An interview with CLASSE spokesperson, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois
Originally published by Voir.ca here on March 29, 2012.
Interview by Marie-Pier Béland
Translation for Linchpin.ca by Maxime Gagnon
Tuition fee increases: the struggle continues!
While the fight against the tuition fee hike has now lasted six weeks and the government still refuses to talk with students, we asked Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois to, on behalf of the CLASSE, do a review of the unlimited general strike which currently has about 200 000 students participating in Quebec.
Six weeks! Already six weeks that the movement which presently shakes Quebec began. And since, the general strike for the right to education has only gained strength. Until now, however, the government seems determined to refuse to negotiate and to maintain its decision to raise tuition. Also, a week after the big demonstration on March 22 and while the week of economic perturbation currently ends, what assessment can the student movement make of the distance traveled and what paths are open to continue the struggle?
Above all, to understand the scope and the strength of the current movement, it is required to go back in time to see the work devoted to the preparation. In fact, in the fall of 2010, the ASSE began to organize information campaigns on the campuses of its member associations about a possible tuition fees increase. When that increase became reality, during winter 2011, ASSÉ began a long series of petitions, visibility actions, distribution of information and events, until the creation of the CLASSE and the beginning of the strike itself. In this sense, the strike in progress and the direct actions and protests related to it are parts of an escalation of pressure tactics over time. So the student struggle has taken on the traditional means used by other social movements who do not have enought economic power or resources to ensure that the government listens to us. However, what is fascinating about the strike today and which consitutes a new phenomenon, is the quantity of actions, creative events and protests that continue to multiply and emerge directly from local associations. Each day, student associations organize their own mobilization and show that the refusal of the government discourages nobody, but on the contrary, it renews and increases the ranks of those who take street on a daily basis.
The student movement: beyond the tuition increase
However, the power progressively gained by students in the power struggle against the government does not rest only on these means. It is also linked to our desire to put forward a discourse and practices that reflect our concern for issues much broader than the sole right to education, and to our determination to fight against all forms of this social decline that they are trying to impose on us. Our demands are not only about putting a stop on the Liberal government's plan on tuition fees, cuts in CEGEPs and orientation of post-secondary education increasingly toward economic imperatives. They also correspond to a requirement that the solutions emerging from eventual negotiations are in solidarity with all our fellow citizens who suffer austerity measures in the recent budgets and they go in the direction of a real redistribution of wealth in Quebec.
It is on this basis that we have built over the last month solidarity links with many community groups and unions in the Coalition opposed to the privatization of public services (Coalition opposée à la tarification des services publics). It is in this context that we welcome the support of many obtained since the beginning of the strike on the part of teachers, workers, groups of parents, artists. We can only hope that the current debate on the right to education becomes a catalyst to a questioning of the wider social orientations that guide Quebec right now.
Gauging the power struggle
Of course, doing a review about what the student movement has managed to accomplish so far, also means taking the pulse of the impact of our activities. But right now, it is clear that the wave of disturbances of many kinds in Montreal but also in several other cities in Quebec and in the regions, puts enormous pressure on the government. Already, the Federation of Quebec's Chambers of Commerce is concerned about the lack of labor available this summer if the strike continues, and many merchants and traders have said that the protests that shook Montreal are highly disruptive to business downtown. The head of public security and Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay also submitted their concerns about the spiraling costs of security and the eventual exhaustion of the police if the situation persists. Not to mention the complications and costs that would be caused by a resumption of classes too late in regards to respecting the collective agreements, as recently stated by teachers and the Federation of CEGEPs. Finally, let's not forget a more and more important fringe of the population giving their support to the student struggle. In other words, the government is now pressed on all sides to find a solution to resolve the crisis and clearly cannot count on our demobilization to escape the impass in which they have rushed!
It is on this basis that we understand the muddy opening of Charest a few days ago about possible further increases in the AFE( Aide finacière aux études), a scholarship and student loan program: it shows us that the crisis now exceeds the disputes which the government planned. Those vague words appear to us only as an encouragement to continue the fight and to remind as often as possible the government of our demands which are very clear. In this sense, CLASSE now calls for further actions of blocking and disruption next week and invites the entire population to a large Social Forum on April 9, in order "to rally massive popular support for the right of education, but also to expand the perspectives for democratic and combative contestation in all Quebec and on other issues than education." In sum, the CLASSE intends to make every effort to show that, against social regression, it is Charest that is gonna fall back!