During its congress on August 11th and 12th, 2012, CLASSE adopted the Manifesto « We are many youth, but with one struggle ». This text, already endorsed by dozens of student organizations around the world, reminds us that the student struggle in Quebec is also in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of young people and students who are struggling around the world for a quality education which is accessible and public.
The Manifesto : We Are Many Youth, But With One Struggle !
A worldwide economic crisis exploded in 2008 that has been deeply consequential. This crisis can be only compared to the 1929 crisis. Powerfully striking at the core of the system, first it shook the United States and now it is developing more intensely in Europe. However, the effects of the crisis can be seen all over the world.
Governments have reacted the same way to the threat the crisis presents for their countries: make the youth and the workers pay for the crisis. They have allied with big business and banks that do not want decreased profits. Together, they elaborate plans of austerity that take away historical rights of the working class, result in layoffs, imposing work speed-ups and leave the youth without any possibility of a future.
The young of today, who are living the beginnings of this deep crisis, will experience as their reality living conditions even more difficult than those of previous generations. In the Arab world and in Europe, the rates of unemployment paint a terrifying picture, like in Spain where unemployment rates have surpassed 50%.
Among these, immigrants, women, and the black and LGBT community suffer even more, facing prejudice as a daily reality, the most precarious jobs and the lowest wages. This could be seen in 2010, with the revolt of black youth from the ghettos of London. They were treated by the international media and the government as marginals.
The economic crisis also has strong impact on education. Regardless of the disparity within each country, imperialism has launched an offensive on its quality and affordability at all levels of public education. Year after year governments cut education budgets, making it clear that for them education is not a priority. The consequences are precarious infrastructure and buildings, lack of teachers and professors, unqualified education workers, lack of student financial aid, etc. What has made the situation worse is the project for the universities that is being implemented today. It is one that transforms graduation courses into technological ones, destroying the basic mandate of teaching-research-extension, and all this while promoting an expansion of enrollment without any increase in funding. One consequence of this project is privatization, be it through direct collection of fees, be it by opening the universities to direct business control of laboratories and research.
It is imperative to defend high quality, public, free education as a right of every single person. We demand more funding for education, because this is the only way to make the democratization of access to education possible and to guarantee student financial aid, university dining halls, housing for students, child care centers, in addition to struggling for democratization of the internal decision-making processes. We must guarantee respect for university autonomy, that the decisions be taken by the entire academic community. With each confrontation with dictatorships and austerity plans, the defense of public, high quality education is an essential demand of the youth ñ for an education that meets the needs and interests of the working class.
As we saw written on the signs in the Plaza del Sol, in Spain: if today our generation lacks education, jobs, housing, health security, our generation is one that also lacks fear. And we have demonstrated this fact in many heroic struggles across the globe. In the Middle East and North Africa, the youth has led a real revolution, overthrowing 30 year dictatorships that ruled through brutality and oppression and emerging as an example for the world. It has overthrown dictatorships inTunisia, Egypt, Libya,Yemen and is now facing a civil war inSyria. The occupation of Tahir Square for 18 days was a symbol for the new wave of struggle that has spread throughout the world. The method of occupying the squares has become a symbol of the new mobilizations.
Youth has also demonstrated its will and strength to fight and resist in Greece, Spain, England, Portugal, Italy, France. As the economic crisis is putting in jeopardy the future of the youth, we have taken to the streets, occupied plazas and universities, and faced down the repression and the governments. In the U.S., the Occupy Movement brought onto the scene major demonstrations in the center of the world, demonstrations not seen in decades. In Latin America, Chilean students pushed forward tremendous mobilizations, using a great deal of creativity and bravery, against the privatization of public education.
All these struggles faced much repression. Governments make an effort to silence by force the indignant shouts of youth, using any means necessary to do so. Weíve seen hundreds of killed and thousands of political prisoners, lots of bombs, tear gas, rubber bullets, lethal weapons. Despite this, the resistance grows.
We should learn from this moment of great clashes. First of all, the youth must have the organized working class as its strategic ally in struggle. We must raise up high the flag of worker-student unity, reviving the May ’68 tradition and so many other moments in history. This creates the key combination of the youth’s explosive energy and the experience and power of those who produce the wealth in our society. It was only through the forging of this alliance that was possible to overthrow dictatorships in the Arab world. It is not by chance that on the eve of the fall of Mubarak in Egypt there was a three day strike of workers at the Suez Canal. Only through this alliance will it be possible to defeat the plans of austerity and ensure that the workers and youth do not pay the price for the crisis.
Another lesson we must learn is that each struggle of students and the youth as a whole should serve the purpose of strengthening its organizations, in a democratic, independent way, united with the workers. And those organizations should have as one of their priorities creating international connections. Regardless of the uneven development in each country, of cultural differences, of the rhythm and expressions that the economic crisis will have, there is one thing we are sure of: there is a common reality our generation is facing. If we are attacked as a whole, we must answer as a whole as well. We must establish strong bonds among youth organizations so we are in a better position to struggle and dream of a better future. With the combative spirit, will to fight and fearlessness, we invite all the organizations of students and the youth to take up this struggle.
We are many youth, but with one struggle!
We are professors at institutions of higher education. Our job is to open to our students critical horizons that question reality and offer different world views.
We do not see ourselves as mere agents of the reproduction of the social order, and especially as not officers of the repression with which Quebec’s state power has decided to contemptuously attack the student community. The unjust Bill 12 (formerly Bill 78), which criminalizes what were until recently considered social rights and civil liberties, would have Quebec’s professors play these roles.
We denounce this law by which the Quebec government is attempting to create a chain of obedience intended to systematically attack freedom of association, the right to demonstrate and, more broadly, any « concerted action » within educational institutions of higher education (in Quebec : colleges and universities). Now, no one can impede the right of a student to receive instruction. No one may contribute, directly or indirectly, to « slow down, degrade or delay » the resumption or continuation of classes. « Gatherings » that could disrupt classes are prohibited within a 50 meter radius of buildings. Teacher and student unions have the obligation to ensure strict compliance with these provisions, under penalty of exorbitant fines. The ministry may order the removal of all the resources of the latter, including dues payments. Finally, higher educational institutions must communicate any information the ministry requires under penalty of fines. Under the pretext of protecting the right of access to classes, this incredibly ferocious law thus establishes a mode of governance based on administrative, judicial and police repression of all those who would organize their forces to challenge its principles and its application or to defend any position adopted by a General Assembly, including positions concerning the accessibility of higher education.
We consider it unacceptable that Quebec professors are now forced to be cogs in this Orwellian system. On the one hand, the government tells professors to ignore the collective decisions taken democratically by student assemblies, to teach the students who present themselves in the classroom and to whom these courses are supposedly « due », and to thereby penalize those who abide by their vote to strike. This is a direct attack on the freedom of political conscience of professors. On the other hand, professors’ academic freedom may be infringed not only at the direction of educational institutions but also by anyone who would denounce these professors for « helping or inducing a person » to contravene this law.
We reject such an abuse of our work. We defend and will always defend an education which silences no debate, an education capable of generating strong convictions and concrete practices.
We refuse to contribute to the production of a world characterised by the war of all against all, by market logic, by mutual surveillance, by informants, self-censorship, and fear. We reject the idea that respecting the contract between an academic institution and a student, legitimizes the violence exercised by the state against collective political rights – rights to associate, to express one’s opinion freely, to make collective decisions, to strike, and to demonstrate.
We reaffirm that decisions taken in a democratic way, by associations whose legitimacy is recognized by the law, are themselves legitimate.
We respect the strike vote of the students. We recognize their right to protest at their educational institutions and to interrupt the activities which are carried out there as the only means by which they have bargaining power.
We would not know how to teach in contravention of these principles.
Profs contre la hausse – http://profscontrelahausse.org/
Please use your networks; circulate this to as many professors as possible both from here and from elsewhere. To be included among the signatories, write to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
For months now, all over Quebec, the streets have vibrated to the rhythm of hundreds of thousands of marching feet. What started out as a movement underground, still stiff with the winter consensus, gathered new strength in the spring and flowed freely, energizing students, parents, grandparents, children, and people with and without jobs. The initial student strike grew into a people’s struggle, while the problem of tuition fees opened the door to a much deeper malaise – we now face a political problem that truly affects us all. To find its remedy and give substance to our vision, let us cast our minds back to the root of the problem.
The way we see it, direct democracy should be experienced, every moment of every day. Our own voices ought to be heard in assemblies in schools, at work, in our neighbourhoods. Our concept of democracy places the people in permanent charge of politics, and by « the people » we mean those of us at the base of the pyramid – the foundation of political legitimacy. This becomes an opportunity for all those who are never heard. It is a time for women to speak up as equals and to raise issues that are too often ignored or simply forgotten about. The democracy we see does not make promises: it goes into action. Our democracy banishes cynicism, instead of fuelling it. As we have shown many times over, our democracy brings people together. Each time we take to the streets and set up picket lines, it is this kind of democracy that at last breathes free. We are talking about shared, participatory democracy.
The Ligue des droits et libertés, CLASSE’s Legal Committee and the Association des Juristes Progressistes gather to collect, by August 13, 2012, testimonies from students and citizens who, since the beginning of the student strike, have been subject to intimidation and police brutality, arrest, detention, or any accusation of retaliation and denial of access to public places or services because they wore a red square.
The three organizations intend to produce a report with the testimonies collected, thus permitting a more holistic view of the extent of police repression, judicial and political. We invite you to read the attached explanatory document (including an assistant memory to help you write your testimony) and send us your testimonials to email@example.com.
For more information please write to témoignage@liguedesdroits.ca or visit this Facebook event.
Nicole Filion, Ligue des droits et libertés (www.liguedesdroits.ca)
Andrée Bourbeau, Comité légal de la CLASSE (www.bloquonslahausse.com)
Sibel Ataogul, Association des juristes progressistes (www.ajpquebec.org)
Montreal, June 22, 2012 – This is by tens of thousands that the citizens of Quebec took the streets in Montreal and Quebec to challenge tuition hikes, bill 78 and the policies of the government of Jean Charest. After more than four months of mobilization, students are resolved to continue the struggle everywhere-across Quebec.
« During the last weeks, Jean Charest tried to install a climate of fear Quebec. It uses the same methods as Harper’s Conservatives: Making a protest silent by any means possible in order to show down the throat of the population these privatization measures, » said Camille Robert, one of the spokesperson of the CLASSE, during the rally in Montreal.
In addition, the Coalition points out that the Charest government is increasingly tarnished by revelations of the Commission Charbonneau. « How the Liberals dare they talk about fair share of students, while millions of dollars disappear in corruption cases every year. Who heads the Quebec? The consulting engineering firms or the people? » said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson of the CLASSE, who attended the citizen demonstration in Quebec City.
CLASSE recalls that it will meet the population as part of a series of talks across Quebec this summer.
Ludvic Moquin-Beaudry, press secretary: 514-835-2444