and a growing mistrust faced by every major political party, QS hopes to expand its grassroots - and especially its electoral base! - through the student struggle. The article ''Sheep in the den'' exposes the contradictions of the party and the pitfalls it poses to the student movement( article in french here .)
What we hope is that the student struggle and the general strike may be, for many, a stepping stone to a deep questioning of capitalist society. We therefore appeal to a reflection of what could be an education - beyond being free - that would be liberating for everyone, and to build strong student solidarity with other sectors of the society in struggle, so that the artificial separations fall and a real unity becomes possible against our common enemies.