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Yesterday, Jonathan Kay wrote a piece in the National Post critiquing Quebec’s student strike by contrasting today’s movement with the U.S. student movement of the 1960s. Kay’s piece drew particular attention to the Port Huron Statement, a sort of founding document of the ’60s student movement in the U.S., written some 50 years ago: “many of the problems described in the Port Huron Statement were very real, and are with us still.”

Despite this, Kay seems to believe that today’s Quebec student movement is less worthy of support: “…many of us find the Quebec student protestors slightly ridiculous. That province already is, in many ways, the sort of socially liberal welfare state that SDS protestors dreamed of 50 years ago, with free health care, a relatively thick social safety net, pacifist sensibilities, and the lowest college tuition rates in North America.”

Tom Hayden, one of the most prominent student movement activists of the 1960s and the lead author of the Port Huron Statement, read Kay’s piece and passed on this note to  

I find it disturbing that Jonathan Kay celebrates the 1962 Port Huron Statement, founding document of the Students for a Democratic Society, only to turn against the vast student movement in the streets of Montreal.

At this distance, the general action of the Quebec students seems consistent with the student movements in Sixties America, which began with black student sit-ins and boycotts and led to the occupations of hundreds of universities after the bombing of Cambodia, and the killings at Kent State and Jackson State.

The real similarity is between Kay’s cynical condemnation of the Quebec students and the same derision we faced for stepping out of line when we were young.

I otherwise appreciate Kay’s thoughtful analysis, and am glad to see that the Port Huron vision participatory democracy is alive and well so many decades later.

– Tom Hayden, Author, Port Huron Statement