Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, co-spokesperson for CLASSE and the most recognizable face of the student strike which has captured the imagination of progressives the world over, has resigned.
"I am leaving, but the movement will continue. What I am quitting is not the mobilization, nor the struggle, nor the CLASSE: I am quitting my role as spokesperson. I will remain at your side, in the streets, and in our assemblies."
Citing the need for "new blood" and "fresh faces" within the CLASSE, and bemoaning the relentless and vicious attacks he and CLASSE have been subjected to by the Charest government, who he said have attempted to paint the student movement, and him in particular, as "terrorists," he spoke of the need for the popular struggle to renew itself, as it enters a new phase.
In a letter of resignation addressed to "all those who mobilized this spring, and to members of the CLASSE" and released exclusively to Le Devoir, Nadeau-Dubois said he leaves with a sense of accomplishment, and the knowledge that "My colleagues are formidable people, ready to pick up the torch."
"I leave with only one regret. I regret leaving my role while Quebec is still led by Jean Charest, a Premier who is contemptuous and violent towards Quebec and its youth. Shale gas, corruption, Anticosti, Mount Orford, tuition hikes and the health tax: the list of deception, of lies, of scandals and of attacks against the population perpetrated by this government is so very long."
"This decision is not motivated by bitterness, nor by despair. On the contrary, I am more convinced than ever of the necessity of continuing this movement we have built over the last six months... the criticisms raised by the youth of Quebec this spring are far too profound to be resolved in an election campaign of thirty-five days."
In an exclusive early morning interview with rabble.ca, the CLASSE's external affairs secretary Keena Gregoire, said "It was an honour for me to work with him. I thank him for all the work he did. But we must continue to look forward. The mobilization will not stop."
"We are not only challenging a tuition hike," said Nadeau-Dubois, "we are casting into question sclerotic and corrupt institutions which are in desperate need of help."
Rumours swirled following his departure that Nadeau-Dubois would follow his former colleague, ex-FECQ president Leo Bureau-Blouin, into the electoral arena. Many asserted that he would stand as a candidate for Quebec Solidaire, the party most closely aligned with the ideals of the student movement.
Those rumours are false, and several independent sources within CLASSE assure rabble.ca that Nadeau-Dubois will not be involved in politics, in any capacity, until the conclusion of the strike.
Because CLASSE has decided not to speak to the media about Nadeau-Dubois' resignation, the sources rabble.ca was able to reach in the organization spoke only on condition of anonymity.
One CLASSE source told rabble.ca that there "is absolutely no distance between Gabriel and CLASSE. What is in his letter is the whole story, there is no falling out, no hidden back story. He will continue to be part of our organization, he will do other work behind the scenes. Meanwhile, Cammille and Jeanne will remain in place as spokespeople."
Another source echoed this point, and stated, "He was tired. No one expected the strike to last this long, and the pressure of facing the media, the attacks, every day for six months was more than he could take. He simply reached a point where he could not go on for one more day".
"He will remain active and involved in CLASSE and the strike, for instance he will participate in the show at Olympia this Friday. The movement is bigger than any one person, and we will continue the fight".
When reached this morning by rabble.ca, Martine Desjardins, the President of the FEUQ, Quebec's second largest student group, expressed surprise at her colleague's decision to resign.
"It was a surprise. Actually it was shocking. We spoke only a few days ago, and he was not planning to resign. I spoke to him again this morning, I don't understand why he decided to resign at this point. I'm not sure if it was the right time, but I totally understand why he did so. The government targeting him was the main reason. It's very difficult to accept that he resigned today".
She reiterated FEUQ's focus on the election, in which they will be targeting the Liberals in twenty-five vulnerable ridings, including Charest's seat of Sherbrooke.
When asked about the impact of Nadeau-Dubois' resignation on the resumption of the strike, she said, "The strike is just a tool we are using, and it was very effective in getting the attention of the government. But it is not an objective, it's a tool. The objective is a freeze, or if you are fighting for free education, then free education. The strike will be more active, but it is not our only tool".
According to Desjardins, over one thousand students signed up to volunteer on the FEUQ's election campaign in the first twenty-four hours. She indicated her organization will be shifting much of its focus to the election over the next month.
"If the Liberals are re-elected it is a catastrophe. But the CAQ would also be a catastrophe, their position is basically the same as the Liberals. You have Quebec Solidaire, you have the Parti Quebecois, and we will be urging people not to vote for the Liberals or the CAQ".
In his letter Nadeau-Dubois expressed regret that the media were so fixated on identifying a leader, and seemed incapable of understanding a truly democratic, egalitarian organization like CLASSE.
But he saved his harshest words for Premier Jean Charest.
"When the youth rose up against these absurdities, Mr. Charest's only response was the force of truncheons and the acidity of tear gas. To the imagination of my generation, he had no response but repression and lies. In the face of a generous and principled movement, he had no response but degrading personal attacks."
"Since the begining of our strike, he has stopped at nothing to break us. As a movement, and as people... now I must take a respite, far from all of these attacks".
"This lack of respect towards the youth and their spokespeople is only equalled by the generalized contempt for the common good which reigns in the Liberal Party of Quebec. This government has no right to give lessons in democracy: they are the very incarnation of corruption and the perversion of public institutions".
He goes on to say that the education system in Ontario and the U.S. should be no more of an example for us to follow than the American healthcare system is, although it appears to be Charest's model. I'll give him the last word:
"We must not follow this road laid out for us, which will lead to the commodification of our lives. Thankfully, today, as I write these lines, I am sincerely convinced that we will not... because we are hundreds of thousands, children of this strike, and we will fight this deadly project.
The arrogance of power only reinforces our confidence in ourselves. The bonds of solidarity woven under the clouds of tear gas will not soon be undone. The outstretched hands will not relent. And we will march again, for years if necessary, under the banner of this strike, because one day the people of Quebec will take back the reins of this country from the tricksters and their money.
Ensemble, bloquons la hausse"
Please note that the translation of Nadeau-Dubois' letter is my own, and no doubt terrible. If you read French I encourage you to read the original.