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Message from Québec's student movement: Austerity can be fought!

May Day 2012 in Montreal. Photo: Socialist Canada/Flickr

Asked by an Anglophone journalist what the Québec student struggle means for the ROC, this is what I had to say.

I was among a varied group of people who published a declaration Tuesday, on May Day, in support of the student movement. One of the main themes of our message was to link the conflict around tuition fees to the wider political economy context in Québec. Our argument being that the neo-liberal paradigm which inspires much -- if not almost all of the economic policy decisions taken in Québec -- is used and has nothing new or original to offer outside of austerity. We think that the broadness of the movement signals an end of a political economy cycle here in Québec where neo-liberalism dominated. This hegemony is of course directly linked to the Charest Liberals, but also to elements in the PQ and the new coalition called CAQ. We linked the environmental and labour struggles to the student struggle, which directly challenges this hegemony and calls for the redeployment of progressive alternatives. These links are made every night by the thousands of youth that gather to march in Montreal's streets. Six of us wrote the original declaration, and then more than 200 well-known personalities signed. The wind is blowing once again in Québec!

During the ensuing press conference, we were asked a question in English which I answered here; the whole press conference is available here.

One element that is new is the determination of the movement to continue on and on, even though day in, day out, columnists, editorialists and the media in general are supporting Charest's position, publishing their supporters' op-ed pieces calling for law and order, repression and painting the students as dangerous and violent terrorists. And this bullying is not working, the movement is ever more determined, and public opinion is less and less supportive of the government. This weekend will be a big test. The Liberals are holding a strategic congress, which they have moved from Montreal to Victoriaville, a mid-size town outside of the Monteal-Québec corridor. Hundred of buses have been reserved.

The pundits (like Margaret Wente's ridiculous column this week, so Marie Antoinette...) have been predicting the implosion of the movement since March... they are so disconnected. They don't understand the movement, nor the political culture that underpins it.

We are seeing a political rift in Québec society between those mobilized for change and a chummy and tired elite that is clinging to a model that people don't believe in anymore. The students, some workers in the manufacturing sector, members of the northern communities -- all are now mobilized against this government.

This article was first posted on The Progressive Economics Forum.

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