Down with the Ruling Class: The Quebec Student Strike

The Quebec Student Strikes were dismissed by the majority of Canadians as petty strife over tuition fees.  Outside of Quebec, not many people received or appreciated the messages that the students were sending with their impressive, massive and sustained collective action.  Considering the profundity and importance of their message, the popular dismissal of the strike as ‘irrational’ is a true shame.

The strikers were not simply fighting tuition hikes, they were fighting for the governments’ responsibility to be to the people and not to corporations.  They were fighting the slow and steady implementation of neoliberal policies in every sector of society, and were attempting to awaken Canadians to the ideas of solidarity and class consciousness.  The strikers very perceptively understood that the problems that Canadians face in every industry, as well as the problems Canadians face with our environment, stem from the same economic policy shift.  This neoliberal shift involves cuts to government spending on all services, deregulation and allowing the private sector to take over the services that were once handled by the government.  These policies, wherever they are implemented globally: 1) increase inequalities among people in society as wealth accumulates in the hands of the few, 2) decrease government responsibility and responsiveness to the people as corporations and lobbyists increase financial and political power, 3) individualize responsibility for all facets of life, 4) deny access to basic social necessities to those without the means to pay, 5) degrade the environment as it is increasingly commodified and brought into broader market networks.

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The Ruling Class video above and the quotes from protesters Camille Robert and Jeanne Reynolds below are examples of the students’ attempt to bring Canadians together in solidarity.  The social movement activity we typically see in the North American context is fragmented; workers’ strikes focussing on isues not necessarily relevant to people outside of the situation.  These separated and small movements will never truly address the underlying causes to workers’ grievances across Canada, because they are not targetting the cause — the state’s neoliberal regime.  The best these small strikes and conflicts can do is to negotiate small reforms to policies or to stave off cuts to government spending for a short time.  The Quebec Student Strike reminds us all –in a time when we most need to be reminded– that we are all part of the same class.  We are all in this together, and our oppressors are the ruling class.

Camille Robert and Jeanne Reynolds, Toronto Star:

“Our commitment to genuine democracy is a reflection of the type of society we seek to build: one that is more equal, not less, and revolves around the needs of people, not corporations.

What we are fighting in Quebec, many are fighting across Canada: the privatization and degradation of public services, cuts to people’s wages and old age pensions, and the free rein corporations have to destroy our environment and fuel climate change. If our rights can be taken from us by throwing our educational system into the marketplace, we can say the same for our hospitals, our water, our forests, and the soil beneath our feet.

This has always been the essence of our strike and our mobilization: a shared, collective vision whose scope lies well beyond student interests. In our campuses, in our workplaces, in cities and villages across our province, people have come together like never before: to talk, to debate, and to imagine a new society with us. And we are making new alliances, overcoming old divisions, all across Canada.”

LINK — TORONTO STAR: Quebec Students Hail Their Movement’s Victories

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