In the spring of this year, Quebec's student movement declared war on an intransigent government which hoped to raise tuition fees by 82 per cent while slashing corporate taxes and those on high income earners.
The result? Two education ministers resigned. A premier and a sitting government defeated. The tuition hikes and that odious assault on civil liberties known as Law 12 set to be repealed.
An unambiguous victory for students and their allies in other social movements, to be sure, but though the battle may be won, the war is only just starting.
This type of upwards income re-distribution, from government programs which help us all, to tax cuts for the richest among us, is sadly all too common in this country.
It's called the austerity agenda, and from Jean Charest to Stephen Harper it is the driving ideology of most of our governments.
In Quebec, civil society rallied around an openly and unapologetically radical student movement, which sought not only to cancel tuition hikes, but to remake society in the image of people, not corporations.
And make no mistake, this is a fight we cannot afford to lose. If we don't take radical action on climate change, for starters, there won't be a planet left for us to squabble over.
In Quebec, across Canada and around the world people took hope and inspiration from the example of Quebec's unwavering student movement. Now Quebec students are setting their sights on Stephen Harper, and making alliances with social movements across the country to build a broad and popular movement against austerity.
In this context it has never been more important to share the lessons of a strike two years in the making with Canadians across the country. To that end, rabble.ca is very pleased to announce a cross-Canada speaking tour which will start at the end of this month and continue into the first week of October. We're also incredibly thankful to the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union (CEP), Ryerson's Social Justice Week and LeadNow for their support.
It will feature Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the former spokesperson for CLASSE. The most public and visible representative of a leaderless movement, Nadeau-Dubois has been at the eye of the hurricane since the beginning of the strike. He will be joined by Cloé Zawadzki-Turcotte, a former member of CLASSE's Executive and a key organizer behind the strike who is in fact currently on a tour in the Maritimes, and yours truly.
We'll be talking about what happened in Quebec, but also how the hard-earned lessons of the longest student strike in Canadian history can be applied to organizing across the country. We hope to be able to build bridges of solidarity with movements in other parts of Canada, ties that are critical to mounting a truly national movement against Stephen Harper and austerity.
The dates which have been confirmed are as follows -- with likely at least a couple more locations to confirm in the next few days -- but it will depend on local partners and our ability to raise funds.
September 29th - London, ON
September 30th - Toronto
October 1st - Ryerson (Toronto) - Nadeau-Dubois will be joining the closing panel of Social Justice Week
October 2nd - Saskatoon and Regina
October 3rd - Winnipeg
October 4th - Victoria and Vancouver Island
October 5th - Vancouver
We hope you'll join us at one of these locations, to hear war stories and learn about CLASSE's tactics and strategies, to understand the real story behind the media spin that came out of Quebec this year, and to meet these two incredible young people who I truly believe represent some of the best and brightest their generation has to offer.
This summer, thousands of Canadians from coast to coast participated in Casseroles Night in Canada, and banged their pots and pans in solidarity with Quebec students. Truth is, Quebec noticed.
CLASSE has already voted to join a national movement being built to fight Harper, and his agenda of unfettered austerity, and there is a growing mood in Quebec that it is no longer good enough to ignore Ottawa. Quebec's social movements are ready and willing to take the fight to Harper, and if I were him, I'd be worried by that prospect. When we go to the wall over the next few years, we'll do it together.
In Quebec, the students had a saying throughout the strike, it translates as "together, block the hike." After the election, and the announcement that the hike would be cancelled, it became "together, we blocked the hike," and spread like wildfire over social networks.
"Ensemble" is a strong word in French, which draws a far more vivid image of social solidarity and unity than "together" does in English. It has always been the watchword of CLASSE, a radically democratic, grassroots and decentralized organization.
Quebec's students stood together through it all, and came out the victors. If we stick together, and work together, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.
Together, we can block Harper. Together, we can build a society that works for all. Together, we can change the world. It isn't a pipe dream, any more than freezing tuition was. It is a reality which awaits us, if we can only build it.
For CLASSE, victory is merely the start of the next fight. And that fight is against austerity, in all its forms. More importantly, that fight is to not only oppose assaults on our social welfare, but to build a better society.
Like CLASSE itself, this tour has few resources, and only the most rudimentary of organization. Together, we can make it a success, and use it as a jumping off point to building a new solidarity and unity between Quebec and the rest of Canada.
But we need your help. For starters, share this article like the dickens! We'll have a website up and a press release out on Monday with all the details. Spread the word, and help us make waves across this country.
Together, we can spread Quebec's spirit of resistance from coast to coast and build a movement which will win. I look forward to building it with you.
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