How did the Quebec student movement win?

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For over 4 months, students and their allies, took over the streets of Montreal every day, to protest  a tuition hike imposed by the liberal party in Quebec.

On September 21st, the newly elected Premier of Quebec scrapped the tuition hike and repealed a controversial law, that effectively banned public demonstrations.

While this is being touted as a victory by many in the student movement, one element that made this success possible is already being overshadowed. How the the movement’s militant street politics transformed the student strike from a single issue campaign to an uncompromising social insurrection.

    This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 8:52 am and is poested under the fuckin show category.

    9 Responses to “How did the Quebec student movement win?”

  • ironcloudz says:

    what did the movement “win”? subordination to the other party of capital in Quebec which has already implemented its own austerity agenda when it was in power previously?

    A useful object lesson in the limitations of “leaderless” anarchism as a political tendency which seems to inevitably fall by default under the umbrella of the already existing bourgeois parties in the absence of an alternative revolutionary socialist party.

    • stimulator says:

      I think people are misinterpreting the “win” The fact that new affinities were created and people realize the possibility of a successful social revolt and see the state for what it is, that’s the real win.

      Revolutionary socialist parties have mostly given us authoritarian dictatorships were political dissidents are jailed and there is no freedom of movement.

      No thanks.

  • Frederic Plante says:

    Very simple.

    1st, we sticked together.
    2nd, we know the law
    3rd, we are right
    4th, we did not hurted badly any official or police.
    5th, we were patient and film every thing.

    This is the rule. If they hurt or kill you, they loose. Same for us toward them. They did mistake, we did not.

    • stimulator says:

      I disagree, if they hurt or kill enough of us, we loose. Self defense has to be an integral part of any resistance movement.

  • Alexandre Amiot says:

    Having studied the different movements over the globe since OWS, I can spot a few key differences about ours. Hold on, I’m gonna go in detail here.

    To begin with, it is unfair to say that we were a leaderless movement: there were three major student association federations representing the students who decided to go on strike. They were each represented by (extremely talented and well spoken) spokespeople. The FEUQ by Martine Desjardins. The FECQ by, now deputy in the current governement, Leo Bureau-Blouin (although his recent parading in fashion magasines is quite irritating, to say the least). And the CLASSÉ by Jeanne Reynolds and, the guy who became the face of the movement by acting as a lightning rod for quite a bit of the criticism, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. Will come back to him further. The first two «leaders» had executive power in their organisations and could adjust their talking points and objectives on the fly. The CLASSÉ is a much more interesting organisation though since it is organised in a totally horizontal and almost excessively democratic manner: a decision or even orientation towards certain goals cannot be taken without the approval of the associations during General Assemblies. The associations of every academic concentration can also choose to distance themselves from the CLASSÉ at any time. Theses GAs happening once a week. It was often very long until GND could change his discourse or express the organisation’s views on various subjects – such as violence in the manifestations. This was – of course – used as a criticism tactic by the mainstream media accusing them of inciting violence and such and such.

    What I’m getting at is that these spokespeople helped to drive the message home as they were recogniseable figures and went from station to station, sticking together, without ever contradicting themselves. The media was going apeshit trying to dismiss them. It was beautiful. I don’t know if a leader is what movements like OWS need, though, because of the history of spokespeople getting assassinated in America. (Fred Hampton especially comes to mind.) GND is special in the fact that he is – quite discernably – a convinced Marxist and it transpired in his speeches. («While we’re in the street, our prime minister is with the bosses and owners!» «There is a class warfare») That made the already apeshit corp media go even more apeshit desperatly trying to make GND look bad.

    Secondly, (I know this is long, but I feel like a detailed examination of our specificity could benefit other movements) we really went out in the street EVERY night. By being this mobile constant buzz on the news and on the street we achieved two things: the first one is forcing the city to deploy police every night to follow us causing political pressure coming from the mayor because of all the overtime pays adding up. The second one is people started aknowledging that maybe we were actually standing up for something and couldnt be just bums trying to live a riot. We got credibility.

    Then, the whole city came out. One dude suggested we should go out on our balconies at 8PM and bang pots and pans to show our support. The stories are adorable: one or two people go out and shyly start banging, then hearing it, more and more people come out until the whole street comes out and nobody is shy anymore. People started to meet their neighbors. People were hanging Red Squares on their porch.

    That’s another thing: the red square. All you had to do to show your support is to take an old piece of red tissue and pin it on your shirt. It meant something like «Squarely in the Red» meaning we couldn’t pay any more with the debts and low-wage pays and few hours student make. Corporate media was going apeshit with lies, hate and propaganda. Our tactics were too diverse. All we had to do to get wide important support was to stand on the entrance of big artistic shows and hand over red squares to random people and *Celebrities*. We made artistic and humoristic demonstrations that had «viral» value such as a big freeze and other stuff. Anything to spread the message.

    But all of that was a very long time coming. There were a lot of handing out tracts for early manifestations in the cold (wish I could say I had). We went to the offices of the ministers in charge. During demonstrations people would hand out phone numbers to flood message boxes of ministers and secretaries about why they weren’t listening to our pleas. There was also a lot of educating: what to do if arrested, what lawyers to call, what is civil disobedience, what is the black bloc, how to react to pepper spray and gas. People started passing info around at an astonishing rate. What were the exact numbers, what were all the shortcomings of the government, etc. etc. Our first «big» protest was in february – there was 20 000 people. By april may and june there were 200 000 plus in a city of 5 million! We were stalling all activity 😉

    But all of that can’t be said without stating that we were greatly moved by the situation in Tunisia, Egypt, OWS, Oakland, Spain and many more. We applied as much as we could. I think we’re really grateful and eternally proud to be part of this global round of revolutions… but not everything is done yet. We’re governed by an old party still and it is subject to lots of corporate pressure so we watch. Also note that there is a decidedly left wing party in Quebec which embraced the student cause from the beginning called Quebec Solidaire who elected two deputies. So the movement does find some expression politically. I think its important not to leave that «chair» vacant. Every opportunity of expression must be seized.

    • stimulator says:

      Pretty good account. I don’t think the video contradicts what you are saying. I just want to focus on the militant side of the movement. Now that victory has been claimed (I know it’s not a full victory) by many, the militancy within the movement is already being erased, much like it happened in Egypt and elsewhere.

  • […] Wall Street som firade ett Ã¥r (kort reportage), och reportage om studentprotesterna i Quebec frÃ¥n […]

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