Street Politics 101

2013, Politics  -   27 Comments
Ratings: 8.31/10 from 36 users.

In the spring of 2012, a massive student strike in opposition to a tuition hike rocked the streets of the Montréal for over six months. Protests and militant street actions became part of the daily and nightly reality of this Canadian metropolis. Several times during this tumultuous spring, the numbers in the streets would reach over one hundred thousand. Police routinely clubbed students and their allies, and arrested them by the hundreds.

Some were even banned from entering the city. But every time the cops struck, the student movement got bigger and angrier. There were rumors that the police budget was going bust and that many cops were taking leave due to the intensity of the situation.

Premier of Quebec enacted a draconian anti-protest law that would impose massive fines to individual and student unions. The mayor of Montreal pled with citizens to intervene and ask the students to abandon the streets and go back to school. But every day people joined the strikers in the streets and the pressure would not cease.

Then an election was called. The sovereignist party Quebecois won with the promise of freezing the tuition increase and scrapping the anti-protest law. For many within the student movement this was a victory that they were aiming for and one that was obtained through the peaceful mobilization of thousands, but for anarchists this was no triumph.

This is a story about how the arrogance of a government under-estimated a dedicated group of students who through long-term organizing laid the foundation for some of the largest mass demonstrations in Canada's history. In Quebec universities and junior colleges have federations that represent students when dealing with the school administration or the government.

Of the three major federations the ASSE stands out for its mandate to achieve free education for all and for its affinity to radical politics, specifically something called "Syndicalisme de Combat" or Combative Syndicalism. Combative Syndicalism is premised on established a power struggle with a state or boss through means of direct action rather than negotiation or conciliation.

In 2010 the liberal Premier of Quebec Jean Charest announced he would increase tuition by $325.00 a year starting in 2012. This prompted the three major federations to issue a strike warning but also led to the ASSE opening up its membership to any students who wanted to strike under its directive of free education. This new incarnation of the ASSE became known as CLASSE.

Charest ignored the ultimatum and the strike officially kicked off in February 2012. Students and their supports started pinning red squares to their clothes. This was a symbol used in previous student strikes and it became a simple act for anyone to show solidarity with the students.

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27 Comments / User Reviews

  1. canuckette69

    I lived in Montréal (east) during the greve, and I have to say, it was NOT the 'anarchists' or the vandals, or the violent that defined that moment, or that movement. This documentary totally distorts why and how hundreds of thousands of us joined those already in the street. It was almost entirely peaceful (on the part of the protesters; not the police), and nearly all in the spirit of hope, that a gov't after Charest would abide previous commitments to free education for all. There was, it is true, an associated sense that capitalistic interests were dictating provincial and city policy, and in that sense it was an overreach and intrusion of market forces. But I guarantee, almost NOBODY expected, or demanded, any end to capitalism generally.
    "Les casseroles", these neighborhood marches, became larger than any of the original student protests: with grandmas, and immigrants, students and the retired, all participating enthusiastically BECAUSE they we believed that a future where only the rich get higher education (as it is in many parts of the States) is not a future we want for Québec. Can you really imagine these same people putting on masks and trashing property randomly? Moreover, the original student organizations NEVER adopted the tactics of brutal violence depicted here. These were the few, opportunistic thrill seekers and committed anarchists, who took advantage of a peaceful movement.
    If you believe in the democratic process, that it is possible for an engaged people to act collectively, with purpose, then you must see the disutility of the anarchists' semi-random destructiveness.
    The message of this film dishonors the efforts of so many in Montréal, who have put so much effort into PEACEFULLY laying the groundwork for a better future for our kids.

    NOTE: the symbol of solidarity, held up by tens of thousands of onlookers, was the PEACE SYMBOL! Does that really sound like something you'd see in this documentary? That's how distorting it is.

  2. Lucy Saw

    But did it work? Is there now free tuition or what? The video ends too abruptly without showing conclusion.

    1. Pedro LeChasseur

      Nope, they blind us all with a Summit for education, which was in fact networking and they announced worse, an indexation...

      And this year they are rising associated costs related to education, and people don't care now, they're trapped like boiled frogs...

  3. hpthoroughbreds

    from some of these comments i have only one question. do you have the equivalent of Fox "News" in Canada? if so please stop watching it. get your own opinions thru internet, library, friends, neighbors, etc. it is in your best interest.

  4. Critical

    Ahead of their time

  5. skristense

    Education should not be free, It is a privilege. WILL THEY protest foods, cars, homes because they are not free. They have no RIGHT to education. These people are mostly spoiled upper middle class liberals who want some one else to pay their way.

    Lastly, a rich middle class has only been produced by Capitalism. Europe, USA and Asian tigers all have large free markets. The wealthiest countries are the most Capitalist and the most liberty.

    1. bob

      Just in case you have not been introduced to the 21st century, but here is some news for you... Education IS a right in Canada. :)

    2. Geo

      People like you mesure wealth of a country by the number of rich people it creates.

      People like me mesure wealth of a country by the number of poor people it creates.

      We will never get along, you WANT more, I NEED less...

      Health and education are free here, it is the law...

      I wish you the same, so you can fall down your chair and say " how is this possible" when in fact it as been possible all this time but infaisable because of people like you. People who dont believe in PROGRESS but believes in "this the best we have had yet, we should stick with it".

      I dream of a Free Socialist Capitalist Democratic Republic.

      Je suis QUÉBÉCOIS, i have never been canadian, or french canadian, i will never be. I almost hate true canadians and i really hates canada for participating in this war money banking scheme.

  6. jerusalemanarchist

    brilliant! sublime, sublime anarchism. much to learn from y'all

  7. Gabriel San

    I live in Montreal and this documentary misrepresents the situation: Good universities which create good studends who will find a JOB(e.g. McGill, Concordia), did not go on strike. UQAM, UdM => arts& political science and other useless majors which create people that go on welfare, all protested... That was the opinion of the majority however was not even mentioned in this documentary...

    It is a little one-sided. Watch with a critical eye...

    1. skristense

      Well said

    2. Jessica

      Concordia did participate. I am a concordia student and concordia students were blocking the entrance ways to the main buildings. There was one day where all the students did not attend classes to show their support for the strike and this day was recognized from the university officially and students were not penalized for attendance. So you are very wrong!

    3. Critical

      You are a puppet to an already f--ked system. Go ahead and go to university for a job. Great use that will be when the US dollar collapses and the New World Order takes over .

    4. Guest

      There's no New World Order. There is only Business As Usual.

    5. Roi Truax

      Well here's a cookie and bright shiny star for your forehead! Now go get back up on your masters lap...

    6. canuckette69

      I spoke with hundreds of people (in meetup groups, etc) of a wide variety in Montréal est, and NOT ONE was opposed to the student strike. Some were ambivalent, because of the human cost (missed months of education), but no one, was opposed. The only opposition I ever heard, was from a couple of older, wealthy in west island (anglophones).
      Also, you are the only one I've ever heard from Montréal expressing the distinction between utile and "useless" majors. You sound like an American.

    7. Geo

      Wealthy racist anglophones goes to Mcgill and Concordia!
      Middle class french people (Québécois) goes to Uqam, Udm.

      I can assure you that you never lived in Montréal, you only slept here!

  8. Johntechwriter

    Too bad a legitimate student protest in Canada was co-opted by anarchists, who have their heads so far up their asses nothing will satisfy them.

    Here in the USA on July 1 the rate for student loans just doubled, from 3.4% to 6.8%. This at a time the lenders are getting their money from the Fed at virtually no interest. If any American student groups protested, I didn't see it in the media. Students in Canada or Europe would have gone berserk, and rightly so.

    1. Jonathan Peterson

      Why are we sheep?
      An important question is not being asked. What would instinct have to be to direct traffic in the human body and mind while adapting to a constantly changing environment. Instinct is not some chains of molecules it is real time intelligent operations that can stop time in special circumstances where an accident is about to happen to increase survivability of host by directing actions. This knowledge hides itself from its host. We don't get as many choices as we thought we did. But better info makes for better decisions. We have been deceived about some facts on hand to protect status quo and a lot more than that. Equality between all citizens under all laws is an unalienable right, now equality is defiled and ignored by the group (330M). Instinct is blocking comprehension in most members of the group. Instinct program exercises authority over its host by not allowing risks to status quo operations which are always fragile in reality. We can't find it if we don't know what to look for. A far advanced artificial intelligence program attached to DNA in some hidden way. It is there we can't find it yet. How about some single cells in a super collider? Look for something unexpected I would hope. Science is a creation of God who wrote the code for a.i. to operate life forms survival during animated existence. Beliefs aside someone or something created instinct program it did not write itself into existence. This is good for science to make some adjustments in current beliefs about creation of life. Elder Jonathan L. Peterson
      Bribery laws and elite citizen monopoly laws

    2. Hobidias Orion

      That's funny! Because every movement in history has been co-opted by liberals, who have turned the s*it s*ittier.

  9. Sir Baby De Porky

    It's easier to agree to disagree , then to agree ...

    But we live in a rotten system ...

  10. Mtl Student 2012

    As a student living and studying in Montreal at the time, I can tell you first hand that this documentary misrepresents the situation. Firstly I would like to clarify one thing; students cannot strike. They do not hold a labor agreement, or any other contract for that matter, therefore they cannot strike. At best, it was a boycott.

    This documentary failed to mention that most students in Montreal universities decided not to go on strike and that striking students forced faculties who democratically decided not to strike to close. Of the four major universities in Montreal, McGill, Concordia, UQAM and University de Montreal, strikes by faculties at McGill and Concordia were extremely limited. Only a couple faculties at each of those universities decided to strike, and their strike was only a week or so long. At U de M much of the school didn't strike but striking students ignored their decision not to partake in the strike by disrupting classes and blocking students from entering. That sounds democratic, if you don't agree with us, we'll prevent you from learning!

    The situation was most striking at UQAM where the strike action (and keep in mind, it isn't actual a strike) only passed by about 60%, and yet they shut down the whole school for those students who did want to learn, even against a court order when taken to court by a student who wanted to attend class.

    Personally, the strike didn't affect me very much, I didn't miss a single day of class, but I know that wasn't the case for many people. I would be much more able to respect their view, if they were able to respect the view of those who disagreed with them.

    In the end, it only hurt the students. I have one friend who was accepted to do his masters in finance at UCLA, but couldn't go because he wasn't able to graduate in May. I have another friend who has had his whole degree delayed by a semester because CEGEP Vieux Montreal went on strike, but McGill didn't (he was supposed to graduate from Vieux Montreal). One final thing that this documentary failed to mention is that, yes, the PQ cut the liberal tuition hikes, but instituted their own that were greater. Moreover, they cut a further $124 million from university funding. That sounds like a sure-fire route to free education!

    I'm not going to begin talking about Quebec's financial situation with respect to free education.

    At the end of the day, students missed a semester of school and will end up paying more than had the PQ not been elected.

    1. SpeakTheTruth

      If what you say is true and the PQ cut 124 million dollars of funding deliberately, then I should like to know the reason for it. I should like to know from them what reason( their own volition or some compulsion) made them agree to having the university funding cut by $124 million.

      But the way you have written this comment I think that you are basically saying that a bunch of freeloaders (my interpretation based on the general substance of your thoughts) wanted all other kids(financially well off) from studying so that no one would suffer a fee increase.

      I shall be straightforward here. In a society in which the dominant force is capitalism, such issues would become grave matters because the way capitalism survives is by ensuring artificial scarcity and by feeding of the labour of people who graduate from college with large student debts.

      Having free education at the college level is not a new idea but an extension of the idea of free school education. I entirely agree with it. I think we human beings(approximately seven billion currently) have the capacity to produce enough teachers to train each other. So why shouldn't education be free?

      And what is it you are attacking here? Are you attacking the principles the PQ stood for or the supposed corruption that the PQ is engaged? So what exactly is the crime of PQ that you accuse them of?--the crime of being made of human beings who are inherently corrupt or the idea of free education for all (which is my cherished goal)?

      The concept of a father loving his child is accepted by all. But if a crazy or corrupt father decided to kill his child, then does the concept of a father loving a child become a vice instead of a virtue?

    2. AprilOneal

      I don't think you get the point (even if you were a student in the area). They're striking in order to end capitalism (for the most part). If a few people missed their graduation, had to pay more.. etc.. maybe they'll get a clue that the structure of education is getting out of hand. They're paying out the butt for something that should be free in order to reach anyone who would attempt to learn, and therefore have the greatest beneficial impact. Many students become debt slaves and most can't even find gainful employment after graduating (not to mention the financing hoops they crawl through). What a circus. You have no idea what free education entails, and are obviously not putting your education to any use in developing abstract thought. You sure can spout the statistics though.. congratulations! HAHAHA..

    3. Bad Conduct

      I agree with you. But I also agree with them.
      Remember; just going to school and finishing your courses basically tells everyone it's OK if you pay more for your education. That's fine for those who can afford it.

    4. Hobidias Orion

      they mentioned that PQ raised tution at the end. Its pretty obvious that you didnt watch the documentary all the way through.

  11. oQ

    "A force de taper sur le clou, on finit par l'enfoncer".