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Organize, Imagine, and Act: How a Student Movement Can Become a Revolution
And so it seems that the student strike in Quebec is slowing down and nearing an end, as the college – CEGEPs – in Quebec have voted to return to class, with roughly 10,000 students having voted to continue the strike, a far reduction from the 175,000 students that were on strike in late April and early May. The strike began in February of 2012 in opposition to a planned 75% increase in the cost of tuition. The students mobilized massive numbers, held mass protests, undertook picket lines at schools, expanded the issue into a wider social movement, and were consistently met with state violence in the form of riot police, pepper spray, tear gas, beatings with batons, being shot with rubber bullets, even being trampled by horses and driven into by police cars. The government enacted Bill 78, assaulting the rights to freely assemble and speak, and put a ‘pause’ on the school semester to end picket actions. Now that the school semester is starting back up again, and an election looms in the coming weeks, the students are being led away from the streets and into voting booths. The ‘Maple Spring’ has become the ‘Fall Election’.
Meanwhile, in Chile, where a student movement that began in May and June of 2011, mobilized against a highly privatized education system, is continuing with renewed energy. There had been ups and downs of actions and mobilizations within Chile over the past 15 months, but in mid-August of 2012, the resurgence was seen as students began occupying high schools, blocking streets, and undertaking mass protests. Students who took part in the occupations were threatened with having their scholarships removed. In over a year of protesting, the students have not seen any meaningful changes to their educational system, or even inclinations that those in power were listening to their demands with anything other than disdain and contempt. The students have long been met with state violence, from the oppressive apparatus of a former military dictatorship, fighting an educational system which was established near the end of the military dictatorship. Riot police would meet students with tear gas, water cannons, batons, mass arrests, and other forms of assault. Police have subsequently stormed the high schools and arrested over a hundred students participating in the occupations. This caused the university students to get more involved, and they occupied the Universidad de Chile, which had not been occupied since the beginning of the movement the previous year (often known as the Chilean Winter).
In Chile, as in Quebec, protests and marches and even the right to demonstrate are frequently declared to be illegal. In both Chile and Quebec, when protests erupted into violence (which is more often than not incited by the police themselves), these are called “riots,” and they are used in the media and public discourse to portray the movements as violent, extremist, trouble-makers, vandals, and criminals. This is designed to reduce public support for the protests (which was far more successful in Quebec than Chile), and to subsequently dismiss the demands of the students. There are, in fact, a wider variety of similarities and interesting comparisons between the Chilean Winter and the Maple Spring. Chilean students and academics have even expressed solidarity with the Quebec student movement.
We face an issue here. The student movements don’t seem to be getting anywhere substantial in terms of establishing some sort of meaningful change. This is not to say they have not achieved anything; quite the opposite, in fact. The student movements have been successful at mobilization large numbers of people, organizing protests and indeed, in politicizing a generation, which is their most sincere and important success to date. Students have suffered under propaganda campaigns, violent repression, legal intimidation, and, most of all, the determination of an elite who view any and every minor concession as the ultimate unthinkable sacrifice which would ruin all of society. In short, elites are more stubborn than students could ever seem to be, and they have the means to hold their position and tire the students out if they can’t simply scare them away or crush them down. So, while symbolic actions and political radicalization are necessary achievements, the will to continue taking actions and the hope to manifest radical ideas becomes worn down, demoralized, and sapped of its strength. This is incredibly challenging to revive if the circumstances and courses of action do not change.
So perhaps it is time for a new tactic. Instead of having radicalization follow mobilization, students could begin to have radicalization guide mobilization. For any social movement to advance, grow, and become something not simply demanding reforms, or demanding something from power, it needs to provide something to the students, to the communities, and the public at large; it needs to create. This is the difference between a reformist movement and a revolutionary movement. In this context, the word ‘revolutionary’ is not used to imply a usurping of state power and violent overthrow of authority, but rather to transform on a radical scale our conception and participation in specific or all sectors of society. Thus, it is essential to provide new ideas for action, rather than discussing and debating the new terms of capitulation. It can make all the difference between a question of how little students will get from their demands, to a question of how much we can get from a new educational structure itself. A discussion of new ideas must replace – or coincide with – the articulation of ignored demands.
How is this possible? What might this look like?
For students, the fundamental issue is education. For the student movements, growth came from expanding the issue into a wider social one, and linking up with other organizations and causes. This expands the scope, and thus, the base of support for a student movement. However, established unions played a large role in guiding (or attempting to guide), fund, and organize in cooperation with student movements. While the cause of workers is an issue that must be engaged with, the established unions that have survived to this point, roughly thirty years into the global neoliberal era, have survived only because they function on a basis of cooperating with the established powers of society, the state and corporations. They are corporatist institutions.
Over one hundred years ago, unions were extremely radical, organized, massive, and revolutionary. The actions and ideas of radically organized labour were the impetus for 8-hour work days, weekends, pensions, job security, benefits, an end to child labour, and much more. Unions subsequently faced roughly a century of battering, violence, co-optation, and destruction. Those which remain are not radical, but only slightly reformist. I say ‘slightly’ because they do not mobilize to fight for new ideas or issues, but only to protect and preserve the reforms previously implemented as a result of radical labour agitation. Thus, union representative serve as a buffer for the blunt force of the state and organized capital and corporate interests which consistently seek to undermine and exploit labour. The major unions typically serve to soften the blow against workers as the elite bring down the hammer. Under this system, all rights, benefits, security and protections are slowly and inevitably worn down and thrown away. When the established unions provide funds and direction for the student movements, they tend to steer them away from radical or revolutionary paths, and promote a highly reformist direction, and which can only be undertaken through negotiation with and capitulation to the state and corporate interests. This gets us to where we are.
When it comes to engagement and interaction, solidarity, and cooperation with labour, it should, in fact, be the more radical – and radically organized – students who lead the unions back to a more radical direction, to take them back to their origins when they achieved successes instead of softened failures. If they refuse to follow a radical direction, then students should encourage and attempt to find means of supporting the organization of new labour organizations: provide assistance, direction, ideas and physical and moral support. Students could be mobilized into the streets for workers’ rights as well as educational rights.
The main point here is that for a movement to radicalize and become revolutionary, it must cooperate with, support, and be supported by other radical and revolutionary organizations and movements. If the more dominant force is reformist, established, and corporatist (by which I mean its functioning ideology is accepting of the state and corporate dominated society), then these organizations will attempt to co-opt, direct, and steer your movement into an area ‘safe’ for the elites, if not altogether undermined and eliminated. It is not necessarily done out of an insidious desire to destroy your student movements, but rather the result of an insidious ideology embedded within the very functions of their organizations. Thus, integration, mutual support, dependency and interaction with other social movements must take place at a radical and revolutionary level if you are to sustain that potential and desire within your own movement. It’s unfortunate, because it’s more difficult; but it’s true, all the same.
Therefore, what is required are radical ideas of organization: for the student associations and other associations they interact with to be more accountable, directly, to their constituents. Instead of elected delegates or representatives making all the decisions (which is how our governments function), the decisions must be made by the constituents, and the representatives merely carry them out and organize accordingly. The student associations in Quebec and elsewhere function more along these radical lines, while labour and other groups typically do not. If student associations do not function in this manner, that is the first issue which must be addressed: either demand the associations to change, or create new ones and thereby make the unrepresentative ones obsolete. Thus, for a student movement to become revolutionary, the first step is the radicalization of organization.
Now onto something more interesting: how to radicalize ideas and actions in education itself. This next step is about the radicalization of action. While the first step, in many instances – the radicalization of organization – had been achieved in several of the student movements, the actions themselves lacked radicalization. The actions were largely confined to mass demonstrations, picket lines, school occupations, and youth rebellion against state violence and repression. These are all important actions on their own: establishing solidarity, power in numbers, a public presence, a demonstration of will and power, the development of ‘self-esteem’ for a social movement. These are necessary, but if the actions do not evolve, the movement itself cannot evolve. Thus, what is required at this point is a discussion of new ideas of action. Typically, as is the case at the moment in Quebec, students are being told to stay out of the streets and go to the voting booth, where “real” change can be made. This is illusory and useless. Unless there is a radical party, the best that can be hoped for is to delay the inevitable assault on education, or perhaps achieve a minor concession, which would likely be more of an insult than incentive.
New ideas of action must come from the students themselves, and there are a number of initiatives that could be discussed and undertaken. Fundamentally, instead of demanding from power, create something new. If education is what you want, begin to do it yourselves. In the case of a school occupations, why should the students not simply begin to have discussions on issues, share knowledge, invite professors, academics, and others who are supportive of the movement to come talk and share their knowledge?
This does not need to only take place in occupied schools, though that would be quite symbolic, but could essentially take place in any public space. It would function as a type of grassroots educational system, designed to share and expand knowledge, not to prepare you for the workforce. Job opportunities are already vanishing everywhere for youth, and they will continue to do so as the economic crisis gets worse. These types of educational forums could potentially be designed to educate and share knowledge on issues of relevance to the student movements themselves: the history of education, protest and social movement history, political power, repression, the economic system – Capitalism, neoliberalism, etc. This could – and should – expand into much larger issues and areas of knowledge, including arts, the sciences, philosophy, etc. There are already people within society who have gained their knowledge through educational institutions, and thus, there are already people from whom to draw this knowledge from in a new forum, and in a new way.
To give an example, imagine a ‘class’ (or forum) on the history of social struggles. First, a physical space is required, so to set up in a park, public venue, rent a space, or occupy a space (such as a school lecture hall). The students should have previously discussed – likely through social media networks – which intellectuals and individuals they would like to invite to come speak to them about the issue. The invited speakers would share their knowledge on the history of social struggles, promote discussion, debate one another, and engage directly with the students. For every invited outside speaker, a student should be invited to speak also, to share their own knowledge and engage on an equal basis. The notion that students are there only to learn and not teach is an incorrect one, and it’s a misnomer that should be addressed and acted upon.
The public at large should also be accepted into these educational forums. The point should be to expand knowledge and discussion among the general population, not merely the students. But the students are the ones capable of providing this forum for the population at large. To add to this: such forums should be broadcast through social media, filmed and recorded, watched online both live and archived. Students could organize ‘subject collectives’, perhaps having a group of students organized along the lines of the larger student associations (through direct democracy), who would oversee the organization of each subject or issue: history of social movements, political economy, media studies, etc. Each ‘collective’ could establish its own website, where the wider community would be encouraged to engage, support, recommend speakers and issues and venues, watch archived or live-feed forums, debate in online forums, be notified of events and speakers, and be provided with educational material, reading sources, etc. The students could write papers which would then be posted publicly on such sites, to promote discussion and to actually use the knowledge instead of writing papers for a grade, which is a rather absurd notion. These sites could have news sections, providing relevant news and developments from around the world related to their issue. The collective itself – both within the community and online – then becomes a forum for the development and extension of knowledge to a much larger sector of society, locally and globally.
This is where the actions become even more important. For a social movement to survive and expand into a revolutionary movement, it must not isolate itself, and must engage and interact directly with the wider population. The best way to do this, and one which has the added necessary effect of increasing the movement’s support among the population, is to provide a service or need. In the case of a student movement: that need is education. Merely ‘opening up’ forums to the public may not be enough. Students or ‘subject collectives’ could individually organize smaller meetings and discussions, in neighbourhoods and venues all over the city, region, or country, where students themselves speak with and to the public on issues in which they have been getting their education.
In Quebec, where students have been consistently framed by the media and elites as “entitled brats,” this tactic would be a means to share our so-called ‘entitlements’ with the wider population, and at no cost to them. Thus, as students gain knowledge, they share knowledge with others. For example, a couple history students could hold a small forum at a cafe or in a small public location which they had promoted within the neighbourhood and on social media for people to freely come to listen and engage in a discussion about a particular history topic. Of course, knowledge in such circumstances should not simply be abstract or obtuse, but relevant to those who are engaging with it. So if the discussion is on a ‘history of social movements,’ students should share knowledge on this, but make it relevant to the current social movement, to the social conditions of the wider population, and ask questions and engage with others in the venue: to promote discussion and debate. Thus, instead of the public viewing students as ‘entitled’, they may come to view students as ‘empowering.’
This type of tactic would especially have to be employed within poor communities, and oppressed communities, where students would have to be willing to listen and learn more than they would be inclined to speak and teach. This is because many student movements, simply by their position as being students, generally come from a more privileged sector of society than the really poor, minority, immigrant, or otherwise oppressed communities. These sectors largely remain in the sidelines of the student movements themselves. This must change, and for a very fundamental reason: there is a great deal to learn from these communities. Oppressed peoples have experienced and known for a much longer period of time what the majority of students are only just starting to learn and experience: the true nature and interest of power, the violent and oppressive state apparatus, the underbelly of the economic system, the reality of social existence for a great many people. In short, it would be a means through which to educate the students on deeper issues of social strife, by listening and speaking directly to and with those who exist within oppressed social spheres.
But there cannot be any taking without giving. So while oppressed communities may perhaps be willing to share their own knowledge with students and engage in discussion and debate, the students must provide something back to these communities. There is a very simple way to get this started: ask them what they need most in their communities. For example, if one community cited the cost and quality of food as a central issue, students could then leave the first meeting with the community with the intent to organize and plan around this issue. The students could hold their own discussions, meetings, debates, and share ideas on how to help resolve this specific issue within that specific community, and then propose various ideas to those community leaders. The ideas would be subject to critique, dismissal, support, etc, to go back to the drawing board with new suggestions or to get to work, putting action to the ideas.
So with the issue of food, for example, students could perhaps organize around the idea of establishing a community food garden, proposing it to the community, and, if approved and critiqued, they could find an area of land, get the support and materials they need, and work with members of that community to plant and establish such a garden, to help move toward some form of food sustainability, provided either free or cheap to those within that area. Potentially, there could be a student educational association which specialized in sharing knowledge about nutrition, horticulture, etc., and they could be brought in to share their knowledge, help in the endeavour, or even make it a staple feature of their functioning: to go to different communities to help establish food sustainability.
These are, of course, just ideas of actions, there is no reason to follow this specific outline. This is meant to merely promote the discussion of this concept: the actions, organizations, and objectives which would result from a radicalization of action are likely to be far more varied, interesting, and effective than these mere suggestions. However, I used these examples of actions and ideas to show how a student movement protesting against something (such as a tuition increase), can become a revolutionary movement for something.
These actions are revolutionary because they force people to question and reconsider their conceptions of education, its manifestation, its purpose, its institutionalization, philosophy, etc. The actions themselves engage directly with people, drawing from and providing to the population as a whole. This increases support among the population, but also greatly strengthens the ideas and actions of the students themselves. At such a conceivable point, it could not be called a ‘student movement,’ but could only be identified as a much wider social movement, which would help radicalize the wider society itself, which would in turn provide new ideas and actions to the students; solidarity in both words and actions.
These actions are revolutionary because they attempt to maneuver around power structures instead of expending all of their energy on directly battling the power structure itself. By going around the power structure – around the state, the schools, the corporations, etc. – the students would create a parallel educational structure within society, making the existing one increasingly obsolete. As this is done, the bargaining power of the state and other structures is reduced, because the students no longer rely exclusively upon them for an education. The state would most certainly attempt to repress such a movement, or perhaps even to offer much larger incentives, concessions, or even meet the previous demands of students in order to get them back in the schools and within an educational system that power controls. The state is well-established to deal with direct confrontations: that’s what police, armies, guns, badges and lawyers are for. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’re demanding, or where you are demanding it, the state can simply tear gas you, scare you, disperse you, and wait you out. But to move around the power structure, and to create and establish something new, not under the control or direction of established institutions of power, the power structures become very nervous and insecure.
It would be foolish to think that the power structures would not respond with more state violence than they have up until present, they most certainly would. The primary difference, however, would be that the public support for the movement would have conceivably exploded, and in the case of increased violence, it would explode in anger and opposition to the state. In short, while the state would be likely to increase its tactics of intimidation and violence, the public response would likely be far more powerful than anything we have seen thus far. We saw an example of this in Quebec, when the government passed the repressive Bill 78 and a much larger segment of the population was mobilized in opposition to the government. However, this has now largely faded, and again, it’s about the difference between mobilizing against something and mobilizing for something. It’s the difference between opposition and proposition, demand and action.
The fundamental idea which I am arguing is that for a student movement to become a revolutionary movement, it must transform its demands of education into actions for education. If the issue is education, the answer is education. The inability of the student movements to have their demands met reveals a deeply-ingrained flaw in our society: that an institution does not reflect or respond to the demands of its supposed constituents. This fact makes that institution illegitimate. This flaw further manifests itself across the entire society. If the government itself, which is supposedly ‘representative’ of the people, does not reflect the intentions and interests of the population, then it is illegitimate. Most institutions do not even have a means for their constituents to have a say in who runs the institutions themselves. Some, such as governments or unions, may have elections in which people can choose candidates, but then all the other decisions are taken out of their hands. Other institutions, such as schools, corporations, banks, media, etc., do not even have a means for constituents to select leadership, let alone direction and action. University boards are populated with bankers, former government officials, corporate executives, foundation officials, and other established elites. Therefore, universities are geared toward meeting elite interests under their direction. This is flawed and wrong. Though, because most institutions function in this way across wider society, it tends to go unnoticed and is simply accepted as “the way it is.”
Students must now ask: Does it have to be this way? What other way could it be? What should change? How could that change? What is the intent of education? These questions lead to other, larger questions about the society as a whole, and, as a result, they make necessary the wider radicalization, organization, and revolution of society itself. It is a rather large idea, but I think it is also a logical one. As the economic and social circumstances for most people continue to deteriorate in the near future – and perhaps rapidly so as the global economic crisis accelerates – such ideas and actions will become all the more necessary and will generate much more support.
Since the beginning of the global economic crisis in 2007 and 2008, the world has seen a rapid acceleration of resistance movements, protests, and revolutionary struggles. The world is rumbling awake from a long lost slumber of consumption and consent as the situation of crisis reveals deep flaws in the structures, ideology, and actions of power. We are witnessing the rapid proliferation of global resistance movements, but it requires much more for them to become global revolutionary movements. It has only begun, but it requires new ideas and actions to move forward. It would potentially be very challenging to begin such actions now, but in the very least, student movements should begin to advance the discussion, to debate the direction, and to incite new ideas. These are, after all, the skills that an education is supposed to provide us with.
Perhaps it is time to put our education to use.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer living in Montreal, Canada. His website (www.andrewgavinmarshall.com) features a number of articles and essays focusing on an analysis of power and resistance in the political, social, and economic realms. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, and is currently writing a book on the global economic crisis and resistance movements emerging around the world. To help this book come to completion, please consider donating through the website or on Indiegogo.
Stand Strong and Do Not Despair: Some Thoughts on the Fading Student Movement in Quebec
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
As eight of the fourteen CEGEP preparatory schools have voted to return to class, and thereby end the strike which began in February, Quebec is beginning to witness the fading away of the first phase of the student movement, mobilized by the planned tuition increases, and which expanded into a broader social movement known as the ‘Maple Spring.’ As some students have returned to class, they were met with a heavy police presence, no doubt to ensure ‘order’ during such a “dangerous” situation in which students enter school property. After all, Bill 78, which was passed by Jean Charest’s government back in May (now known as Law 12), made student protests on (or within 50 metres of school property) an illegal act.
Bill 78 was, quite accurately, described as “a declaration of war on the student movement,” and included an excessive amount of violations of basic rights and freedoms. Regardless of the specific details of the illegalities of the Law, we – the people – do not need even our Charter of Rights and Freedoms to tell us what is right and wrong, just or unjust. The legal system itself, after all, has very little to do with ‘justice’, and far more to do with legalizing injustice. Not only was the Law a violation of legally guaranteed rights and freedoms, such as freedoms of assembly and expression, but it was an affront to a very basic sense of decency, an insult to a very common sense of democracy, and an attack on a very basic conception of freedom.
This Law remains in effect. The tuition is set to increase. And as students vote to end the strike, some are mourning the seemingly vanishing potential of the student movement to effect a real, true, and lasting change. But all was not for nothing, all is not lost, and resistance is not futile. We have witnessed but the starting actions, initiative, determination, and voice of a generation which, around the world, from Egypt, to Greece, Spain, Chile and Mexico, are standing up, taking to the streets, innovating new actions and forms of collective resistance and even revolution. Our generation is beginning – and only just beginning – to awaken our wider societies to resist and challenge a system which, in the wake of this new great global depression, which in the wake of new wars of aggression, has revealed its true nature: all for the powerful, and nothing for the people. It is a system which benefits the few at the expense of the many.
The most prominent symptom of this system is what we call ‘neoliberalism.’ I emphasize that this is a symptom, and not the cause, because neoliberalism was born of the very ideas, individuals, and institutions that have comprised and continue to comprise our system and structure of national and global power. Neoliberalism is but the malignant phase of a wider social sickness. Neoliberalism manifests itself by promoting the wholesale privatization of state and public assets, of resources, of industries, of services, of infrastructure, of roads, ports, electricity, railways, water, and yes, of education itself. It is the handing over of what is public – and thereby what is yours – to private hands: to corporations and banks. Neoliberalism is further represented by the deregulation of anything and everything that would benefit private corporate and financial interests. This means that everything from regulatory oversight of the institutions that plunged the world into economic devastation, however slight it may exist at present, will be completely dismantled. This means that any protections granted to workers, in the form of wages, collective bargaining rights, union rights, pensions and benefits… will be no more.
When economic crisis hits, there is a common scenario of reaction and response: the State moves in to bailout the banks and corporations that caused the crisis (in cooperation with the state itself, of course). As a result of the bailouts, the State buys the bad debts of banks and corporations and hands you, the people, the bill. The next phase is called “austerity.” Austerity is an economic and political euphemism for impoverishment. Austerity means that all social spending is reduced or cut entirely; so, no more public funding for social services, welfare, pensions, healthcare, education, public sector workers are fired, social housing is dismantled, and taxes are raised. The effect is obvious, more unemployment, lower incomes, higher costs for services, higher taxes, and a rapid acceleration of poverty.
The next phase, then, is what is called “structural adjustment” or “structural reform.” This means the privatization of everything, which also includes mass firings, deregulation, and an attack on labour, unions, and workers’ rights. The specific assault upon workers, by reducing their wages, eliminating pensions and benefits, and denying them the right to organize in unions, is called “labour flexibility,” meaning that the labour force becomes “flexible” to the demands of the powerful: it becomes a cheap source of easily exploitable labour for the corporations that now own everything they didn’t own already. Thus, when these corporations begin to open factories and employ the newly-impoverished population at sweatshop wages, this is called “investment.”
The result of “austerity” and “adjustment” is a massive program of social genocide. If you want to see the effects of austerity and adjustment, look to Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where the Western nations, banks, corporations, and international financial institutions – like the World Bank and IMF – have imposed neoliberalism, austerity, and adjustment over the past 40 years. You witness the dismantling of healthcare, education, social services and protections, you see the exploitation of workers, the spread of disease and hunger, and widespread dehumanization. If you think this cannot happen in the Western industrialized world itself, look to Greece, where this system is currently manifesting itself at its most extreme, and where all the same effects that took place in the so-called ‘Third World’ are now coming to the ‘First.’ What our nations and dominant institutions of power have done abroad, they are now doing at home. And just as it spread abroad through a manufactured debt crisis, so too is that how it is now manifesting at home. In June, 146 Greek academics signed a letter of solidarity with the student and social movement in Quebec, writing: “We, Greek academics, declare our solidarity to your wonderful struggle, which is our struggle!” We must begin to recognize that their struggle is ours, as well.
The population of Greece is being punished into poverty, their healthcare system is in total collapse to the point where hospitals report shortages of aspirin, gloves, syringes, toilet paper, and band-aids; families abandon children on the streets because they can no longer care for them; people go hungry and children faint in school because their family had not eaten in several days; their taxes increase, they rely upon food banks and charity for the basics of survival; homelessness explodes, social housing is dismantled, pensions for the elderly vanish, and suicide rates rapidly accelerate. Why does this take place? Because the IMF and the European Union force Greece to impose ‘austerity’ and ‘adjustment’ in return for massive bailouts which only go toward paying the interest on debts owed to German, French, Dutch, and British banks. Each bailout becomes added debt with higher interest, and thus, Greece, just like the ‘Third World’, becomes enslaved to the global institutions of domination and exploitation.
The tuition increases in Quebec are but the first signs of austerity emerging in this province and country. At the national level, Stephen Harper has begun his campaign for austerity with his budget bill, cutting public sector workers, reducing spending on social services, and increasing subsidies to corporations. His government already bailed out Canada’s big banks back in 2008 and 2009 to the tune of $114 billion, approximately $3,400 for every man, woman, and child in Canada. That is almost the same amount that Quebec students will be forced to pay under the increases in tuition. Meanwhile, the banks announce record profits, and the government then cuts their taxes. Across Canada, student debt amounts to roughly $20 billion, yet Canada’s Prime Minister is planning to spend roughly $25 billion purchasing fighter jets from an American arms manufacturer so that Canada could jump at the opportunity to help the Empire bomb poor people in foreign countries so that our corporations and banks can freely plunder their resources. Our governments, through so-called “aid” programs, fund and train the militaries and police of oppressive foreign governments, so that they may establish ‘order’ over their populations while our corporations steal their wealth and future. The same tax dollars that help foreign governments crush their own populations pay the wages of the riot police that have beaten, tear gassed, pepper sprayed, attacked and arrested the students in Quebec. Again, what we do abroad is now being done at home.
In Canada, and in Quebec, we have seen but the start of austerity, but the vague rumblings of the captains of capital, the plunderers of people, and the exploiters of everything, who are now telling our corrupted parasitic political elites that the time has come: they now want it all, everything, and to leave us with nothing. The time has come for ‘austerity’ and ‘adjustment,’ the time has come, therefore, for impoverishment and exploitation. And mark my words, as they impose this system at home, they will blame us, the people, the entire way; they will blame us for amassing large personal debts, for buying mortgages we could not afford, for taking student loans we could not pay back, for spending credit on consumption, for living above and beyond our means. They will tell us, as Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, has told the Greek people, “it’s payback time.”
Payback time for what, you ask? It’s payback time for our naivete in believing our political leaders, for engaging in a culture constructed by corporations, for doing what we were told was the right thing to do, for doing what was expected of us, what was designed for us, for being passive, obedient consumers. Simply put: the elite feel quite strongly that the population is too stupid, too malleable, to ignorant and irrelevant to decide for itself the direction society should take, or the purpose their own lives should have. Thus, it’s payback time for the slight concessions, for the minor benefits, and for the mirage of democratic trappings that they have begrudgingly granted our populations over the past century: it’s payback time for the once-radical workers movements that challenged industry and government and won rights for workers; it’s payback time for social movements that demanded revolutionary change and got minor reforms; it’s payback time for all of our ‘demands’ as purportedly free and independent beings.
Our elites, much like Marie Antoinette, looked upon the massive unrest and anger of the population and declared, “Let them eat cake”: let them have elections, let them buy televisions, iPods, and game systems; let them choose between Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Democrat and Republican, Liberal and Conservative; let them buy a house and have a car, let them go to school and get a job, let them think and feel as if they are free and in charge… but do not let them take freedom or take charge. So now, it’s payback time for all the small concessions they have granted us, each one in their eyes, an unjust and undeserving sacrifice, always proclaimed to have catastrophic consequences to the economy and society and “free industry” and “enterprise.” So now, it is “all for them, and none for us.”
Now, we don’t even get our cake.
Greeks now know this story well. But here in Canada, and here in Quebec, we are only seeing the starting shots of a race to repression and poverty. The students have seen the reaction from elites, from police, and from the media, that even such a relatively small issue (as compared to the situation in Greece or Egypt or elsewhere) such as struggling against a tuition increase, can result in so much violence, demonization, condemnation, misrepresentation, propaganda, and repression. Our political elites have begun to show us their true colours, something which First Nations and other internally colonized peoples (such as the black population in the United States) have known for a great deal of time. We’re now starting to catch up, to see our elites for who and what they truly are.
Jean Charest is not the problem. Jean Charest is but the vile mucus and malingering bile coughed up from a sick and struggling society. Charest is nothing but a symptom of a deeply suffering society, of a society whose priorities are all wrong, of a society that is so bizarre and incoherent that it is capable of producing and supporting political leaders as obscene, arrogant, and repulsive as Jean Charest himself. But again, he is not the problem. Altering the symptoms is pointless if you do not address the sickness, itself.
The media is now telling Quebec students that the “answers” to our struggle lie in the ballot box, not the streets. That our solutions can come through voting for politicians, not taking collective action. It’s a funny thing, growing up in the West, where we were always told how our societies were so free and democratic, and that our youth went to go fight wars abroad so that youth at home would have the right to go out into the streets and protest, to struggle for rights and freedoms, that these were the very actions and definitions of our democracy. We were told that this was the expression of our freedom… unless of course, we decide to take that course of action ourselves. Then, we become criminals, vandals, even terrorists. It’s an ideal of democracy unless we decide to actually act upon it: then we are portrayed as violators of democracy. Our elites complain that they already gave us our damned cake, why do we feel that we are so “entitled” as to ask for more, like Oliver Twist asking for a mere extra bowl of non-nutritional work-house sludge. Poor Oliver was met with the aghast and shocked, “MOOOORE?! You want MOOORE?!” How dare you. How dare you step out into the streets and demand more equality, more freedom, more accessibility, more opportunity, more POWER. How dare you demand that the elites should follow the direction of the people. What the hell kind of society do you think you live in, a democracy?! Well, that’s what riot police are for: to put you in your place. That’s what Bill 78 was for. That’s what Jean Charest was and is for.
So, while we have witnessed but the starting putrefaction of our society in the form of austerity, we have also only witnessed but that starting signs of hope, of struggle, of resistance, and of action in an age of rage, and a coming world revolution. We have been fortunate enough to witness and partake in the beginning of what will be a long struggle, of what will be the defining feature of the world in which our generation is entering into as young adults. We have witnessed but the start at home of what has already been starting elsewhere in the world, in Egypt, in Tunisia, in Greece, Spain, Italy, in Chile and Mexico; the start of our generation – both locally and globally – standing up to our rapacious elites, of rejecting their insane ideologies, and of opposing with both our bodies and our minds, their physical and psychological oppression.
They may look down upon us in disgust and with confused mental constipation, ask, “MORE?!”
But then we will look upon them, in larger numbers, in massive and ever-expanding varieties, in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around this small little planet, and look at these morally vapid, small little people, who place themselves at the top of our world, who support themselves with hallow values and empty ideas, and we will say, “No more.“
So, to my fellow students, to my brothers and sisters in Quebec and beyond, I can only say, do not mourn the fading strike, do not regret your struggles in the streets, and do not despair: we are only in the beginning of our lives, and in the beginning of our struggle. And look, simply, upon the mass mobilization, the manifestation, the hope, and yes, the energized frustration that we had accomplished thus far. The strike was but the start of a much wider, much larger and longer social struggle, which we can only see the vague, misty hints of, which we can only hear like a distant train, but fast approaching.
We have shown to those who rule over us, that if this was the reaction to the issue of tuition, just imagine how terrified they are about what we can accomplish, about what we can represent and implement, when they decide to undertake expanded austerity and adjustment. The people have given the powerful reason to fear our mass awakening. Make no mistake, that is an accomplishment, even if you cannot see or hear it, it is there, and you can feel it.
Do not despair. Our generation is but rumbling and grumbling awake from centuries of injustice, groggy and confused, unaware entirely of our surroundings, not knowing yet which direction to go, but we know this: where we are, and where we are being led, is not where we want to be or go, and we have stood up and said so. We are finding our freedom the only way any people have ever found it: by taking it and acting on it, not asking for it. You do not demand cures from cancers. You must find and create them yourselves.
The strike might end, but the streets won’t be empty for long. So stand strong, students and supporters. Your energy, ambition, and inspiration will be needed for some time to come. The whole world is waiting for it, even if they don’t know it yet.
The future is ours, but only if we recognize that it can be, and only if we decide that it will be. And only if we act as if it already is.
I’ll see you in the streets.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer living in Montreal, Canada. His website (www.andrewgavinmarshall.com) features a number of articles and essays focusing on an analysis of power and resistance in the political, social, and economic realms. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, and is currently writing a book on the global economic crisis and resistance movements emerging around the world. To help this book come to completion, please consider donating through the website or on Indiegogo.
Welcome to the World Revolution in the Global Age of Rage
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
I am currently writing a book on the global economic crisis and the global resistance, rebellious and revolutionary movements that have emerged in reaction to this crisis. Our world is in the midst of the greatest economic, social, and political crisis that humanity has ever collectively entered into. The scope is truly global in its context, and the effects are felt in every locality. The course of the global economic crisis is the direct and deliberate result of class warfare, waged by the political and economic elites against the people of the world. The objective is simple: all for them and none for you. At the moment, the crisis is particularly acute in Europe, as the European elites impose a coordinated strategy of class warfare against the people through “austerity” and “structural adjustment,” political euphemisms used to hide their true intention: poverty and exploitation.
The people of the world, however, are beginning to rise up, riot, resist, rebel and revolt. This brief article is an introduction to the protest movements and rebellions which have taken place around the world in the past few years against the entrenched systems and structures of power. This is but a small preview of the story that will be examined in my upcoming book. Please consider donating to The People’s Book Project in order to finance the completion of this volume.
Those who govern and rule over our world and its people have been aware of the structural and social changes which would result in bringing about social unrest and rebellion. In fact, they have been warning about the potential for such a circumstance of global revolutionary movements for a number of years. The elite are very worried, most especially at the prospect of revolutionary movements spreading beyond borders and the traditional confines of state structures. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s former National Security Adviser, co-founder with banker David Rockefeller of the Trilateral Commission, and an arch-elitist strategic thinker for the American empire, has been warning of what he terms the ‘Global Political Awakening’ as the central challenge for elites in a changing world.
In June of 2010, I published an article entitled, “The Global Political Awakening and the New World Order,” in which I examined this changing reality and in particular, the words of Zbigniew Brzezinski in identifying it. In December of 2008, Brzezinski published an article for the New York Times in which he wrote: “For the first time in history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. Global activism is generating a surge in the quest for cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world scarred by memories of colonial or imperial domination.” This situation is made more precarious for elites as it takes place in a global transition in which the Atlantic powers – Western Europe and the United States – are experiencing a decline in their 500-year domination of the world. Brzezinski wrote that what is necessary to maintain control in this changing world is for the United States to spearhead “a collective effort for a more inclusive system of global management,” or in other words, more power for them. Brzezinski has suggested that, “the worldwide yearning for human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the phenomenon of global political awakening.” In 2005, Brzezinski wrote:
It is no overstatement to assert that now in the 21st century the population of much of the developing world is politically stirring and in many places seething with unrest. It is a population acutely conscious of social injustice to an unprecedented degree, and often resentful of its perceived lack of political dignity. The nearly universal access to radio, television and increasingly the Internet is creating a community of shared perceptions and envy that can be galvanized and channeled by demagogic political or religious passions. These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches…
The youth of the Third World are particularly restless and resentful. The demographic revolution they embody is thus a political time-bomb, as well. With the exception of Europe, Japan and America, the rapidly expanding demographic bulge in the 25-year-old-and-under age bracket is creating a huge mass of impatient young people. Their minds have been stirred by sounds and images that emanate from afar and which intensify their disaffection with what is at hand. Their potential revolutionary spearhead is likely to emerge from among the scores of millions of students concentrated in the often intellectually dubious “tertiary level” educational institutions of developing countries… Typically originating from the socially insecure lower middle class and inflamed by a sense of social outrage, these millions of students are revolutionaries-in-waiting, already semi-mobilized in large congregations, connected by the Internet and pre-positioned for a replay on a larger scale of what transpired years earlier in Mexico City or in Tiananmen Square. Their physical energy and emotional frustration is just waiting to be triggered by a cause, or a faith, or a hatred.
Important to note is that Brzezinski has not simply been writing abstractly about this concept, but has been for years traveling to and speaking at various conferences and think tanks of national and international elites, who together form policy for the powerful nations of the world. Speaking to the elite American think tank, the Carnegie Council, Brzezinski warned of “the unprecedented global challenge arising out of the unique phenomenon of a truly massive global political awakening of mankind,” as we now live “in an age in which mankind writ large is becoming politically conscious and politically activated to an unprecedented degree, and it is this condition which is producing a great deal of international turmoil.” Brzezinski noted that much of the ‘awakening’ was being spurred on by America’s role in the world, and the reality of globalization (which America projects across the globe as the single global hegemon), and that this awakening “is beginning to create something altogether new: namely, some new ideological or doctrinal challenge which might fill the void created by the disappearance of communism.” He wrote that he sees “the beginnings, in writings and stirrings, of the making of a doctrine which combines anti-Americanism with anti-globalization, and the two could become a powerful force in a world that is very unequal and turbulent.”
In 2007, the British Ministry of Defence issued a report looking at global trends over the following three decades to better plan for the “future strategic context” of the British military. The report noted that: “The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx… The world’s middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest.” In my April 2010 article, “The Global Economic Crisis: Riots, Rebellion, and Revolution,” I quoted the official British Defence Ministry report, which read:
Absolute poverty and comparative disadvantage will fuel perceptions of injustice among those whose expectations are not met, increasing tension and instability, both within and between societies and resulting in expressions of violence such as disorder, criminality, terrorism and insurgency. They may also lead to the resurgence of not only anti-capitalist ideologies, possibly linked to religious, anarchist or nihilist movements, but also to populism and the revival of Marxism.
In December of 2008, the managing director of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned that the economic crisis could lead to “violent unrest on the streets.” He stated that if the elite were not able to instill an economic recovery by 2010, “then social unrest may happen in many countries – including advanced economies,” meaning the Western and industrialized world. In February of 2009, the head of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Pascal Lamy, warned that the economic crisis “could trigger political unrest equal to that seen during the 1930s.” In May of 2009, the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, stated that if the economic crisis did not come to an end, “there is a risk of a serious human and social crisis with very serious political implications.”
In early 2009, the top intelligence official in the United States, Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence (who oversees all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies), stated that the global economic crisis had become the primary threat to America’s “security” (meaning domination). He told the Senate Intelligence Committee: “I’d like to begin with the global economic crisis, because it already looms as the most serious one in decades, if not centuries… Economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they are prolonged for a one-or-two-year period… And instability can loosen the fragile hold that many developing countries have on law and order, which can spill out in dangerous ways into the international community.” He also noted that, “there could be a backlash against U.S. efforts to promote free markets because the crisis was triggered by the United States… We are generally held responsible for it.”
In December of 2008, police in Greece shot and killed a 15-year old student in Exarchia, a libertarian and anarchist stronghold in Athens. The murder resulted in thousands of protesters and riots erupting in the streets, in what the New York Times declared to be “the worst unrest in decades.” Triggered by the death of the young Greek student, the protests were the result of deeper, social and systemic issues, increasing poverty, economic stagnation and political corruption. Solidarity protests took place all over Europe, including Germany, France, and the U.K. But this was only a sample of what was to come over the following years.
In the early months of 2009, as the economic crisis was particularly blunt in the countries of Eastern Europe, with increased unemployment and inflation, the region was headed for a “spring of discontent,” as protests and riots took place in Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Latvia. In January of 2009, more than 10,000 people took to the streets in Latvia in one of the largest demonstrations since the end of Soviet rule. A demonstration of roughly 7,000 Lithuanians turned into a riot, and smaller clashes between police and protesters took place in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Hungary, while police in Iceland tear gassed a demonstration of roughly 2,000 people outside the parliament, leading to the resignation of the prime minister. The head of the IMF said that the economic crisis could cause more turmoil “almost everywhere,” adding: “The situation is really, really serious.” A mass strike took place in France, bringing hundreds of thousands of workers into the streets and pushing anti-capitalist activists and leaders to the front of a growing social movement.
May 1, 2009 – the labour activist day known as ‘May Day’ – saw protests and riots erupting across Europe, including Germany, Greece, Austria, Turkey and France. In Germany, banks were attacked by protesters, leading to many arrests; there were over 150,000 demonstrators in Ankara, Turkey; more than 10,000 people took to the streets in Madrid, Spain; thousands took to the streets in Italy and Russia and social unrest continued to spread through Eastern Europe. Results from a poll were released on early May 2009 reporting that in the United States, Italy, France, Spain, Britain and Germany, a majority of the populations felt that the economic crisis would lead to a rise in “political extremism.”
In April of 2009, the G20 met in London, and was met there with large protests, drawing tens of thousands of people into the streets. In London’s financial district, protesters smashed the windows of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which was the recipient of a massive government bailout during the early phases of the financial crisis. One man, Ian Tomlinson, dropped dead on the streets of London following an assault by a British police officer, who was later questioned under suspicion of manslaughter.
In November of 2011, a month of student protests and sit-ins erupted in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, triggered by budget cuts and tuition fees. The protests began in Austria, where students occupied the University of Vienna for over a month, quickly spreading to other cities and schools in Germany, where roughly 80,000 students took part in nationwide protests, with sit-ins taking place in 20 universities across the country, and the University of Basel in Switzerland was also occupied by students.
The small little island-country of Iceland has undergone what has been referred to as the “Kitchenware Revolution,” where the country had once been rated by the UN as the best country to live in as recently as 2007, and in late 2008, its banks collapsed and the government resigned amid the mass protests that took place. The banks were nationalized, Iceland got a new prime minister, a gay woman who brought into her cabinet a majority of women, fired bank CEOs; the constitution was re-written with significant citizen participation and the government took steps to write off debts and refused to bailout foreign investors. Now, the economy is doing much better, hence why no one is talking about Iceland in the media (woeful is power to the ‘tyranny’ of a good example). Iceland has even hired an ex-cop bounty hunter to track down and arrest the bankers that destroyed the country’s economy. As the debt burdens of a significant portion of the population of Iceland were eased, Iceland was projected in 2012 to have a faster growing economy than those in the euro area and the developed world. As reported by Bloomberg, the main difference between how Iceland has dealt with its massive economic crisis and how the rest of the ‘developed’ world has been dealing with it, is that Iceland “has put the needs of its population ahead of the markets at every turn.” Instead of rewarding bankers for causing the crisis, as we have done in Europe and North America, Icelanders have arrested them, and protected homeowners instead of evicting them.
As Greece came to dominate the news in early 2010, with talk of a bailout, protests began to erupt with more frequency in the small euro-zone country. In early May, a general strike was called in Greece against the austerity measures the government was imposing in order to get a bailout. Banks were set on fire, petrol bombs were thrown at riot police, who were pepper spraying, tear gassing, and beating protesters with batons, and three people died of suffocation in one of the bombed banks.
In May of 2010, British historian Simon Schama wrote an article for the Financial Times entitled, “The world teeters on the brink of a new age of rage,” in which he explained that historians “will tell you that there is often a time-lag between the onset of economic disaster and the accumulation of social fury.” In act one, he wrote, “the shock of a crisis initially triggers fearful disorientation” and a “rush for political saviours.” Act two witnesses “a dangerously alienated public” who “take stock of the brutal interruption of their rising expectations,” which leads to the grievance that someone “must have engineered the common misfortune,” which, I might add, is true (though Schama does not say so). To manage this situation, elites must engage in “damage-control” whereby perpetrators are brought to justice. Schama noted that, “the psychological impact of financial regulation is almost as critical as its institutional prophylactics,” or, in other words: the propaganda effect of so-called “financial regulation” on calming the angry plebs is as important (if not more so) as the financial regulations themselves. Thus, those who lobby against financial regulation, warned Scharma, “risk jeopardizing their own long-term interests.” If governments fail to “reassert the integrity of public stewardship,” then the public will come to perceive that “the perps and the new regime are cut from common cloth.” In the very least, wrote Scharma, elites attempting to implement austerity measures and other unpopular budget programs will need to “deliver a convincing story about the sharing of burdens,” for if they do not, it would “guarantee that a bad situation gets very ugly, very fast.”
As French President Nicolas Sarkozy began implementing austerity measures in France, particularly what is called “pension reform,” unions and supporters staged massive strikes in September of 2010, drawing up to three million people into the streets in over 230 demonstrations across the country. Soldiers armed with machine guns went on patrol at certain metro stations as government officials used the puffed up and conveniently-timed threat of a “terrorist attack” as being “high risk.” More strikes took place in October, with French students joining in the demonstrations, as students at roughly 400 high schools across the country built barricades of wheelie bins to prevent other students from attending classes, with reports of nearly 70% of French people supporting the strike. The reports of participants varied from the government figures of over 800,000 people to the union figures of 2-3 million people going out into the streets. The Wall Street Journal referred to the strikes as “an irrational answer” to Sarkozy’s “perfectly rational initiative” of reforms.
In November of 2010, Irish students in Dublin began protesting against university tuition increases, when peaceful sit-ins were met with violent riot police, and roughly 25,000 students took to the streets. This was the largest student protest in Ireland in a generation.
In Britain, where a new coalition government came to power – uniting the Conservatives (led by David Cameron, the Prime Minister) and the Liberal Democrats (led by Nick Clegg, Deputy PM) – tuition increases were announced, tripling the cost from 3 to 9,000 pounds. On November 10, as roughly 50,000 students took to the streets in London, the Conservative Party headquarters in central London had its windows smashed by students, who then entered the building and occupied it, even congregating up on the rooftop of the building. The police continued to ‘kettle’ protesters in the area, not allowing them to enter or leave a confined space, which of course results in violent reactions. Prime Minister David Cameron called the protest “unacceptable.” The Christian Science Monitor asked if British students were the “harbinger of future violence over austerity measures,” There were subsequent warnings that Britain was headed for a winter of unrest.
Tens of thousands again took to the streets in London in late November, including teenage students walking with university students, again erupting in riots, with the media putting in a great deal of focus on the role of young girls taking part in the protests and riots. The protests had taken place in several cities across the United Kingdom, largely peaceful save the ‘riot’ in London, and with students even occupying various schools, including Oxford. The student protests brought ‘class’ back into the political discourse. In November, several universities were occupied by students, including the School of Oriental and African Studies, UWE Bristol and Manchester Metropolitan. Several of the school occupations went for days or even weeks. Universities were then threatening to evict the students. The school occupations were the representation of a new potential grass-roots social movement building in the UK. Some commentators portrayed it as a “defining political moment for a generation.”
In early December of 2010, as the British Parliament voted in favour of the tripling of tuition, thousands of students protested outside, leading to violent confrontations with police, who stormed into crowds of students on horseback, firing tear gas, beating the youth with batons, as per usual. While the overtly aggressive tactics of police to ‘kettle’ protesters always creates violent reactions, David Cameron was able to thereafter portray the student reactions to police tactics as a “feral mob.” One student was twice pulled out from his wheelchair by police, and another student who was struck on the head with a baton was left with a brain injury. As the protests erupted into riots against the police into the night, one infamous incident included a moment where Prince Charles and his wife Camilla were attacked by rioters as their car drove through the crowd in what was called the “worst royal security breach in a generation,” as the royal couple were confronted directly by the angry plebs who attacked the Rolls-Royce and Camilla was even ‘prodded’ by a stick, as some protesters yelled, “off with their heads!” while others chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!” As more student protests were set to take place in January of 2011, Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command contacted university officials requesting “intelligence” as students increased their protest activities, as more occupations were expected to take place.
In December of 2010, a Spanish air traffic controller strike took place, grounding flights for 330,000 people and resulting in the government declaring a state of emergency, threatening the strikers with imprisonment if they did not return to work.
Part way through December, an uprising began in the North African country of Tunisia, and by January of 2011, the 23-year long dictatorship of a French and American-supported puppet, Ben Ali, had come to an end. This marked the first major spark of what has come to be known as the Arab Spring. Protests were simultaneously erupting in Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, and elsewhere. In late January of 2011, I wrote an article entitled, “Are we witnessing the start of a global revolution?,” noting that the protests in North Africa were beginning to boil up in Egypt most especially. Egypt entered its modern revolutionary period, resulting in ending the rule of the long-time dictator, Hosni Mubarak, and though the military has been attempting to stem the struggle of the people, the revolutionary struggle continues to this day, and yet the Obama administration continues to give $1.3 billion in military aid to support the violent repression of the democratic uprising. The small Arab Gulf island of Bahrain (which is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet) also experienced a large democratic uprising, which has been consistently and brutally crushed by the local monarchy and Saudi Arabia, with U.S. support, including the selling of arms to the dictatorship.
In early 2011, the British student protests joined forces with a wider anti-austerity social protest against the government. As protests continued over the following months all across the country, banks became a common target, noting the government’s efforts to spend taxpayer money to bailout corrupt banks and cut health, social services, welfare, pensions, and increase tuition. Several bank branches were occupied and others had protests – often very creatively imagined – organized outside closed bank branches. On March 26, roughly 500,000 protesters took to the streets of London against austerity measures. As late as July 2011, a student occupation of a school continued at Leeds.
Throughout 2011, protests in Greece picked up in size and rage. In February, roughly 100,000 people took to the streets in Athens against the government’s austerity measures, leading to clashes with riot police that lasted for three hours, with police using tear gas and flash bombs and some protesters reacting with rocks and petrol bombs. In June of 2011, Greece experienced major clashes between protesters and police, or what are often called “riots.” During a general strike in late June, police went to war against protesters assembled in central Athens. Protests continued throughout the summer and into the fall, and in November, roughly 50,000 Greeks took to the streets in Athens.
In March of 2011, as Portugal plunged forward into its own major crisis and closer to a European Union bailout, roughly 300,000 Portuguese took to the streets of Lisbon and other cities protesting against the government’s austerity measures. Driven by the youth, calling themselves Portugal’s “desperate generation,” in part inspired by the youth uprisings in North Africa, the Financial Times referred to it as “an unexpected protest movement that has tapped into some of Portugal’s deepest social grievances.”
The Portuguese protests in turn inspired the Spanish “Indignados” or 15-M movement (named after the 15th of May, when the protests began), as youth – the indignant ones – or the “lost generation,” occupied Madrid’s famous Puerta del Sol on May 15, 2011, protesting against high unemployment, the political establishment, and the government’s handling of the economic crisis. The authorities responded in the usual way: they attempted to ban the protests and then sent in riot police. Thousands of Spaniards – primarily youth – occupied the central square, setting up tents and building a small community engaging in debate, discussion and activism. In a massive protest in June of 2011, over 250,000 Spaniards took the streets in one of the largest protests in recent Spanish history. Over the summer, as the encampment was torn down, the Indignados refined their tactics, and began to engage in direct action by assembling outside homes and preventing evictions from taking place, having stopped over 200 evictions since May of 2011, creating organic vegetable gardens in empty spaces, supporting immigrant workers in poor communities, and creating “a new social climate.”
The Indignados spurred solidarity and similar protests across Europe, including Greece, Belgium, France, Germany, the U.K., and beyond. In fact, the protests even spread to Israel, where in July of 2011, thousands of young Israelis established tent cities in protest against the rising cost of living and decreasing social spending, establishing itself on Rothschild Boulevard, a wealthy avenue in Tel Aviv named after the exceedingly wealthy banking dynasty. The protest, organized through social media, quickly spread through other cities across Israel. In late July, over 150,000 Israelis took to the streets in 12 cities across the country in the largest demonstration the country had seen in decades, demonstrating against the “rising house prices and rents, low salaries, [and] the high cost of raising children and other social issues.” In early August, another protest drew 320,000 people into the streets, leading some commentators to state that the movement marked “a revolution from a generation we thought was unable to make a revolution.” In early September, roughly 430,000 Israelis took to the streets in the largest demonstration in Israeli history.
In May and June of 2011, a student movement began to erupt in Chile, fighting against the increased privatization of their school system and the debt-load that comes with it. The state – the remnants of the Pinochet dictatorship – responded in the usual fashion: state violence, mass arrests, attempting to make protesting illegal. In clashes between students and riot police that took place in August, students managed to occupy a television station demanding a live broadcast to express their demands, with the city of Santiago being converted into “a state of siege” against the students. The “Chilean Winter” – as it came to be known – expanded into a wider social movement, including labour and environmental and indigenous groups, and continues to this very day.
The Indignados further inspired the emergence of the Occupy Movement, which began with occupy Wall Street in New York City on 17 September of 2011, bringing the dialectic of the “99% versus the 1%” into the popular and political culture. The Occupy movement, which reflected the initial tactics of the Indignados in setting up tents to occupy public spaces, quickly spread across the United States, Canada, Europe, and far beyond. There were Occupy protests that took place as far away as South Africa, in dozens of cities across Canada, in countries and cities all across Latin America, in Israel, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and in hundreds of cities across the United States.
On October 15, 2011, a day of global protests took place, inspired by the Arab Spring, the Indignados, and the Occupy movement, when over 950 cities in 82 countries around the world experienced a global day of action originally planned for by the Spanish Indignados as a European-wide day of protest. In Italy, over 400,000 took to the streets; in Spain there were over 350,000, roughly 50,000 in New York City, with over 100,000 in both Portugal and Chile.
The Occupy movement was subsequently met with violent police repression and evictions from the encampments. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was busy spying on various Occupy groups around the country, and reportedly was involved in coordinating the crack-downs and evictions against dozens of Occupy encampments, as was later confirmed by declassified documents showing White House involvement in the repression. The FBI has also undertaken a “war of entrapment” against Occupy groups, attempting to discredit the movement and frame its participants as potential terrorists. Following the example of tactical change in the Indignados, the Occupy groups began refurbishing foreclosed homes for the homeless, helping families reclaim their homes, disrupting home foreclosure auctions, and even take on local community issues, such as issues of racism through the group, Occupy the Hood.
In late November of 2011, a public sector workers’ strike took place in the U.K., with tens of thousands of people marching in the streets across the country, as roughly two-thirds of schools shut and thousands of hospital operations postponed, while unions estimated that up to two million people went on strike. The host of a popular British television show, Jeremy Clarkson, said in a live interview that the striking workers should be taken out and shot in front of their families.
In January of 2012, protests erupted in Romania against the government’s austerity measures, leading to violent clashes with police, exchanging tear gas and firebombs. As the month continued, the protests grew larger, demanding the ouster of the government. The Economist referred to it as Romania’s “Winter of Discontent.” In early February, the Romanian Prime Minister resigned in the face of the protests.
In February of 2012, a student strike began in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec against the provincial government’s plan to nearly double the cost of tuition, bringing hundreds of thousands of students into the streets, who were in turn met with consistent state repression and violence, in what became known as the ‘Maple Spring.’ Dealing with issues of debt, repression, and media propaganda, the Maple Spring presented an example for student organizing elsewhere in Canada and North America. The government of Quebec opposes organized students but works with organized crime – representing what can be called a ‘Mafiocracy’ – and even passed a law attempting to criminalize student demonstrations. The student movement received support and solidarity from around the world, including the Chilean student movement and even a group of nearly 150 Greek academics who proclaimed their support in the struggle against austerity for the “largest student strike in the history of North America.”
In the spring of 2012, Mexican students mobilized behind the Yo Soy 132 movement – or the “Mexican Spring” – struggling against media propaganda and the political establishment in the lead-up to national elections, and tens of thousands continued to march through the streets decrying the presidential elections as rigged and fraudulent. The Economist noted that Mexican students were beginning to “revolt.”
In May of 2012, both the Indignados and the Occupy Movement undertook a resurgence of their street activism, while the occupy protests in Seattle and Oakland resulting in violent clashes and police repression. The protests drew Occupy and labour groups closer together, and police also repressed a resurgent Occupy protest in London.
In one of the most interesting developments in recent months, we have witnessed the Spanish miners strike in the province of Asturias, having roughly 8,000 miners strike against planned austerity measures, resorting to constructing barricades and directly fighting riot police who arrived in their towns to crush the resistance of the workers. The miners have even been employing unique tactics, such as constructing make-shift missiles which they fire at the advancing forces of police repression. For all the tear gas, rubber bullets and batons being used by police to crush the strike, the miners remain resolved to continue their struggle against the state. Interestingly, it was in the very region of Asturias where miners rebelled against the right-wing Spanish government in 1934 in one of the major sparks of the Spanish Civil War which pitted socialists and anarchists against Franco and the fascists. After weeks of clashes with police in mining towns, the striking workers planned a march to Madrid to raise attention to the growing struggle. The miners arrived in Madrid in early July to cheering crowds, but were soon met with repressive police, resulting in clashes between the people and the servants of the state. As the Spanish government continued with deeper austerity measures, over one million people marched in the streets of over 80 cities across Spain, with violent clashes resulting between protesters and police in Madrid.
This brief look at the resistance, rebellious and revolutionary movements emerging and erupting around the world is by no means an exhaustive list, nor is it meant to be. It is merely a brief glimpse at the movements with which I intend to delve into detail in researching and writing about in my upcoming book, and to raise the question once again: Are we witnessing the start of a global revolution?
I would argue that, yes, indeed, we are. How long it takes, how it manifests and evolves, its failures and successes, the setbacks and leaps forward, and all the other details will be for posterity to acknowledge and examine. What is clear at present, however, is that no matter how much the media, governments and other institutions of power attempt to ignore, repress, divide and even destroy revolutionary social movements, they are increasingly evolving and emerging, in often surprising ways and with different triggering events and issues. There is, however, a commonality: where there is austerity in the world, where there is repression, where there is state, financial and corporate power taking all for themselves and leaving nothing for the rest, the rest are now rising up.
Welcome to the World Revolution.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.
Please donate to The People’s Book Project to help this book come to completion.
146 Greek Academics Shows Solidarity With Quebec Students / Message de solidarité de la communauté académique grecque aux étudiants en lutte au Québec
The following is a message of solidarity for the students of Quebec signed by nearly 150 Greek academics. They provided French and English versions of their message of support (both listed below), along with a list of signatories.
Message de solidarité de la communauté académique grecque aux étudiants en lutte au Québec
Nous, enseignants aux universités grecques, expriment notre solidarité à la mobilisation extraordinaire des étudiants au Québec : la grève étudiante la plus longue et la plus massive dans l’ histoire de l’Amérique du Nord qui est en train de devenir une des campagnes les plus importantes dans le monde contre l’austérité.
La communauté académique en Grèce suit avec indignation, mais aussi avec espoir, la lutte des étudiants afin de bloquer l’augmentation des droits de scolarité universitaire et résister à l’attaque néolibérale sans précédent aux charges sociales.
Nous suivons avec indignation, parce que la répression draconniene exercée par le gouvernement a menacé non seulement la libre expression et les droits démocratiques, mais aussi la vie même des étudiants en lutte, ainsi que celle des enseignants, du personnel administratif des universités et d’autres citoyens solidaires. Les lois qui limitent fermement le droit de manifester menacent la démocratie et tentent de bâillonner toute voix qui résiste aux réformes néolibérales de l’éducation. Quand la démocratie est en jeu, la désobéissance devient une obligation.
Et nous suivons avec espoir, parce que la voix du mouvement étudiant de Québec donne au monde entier des leçons précieuses de combativité et de persévérance contre la marchandisation de l’éducation et pour la défense d’une éducation publique et démocratique.
Dans cette lutte, nous sommes nombreux. Notre mobilisation est trop forte pour contenir. Du Québec à Londres et à Rome, de Santiago à Vienne et à Athènes, la communauté académique mène le même combat. En Grèce, nous avons déjà réussi en 2006 à bloquer un amendement da la Constitution qui visait à abolir le caractère exclusivement public des universités. Ensuite, en 2011-2012, nous avons réussi à délégitimer et rendre inactive une loi qui visait une réforme néolibérale de l’éducation supérieure. Nous sommes nombreux et dès lors optimistes et confiants. Tous ensemble continuons le combat pour que l’éducation redevienne un bien public dans le monde entier.
Nous, les universitaires Grecs, déclarons notre solidarité à vos luttes magnifiques, qui sont nos luttes.
Message of solidarity of the Greek academic community to the students in struggle in Quebec
We, academics in the Greek universities, express our solidarity to the extraordinary student mobilization in Quebec: the longest and largest student strike in the history of North America, which is now evolving into one of the most powerful anti-austerity campaigns in the world.
The Greek academic community is watching in indignation but also in hope the struggle of Quebec’s students to block the tuition increases and to resist an unprecedented neoliberal attack on social welfare.
We are watching in indignation, because draconian government repression has threatened not only freedom of expression and democratic rights, but also the life itself of students, faculty and administrative staff as well as of other citizens who express their solidarity. The law-and-order administration, which restricts the freedom of protest, threatens democracy and attempts to silence every voice resisting neoliberal education reforms. When democracy is at stake, disobedience is a duty.
And we are watching in hope, because the voice of the student movement of Quebec offers valuable lessons to the world concerning resistance to education commoditization and the defense of public and democratic education.
In this struggle we are many. Our mobilization has become too strong to contain. From Quebec to London and Rome, from Santiago to Vienna and Athens, the academic community gives the same fight. In Greece, we were successful in 2006 in blocking a constitutional amendment aiming at abolishing the exclusively public character of universities. Recently, we managed to delegitimize and inactivate a law aiming at a neoliberal restructuring of higher education. We are many and therefore optimistic and confident. All together, let us continue the fight for rendering education a public good in the whole world.
We, Greek academics, declare our solidarity to your wonderful struggle, which is our struggle!
LIST OF SIGNATURES
1. Kyrkos Doxiadis, Professor of Social Theory, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
2. Vassilis Anastassopoulos, Professor, Department of Physics, University of Patras,
3. Nikos Barkas, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture Engineers, Dimokritos University of Thrace
4. Lela Gogou, Professor, Dimokritos University of Thrace
5. Konstantinos Kavoulakos, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Crete.
6. Dr Angeliki Spiropoulou, Lecturer in Modern European Literature and Theory, University of the Peloponnese
7. Evangelos Nikolaidis, Assistant Professor, University of Crete
8. Athina Stavridou, Lecturer, School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens
9. Dimitrios S. Patelis, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Sciences, Technical University of Crete
10. Kostas Bassioukas, Associate Professor of Dermatology, University of Ioannina
11. Leonidas Oikonomou, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Anthropology, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens
12. George Tsimouris, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Anthropology, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens
13. Tasos Anastopoulos, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
14. Kostas Stamatis, Professor, School of Law, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
15. Dr. Yeoryios Stamboulis, Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Thessaly
16. Maria Karamessini, Associate Professor, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens
17. Iphigenia Kamtsidou, Professeur Assistante de Droit Constitutionnel, Université Aristote de Thessalonique
18. Marianna Kondyli, Associate Professor, University of Patras
19. Dimitris Seremetis, Assοciate Professor, Department of Applied Economics, University of the Aegean
20. Kostas Gavroglu, Professor of History of Science, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
21. Michalis Psimitis, Associate Professor, University of the Aegean
22. Vassilis Christophides, Professeur, Université de Crète
23. Dr. Alexandros Kioupkiolis, Lecturer, School of Political Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
24. Spyros Karavas, Associate Professor, Department of Social Anthropology and History, University of the Aegean
25. Stavros Stavrides, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens
26. Christina K. Kitsaki Assistant Professor, Agricultural University of Athens
27. Dimitris Psillos, Professor, School of Education, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
28. Alexandros Baltzis, Assistant Professor, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
29. Dr. Christina Adamou, Lecturer in Film Theory, Film Department School of Fine Arts, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
30. Maria Giannisopoulou, Université de Crete
31. Pandelis Kiprianos,Professeur, Université de Patras
32. Alexandra Ioannidou, Associate Professor, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
33. Dimitris Papalexopoulos, Professor, School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens
34. Dimitris Fassouliotis, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
35. Andreas Notaras, Lecturer, Department of Social Anthropology, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens
36. Dimitris Damigos, Assistant Professor, National Technical University of Athens
37. Aspasia Velissariou, Professor, School of Philosophy, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
38. Eliza Anna Delveroudi, Professor, University of Crete
39. George Xylomenos, Assistant Professor, Athens University of Economics and Business
40. Rania Astrinaki, Lecturer, Department of Social Anthropology, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens
41. Dimitrios Anastassopoulos, Assistant Professor of Physics, University of Patras
42. Dimitris A.Sevastakis, Assistant Professor, National Technical University of Athens
43. Yannis N. Krestenitis, Professor, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), President of The Union of Academic Teachers of AUTH
44. Alkis Rigos, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science and History, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens
45. Dimitris Dialetis, Professor, Department of Philosophy and History of Science, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
46. Stavros Konstantakopoulos, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science & History, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens
47. Polymeris Voglis, Assistant Professor of History, University of Thessaly
48. Ilias Santouridis, Associate Professor, Technological Educational Institute of Larissa
49. Ada Dialla, Assistant Professor of History, Athens School of Fine Arts
50. Athena Athanasiou, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Anthropology, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens
51. Katia Fotinopoulou, Assistant professor, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens
52. Anastasia Politou, Medical School, University of Ioannina
53. Spyros Georgatos, Medical School, University of Ioannina
54. Helen A.Thanopoulou, Associate Professor, Department of Shipping, Trade and Transport, University of the Aegean
55. Pavlos Pantazis, Assistant Professor in Clinical Social Psychology, School of Film, Faculty of Fine Arts, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
56. Iraklis Mavridis, Lecturer, Department of Social Policy, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens
57. Efthymios Papataxiarchis, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of the Aegean
58. Spyros Marchetos, Assistant Professor, School of Political Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
59. Takis Geros, Lecturer, Department of Social Anthropology, Panteion University of Social & Political Sciences, Athens
60. Nikos Kotaridis, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Panteion University of Social & Political Sciences, Athens
61. Panagis Karazeris, Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics, University of Patras
62. Panos Papadopoulos, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, University of Patras
63. Georgios Agelopoulos, Assistant Professor, Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki
64. Fragkiskos Kalavasis, Professor, Department of Preschool Education and Educational Design, Aegean University
65. Sia Anagnostopoulou, Associate professor, Department of Political Science & History, Panteion University of Social & Political Sciences, Athens
66. Maria Papadopoulou, Department of Early Childhood Education, University of Thessaly
67. Xenia Chryssochoou Professor, Department of Psychology, Panteion University of Social & Political Sciences, Athens
68. Riki van Boeschoten, Associate Professor, University of Thessaly
69. Harris Athanasiades, Associate Professor of History of Education, University of Ioannina
70. Maria Paradeisi, Asssistant Professor, Department of Media, Communication and Culture, Panteion University of Social & Political Sciences, Athens
71. Maria Markou, Lecturer, School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens
72. Rena Klabatsea, National Technical University of Athens
73. Sofia Avgerinou, National Technical University of Athens
74. Yiannis Theotokas, University of the Aegean
75. Gerassimos Kouzelis, Professor, Department of Political Sciences, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
76. Giorgos Papakonstantinou, Department of Architecture, University of Thessaly
77. Spyros Benetatos, Panteion University of Social & Political Sciences, Athens
78. Angeliki Dimitrakopoulou, Vice-Rector, University of the Aegean
79. Pothiti Hantzaroula, University of the Aegean
80. Tonia Kioussopoulou, Associate Professor, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete
81. Efi Avdela, Professor, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete
82. Alexandros Koutsouris, Associate Professor, Agricultural University of Athens
83. Anna Matthaiou, University of Thessaly,
84. Cimon Anastassiadis, Professor, Technical Education Institute of Athens
85. Aliki Angelidou, Lecturer, Department of Social Anthropology, Panteion University of Social & Political Sciences, Athens
86. Elena Tzelepi, Doctor of Philosophy
87. Anna Chronaki, University of Thessaly
88. Eugenios Angelopoulos, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, National Technical University of Athens
89. Manolis Dafermos, University of Crete
90. Spiros Kriwas, University of Patras
91. Yiannis Papatheodorou, Assistant Professor of Modern Greek Studies, University of Ioannina
92. Christos Dermentzopoulos, Assistant Professor of Anthropology of Art University of Ioannina – Dept. of Fine Arts and Sciences of Art
93. Giota Touloumi, Medical School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
94. Socrates Petmezas, University of Crete
95. Giorgos Divaris, Associate Professor of Faculty of Fine Art, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
96. Maria Nikolakaki, Assistant Professor, University of Peloponnese
97. Takis Politis, University of Thessaly
98. Ria kalfakakou, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
99. Anna Spyrtou, Assistant Professor, School of Education Department of Primary Education University of Western Macedonia
100. Vicky Iakovou, Lecturer, University of the Aegean
101. Panagiotis A. Kanellopoulos, Assistant Professor of Music Education, Department of Early Childhood Education, School of the Humanities, University of Thessaly
102. Nikos Belavilas, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens
103. Zambia Katsanevaki, (laboratory teaching staff) National Technical University of Athens
104. Tassis Papaioannou, Architect-Professor School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens
105. Giorgos Fourtounis, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science & History, Panteion University of Social & Political Sciences, Athens
106. Aglaia Kasdagli, University of Crete
107. Georgia Aslani, University of Ioannina
108. Michalis Spourdalakis, Professor Dept. of Political Science & Public Administration, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
109. Rea Delveroudi, Professeure Associée, Departement de Langue et de Litterature francaises, Universite d’Athenes
110. Aristotle Tympas, Assistant Professor, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
111. Emmanuel Angelidis, Professor, Department of Political Science & History, Panteion University of Social & Political Sciences, Athens
112. Antoniou Katerina, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology, Medical School, University of Ioannina
113. Savvas Christoforidis, Assistant Professor, University of Ioannina
114. Rosa-Maria Polymeni, Assistant Professor, Sect. of Zoology-Marine Biology, Dept. of Biology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
115. Arvanitakis Alekos, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics, National Technical University of Athens
116. Nikitas Mylopoulos, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Thessaly
117. Filareti Zafiropoulos, Ass. Professor, Dept. of Mathematics, University of Patras
118. Alexandra Koronaiou, Professor, Department of Psychology, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens
119. Rika Benveniste, Professeur, Dpt d’Histoire, Archéologie et Anthropologie Sociale, Universite de Thessalie
120. Thanasis Daradoumis, Assistant Professor, Department of Cultural Technology and Communication, University of the Aegean
121. Androniki Dialeti, Department of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology, University of Thessaly
122. Fotini Vaki, Lecturer, Department of History, Ionian University
123. Alexandra Mouriki, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Science and Early Childhood, University of Patras
124. Demosthenes Stamatis, Professor, Department of Information Technology, Technical Education Institute of of Thessaloniki
125. Giorgos Plakotos, Lecturer, Department of Social Anthropology and History, University of the Aegean
126. Lina Venturas, Professor, University of Peloponnese
127. Evgenia Sifaki, Lecturer, University of Thessaly
128. Dimitris Chassapis, Professor, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
129. Stephanos Dimitriou, Associate Professor of Political Philosophy, University of Ioannina
130. Jina Politi, Professor Emeritus, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
131. John Milios, Professor of Political Economy, National Technical University of Athens
132. Nikos Pasadakis, Associate Professor, Technical University of Crete
133. Angeliki Konstantakopoulou, Associate Professor of Balkan History, University of Ioannina
134. Theophanes Grammenos, Lecturer, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Thessaly
135. Stavros Goutsos, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics, University of Patras
136. Theano Fotiou professor National Techical University of Athens, School of Architecture
137. Evangelia Antoniou Lecturer of Midwifery, Midwifery Department, Technological education institution of Athens
138. Stratos Georgoulas, Assistant Professor, University of the Aegean
139. Ioannis K. Zarkadis, Assoc. Prof. School of Medicine University of Patras.
140. Leonidas Maroudas, Professor University of Patras
141. Kanellaki Sofia Assistant Professor of Psychology. Panteion University
142. Dimitris Papageorgiou, University of the Aegean
143. Emmanuel M. Papamichael, Associate Professor, University of Ioannina,
144. Costas Gaganakis, University of Athens
145. Alexis Benos, AUTH Medicla School, Thessaloniki, Greece
146. Tina Zormbala Department of Mathematics University of the Aegean
On June 11, the Global Elite Gather in Montreal: Will the Maple Spring Say Hello?
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
From June 11-14, Montreal will be hosting the International Economic Forum of the Americas at the 2012 Conference of Montreal, which will bring roughly 150 speakers from the global elite to speak to an audience of other elites and sympathetic media spokespersons. This year’s conference will include as the keynote speaker, Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve System (the U.S. central bank), who was once considered for nearly 20 years to be “the most powerful banker in the world,” and as such, was largely responsible for causing the global financial crisis, along with the heads of the central banks of Portugal, Spain, France, Brazil, Mexico and Canada. There will be delegates from 24 countries around the world gathering at the Hilton Bonaventure Montreal Hotel to discuss the theme of “A Global Economy in Transition: New Strategies, New Partnerships” in front of roughly 3,000 participants. Along with formal discussions, “the Conference of Montreal will also enable the world’s various economic and political players present on this occasion to strengthen their relationships and develop new business opportunities.”
Here is the website in English: The Conference of Montreal
Here is the website in French: Conférence de Montréal
Here is a Facebook Event for a protest/manifestation at the Forum.
This conference will include key policy-makers and power-holders in Canada, North America, and around the world. It provides a forum through which the global elite may meet, talk, debate, shape consensus, and discuss policy-objectives of their respective nations and institutions. The ideology of those present is relentlessly pro-globalization, pro-Capitalist, and pro-power. The speakers are often advocates of neoliberalism, globalization, fiscal austerity, privatization, corporatization, imperialism and social control. This conference takes place in the midst of Quebec students standing up against educational austerity and protesting against policies which benefit the rich at the expense of the many. Will the ‘Maple Spring’ say hello to the global elite as they gather in Montréal?
The event, which is hosted by Power Corporation, owned by the billionaire Desmarais family, and a host of other corporate sponsors, receives 25% of its funding from public sources, including the Government of Canada and the Province of Québec, which alone contributes nearly $200,000 to a Conference hosted by billionaires. But remember, while public subsidies are available for billionaires to discuss how to make billions more, there is no money for education, social services, health care, or your future.
What is the Conference of Montreal / International Economic Forum of the Americas?
The stated “Mission” of the IEFA/Conference de Montréal is “to heighten knowledge and awareness of the major issues concerning economic globalization, with a particular emphasis on the relations between the Americas and other continents.” The Conference “strives to foster exchanges of information, to promote free discussion on major current economic issues and facilitate meetings between world leaders to encourage international discourse by bringing together Heads of State, the private sector, international organizations and civil society.” Among the stated “Objectives” are:
* To give its participants access to privileged information while fostering free and extensive discussions on various aspects of economy, with contributors and experts from among the best qualified;
* To promote relations between governments, international organizations, business people, members of the civil society, workers associations and universities;
* To allow its participants from various areas in the world to have business meetings during which they can develop their company or organization internationally
The International Economic Forum of the Americas/Conference of Montreal began in 1994 “at a time when the globalization of the economies was beginning to emerge at an increased rate” with the founding of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the end of the Cold War, development of NAFTA and other free-trade agreements, and thus, there was “the idea that Montreal could be the host city for an international yearly economic conference concerned with this phenomenon of the globalization of economies.” The first Conference took place in 1995.
The 18th annual conference of the International Economic Forum of the Americas will include “some of the most important international decision makers have already confirmed their attendance.” The focus of this year’s Forum will include: “the financial crisis and its impact on the world economy”; “International trade, and in particular the new Americas-European Union economic space, including the Canada-European Union trade agreement: this important trade agreement, which should be finalized in 2012” and will include “a number of executives from Canadian and European companies [who] will take the opportunity to meet at the 2012 Conference of Montreal to form new business ties for this new and important economic space”; and of course, “developing and extracting natural resources.” The full program can be reviewed here: Program 2012.
This year’s speakers list includes representatives and leaders from: the C.D. Howe Institute, the World Economic Forum, Bombardier Inc., Citibank, the European Commission, McKinsey & Company, Rio Tinto Alcan, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Rector of the University of Montreal, the President of the Canadian Bankers Association, the Governor of the Bank of Canada (a former Goldman Sachs executive), J.P. Morgan Chase, BNP Paribas, Governor of the Bank of Portugal, former Canadian Ambassador to Egypt, Power Corporation of Canada, Canadian Ambassador to the United States, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Royal Bank of Canada, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Conference Board of Canada, the World Bank, Scotiabank, PepsiCo, McGill University, Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Deutsche Bank, the Chairman of the Bank for International Settlements (the central bank to the world’s central banks and the most powerful financial institution in the world), the Brookings Institution, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, the World Policy Institute and the World Bank, among many others.
At the 2007 Conference of Montreal, Premier Jean Charest stated that, “Quebec is deeply committed to the process of globalization,” and that, “Quebec has built an economy open to the world which has allowed us to reach a very high standard of living because globalization has worked for us.” By “us” he means his friends and informal advisers at Power Corporation and the Forum. In his speech to the Conference, Charest stated that, “We believe very much in equality of opportunity.” Apparently, this is not the case for students.
The Founding Chairman of the International Economic Forum of the Americas is Gil Rémillard, Counsel for the law firm Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP, and between 1985 and 1994 he held several different positions in the Quebec government, including Minister of International Relations, Minister of Public Security, Minister of Justice, Attorney General, and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
The Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Forum is Paul Desmarais Jr., Co-CEO of Power Corporation of Canada alongside his brother André Desmarais, both sons of one of Canada’s richest billionaires, Paul Desmarais Sr, collectively making up Canada’s most powerful family. Paul Desmarais Jr. sits on a number of corporate boards, including: Power Corporation of Canada, Power Financial Corporation, Investors Group Inc., The Great-West Life Assurance Company, Great-West Lifeco Inc., London Insurance Group Inc. and London Life Insurance Company; in the United States: Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company; in Europe: Pargesa Holding S.A. (Switzerland) and Groupe Bruxelles Lambert S.A. (Belgium). He is a member of the Board of Directors of Gesca Ltd, Les Journaux Trans-Canada Inc. and La Presse Ltd in Canada; Suez and TotalFinaElf in France, among others.
Another member of the Board of Governors of the Forum is the wife of Paul Desmarais Jr., Hélène Desmarais, Chair of the Board of Directors of HEC Montréal (Canada’s leading business school), Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Montreal Enterprises and Innovation Centre (CEIM), Vice-President of the Board of Directors and member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal (which praised the passing of Bill 78), and is a member of the Board of directors of The Montreal Economic Institute, a right-wing think tank which has been promoting more neoliberalism in Québec and blaming the student strike for the “financial cost” it has made to Québec; and she is a board member of the C.D. Howe Institute, one of Canada’s most influential think tanks.
Another member of the board of governors of the Forum is Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice Chancellor of McGill University, who is also a member of the Trilateral Commission and is on the board of directors of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). Other members include the presidents of the Chamber of Commerce of Canada and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), the CEO of Rio Tinto Alcan, a major mining company; the CEO of GDF Suez, a French electricity and gas company; the CEO of Hydro-Quebec; and the executives of the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, UNESCO, the OECD, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the International Energy Agency (IEA), as well as Louis Lévesque, Canada’s Deputy Minister of International Trade.
The Forum’s official ‘Partners’ include first and foremost, the Desmarais-owned Power Corporation of Canada, followed by the Royal Bank of Canada, Rio Tinto Alcan, Cisco, Total, GDF Suez, McKinsey & Company, SNC Lavalin, Hydro-Quebec, BNP Paribas, Bell, Citibank, Desjardins Group, the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec, with media partners including the Financial Post and La Presse (owned by the Desmarais family).
The ‘Power’ Behind the Conference of Montreal
The Desmarais family is unquestionably Canada’s most powerful family. The Desmarais family, wrote Christa d’Souza for the London Telegraph, are “Canada’s equivalent of the Rockefellers or Vanderbilts.” Founded in 1925, Power Corporation of Canada is an investment company involved in communications, business, and especially finance. In the 1960s, the company began to invest in energy, finance, industry, and real estate. In 1968, financier Paul Desmarais took over the leadership of Power Corporation, and rapidly expanded the assets held by the company, including by the 1970s: Canada Steamship Lines (transportation); Consolidated Bathurst (pulp and paper); Investors Group, Great-West Life, Montreal Trust (financial services); and Gesca (communications). Power Corporation expanded across Canada, Europe, and into China. Paul Desmarais stepped aside as Chairman and CEO in 1996, though remaining as the controlling shareholder, and had his two sons, Paul Jr. and André, become Chairman and President and Co-CEOs. Power Corporation owns Gesca, a communications company which in turn owns La Presse as well as six other daily newspapers in Quebec.
Paul Desmarais Sr. is one of Canada’s richest individuals, which is, of course, no surprise, and as Konrad Yakabuski wrote for the Globe and Mail, “Desmarais has been personally consulted by prime ministers on every major federal economic and constitutional initiative since the 1970s. Most of the time, they’ve taken his advice.” Power Corporation has taken large stakes in major European companies such as Bertelsmann, Total and Suez. In the mid-1960s, a protégé of Desmarais was a young Montreal lawyer named Brian Mulroney, who would later become Canada’s Prime Minister. Paul Sr. groomed his sons, and especially André, who is now perhaps the most well-known Canadian businessman in China. André also married the daughter of another Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien. Desmarais Sr. also got involved in French banking through Paribas, and later, Pargesa, which handled investments in a wide range of European corporations, and shot Desmarais into the accepted ranks of French nobility and the old-monied European elite. Paul Desmarais Jr. is close friends with the recent French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and socializes with Spanish royalty, the Rothschilds, and other European oligarchs. The Desmarais family have strong connections to Canada’s four major political parties: the Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois, and the NDP. This has included close ties to Lucien Bouchard, former leader of the Parti Québecois and Premier of Quebec; Jean Chrétien, former Canadian Prime Minister; Brian Mulroney, former Canadian Prime Minister who worked for Power Corporation; Bob Rae, an NDP leader; and Paul Martin, another Liberal Prime Minister who worked for Power Corporation. In the 1990s, the international advisory board of Power Corporation included former Prime Ministers Brian Mulroney and Pierre Trudeau. Brian Mulroney was sure to create friendly ties between the Desmarais family and soon-to-be Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who put two Desmarais-connected politicians in his cabinet, Peter Mackay and Maxime Bernier.
Quebec author Robin Philpot wrote a scathing critique of the power of the Desmarais family several years ago, suggesting that, “Over the last several years, [Paul Desmarais Sr.] has spun his web to such an extent that it now enables him to call the shots,” especially in promoting his right-wing economic vision, with “a disproportionate influence on politics and the economy in Quebec and Canada.” Of course, it’s not only Canadian politicians with whom Desmarais is close, but French and American politicians as well, including Sarkozy, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Desmarais owns seven of the ten French-language newspapers in Quebec, and has been close to nearly every Quebec premier, apart from Parti Québécois leaders Jacques Parizeau and Bernard Landry. Philpot alleged that Desmarais “has a lot of influence on Premier Jean Charest,” who is the current premier imposing tuition increases. When Desmarais received the French Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honour) from Nicolas Sarkozy, Jean Charest was in attendance, of which Philpot stated, “He took him along like a poodle.” Philpot added, “It’s a very unhealthy situation for a government to be indebted to a businessman that has his own interest at heart. They get their hands tied.”
In rural Quebec, the Desmarais family has an estate the size of Manhattan, with a private golf course and pheasant shooting range, as well as a music pavilion where opera is performed. This is the home of Paul Desmarais Sr. Guests, such as former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, come play golf on this vast estate, and are flown in on helicopters belonging either to Power Corporation or Desmarais personally. The Desmarais family has even had the internationally renowned Cirque du Soleil perform on their massive 15,000-acre estate. King Juan Carlos of Spain has even been a guest from time to time. André Desmarais is himself a member of the Trilateral Commission, founded by David Rockefeller, and is also on the International Advisory Board of David Rockefeller’s former bank, JP Morgan Chase, alongside other notables such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Both brothers have regularly attended meetings of the Bilderberg Group, of which David Rockefeller is a top official (founded in 1954 as an elite think tank linking Western Europe and North America). A son of Paul Desmarais Jr., Paul Desmarais III, is a banker with Goldman Sachs. At times, the influence of the family is shyly acknowledged. As French President Sarkozy stated upon awarding Paul Desmarais Sr. with the French Legion of Honour, “If I am the president of France today, it is thanks in part to the advice, the friendship and the loyalty of Paul Desmarais.”
Here is a video documenting a party thrown for the wife of Paul Desmarais, Sr., including notable guests Quebec Premier Jean Charest and former U.S. President George H.W. Bush
Protesting Power: Students Protest Outside Shareholder Meeting of Power Corporation
On May 15, 2012, as Power Corporation (with total revenue of $7.2 billion) held its shareholder meeting announcing its first quarter earnings of $264 million, and its main subsidiary company, Power Financial, announced quarterly profits of $455 million, demonstrators met outside to ensure that Power was met with protest. The National Post reported that, “one of Canada’s wealthiest and most politically connected families has come under attack as the force and rhetoric of Quebec’s student protests move from the streets into corporate shareholder meetings.”
Riot police guarded the hotel’s main entrance as protesters chanted (in French): “We must fight the thieves in ties,” and “Your wealth is our poverty.” A student group had called for the demonstration, but Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand commented, “There are radical groups that systematically want to destabilize the Montreal economy… They are anti-capitalists, Marxists.” As Paul Desmarais Jr. was announcing the company’s profits and stating, “we have a solid risk management strategy,” police on horseback outside were pushing the protestors back: “risk management.” A reporter asked Desmarais about “the protests that have shaken Quebec’s political class and caused millions worth of dollars in lost productivity,” to which he replied, “How could you not be concerned right now in terms of what’s going on?” He added:
Like all citizens, we are concerned. But we want this issue to be resolved hopefully in a respectful fashion. Let’s start with respect. With a democratic way. Within the rule of law. And that we come to an agreement that makes sense and where everybody invests in the future of our students. But everybody’s got to participate in that.
The two brothers, Paul Jr. and André, told reporters that, “they were being unfairly criticized as the company’s annual meeting became the latest target in the ongoing protests in Quebec.” Paul commented: “We’re a very caring company and I think a very caring family and we care about the society around us and we’ve always demonstrated that.” Police outside used pepper spray on protesters, one of whom commented, “I think Power Corp. is a very good example of the one per cent and it shows how private companies can be more powerful than some countries.” Desmarais would not directly answer when questioned about whether or not he supported Charest’s tuition hike, instead saying, “Frankly I’m not elected. Why should I meddle in things of people who are elected to resolve these problems. Our job is to manage our company.” The two brothers explained that, “they were reluctant to publicly comment on public issues except when they’re asked to by governments on financial issues.” That is to say, they will not publicly comment on the private advice they give to our politicians.
So the name is Power, and it fits. The Desmarais family spend their leisure time with King Juan Carlos of Spain (who recently had to apologize for going on an elephant hunting trip in Africa while 50% of youth in Spain are unemployed), they have had Cirque du Soleil perform on their family estate (larger than the island of Manhattan) with guests that include presidents and prime ministers, and have close business and even family ties to every Canadian Prime Minister since Pierre Trudeau, and almost every Quebec premier, especially the current “poodle” Jean Charest. They are billionaires who sit on the boards of the major Canadian and international think tanks which set policy for our nations. The International Economic Forum of the Americas / Conference of Montreal is simply another venue through which elites gather to form consensus and debate, discuss, and promote policies which benefit the few at the expense of the many. Their rhetoric is replete with talk of “democracy” and “fairness,” but their actions speak louder than their words, their bank accounts weigh more heavily than their hearts, and their ideas more easily become policy. The elite do not go and protest in the streets, demanding justice and equality, because they call up their friends, our politicians, who they have cocktails with in social gatherings, play golf with, travel with, intermarry with, and who grant their favoured politicians financially bountiful positions on corporate boards when they leave political life. They do not have to agitate in the streets to have their voices heard because they are the patrons of our politicians and policy-makers, they are the real constituents of our constitutional “democracies,” they are the captains of corporations, barons of business, and Kings of Capital.
So this year, let the real masters of our political, economic, and social world hear the voices of the real people. Let students and others peacefully assemble and protest outside the Hilton Bonaventure Hotel from June 11-14, and have the elites inside hear the people say that we know who they are, those who rule our nations and undermine our democratic ideals.
They are the bankers and corporate executives, the heads of our universities and owners of our media, our politicians and their advisers, the patrons and “intellectuals” of the think tanks that lobby governments and set policies, the heads of foundations and civil society monopolists. Most especially it is the bankers who sit atop a vast network of social, political, and economic institutions. The bankers are the modern monarchs of our globalized state-Capitalist society. In Canada, our country is dominated by the ‘big five’ banks: Royal Bank of Canada (RBC Group), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), the Bank of Montreal (BMO), and the Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank).
Peter Kruyt is Chairman of the Board of Governors of Concordia University in Montreal, and is also Vice-President of Power Corporation. The Chancellor of Concordia University is L. Jacques Ménard, the President of BMO Financial Group, as well as being on the boards of a number of other corporations and schools. The rest of the board of governors of Concordia is dominated by bankers and business executives. The Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University is Heather Munroe-Blum, who sits on the board of directors of the Royal Bank of Canada as well as the board of governors of the International Economic Forum of the Americas, as well as sitting on a number of other boards. The Chairman of McGill University is Stuart Cobbett, who also sits on the board of Citibank Canada. Another member of the board of governors of McGill University is Kathy Fazel, who is also an executive with the Royal Bank of Canada. Another member of McGill’s board is Daniel Gagnier, former Chief of Staff to Quebec Premier Jean Charest. Another board member is Samuel Minzberg, who sits on the board of HSBC Bank Canada. Clearly, bankers and business executives run our schools.
In 2008 and 2009, Canada’s banks received a “secret bailout” from the Bank of Canada (run by a former executive at Goldman Sachs) and the Federal Reserve of the United States (owned by JP Morgan Chase and all the other big U.S. banks). Canada’s banks are always said to be the “best in the world,” and a model to follow, since they magically weathered the financial crisis untouched. As it turns out, that was BS. Canada’s banks were bailed out to the tune of $114 BILLION. That amounts to $3,400 for every single Canadian man, woman, and child, or 7% of Canada’s 2009 GDP. So Quebec students want to maintain tuition costs at less than $2,500, and we are called “entitled brats.” But Canada’s big banks, which are making record-high profits, and getting record-low tax cuts, sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars in cash reserves, while their increased profits come from the increased debt of the Canadian population, and yet, they get the equivalent of $3,400 from each and every Canadian, which we then have to pay for through increased taxes and increased costs (such as tuition). But it’s the students who are “entitled.”
TD Bank told the Government of Quebec in 2007 to increase university tuition. In 2008, TD Bank got $26 billion in support from the Bank of Canada (meaning Canadians citizens have to pay for that through taxes… just to pay the interest on that debt!), and $8 billion from the U.S. Federal Reserve (which U.S. taxpayers have to pay for). In March of 2012, TD Bank and Royal Bank (Canada’s two biggest banks) announced record profits. That same month, it was announced that the average Canadian household debt was $103,000, making income security for Canadians an “elusive dream.” More than half of the jobs created since 2008 have gone to people aged 55 and over. Increases in hourly wages did not keep pace with inflation last year, and thus, income inequality is growing. Nearly two million Canadians have student loans totaling $20 billion, with the average student debt in Canada at $27,000 upon graduation. We are told that 70% of new jobs will require a university education. A four-year degree for a student in Canada costs an average of $55,000, expected to rise to $102,000 by 2030. This was reported by TD Bank, which then stated, “we argue that students have to recognize an investment in higher education is really a long-term one.” Things are much harder for students and youth today than for previous generations. Increasing tuition in Quebec could inflate an already over-inflated student debt bubble which could do for youth what the mortgage crisis did for housing, and would end of costing the government more in the end; thus, “there is no need for additional funding for Quebec universities.” Meanwhile, all the banks have inflated a massive housing bubble in Canada which itself could pop in the near-term future, recreating here what took place in the US in 2008.
So, who is really “entitled” here? Is it the students and youth, who are simply demanding a chance to have a future, to not be disciplined and chained down with debt before we even leave our home, get a degree, or have our first job? Or is it the banks, that control the economy, inflate bubbles that create crises, get bailed out by our governments (which we have to pay for), that tell our governments to increase tuition, that get tax cuts from our governments and sit on hundreds of billions of dollars in cash reserves, and who make record profits? These banks support and sponsor the International Economic Forum of the Americas, as does the Government of Quebec and the Government of Canada. So our governments have money to support a conference held by billionaires, bankers, and financiers… so that they can all get together once a year and talk about how “ineffectual” government support is, so that they can praise the “free market” while their “invisible hand” reaches into our pockets, as our politicians sit comfortably in theirs. They spew and steam about “handouts” to poor people, and then take $114 billion from the Canadian people, who are already deep in debt. These reverse-Robin Hoods take money from the poor and give it to themselves… and then charge us interest.
This system is simply too insane to consent to. Canada’s elites, like most elites, represent a class of parasites, living off and at the expense of the people, while their local and global connections to and profits from organized crime enshrine them as a type of ‘Mafiocracy’ ruling class.
Perhaps the Maficocracy should hear the voices of the Maple Spring.
From June 11-14, 2012, the International Economic Forum of the Americas gathers in Montreal, Quebec.
Let your voice be heard peacefully:
Hilton Bonaventure Hotel
900, de la Gauchetière W.
Peace and Solidarity!
For more information on the ‘Maple Spring’, see:
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.
The Maple Spring and the Mafiocracy: Struggling Students versus “Entitled Elites”
It says a great deal about our society when hundreds of thousands of students – already largely indebted, a significant portion of whom live well below the poverty line, who already work what few jobs exist for a generation forgotten before we leave home – take to the streets in protest and are portrayed as “entitled”, “spoiled brats” as they attempt to “negotiate” their very chance of having a future in this society… with a government that supports and works with organized crime, which is beholden to an economic elite, and which supports only those who can already support themselves.
There is something deeply wrong with a society in which students who struggle for a very chance in life are insulted, degraded, beaten, arrested, humiliated and denigrated. First, we were told for years that we were “lazy” and “apathetic”: Generation MTV, Generation iPod, a techno-savvy but reality-detached deluge of pseudo-humanoids. We were seen as concerned only with ‘self’, worshipping of wealth, and with celebrities like Paris Hilton and whatever Car-crashian disaster is on reality TV this week, who could blame people for thinking this? Our media raised us. Television raised us. Advertising raised us. Public relations agencies raised us. They have told us what to wear, how to behave, what to drink, what to eat, what to listen to, dance to, sing to, who to speak to, who to admire, who to hate, what to spend time thinking about, what to be concerned about, what and how to think and be. We were set up to be Generation Obscurity.
But then, something changed: our circumstances.
For those of us who grew up middle class, we started to have a harder time getting by. We worked while we were in high school, but that was okay, the extra money was nice. But then we graduated and it was time to begin our lives. So we either worked full time, or went to school, and probably work part-time. School is expensive, and whether you live in Quebec, the rest of Canada, the United States, or a great host of many other places, school is more expensive for us than it was for our parents. Our minimum wage might seem higher, but the cost of living has soared since our parents were getting their first few jobs, so in real terms, we earn much less. So we lived and often continue to live at home while we go to school or even while we work. With rent so high, and cities so expensive, who can afford their own space in this crazy kind of place? School was still too expensive, even as we worked and as our parents helped however they could. After all, they were and are struggling too. So we got student loans. And now we’re deep in debt.
Suddenly, our world was thrown into a deep economic crisis. Most of us don’t know how this came to be, or who is responsible, all we know is that we only did what we were told to do: consume. And what did that do for us? We’re in debt. All we know is that even though we didn’t cause this global crisis, we are being held responsible for it. All we know is that we are told we are in a “recovery,” but we don’t feel like it. How many people truly feel more financially secure now than they did in 2007? Do you? I don’t!
But now we are told that we are in a “recovery” because those who caused the economic crisis are doing much better. In fact, many of them are doing better than ever! During the crisis, our government’s said we had to “bail out” the banks that had colluded with the governments to create the crisis in the first place. We were scared, so we sat back and watched as our governments gave banks blank checks. First, I should add, our governments worked with the banks in passing (or dismantling) laws and regulations, implemented policies, undertook joint programs, spent enormous sums of money between them, as our political leaders left office to sit in bank boardrooms, and as bankers left the private vaults to the public treasury. This relationship between big business, big banks, and big government (most emblematic in the central banking system, in which private banks with public powers control the very value of our currencies), is what created the economic crisis. And when that crisis erupted, those same governments gave those same banks more money than ever before, to ensure that they were rewarded for creating such a massive global crisis. At the same time, the governments then gave themselves even more power over the economy and their own social and political environments, all the while ensuring that the banks and corporations were involved in every decision, and would benefit from every outcome. So those who caused the crisis rewarded themselves with more money and more power than they had when they created the crisis in the first place.
At the same time, we, the people, have to pay for everything. We have to pay with increased taxes (remember, that bailout money has to come out of YOUR pockets), with rising prices for food and fuel, with inflated property prices (if they weren’t already collapsing, in which case, we face potential foreclosure), with increased debt – not even to consume, but simply to subsist – with decreased jobs, with unemployment, with increased homelessness, increased reliance upon food stamps, increased welfare and state assistance (which comes with intense scrutiny of your personal finances and life), and now, with austerity: further tax increases, less social services and support, mass layoffs and pay-cuts, decreased support for health care and education, increased tuition, and increased struggles. But remember, we have to suffer under austerity so that our governments can pay for all the rewards they gave to the banks for… making us suffer.
This is called “Capitalism.”
Now, take Canada as an example. Canada is perhaps the best example to use in this situation because, let’s face it: we have one of the better “reputations” among Western nations of the world (though largely undeserving), we are seen as peaceful (though we are now always at war), and compared to the rest of the industrialized West, we fared through the economic crisis much better than most. Our banks, in fact – with five Big Banks that dominate the economy – are consistently rated as among the world’s “strongest banks.” In April of 2012, Moody’s Investors Service rated Canada’s banks as the “safest in the world.” And we better believe Moody’s, because they failed to predict the economic crisis itself, and as their CEO even admitted when questioned about the agency being funded by Wall Street firms, “potential conflicts exist regardless of who pays.” For four years in a row, the World Economic Forum has rated Canada’s banking system as the most sound in the world. Even the Canadian Bankers Association praises Canada’s banks. Imagine that!
Unfortunately for their self-congratulations, it was recently revealed that Canada’s banks actually received a “secret bailout” in 2008, for a total of $114 billion, or $3,400 for every Canadian man, woman, and child. The bailouts took place between 2008 and 2010, funded by the Bank of Canada, the United States Federal Reserve, and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. The government continues to deny it gave the banks a bailout, instead, our Finance Minister insists, it was just “liquidity support,” which means… the government did not “bail out” the banks with public money, it just gave the banks public money… in “support.” Call it what you will, they gave them $114 billion. Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of Canada (our central bank), and a former executive with Goldman Sachs (what’s not to love?), even admitted that the Bank of Canada gave tens of billions of dollars to our private banks. The U.S. Federal Reserve provided $33 billion to Canada’s big banks, while the official numbers of what the Bank of Canada provided remain a “secret,” as the government has refused to respond to Access to Information requests on the subject. Available information, however, points to $41 billion given to our banks by the Bank of Canada by December of 2008. Even some foreign banks had access to money from the Bank of Canada. Thus, Canada’s big five banks – Royal Bank of Canada, T.D. Bank, Scotiabank, the Bank of Montreal and CIBC – received collectively over $114 billion in “bailouts.” Oh, excuse me, I mean, “liquidity support.” And now, these same banks have inflated a major housing bubble in Canada which is eerily similar to that which existed in the United States in 2007, with housing prices dangerously high, and the average household debt at $103,000. But don’t worry, these big five banks made “record profits” in 2011. So naturally, with record profits for banks, and record debt for Canadians, the banks have decided to increase their fees on you! And then their profits continued to increase! Naturally, the executives have been giving themselves bigger bonuses than ever.
This is called an “economic recovery.”
And remember, it’s the students in Québec who are “entitled.” People call the students “spoiled” and “entitled” because they pay less than $2,500 for tuition every year, and are trying to prevent a situation in which they will be paying roughly $4,000 per year. But the big banks, making record profits, got the equivalent of $3,400 from every single man, woman, and child in Canada. But that’s not called “entitlement,” that’s called Capitalism.
So, the banks are doing better than ever, and this means we are in a “recovery.” According to our governments and media, it doesn’t matter what situation you are in, only what situation RBC, CIBC, BMO, Scotiabank and TD are in. Starting in the year 2000, Canada’s corporations and banks started having their taxes cut significantly by the government, whether Liberal or Conservative. In 2000, corporate taxes were at 28%, and by 2006 it was at 21%. In the beginning of 2012, corporate taxes in Canada were at 15%. This was all, of course, done to create “jobs.” That is, after all, what we were told by our politicians who insisted it was the right thing to do. At the moment, Canada has a rather significant unemployment rate, and a much higher youth unemployment rate. In 2006, the unemployment rate for Canadians was 4.6%, and today it is at 7.3%. In 2006, the unemployment rate for Canadian youth between the ages of 15 and 24 was at 8.4%, but by 2012, that has increased to 13.8%. In the same period of time, corporate taxes were cut from 22% to 15%, with the stated purpose of creating “jobs.” Now, the unemployment numbers are themselves misleading, because they only actually refer to those who are on some form of government assistance, such as welfare or employment insurance. The rest of the unemployed are not counted. While the corporate tax cuts did not lead to more jobs, but rather, less… they did lead to more money for the corporations and banks. By 2011, Canadian corporations and banks had hoarded $477 billion in cash reserves as money that was saved from taxation. For every percentage decrease in corporate taxes, the government loses $2 billion in potential revenue. In response, the government turns to austerity measures, which means that you have to suffer and pay for everything, especially your own poverty. Poverty is, after all, very expensive.
In 2012, these record profit-making corporations are getting an extra $2.85 billion in additional income tax savings. Even as Stephen Harper cut the taxes further, he acknowledged that the corporations weren’t actually investing their saved money in “jobs” but that it was just “money sitting on the sidelines.” Since 2007, the cash reserves of Canada’s corporations have grown by 27.3%, reaching $583 billion in Canadian currency, and $276 billion in foreign currencies. So what can we conclude from this? Well, when politicians and corporations and banks say that they are pursuing a particular policy to create “jobs,” what they really mean is to create “profits.” So when a politician says, “We need to cut corporate taxes so that they can invest in jobs,” what is really being said is that, “We need to cut corporate taxes so that they can make profits.” This makes more sense, because this is what actually happens. So it’s not so much that politicians lie, but rather that they just speak a different language. So take note, and I guarantee this is a very accurate method, in political-speak: “jobs” = “profits.” So now when you listen to your [s]elected officials blather on, you’ll actually be able to understand what they are saying.
Oh, and in case you forgot, remember: it’s Québec students who are “entitled” and “spoiled brats.” Just making sure you remember that.
In Canada, we have a situation in which total national student debt is at $20 billion, and with tuition increases, this too will increase dramatically. But don’t worry, increased tuition costs and increased student debt is good for the banks, because they provide a lot of the loans and own the debt, and collect the interest and keep you in their pockets for the rest of your life. And remember, if the banks are doing well, the economy is doing well. You don’t matter… at all. Okay, so total student debt in Canada is at $20 billion, with the average student graduating with $27,000 in debt, few job prospects, high unemployment rates, and in a major social and economic crisis, but the Canadian government is buying 65 F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. military contractor, Lockheed Martin, worth a total of $25 billion. So, we can bail out our banks to the tune of $114 billion, and we can spend $25 billion buying military machines to go bomb and kill poor people around the world, but students shackled with $20 billion in debt must be shackled with more. And if they try to do anything about the increases in tuition, and thus, the increases in their debt, Canadian politicians and the media refer to them as “entitled,” “spoiled brats.”
Here are a few numbers to show the current divide between the rich and everyone else in Canada, what we are told is a hallmark of a flourishing democracy and recovering economy:
- the 100 best paid CEOs made an average of $6.6 million, which is 155 times the average wage for Canadians at $42,988
- the tax rate for the richest Canadians dropped from 43% in 1981 to 29% in 2010
- in Quebec, the richest 10% made 24% more in 2006 than in 1976, while the poorest made 10% less
- with average student debt in Québec at $13,000 and $27,000 in the rest of Canada, the cost of “free education” in Québec would be less than 1% of the government’s budget
- for every $1,000 fee hike in tuition, the proportion of poor students drops by 19%, thus making education inaccessible for poor people
- with youth unemployment in Canada between 14-20%, and total student debt amounting to $20 billion, the percentage of students defaulting on government loans is at 14%
- the percentage of Canadians between 20 and 24 living with their parents is 73%
- the percentage of Canadians 25 to 29 living with their parents is 33%
This is called “democracy.”
With Jean Charest as Québec’s premier, attempting to nearly double student tuition from an average of over $2,000 to nearly $4,000, it might be interesting to look at what Charest paid for his education. Charest studied in Sherbrooke in the late 1970s, where he would have paid $500 for tuition, less than $2,000 in today’s dollars. In 1978, the minimum wage (for those students who needed to work to pay their tuition) in Québec was $3.50/hour. In today’s dollars, that would equal $12/hour, while the actual minimum wage in Québec today is $10/hour. Therefore, wrote McGill University professor Michael Hilke, “it was easier for students to pay for college back then.” But Charest calls us “entitled.”
In point 7 of my article, “Ten Points Everyone Should Know About the Quebec Student Movement,” I provided sources and information regarding the deeply interconnected relationship between the government of Québec, especially with Charest’s Liberal Party in power, the corrupt construction industry, and the Mafia. Politicians, especially the Liberal Charest government currently in power, provide over-estimated public funds to the construction industry to do what costs significantly less in other provinces, and to build bridges and roads that fall apart, and it just so happens that the construction industry is owned by the Mafia. While public contracts are not the main source of revenue for the Mafia (who can compete with illicit drugs? … well, except for the oil and arms industries), getting massively over-estimated public funds allows the Mafia-connected construction businesses to throw fundraisers for the politicians and keep them in power. Thus, the interaction between the Mafia and the government is a mutually beneficial relationship, where money flows back and forth, designed to keep each party in power. But it’s unfair to blame Charest and the Liberal Party for collusion with the Mafia; they are simply carrying on a long political tradition of governments working with organized crime. So, the government supports organized crime and opposes organized students. Ultimately, both organized crime and organized polities serve the same interests. Can you guess whose? I’ll save you the effort, it’s really quite simple, and it’s not exclusive to Canada, this is a global phenomenon: follow the money.
Canada is a market leader in many aspects of the global trade in illegal drugs. In a 2009 report form the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Canada was revealed to be the leading supplier of ecstasy to North America, and one of the world’s major producers and shippers of methamphetamine for various markets around the world, which is so significant that it was revealed that 83% of all the meth seized in Australia came from Canada, whereas in Japan it was 62%. In 2006, only 5% of the meth produced in Canada was exported. In 2007, it was at 20%. That’s pretty impressive! In 2007, 50% of the ecstasy produced in Canada was exported, primarily to the United States, Australia, and Japan. In 2007, Canada was identified by Japan as the largest single source for seized ecstasy tablets, followed by the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium. But it’s not Canada’s fault, we are simply partaking in an already well-established global drug trade, the most profitable trade in the world following oil and arms.
This of course is a result of our governments having undertaken prohibition against illicit drugs, just as the United States had done with alcohol, which history shows, didn’t work very well. Alcohol prohibition gave an incredible boost to the Mafia and organized crime in the United States and elsewhere, and of course, included in its silky spider web were corrupt cops, politicians, and financiers. When something is “illegal” it becomes far more expensive, and thus, far more profitable. So our governments have decided to continue their policies of prohibition for illicit drugs: to keep profits up, to support organized crime, to participate in organized crime, to keep the money flowing, keep the prisons full, and to declare a mythical “war on drugs” which accomplishes nothing but further militarization designed to wipe out the competition. So Latin American countries must suffer under our increased military and repressive presence. A few months prior to the NATO invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban had eradicated the opium trade in one year, wiping out the world’s largest opium crop. Following the invasion in October of 2001, and the installation of a puppet president Hamid Karzai in December of 2001, the new Afghan government began colluding with drug lords and opium production began to accelerate. In fact, the drug trade in Afghanistan reaches record highs nearly every year since the invasion. Between 2011 and 2012, opium production in Afghanistan increased by another 61%. In 2009, the New York Times reported that one of Afghanistan’s most powerful drug lords was the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and that he also happened to be working for the CIA at the same time. The CIA has a sordid history with the drug trade, from Indochina in the 1960s, to Afghanistan and the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s. More recently, in 2007 there was an under-reported incident in which a CIA plane which had been used for rendition flights (i.e., kidnapping and torture) had crashed in Mexico with 3.3. tones of cocaine on board, carrying Colombian cocaine for the major Mexican drug cartel, the Sinaloa cartel.
Since 2006, the government of Mexico has been waging a massive “drug war” against several of the large drug cartels in the country. This war has been financially and materially supported by the U.S., which has been providing arms, equipment, and intelligence assistance to the Mexican army. The war has been incredibly violent, and widely under-reported in our media north of Mexico. From 2006 to 2011, there were between 45-60,000 deaths related to the drug war. In 2009, the Mexican drug lord – Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera – who heads the largest drug cartel, the Sinaloa cartel, made Forbes’ billionaires list. Journalists in Mexico who cover the war repeatedly get tortured and murdered. Within a six-month period in 2010, more than 11,000 migrants were abducted by drug cartels, either to extort money or to be used as forced labour. An investigative report by NPR in 2010 revealed a deeper and darker side of the story: the war is “rigged.” As the United States gives billions of dollars to Mexico in military and judicial aid, the Mexican government works to support the Sinaloa cartel by destroying the competition. Testimony of top Sinaloa cartel traffickers in court revealed further links between the cartel and the Mexican army. Whether through bribes or other means, including the major participants themselves passing from high-ranking police and military positions directly into the cartels, the relationship between the Mexican government and the cartels, especially the Sinaloa cartel, runs deep. The drug trade through Mexico, which is heavily implicated in bringing cocaine from Colombia to the United States, produces profits of tens of billions every year. Even a top Mexican army general and a former deputy minister of defense have now been implicated in ties to drug cartels, something which is not new in Mexico.
A small scandal emerged for the United States government in 2011 when it was revealed that a U.S. operation “allowed weapons from the U.S. to pass into the hands of suspected gun smugglers.” Codenamed Operation Fast and Furious, it was run by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which admitted “that 1,765 guns were sold to suspected smugglers during a 15-month period of the investigation.” A gun dealer in Arizona reported that he was concerned that his guns were being sold to drug cartels, fuelling the violence that has now killed over 55,000 people, and when he expressed these fears, he “was encouraged by federal agents to continue the sales.” Internal emails released from the ATF revealed that the bureau’s top officials were regularly briefed on the gun-running operation. It was later revealed that many Mexican drug cartel figures who were being targeted by the ATF also happened to be “informants” for the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), who kept the ATF “in the dark” about their relationship with the cartels. At least six Mexican drug cartel figures were also on the payroll of the FBI. Some ATF agents have blown the whistle on the operation, stating that it went back as far as 2008, and that they were “ordered to let U.S. guns go to Mexico.” Memos from 2010 revealed that several top U.S. officials in the Department of Justice, including Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr, regularly received updates about the operation. Three National Security officials in the White House also received updates. One of Mexico’s top drug traffickers, the right-hand man of the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, claimed in court testimony that he “was working all along as a confidential informant for U.S. agents,” specifically for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). U.S. weapons smuggling to Mexico is no small operation, as roughly 70% of the weapons seized in Mexico came from the United States.
In Congressional testimony, an ATF agent reported that the ATF was working on Operation Fast and Furious in cooperation with the DEA and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). To add to that, an insider at the CIA revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency (aka: the Cocaine Import Agency), “had a strong hand in creating, orchestrating and exploiting Operation Fast and Furious.” Over fears that the Zetas cartel could totally usurp control of the Mexican government, the CIA reportedly intervened in support of the Sinaloa cartel, with its close ties to the Mexican military. In a report with the Washington Times, it was revealed that the CIA would allow the Sinaloa cartel to smuggle cocaine into the United States on a 747 cargo plane, and in turn, the CIA approached the ATF to create Operation Fast and Furious, ensuring that the trade “wasn’t one-way,” so that arms were funneled into Mexico from the U.S. as drugs were funneled into the U.S. from Mexico, all with CIA support. Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, undercover DEA agents were laundering millions of dollars in drug money for the Mexican cartels in the United States.
Within Mexico, the drug money spreads all across the economy, into skyscrapers, casinos, beach resorts, restaurants, the construction industry, and of course, political campaigns. But the 55,000 deaths in Mexico in the past six years have been good for the United States, particularly for gun sales and big banks. In fact, internal investigations revealed that Wachovia Bank, now a part of Wells Fargo, one of the largest banks in the United States, laundered billions of dollars in drug money for Mexican cartels, even as they were receiving bailout money from the United States government. It was not only Wachovia, but also Bank of America that has been implicated in laundering Mexican drug money, worth up to $378.4 billion. Other banks have been implicated as well, in both the United States and Europe. The UN revealed in 2009 that drug money actually saved the major banks, as roughly $352 billion in drug money was absorbed into the financial system during the worst of the economic crisis in 2008.
So what do we make of all this?
We are told that this is called “democracy” and a “strong economy.” We are told that this is the “best system in the world,” which benefits everyone… just not you.
I prefer to use another word to describe it: Mafiocracy.
Now, I did not come up with this word, but it applies, and I can think of no better word to describe the relationship between big business, big banks, government and organized crime. So we are faced with a Mafiocracy, whether in Afghanistan, Colombia, Mexico, the United States, or even in Québec. With collusion so deep and embedded between organized crime, state agencies, politicians, and financiers, it’s almost problematic to refer to organized crime as somehow separate, since it isn’t. So let’s call it what it is: a Mafiocracy. A local Mafiocracy, such as the one which exists in Québec between the local Mafia, the local government, and the local economic elite, is inter-related with the global Mafiocracy, atop of which sit the Kings of Capital and the High Priests of Globalization. We are in the age of Globalization, and the Mafiocracy has been significantly globalized and energized. As the Mafiocracy gets stronger, democracy gets weaker, until it is altogether gone and dead, without even a memory remaining.
The first time I heard the term “Mafiocracy” was in an incredible documentary about Argentina, entitled, “Social Genocide,” covering the country’s recent history of military dictatorships supported by the U.S., followed by the age of neoliberalism with liberal democratic governments more corrupt than the dictatorships that preceded them, with an elite so extravagant it would be almost comically-absurd if it wasn’t so disturbing. The film documents the relationship between democratically-elected leaders, narco-trafficking, organized crime, international terrorism, Western banking institutions, the IMF and World Bank, corruption feeding off of the national debt, the privatization of public wealth, and all the while demanding the population pay for the Mafiocracy through austerity and “structural adjustment,” what is translated in real terms into “Social Genocide.” When the people stood up in December of 2001, Argentina’s president declared a state of siege, which was responded to by the population who took their pots and pans out into the streets across the country and to the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, and they banged their pots and pans in the midst of police confrontations that killed 26 people, eventually forcing the president to flee from the city by helicopter. The Mafiocracy demanded the people suffer for its own excesses, for its wealth and power, and imposed a rigid, organized, structured and systematic program of “Social Genocide”: what economists, politicians and pundits refer to as “fiscal austerity” and “structural adjustment.” The people took their pots and pans into the streets and said ‘No More!”
For more than 100 days, hundreds and thousands of students in Québec have been on strike against a plan to increase tuition by roughly 75%. The Mafiocracy government, after two months of refusing to speak to the students and instead used state violence and repression against them, finally agreed to sit down and talk in April. They then cancelled the negotiations and threw out a new “proposal” which would actually increase the tuition hike. Obviously, this insulting gesture was rejected. Then there were other negotiations in early May, while the riot police were outside nearly killing a few students by shooting them in the face and head with rubber bullets, the government pressured the student leaders to sign a sham of an agreement, with extra pressure coming from the major union leaders, who only exist today because of their willingness to engage and collude with the Mafiocracy – particularly the government and big business – and so they told the students it was the best deal they would get. The deal did not include a decrease in the tuition increases. This entire process has taken place in the midst of a national media campaign against the student movement, which increased and evolved into a social movement, an anti-austerity movement, and at times, even a small rebellion against the Mafiocracy. The media framed the striking students as “spoiled brats” who were “whining and crying” about a loss of “entitlements.” The latest negotiations broke down last week. Why? Because after four days of negotiations, the only “compromise” the government engaged in, was to agree to reduce the overall tuition increases by $1. Yes, you read correctly: ONE DOLLAR.
This is what it means to negotiate with a Mafiocracy.
But the students continue to march, continue to inspire, and the movement – the Maple Spring – continues to expand beyond the students, far beyond the issue of tuition, and far beyond Québec. People walk through the streets, every day and every night, in defiance of a law passed by the Mafiocracy government which criminalized spontaneous protests. People step outside and bang their pots and pans, walk through the streets, through rain storms and sun shine, hot or cold. People are aware that they could again be pepper sprayed, tear gassed, smoke bombed, beaten with batons, trampled with horses, driven into with cars, shot with rubber bullets, or arrested en masse. But still, they go. And across Canada, and in fact, far beyond, people are taking their pots and pans and stepping out into their streets in solidarity.
Remember that description we once heard for the system of government we were supposed to be living under: “of, by, and for the people”? Is that the Mafiocracy? We were a generation reviled for our trivial technological obsessions, entertainment enslavement, and absolute apathy. So we defy those stereotypes and step out into the streets, day after day. We are no longer apathetic, and now we are called “spoiled” and “entitled.” But that’s okay; people – especially those in power, who speak through the media – always fear what they do not understand. Now the social gatherings of youth are not necessarily at bars and clubs, but in protests and casseroles (marching with pots and pans). Regardless of the outcome, we have come to realize that we are a powerful force when united, that we have to physically, intellectually, and emotionally put ourselves on the line to struggle for what is right. We realized that when our options are to either suffer or struggle, the choice is easy. We have a long way ahead of us, we struggle, we persevere, we protest, we push, we persist, we have not yet prevailed, but we are linking up with people – especially youth – across Canada and around the world. We are using the technology which in one sense had enslaved us to obscurity and apathy, and are now using it to mobilize and organize more than ever before.
We have taken the first steps which are required in a global struggle of people against a global Mafiocracy. We follow in the footsteps of those who have walked before us, whether they are in Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, Spain, Iceland, or Chile. They cannot fight our fight for us, but we can all fight together. Our struggle is global, though we may experience it in the local. With every step forward, we realize the global implications of what we are starting to do, and the world is starting to watch. The people are waking up, walking out, and trying to reshape society so that it does not simply benefit the few at the expense of the many.
This is called Democracy.
For more information on the ‘Maple Spring’, see:
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.
A Message from Chile: “The struggles of Quebec students, academics and workers are also our struggles”
NOUS SOMMES TOUS DES QUÉBÉCOIS! WE ARE ALL QUEBECERS! ¡TODOS SOMOS QUEBEQUENSES!
The following is a Declaration of Chilean academics and student leaders in solidarity with the Quebec student movement, written in French, English, and Spanish.
For a look at the similarities between the Chilean and Quebec student movements, see my recent article: “From the Chilean Winter to the Maple Spring.”
Les soussignés, lesquels sont des professeurs et des dirigeants étudiants chiliens, dénoncent devant l’opinion publique nationale et internationale la persécution envers le mouvement étudiant qui a lieu au Québec, au Canada, laquelle trouve son expression dans la Loi 78, adoptée le jeudi 19 mai par le gouvernement du premier ministre Jean Charest.
La Loi 78, surnommée la « loi matraque », est la plus dure à avoir été adoptée depuis la Loi des mesures de guerre d’octobre 1970; elle a été dénoncé par le président du Barreau de la province, ainsi que par Amnistie Internationale, la Ligue des droits de l’Homme, les quatre principales centrales syndicales et diverses institutions académiques. Elle limite les libertés fondamentales des citoyens du Québec et restreint certains aspects fondamentaux de la liberté d’expression, de la liberté de manifester et de la liberté d’association inscrites dans la Constitution et la Charte québécoise des droits et libertés.
Cette loi ne concerne pas seulement les étudiants en grève depuis quinze semaines contre la hausse des frais de scolarité, mais aussi tous les citoyens, en particulier les enseignants, les professeurs et les travailleurs, dont les droits d’expression et d’association sont touchés. Parmi ces mesures, nous dénonçons : celles qui empêchent les manifestations spontanées de tout groupe de plus de cinquante personnes; l’interdiction de manifester à moins de cinquante mètres des écoles; le renforcement du pouvoir des forces policières qui leur permet de décider si une manifestation est légale ou illégale, à tout moment, ou si quelqu’un en est l’instigateur. De même, toute expression publique de soutien aux manifestations se voit également punie.
Maintenant, par exemple, nul ne peut, au Québec, lors d’un conflit, empêcher des étudiants d’entrer dans les collèges et les universités, sous peine d’amendes individuelles et d’amendes pour l’association étudiante dont est membre cette personne, ainsi que pour les dirigeants syndicaux et étudiants. Ces sanctions varient de 1 000 à 125 000 dollars.
Les directions des associations étudiantes ont annoncé qu’elles iraient en appel de cette loi qu’elles jugent inconstitutionnelle et elles ont appelé à la solidarité de tous les citoyens.
Le peuple québécois a appuyé le peuple chilien pendant bon nombre d’années par sa solidarité active, et c’est pourquoi, aujourd’hui, nous ressentons le besoin d’exprimer et de manifester toute notre solidarité avec les organisations étudiantes et leurs dirigeants, ainsi qu’avec les centrales syndicales et l’ensemble du mouvement citoyen.
Nous le faisons par solidarité, mais aussi parce que nous percevons que toute attaque contre la liberté, et ce, peu importe l’endroit dans le monde où celle-ci se produit, constitue une attaque contre nos libertés. La « loi Hinzpeter » adoptée par le gouvernement chilien s’inscrit dans la même perspective répressive et antidémocratique.
La lutte des étudiants, des professeurs et des travailleurs du Québec est aussi notre lutte.
Le 24 mai 2012, Santiago de Chile
Premiers signataires :
1. Sergio Grez Toso, historien, professeur à l’Université du Chili.
2. María Eugenia Domínguez, journaliste, professeur à l’Université du Chili.
3. Gabriel Boric, président de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université du Chili (FECH).
4. Camila Vallejo Dowling, vice-président de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université du Chili (FECH).
5. Felipe Ramírez, secrétaire général de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université du Chili (FECH).
6. Andrés Fielbaum, secrétaire aux communications de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université du Chili (FECH).
7. Pablo Soto Arrate, directeur exécutif du centre d’études de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université du Chili (FECH).
8. Rodrigo Cárdenas Cabezas, secrétaire général de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université de Magallanes, à Punta Arenas.
9. Sebastián Aylwin Correa, vice-président du centre étudiant de l’École de droit de l’Université du Chili.
10. Francisco Figueroa, ancien vice-président de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université du Chili (FECH) pour 2011.
11. Loreto Fernández, ancien président du centre étudiant de la Faculté des sciences sociales de l’Université du Chili (2011) et actuel délégué à la protection de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université du Chili (FECH).
12. Conseil des étudiants en santé de l’Université du Chili.
13. Eloísa González Domínguez, porte-parole de l’Assemblée étudiantes du lycée Manuel de Salas, porte-parole de l’Assemblée de coordination des étudiants secondaires de Santiago (ACES).
14. Gabriel González, président du centre des élèves de l’Institut national (CAIN) 2012, Santiago.
15. Álvaro Fernández, président du gouvernement étudiant du Lycée professionnel (GELA) pour 2011-2012, à Santiago.
16. Matías Cárdenas, ancien porte-parole pour 2011 du Lycée professionnel, et actuel secrétaire exécutif du gouvernement étudiant du Lycée professionnel (GELA) pour 2011-2012, à Santiago.
17. Tamara Castro, présidente du centre étudiant du Lycée Carvajal de Prat, à Providencia, à Santiago.
18. Diego Bautista Cubillos Polo, secrétaire exécutif du centre des éleves Internado Nacional Barros Arana, à Santiago.
19. Jorge Silva, président du centre des élèves de Liceo José Victorino Lastarria, à Providencia, à Santiago.
20. Camila Hernández, présidente du centre étudiant, à Liceo Tajamar 2012, Providencia, Santiago.
21. Moisés Paredes, ancien porte-parole du Lycée Arturo Alessandri Palma, a Providencia, à Santiago, actuel représentant des élèves expulsés et sans matricule de ce collège.
22. Camila Fuentes, présidente du centre des élèves du Lycée 7, à Providencia (CELIS), à Santiago, pour 2012.
23. Sebastián Vielmas, secrétaire général (2011) de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université catholique du Chili (FEUC).
24. Pablo Oyarzún Robles, philosophe, professeur à l’Université du Chili.
25. Eduardo Flores Retamal, président du centre étudiant de médecine vétérinaire de l’Université du Chili.
26. Carlos Ruiz Encina, sociologue, professeur à l’Université du Chili.
27. José Aylwin, avocat, professeur à l’Université australe du Chili, à Valdivia.
28. Manuel Loyola, historien, professeur à l’Université de Santiago du Chili.
29. Ariel Russel García, conseiller de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université du Chili (FECH) de la Faculté des sciences agronomiques.
30. Diego Corvalán, conseiller de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université du Chili (FECH) et ancien secrétaire général du centre étudiant de la Faculté des sciences agronomiques.
31. Faride Zerán, journaliste, professeur à l’Université du Chili, Prix national de journalisme.
32. Felipe Portales Cifuentes, sociologue, professeur à l’Université du Chili.
33. Alexis Meza Sánchez, historien, ancien dirigeant de la Fédération des étudiants de l’Université de Concepción.
34. Carlos Ossandón Buljevic, philosophe, professeur à l’Université du Chili.
35. Pedro Rosas Aravena, historien, directeur à l’École d’histoire et des sciences sociales de l’Université ARCIS.
36. Jonás Chnaidemann, biologiste, professeur à l’Université du Chili et sénateur universitaire de cette même université.
37. Marcelo Santos, communicateur social, éducateur et conseiller en communication et démocratie.
38. Pierina Ferretti, sociologue, professeure à l’Université de Valparaíso.
39. Luis Casado, ingénieur du CESI, à Francia, expert-conseil de la Confédération minière du Chili.
40. Mario Matus González, historien, professeur à l’Université du Chili.
41. Jorge Pinto Rodríguez, historien, professeur à l’Université de la Frontera, à Temuco.
42. Ignacio Díaz Concha, secrétaire général du centre étudiant du baccalauréat à l’Université du Chili.
43. Víctor de la Fuente, journaliste, directeur de l’édition chilienne du Monde Diplomatique.
44. Carlos Sandoval Ambiado, historien, professeur de l’Université de Los Lagos et de l’Université Viña del Mar.
45. Germán F. Westphal, linguiste, citoyen chilien et canadien.
46. Isabel Cassigoli, sociologue, professeur à l’Université ARCIS.
47. Margarita Iglesias Saldaña, historienne, professeur à l’Université du Chili.
48. Ángela Vergara, historienne, professeur à l’Université d’État de Californie, à Los Angeles, aux États-Unis
49. Jorge Chuaqui K., sociologue, professeur à l’Université de Valparaíso, président de l’Association nationale des usagers des services de santé mentale (ANUSSAM).
50. Félix J. Aguirre D., sociologue et politicologue, professeur à l’Université de Valparaíso.
51. Julio Pinto Vallejos, historien, professeur à l’Université de Santiago du Chili.
52. Mauricio Barría Jara, dramaturge, professeur à l’Université du Chili.
53. Darcie Doll Castillo, docteure en littérature, professeur à l’Université du Chili.
54. Carlos Molina Bustos, médedin chirurgien et historien, professeur d’histoire à l’École de santé publique de l’Université du Chili et de l’Université Viña del Mar.
55. Francisco de Torres, porte-parole générale de l’Assemblée des étudiants diplômés de la faculté de philosophie et des sciences sociales de l’Université du Chili..
56. Isabel Jara, historienne, professeure à l’Université du Chili.
57. Pedro Bravo Elizondo, docteur en littérature, professeur à l’Université d’État de Wichita, au Kansas, au États-Unis.
58. José del Pozo, historien, professeur à l’Université du Québec à Montréal, au Canada.
59. Marco Rodríguez W., sociologue, professeur à l’Université de Valparaíso.
60. Igor Goicovic Donoso, historien, professeur à l’Université de Santiago du Chili.
61. Gabriel Muñoz, coordonnateur de l’Assemblée des étudiants d’histoire de l’Université du Chili.
62. Bárbara Brito, conseillère de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université du Chili (FECH), faculté de philosophie et des sciences sociales.
63. Benjamín Infante, conseiller de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université du Chili (FECH), faculté de philosophie et des sciences sociales.
64. Manuel Jesús Hidalgo Valdivia, économiste.
65. Juan Carlos Gómez Leyton, politicologue, professeur à l’Université ARCIS.
66. Iván Ljubetic Vargas, historien, ancien professeur à l’Université du Chili, campus de Temuco.
67. Rodrigo Contreras Molina, anthropologue, professeur à l’Université de la Frontera, à Temuco.
68. Marcelo Garrido Pereira, géographe, chef du cours de géographie de l’Université académique d’humanisme chrétien.
69. Javier Sandoval Ojeda, ancien président de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université de Concepción, pour 1996-1997.
70. Mario Valdés Vera, historien, professeur de l’Université de Concepción.
71. Pablo Aravena Núñez, professeur à l’Université de Valparaíso.
72. César Cerda Albarracín, historien, professeur à l’Université métropolitaine de technologie.
73. Paz López, coordinatrice académique en chef des études culturelles à l’Université ARCIS.
74. María Soledad Jiménez, historienne, professeure à l’Université académique d’humanisme chrétien.
75. Mario Garcés Durán, historien, professeur à l’Université de Santiago du Chili, directeur de ECO Comunicaciones.
76. Rodrigo Zúñiga Contreras, philosophe, professeur à l’Université du Chili.
77. Sergio Rojas Contreras, philosophe, professeur à l’Université du Chili.
78. Carmen Gloria Bravo Quezada, historienne, professeure à l’Université de Santiago du Chili.
79. Miguel Valderrama, historien, professeur à l’Université ARCIS.
80. Kevin Villegas, sociologue, professeur à l’Université Pedro de Valdivia, campus de Chillán.
81. Alonso Serradell Díaz, maître en citoyenneté et droits de l’Homme : éthique et politique, Université de Barcelone.
82. Catherine Valenzuela Marchant, enseignante, étudiante au doctorat en histoire, Université du Chili.
83. Viviana Bravo Vargas, historienne, doctorante en études latinoaméricaines à l’Université nationale autonome du Mexique (UNAM).
84. Enrique Fernández Darraz, sociologue et historien.
85. Florencia Velasco, baccalauréat en littérature et étudiant à la maîtrise en littérature de l’Université du Chili, responsable de la rédaction de Lom Ediciones.
86. Blaise Pantel, membre du corps professoral du département de sociologie et de science politique, Université catholique de Temuco.
87. Sebastián Ríos Labbé, avocat, professeur à l’Université du Chili.
88. Oscar Zapata Cabello, délégué étudiant du cours de chimie, faculté des sciences de l’Université du Chili.
89. Evelin Ledesma Cruz, bénévole et militante pour le Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique Latine (CDHAL), Montréal, Québec, Canada.
90. Laureano Checa, Institut universitaire de la communication et de l’image (ICEI) à l’Université du Chili.
91. Lorena Antezana Barrios, professeure à l’Institut universitaire de la communication et de l’image (ICEI) à l’Université du Chili.
92. Milton Godoy Orellana, historien, professeur à l’Université académique d’humanisme chrétien.
93. José Miguel Labrín, professeur de l’Institut universitaire de la communication et de l’image (ICEI) à l’Université du Chili.
94. Ximena Poo Figueroa, professeure à l’Institut universitaire de la communication et de l’image (ICEI) à l’Université du Chili.
95. José Alberto de la Fuente, docteur en littérature, professeur à l’Université catholique Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez.
96. Jorge Gonzalorena Döll, sociologue, professeur à l’Université de Valparaíso.
97. Sandra Oyarzo Torres, sage-femme, professeure à l’Université du Chili.
98. Luis Castro, historien, professeur à l’Université de Valparaíso.
99. Patricio Troncoso Ovando, ingénieur de production, ancien président de la Fédération des étudiants de l’Université technique Federico Santa María (FEUTFSM), campus de Talcahuano, de 2001 à 2003.
100. Gonzalo Ojeda Urzúa, sociologue, professeur à l’Université de Valparaíso.
101. Valentina Saavedra, ancienne présidente du Centre des étudiants d’architecture et actuelle conseillère de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université du Chili (FECH), faculté d’architecture et d’urbanisme.
102. Cristián Pozo, sociologue.
103. Francisco Herrera, philosophe, professeur à l’Université du Chili.
104. Eleonora Reyes, historienne, professeure à l’Université du Chili.
105. Jorge Weil, économiste, professeure à l’Université du Los Lagos, Osorno.
106. Aldo González Becerra, biologiste, professeure à l’Université Autonome de Madrid et chercheur au Haut Conseil de Recherches Scientifiques (CSIC), Espagne.
107. Luis Mundaca, dirigeant syndical de la Fédération des syndicats de Heineken – CCU Chili, secrétaire général du Centre des Parents et Gardiens du Lycée professionnel (GELA), Santiago
108. Rodrigo Roco, ancien Président de la Fédération étudiante de l’Université du Chili (FECH).
109. Virginia Vidal, auteur.
The undersigned Chilean academics and student leaders denounce before the national and international public opinion the persecution of the Quebec student movement in Canada, as expressed in Bill 78, enacted on Saturday May 19 by the Provincial Government of Premier Jean Charest.
Bill 78, the “truncheon law”, is the most severe piece of legislation since the War Measures Act was used during the October Crisis in 1970, and has been denounced by the President of the Quebec Bar Association, Amnesty International, the League for Human Rights, four major unions, and various academic bodies. The bill infringes on Quebec citizens’ freedoms by restricting fundamental aspects of their freedoms of expression, protest, and association, consecrated in the Canadian Constitution and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
This bill not only affects the students who have been on strike protesting against the tuition hike for the past 15 weeks; it also severely affects the rights of all citizens – especially professors, academics, and workers – whose rights to expression and association are also being affected. Among the measures, we denounce those that prevent the spontaneous demonstrations of any group of more than fifty people, the prohibition of protests within fifty meters of any academic institution, strengthening the power of police forces by allowing them to decide whether a protest is legal or not at any moment, or whether an individual is an instigator.
Similarly, it punishes all public expressions of support for these mobilizations. For example, no one may restrict students’ entry to schools and universities during times of conflict under penalty of heavy fines for individuals, the student associations to which they may belong, as well as for workers’ and student union leaders. These fines vary from $1,000 to $125,000.
The leaders of student associations have announced that they will file legal motions against Bill 78 for its unconstitutional nature and they have called for the solidarity of all citizens.
The people of Quebec have supported the Chilean people for many long years through their active solidarity. Today, we feel compelled to express and demonstrate our full solidarity with their student associations and leaders, unions, and citizens’ movement.
We do this not only in solidarity, but also because we understand that any attack against freedoms in any part of this globalized world, is an attack against our own freedoms. The Chilean government’s so-called “Hinzpeter law” adopts the same repressive and undemocratic measures as Bill 78.
The struggles of Quebec students, academics and workers are also our struggles.
Santiago, Chile, May 24, 2012
1. Sergio Grez Toso, historian, faculty member of the University of Chile.
2. María Eugenia Domínguez, journalist, faculty member of the University of Chile.
3. Gabriel Boric, President, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH).
4. Camila Vallejo Dowling, Vice-President, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH).
5. Felipe Ramírez, General Secretary, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH).
6. Andrés Fielbaum, Communications Secretary, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH).
7. Pablo Soto Arrate, Executive Director of the Learning Centre of the University of Chile Student Federation (FECH).
8. Rodrigo Cárdenas Cabezas, General Secretary, University of Magallanes Student Federation, Punta Arenas.
9. Sebastián Aylwin Correa, Vice-President, Law School Student Centre, University of Chile.
10. Francisco Figueroa, former Vice-President, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH).
11. Loreto Fernández, former President, Faculty of Social Science Student Centre, University of Chile (2011); current Delegate for Well-being, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH).
12. Health Students Council, University of Chile.
13. Eloisa González Dominguez, Spokesperson, Manuel de Salas High School Student Assembly; Spokesperson, Secondary-School Students of Santiago, Coordination Assembly (ACES).
14. Gabriel González, President, National Institute Alumni Centre (CAIN) 2012, Santiago.
15. Álvaro Fernández, President, Vocational High School Student Government (GELA), 2011-2012, Santiago.
16. Matías Cárdenas, former Spokesperson (2011),Vocational High School; current Executive Secretary, Vocational High School Student Government (GELA), 2011-2012, Santiago.
17. Tamara Castro, President, Carmela Carvajal de Prat High School Student Centre, Providencia, Santiago.
18. Diego Bautista Cubillos Polo, Executive Secretary, Barros Arana Internado Nacional Student Centre, Santiago.
19. Jorge Silva, President, José Victorino Lastarria High School Student Centre, Providencia, Santiago.
20. Camila Hernández, President, Tajamar High School Student Centre, Providencia, Santiago.
21. Moisés Paredes, former Spokesperson, Arturo Alessandri Palma High School, Providencia, Santiago; current representative of students who have been expelled and have lost their scholarship to this high school.
22. Camila Fuentes, President, Providencia 7 High School Student Centre (CELIS) 2012, Santiago.
23. Sebastián Vielmas, former General Secretary (2011), Catholic University of Chile Student Federation (FEUC).
24. Pablo Oyarzún Robles, philosopher, faculty member of the University of Chile.
25. Eduardo Flores Retamal, President, University of Chile Veterinary School Student Centre.
26. Carlos Ruiz Encina, sociologist, faculty member of the University of Chile.
27. José Aylwin, lawyer, faculty member of the University Austral of Chile, Valdivia.
28. Manuel Loyola, historian, faculty member of the University of Santiago de Chile.
29. Ariel Russel García, Advisor, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH) from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences.
30. Diego Corvalán, Advisor, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH); former General Secretary of the University of Chile Social Sciences Student Centre.
31. Faride Zerán, journalist, faculty member of the University of Chile, winner of the National Award for Journalism (2007).
32. Felipe Portales Cifuentes, sociologist, faculty member of the University of Chile.
33. Alexis Meza Sánchez, historian, former leader of the University of Concepción Student Federation.
34. Carlos Ossandón Buljevic, philosopher, faculty member of the University of Chile.
35. Pedro Rosas Aravena, historian, Director of the University ARCIS School of History and Social Sciences.
36. Jonás Chnaidemann, biologist, faculty member and university senator of the University of Chile.
37. Marcelo Santos, social communications, educator and consultant in communications and democracy.
38. Pierina Ferretti, sociologist, faculty member of the University of Valparaíso.
39. Luis Casado, engineer with CESI (France), advisor of the Mining Confederation of Chile.
40. Mario Matus González, historian, faculty member of the University of Chile.
41. Jorge Pinto Rodríguez, historian, faculty member of the University of la Frontera, Temuco.
42. Ignacio Díaz Concha, General Secretary, University of Chile Baccalaureate Student Centre.
43. Víctor de la Fuente, journalist, Director of the Chilean edition of Le Monde Diplomatique.
44. Carlos Sandoval Ambiado, historian, faculty member of the University of Los Lagos and of the University Viña del Mar.
45. Germán F. Westphal, linguist, Chilean-Canadian citizen.
46. Isabel Cassigoli, sociologist, faculty member of the University ARCIS.
47. Margarita Iglesias Saldaña, historian, faculty member of the University of Chile.
48. Ángela Vergara, historian, faculty member of California State University, Los Angeles, USA.
49. Jorge Chuaqui K., sociologist, faculty member of the University of Valparaiso, President of the National Association of Mental Health Services Beneficiaries (ANUSSAM).
50. Félix J. Aguirre D., sociologist and political scientist, faculty member of the University of Valparaiso.
51. Julio Pinto Vallejos, historian, faculty member of the University of Santiago de Chile.
52. Mauricio Barría Jara, playwright, faculty member of the University of Chile.
53. Darcie Doll Castillo, PhD in Literature, faculty member of the University of Chile.
54. Carlos Molina Bustos, surgeon and historian, faculty member of history in the School of Public Health in the University of Chile and the University of Viña del Mar.
55. Francisco de Torres, General Spokesperson for the Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities Postgraduate Student Assembly at the University of Chile.
56. Isabel Jara, historian, faculty member of the University of Chile.
57. Pedro Bravo Elizondo, PhD in Literature, faculty member of Wichita State University, Kansas, USA.
58. José del Pozo, historian, faculty member of the Université de Québec à Montreal, Canada.
59. Marco Rodríguez W., sociologist, faculty member of the University of Valparaiso.
60. Igor Goicovic Donoso, historian, faculty member of the University of Santiago de Chile.
61. Gabriel Muñoz, Coordinator, History Students Assembly of the University of Chile.
62. Bárbara Brito, Advisor, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH), Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities.
63. Benjamín Infante, Advisor, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH), Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities.
64. Manuel Jesús Hidalgo Valdivia, economist.
65. Juan Carlos Gómez Leyton, political scientist, faculty member of the University ARCIS.
66. Iván Ljubetic Vargas, historian, former faculty member of the University of Chile campus in Temuco.
67. Rodrigo Contreras Molina, anthropologist, faculty member of the University of la Frontera, Temuco.
68. Marcelo Garrido Pereira, geographer, Head of the Geography Department at the University Academy of Christian Humanism.
69. Javier Sandoval Ojeda, former President of the University of Concepción Student Federation, (1996-1997).
70. Mario Valdés Vera, historian, faculty member of the University of Concepción.
71. Pablo Aravena Núñez, faculty member of the University of Valparaiso.
72. César Cerda Albarracín, historian, faculty member of the Metropolitan Technological University.
73. Paz López, Academic Coordinator, Masters in Cultural Studies, University ARCIS.
74. María Soledad Jiménez, historian, faculty member of the University Academy of Christian Humanism.
75. Mario Garcés Durán, historian, faculty member of the University of Santiago de Chile, Director of ECO Communications.
76. Rodrigo Zúñiga Contreras, philosopher, faculty member of the University of Chile.
77. Sergio Rojas Contreras, philosopher, faculty member of the University of Chile.
78. Carmen Gloria Bravo Quezada, historian, faculty member of the University of Santiago de Chile.
79. Miguel Valderrama, historian, faculty member of the University ARCIS.
80. Kevin Villegas, sociologist, faculty member of the University Pedro de Valdivia campus in Chillán.
81. Alonso Serradell Díaz, Master in Citizenship and Human Rights: Ethics and Policy, University of Barcelona.
82. Catherine Valenzuela Marchant, profesor, doctoral student in History at the University of Chile.
83. Viviana Bravo Vargas, historian, doctoral student in Latin American Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
84. Enrique Fernández Darraz, sociologist and historian.
85. Florencia Velasco, BA in Literature and masters student in Literature at the University of Chile, Universidad de Chile, editor of Lom Editions.
86. Blaise Pantel, faculty member in the Department of Sociology and Political Science, Catholic University of Temuco.
87. Sebastián Ríos Labbé, lawyer, faculty member of the University of Chile.
88. Oscar Zapata Cabello, student delegate for the School of Chemistry, Faculty of Sciences at the University of Chile.
89. Evelin Ledesma Cruz, volunteer and activist with the Committee on Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL), Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
90. Laureano Checa, faculty member of the Communication and Image Institute (ICEI) of the University of Chile.
91. Lorena Antezana Barrios, faculty member of the Communication and Image Institute (ICEI) of the University of Chile.
92. Milton Godoy Orellana, historian, faculty member of the University Academy of Christian Humanism.
93. José Miguel Labrín, faculty member of the Communication and Image Institute (ICEI) of the University of Chile.
94. Ximena Poo Figueroa, faculty member of the Communication and Image Institute (ICEI) of the University of Chile.
95. José Alberto de la Fuente, PhD in Literature, faculty member of the Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez Catholic University.
96. Jorge Gonzalorena Döll, sociologist, faculty member of the University of Valparaíso.
97. Sandra Oyarzo Torres, matron, faculty member of the University of Chile.
98. Luis Castro, historian, faculty member of the University of Valparaíso.
99. Patricio Troncoso Ovando, production engineer, former President of the Federico Santa María Technical University Student Federation (FEUTFSM) at the Talcahuano campus (2001-2003).
100. Gonzalo Ojeda Urzúa, sociologist, faculty member of the University of Valparaíso.
101. Valentina Saavedra, former President of the Architecture Students’ Centre, current Advisor for the University of Chile Student Federation (FECH) Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism.
102. Cristián Pozo, sociologist.
103. Francisco Herrera, philosopher, faculty member of the University of Chile.
104. Eleonora Reyes, historian, faculty member of the University of Chile.
105. Jorge Weil, economist, faculty member of the University of Los Lagos, Osorno.
106. Aldo González Becerra, biologist, faculty member of the Autonomous University of Madrid, researcher with the Superior Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), Spain.
107. Luis Mundaca, union leader of the Heineken Union Federation – CCU Chile, General Secretary of the Vocational High School Parents and Guardians Centre, Santiago.
108. Rodrigo Roco, former President of the University of Chile Student Federation (FECH), (1997).
109. Virginia Vidal, author.
Los abajo firmantes, académicos y dirigentes estudiantiles chilenos, denunciamos a la opinión pública nacional e internacional la persecución contra el movimiento estudiantil del Quebec, Canadá, expresada en la Ley 78, promulgada el jueves 19 de mayo por el gobierno del Primer Ministro Jean Charest.
La ley 78, llamada “Ley matraca”, es la más dura desde la Ley de Medidas de Guerra en Octubre de 1970 y ha sido denunciada por el mismísimo Presidente de la Orden de Abogados de esa provincia, así como por Amnistía International, la Liga de Derechos Humanos, las cuatro principales centrales sindicales y diferentes cuerpos académicos. Ella coarta las libertades fundamentales de los ciudadanos del Quebec, restringe en sus aspectos fundamentales la libertad de expresión, la libertad de manifestar y la libertad de asociación consagradas por la Constitución y por la Carta de Derechos del Quebec.
Esta Ley afecta no sólo a los estudiantes en huelga desde hace quince semanas contra el alza de aranceles, sino también al conjunto de la ciudadanía, particularmente profesores, académicos y trabajadores cuyo derechos de expresión y de asociación están siendo afectados. Dentro de estas medidas denunciamos aquellas que impiden las manifestaciones espontáneas de todo grupo de más de cincuenta personas; la prohibición de manifestar a menos de cincuenta metros de los establecimientos escolares; el reforzamiento del poder de las fuerzas policiales al permitirles decidir si una manifestación es legal o ilegal en cualquier momento, o si alguien es instigador.
Del mismo modo, se castiga toda expresión pública de apoyo a las movilizaciones. Ahora, por ejemplo, nadie en Quebec puede durante un conflicto impedir la entrada de los estudiantes a colegios y universidades, so pena de multas individuales y a la asociación estudiantil a la que pertenezcan, o a los líderes sindicales y estudiantiles. Estas multas varían de mil a 125 mil dólares.
Las directivas estudiantiles han anunciado que apelaran jurídicamente de esta ley por su inconstitucionalidad y han demandado la solidaridad de toda la ciudadanía.
El pueblo quebequense ha acompañado al pueblo chileno durante largos años con su solidaridad activa, es por ello que hoy nos sentimos convocados a expresar y demostrar nuestra más amplia solidaridad con sus organizaciones estudiantiles y sus dirigentes, con sus centrales sindicales y con todo su movimiento ciudadano.
Lo hacemos por solidaridad, pero también porque entendemos que cualquier ataque en contra de las libertades en cualquier lugar del mundo globalizado, es una ataque contra nuestras libertades. La llamada “ley Hinzpeter” impulsada por el gobierno chileno se inscribe en la misma perspectiva represiva y antidemocrática.
La lucha de los estudiantes, académicos y trabajadores quebequenses es también nuestra lucha.
Santiago de Chile, 24 de mayo de 2012.
Sergio Grez Toso, historiador, académico de la Universidad de Chile.
María Eugenia Domínguez, periodista, académica de la Universidad de Chile.
Gabriel Boric, Presidente de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (FECH).
Camila Vallejo Dowling, Vice-Presidenta de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (FECH).
Felipe Ramírez, Secretario General de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (FECH).
Andrés Fielbaum, Secretario de Comunicaciones de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (FECH).
Pablo Soto Arrate, Director Ejecutivo del Centro de Estudios de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (FECH).
Rodrigo Cárdenas Cabezas, Secretario General de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Magallanes, Punta Arenas.
Sebastián Aylwin Correa, Vicepresidente del Centro de Estudiantes de la Escuela de Derecho de la Universidad de Chile.
Francisco Figueroa, ex Vicepresidente de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (FECH), 2011.
Loreto Fernández, ex Presidenta del Centro de Estudiantes de la Facultad de Ciencias Sociales de la Universidad de Chile (2011) y actual delegada de Bienestar de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (FECH).
Consejo de Estudiantes de la Salud de la Universidad de Chile.
Eloísa González Domínguez, Vocera de la Asamblea de Estudiantes de Liceo Manuel de Salas, Vocera de la Asamblea Coordinadora de Estudiantes Secundarios de Santiago (ACES).
Gabriel González, Presidente del Centro de Alumnos del Instituto Nacional (CAIN) 2012, Santiago.
Álvaro Fernández, Presidente del Gobierno Estudiantil del Liceo de Aplicación (GELA) 2011-2012, Santiago.
Matías Cárdenas, ex-vocero 2011 del Liceo de Aplicación, actual Secretario Ejecutivo del Gobierno Estudiantil del Liceo de Aplicación (GELA) 2011-2012, Santiago.
Tamara Castro, Presidenta del Centro de Estudiantes del Liceo Carmela Carvajal de Prat, Providencia, Santiago.
Diego Bautista Cubillos Polo, Secretario Ejecutivo del Centro de Alumnos Internado Nacional Barros Arana, Santiago.
Jorge Silva, Presidente Centro de Alumnos del Liceo José Victorino Lastarria, Providencia, Santiago.
Camila Hernández, Presidenta del Centro de Estudiantes Liceo Tajamar 2012, Providencia, Santiago.
Moisés Paredes, ex vocero del Liceo Arturo Alessandri Palma, Providencia, Santiago,actual representante de los alumnos expulsados y sin matrícula de ese colegio.
Camila Fuentes, Presidenta del Centro de Alumnas del Liceo 7 de Providencia (CELIS), 2012, Santiago.
Sebastián Vielmas, ex Secretario General (2011) de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad Católica de Chile (FEUC).
Pablo Oyarzún Robles, filósofo, académico de la Universidad de Chile.
Eduardo Flores Retamal, Presidente del Centro de Estudiantes de Medicina Veterinaria de la Universidad de Chile.
Carlos Ruiz Encina, sociólogo, académico de la Universidad de Chile.
José Aylwin, abogado, académico de la Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia.
Manuel Loyola, historiador, académico de la Universidad de Santiago de Chile.
Ariel Russel García, consejero de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (FECH) de la Facultad de Ciencias Agronómicas.
Diego Corvalán, Consejero de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (FECH) y ex Secretario General del Centro de Estudiantes de Ciencias Sociales de la Universidad de Chile.
Faride Zerán, periodista, académica de la Universidad de Chile, Premio Nacional dePeriodismo.
Felipe Portales Cifuentes, sociólogo, académico de la Universidad de Chile.
Alexis Meza Sánchez, historiador, ex dirigente de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Concepción.
Carlos Ossandón Buljevic, filósofo, académico de la Universidad de Chile.
Pedro Rosas Aravena, historiador, Director de la Escuela de Historia y Ciencias Sociales de la Universidad ARCIS.
Jonás Chnaidemann, biólogo, académico de la Universidad de Chile y senador universitario de la misma casa de estudios.
Marcelo Santos, comunicador social, educador y consultor en comunicación y democracia.
Pierina Ferretti, socióloga, académica de la Universidad de Valparaíso.
Luis Casado, ingeniero del CESI, Francia, asesor de la Confederación Minera de Chile.
Mario Matus González, historiador, académico de la Universidad de Chile.
Jorge Pinto Rodríguez, historiador, académico de la Universidad de la Frontera, Temuco.
Ignacio Díaz Concha, Secretario General del Centro de Estudiantes de Bachillerato de la
Universidad de Chile.
Víctor de la Fuente, periodista, Director de la edición chilena de Le MondeDiplomatique.
Carlos Sandoval Ambiado, historiador, académico de la Universidad de Los Lagos y de la Universidad Viña del Mar.
Germán F. Westphal, lingüista, ciudadano chileno canadiense.
Isabel Cassigoli, socióloga, académica de la Universidad ARCIS.
Margarita Iglesias Saldaña, historiadora, académica de la Universidad de Chile.
Ángela Vergara, historiadora, académica de California State University, Los Ángeles, Estados Unidos.
Jorge Chuaqui K., sociólogo, académico de la Universidad de Valparaíso, Presidente de la Agrupación Nacional de Usuarios de Servicios de Salud Mental (ANUSSAM).
Félix J. Aguirre D., sociólogo y cientista político, académico de la Universidad de Valparaíso.
Julio Pinto Vallejos, historiador, académico de la Universidad de Santiago de Chile.
Mauricio Barría Jara, dramaturgo, académico de la Universidad de Chile.
Darcie Doll Castillo, Dra. en Literatura, académica de la Universidad de Chile.
Carlos Molina Bustos, médico-cirujano e historiador, académico de Historia de la Escuela de Salud Pública de la Universidad de Chile y de la Universidad Viña del Mar.
Francisco de Torres, vocero general de la Asamblea de Estudiantes de Postgrado de la Facultad de Filosofía y Humanidades de la Universidad de Chile.
Isabel Jara, historiadora, académica de la Universidad de Chile.
Pedro Bravo Elizondo, Dr. en Literatura, académico de Wichita State University, Kansas, Estados Unidos.
José del Pozo, historiador, académico de la Université de Québec à Montreal, Canadá.
Marco Rodríguez W., sociólogo, académico de la Universidad de Valparaíso.
Igor Goicovic Donoso, historiador, académico de la Universidad de Santiago de Chile.
Gabriel Muñoz, coordinador de la Asamblea de Estudiantes de Historia de la Universidad de Chile.
Bárbara Brito, consejera de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (FECH), Facultad de Filosofía y Humanidades.
Benjamín Infante, consejero de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (FECH), Facultad de Filosofía y Humanidades.
Manuel Jesús Hidalgo Valdivia, economista.
Juan Carlos Gómez Leyton, cientista político, académico de la Universidad ARCIS.
Iván Ljubetic Vargas, historiador, ex académico de la Universidad de Chile sede Temuco.
Rodrigo Contreras Molina, antropólogo, académico de la Universidad de la Frontera, Temuco.
Marcelo Garrido Pereira, geógrafo, Jefe de la carrera de Geografía de la Universidad Academia de Humanismo Cristiano.
Javier Sandoval Ojeda, ex Presidente de la Federación de Estudiante de la Universidad de Concepción, período 1996-1997.
Mario Valdés Vera, historiador, académico de la Universidad de Concepción.
Pablo Aravena Núñez, académico de la Universidad de Valparaíso.
César Cerda Albarracín, historiador, académico de la Universidad Tecnológica Metropolitana.
Paz López, Coordinadora Académica Magíster en Estudios Culturales, Universidad ARCIS.
María Soledad Jiménez, historiadora, académica Universidad Academia de Humanismo Cristiano.
Mario Garcés Durán, historiador, académico de la Universidad de Santiago de Chile, Director de ECO Comunicaciones.
Rodrigo Zúñiga Contreras, filósofo, académico de la Universidad de Chile.
Sergio Rojas Contreras, filósofo, académico de la Universidad de Chile.
Carmen Gloria Bravo Quezada, historiadora, académica de la Universidad de Santiago de Chile.
Miguel Valderrama, historiador, académico de la Universidad ARCIS.
Kevin Villegas, sociólogo, académico de la Universidad Pedro de Valdivia, sede Chillán.
Alonso Serradell Díaz, Máster en Ciudadanía y Derechos Humanos: Ética y Política, Universidad de Barcelona.
Catherine Valenzuela Marchant, profesora, estudiante de Doctorado en Historia, Universidad de Chile.
Viviana Bravo Vargas, historiadora, doctorante en Estudios Latinoamericanos en la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
Enrique Fernández Darraz, sociólogo e historiador.
Florencia Velasco, Licenciada en Literatura y estudiante de Magíster en Literatura de la Universidad de Chile, responsable de edición editorial Lom Ediciones.
Blaise Pantel, docente del Departamento de Sociología y Ciencia Política, Universidad Católica de Temuco.
Sebastián Ríos Labbé, abogado, académico de la Universidad de Chile.
Oscar Zapata Cabello, delegado estudiantil de la Carrera de Química, Facultad de Ciencias de la Universidad de Chile.
Evelin Ledesma Cruz, voluntaria y militante del Comité pour les Droits Humains en Amérique Latine (CDHAL), Montréal, Québec, Canadá.
Laureano Checa, académico del Instituto de la Comunicación y de la Imagen (ICEI) de la Universidad de Chile.
Lorena Antezana Barrios, académico del Instituto de la Comunicación y de la Imagen (ICEI) de la Universidad de Chile.
Milton Godoy Orellana, historiador, académico de la Universidad Academia de Humanismo Cristiano.
José Miguel Labrín, académica del Instituto de la Comunicación y de la Imagen (ICEI) de la Universidad de Chile.
Ximena Poo Figueroa, académica del Instituto de la Comunicación y de la Imagen (ICEI) de la Universidad de Chile.
José Alberto de la Fuente, Dr. en Literatura, académico de la Universidad Católica
Cardenal Raúl Silva Henríquez.
Jorge Gonzalorena Döll, sociólogo, académico de la Universidad de Valparaíso.
Sandra Oyarzo Torres, matrona, académica de la Universidad de Chile.
Luis Castro, historiador, académico de la Universidad de Valparaíso.
Patricio Troncoso Ovando, ingeniero en Producción, ex presidente de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (FEUTFSM) sede Talcahuano, periodo 2001 al 2003.
Gonzalo Ojeda Urzúa, sociólogo, académico de la Universidad de Valparaíso.
Valentina Saavedra, ex Presidenta del Centro de Estudiantes de Arquitectura y actual consejera de la Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile (FECH) de la Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo.
Cristián Pozo, sociólogo.
Francisco Herrera, filósofo, académico de la Universidad de Chile.
Eleonora Reyes, historiadora, académica de la Universidad de Chile.
Jorge Weil, economista, académico, Universidad de Los Lagos, Osorno.
Aldo González Becerra, biólogo, académico de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid e investigador del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), España.
Luis Mundaca, dirigente sindical de la Federación de Sindicatos de Heineken – CCU Chile y Secretario General del Centro de Padres y Apoderados del Liceo de Aplicación, Santiago.
Rodrigo Roco, ex Presidente de la Federación de Estudiantes de Chile (FECH) (1997).
Virginia Vidal, escritora.
Québec Students Spark the ‘Maple Spring’
The following is a collection of my interviews and articles on the Québec student movement and the emergence of the ‘Maple Spring’
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Writing About the Student Movement in Québec: You’re Damn Right I’m “Biased”! … Confessions of a Non-Neutral Observer
Writing About the Student Movement in Québec: You’re Damn Right I’m “Biased”!
Confessions of a Non-Neutral Observer
For the past month, I have been writing almost exclusively on the Québec student strike and social movement, which erupted in February and has resulted in the provincial government of Québec recently passing a law (Bill 78) which severely limits the rights of students to freedom of assembly and expression, imposing harsh financial penalties for practicing our basic rights and freedoms as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (as if we even need a document to tell us we have these rights!).
I have been writing professionally for roughly four years, and on a wide range of topics, many of them far more controversial than a student strike. However, never before have I experienced such an enormous reaction – both positive and negative – to any issue I have ever written about. My articles are reaching more people – and more varied audiences – than ever before, but they are also inciting more reactions and responses than I have ever been faced with. I always try to respond to comments and emails, but if I were to do so on this issue, I would never get around to writing anything new. So instead, I would like to address the main critique and complaint of my writing on this issue: that I am – and my writing is – extremely “biased” in how I report on this issue.
First off, I would like to thank all who have sent me words of encouragement and support, and who have been sharing and re-posting my articles, it is very important that this information spreads elsewhere, as the English-speaking media in Canada have been almost exclusively terrible in their coverage of the student protests here in Québec. Secondly, I would like to thank all those who have sent me critiques, who have pointed out flaws and problems in various points and arguments I have made, and in doing so, have provided further avenues for research. Without critique, no researcher can make progress. There are a number of issues related to the student movement that I know I will need to do more research on, and it is entirely due to these critiques that I will do so. So keep on keeping me on my toes!
I would, however, like to address the most common ‘critique’ and complaint about my writing and my point of view: that it is “biased.” My simple response to this is: you’re god damned right it is!
We all have bias by the very simple fact that we are all biased to our own opinions, so long as we are capable of developing our own individual opinions and beliefs. We are all biased for the simple fact that we view ourselves and the world from our own individual perspective. When anyone or any information source claims to be “unbiased,” that is when my internal alarm begins to ring. There are, arguably, unbiased ‘facts’ (as Einstein once said, “facts are stubborn things”), but there are not unbiased ‘views.’ Facts can help inform our views, and what facts we gather, how we gather them, from where we gather them, largely determine the ‘view’ we take in constructing them together.
So yes, I have a bias, but let me explain what it is. I am biased in favour of people over power, in favour of the oppressed over the oppressors, and in favour of freedom over domination. I am, however, a researcher. I don’t have many talents: I can barely cook, I don’t speak more than one language, I don’t play sports, I don’t play an instrument, I can’t even whistle; but one thing I am good at, is research. I know where to look, how to look, to draw from a multitude of sources, and to put together a massive array of information into something that is at least a half-coherent composition of information. Like all talents, it’s practice that makes it better, and I am still learning and improving (as I should be). My writing is almost always heavily cited and sourced, so that people may track my research and where I got my information from, instead of just “taking my word” for it. The only reason I progressed as a researcher is because I would try to find the original sources of others, to see the information for myself and to see how and if I would interpret it differently from them. I have even spent hours tracking down original sources in government archives which were cited by Noam Chomsky, not because I think he is lying or misrepresenting the facts, but because it is simply important for me to see the original source for myself. I encourage others to do the same, so I always try to make my writing accessible to this approach. Despite this, I have received many critiques that I have not “supported my arguments” in my recent articles on Quebec. This, I simply cannot understand, save for the possibility that those making the critique do not know what hyperlinks are or how they work (I don’t just highlight the words for fun!).
But back to the bias!
My research in history, on a number of different social, political, economic and cultural issues, has not been defined by my bias, but has rather defined my bias. It is precisely the research and reading and studying I have done that has established, informed, and strengthened my own personal bias. That is not to say it is unchanging: with each new subject studied, with new information gathered, I must adjust, evolve, and alter my views according to the knowledge I come across. And yet still, I find this central bias remains: that of favouring the oppressed over the oppressor. It is this view that shapes my own understanding of history and the present, and for that reason, this has become my own ‘Truth’: how I see and understand the world.
I do not pretend to be unbiased, or balanced, or neutral in my writing, simply because I do not see the value in doing so. I see no value or honour in presenting oneself as ‘balanced’ in reporting on circumstances which are so imbalanced. I see no value in being ‘neutral’ in writing about circumstances of injustice, oppression, and domination. I see no justice in presenting an ‘unbiased’ view of injustice. Why should the oppressor get “equality” in how situations are interpreted and presented when the oppressed never have equality of power with the oppressor? How is this “balanced”? Situations which are inherently imbalanced do not require black and white interpretations, do not require an equal presentation for the oppressed view as well as the oppressor’s view. One does not give “both sides of the argument” on the issue of war and mass murder, on the issue of slavery, on the issue of domination and oppression. The simple reason for this is that it is morally reprehensible to put the perspective of injustice and oppression on the same moral grounding as that of the dominated and oppressed. A more “logical” reason, perhaps, is that because of the simple social position of the oppressor – always in positions of power – is that they already have a larger share of control over the discourse: they speak for the state, providing the “official” line; they control the media, they have a monopoly of interpretation and control over dissemination.
This creates an automatic imbalance in how things are interpreted and presented. Rarely are there cries against this information-Casino system (where the house always wins), proclaiming it to be “biased” or “imbalanced.” Instead, publications like the National Post and the Globe and Mail may say anything they like, any way they like, and they are simply “reporting the facts.” Across Canada, newspapers may refer to the students in Québec as “violent,” “thugs,” “spoiled brats,” wannabe terrorists,” and “idiots,” and yet, where is the outcry against their “bias” and lack of “balance.” The media, almost without fail, make reference to official statements from the police regarding protests and “riots”, without providing any other perspective or statements. You read this in the media as, “a police spokesperson said…”, etc. How often do you read, “participants in the protest stated…” etc.? Is that not a lack of balance?
Gary Lamphier writing for the Edmonton Journal referred to the students, in the span of one article alone, as the following: “gangs of kids, buffoons, wannabe terrorists, idiots, miscreants, sanctimonious jerks, selfish, loutish, moronic,” and lastly, “rock-throwing idiots in Quebec.” This is, of course, compared to the “hard-working students and citizens” whose lives are being disrupted by “a cancer.” Perhaps the most common term used to describe the students in Quebec is “entitled.” Of course, this type of elevated intellectual discourse is perfectly acceptable in the mainstream media. When some protesters entered UQAM school and disrupted classes, with one report of even attempting to pull two students out of the class, the media reaction was swift, furious, and international. These are not tactics I particularly favour or condone; it certainly doesn’t help the image of the student movement and I think there are more effective avenues for engagement and action. However, the reporting on this incident was almost exclusively in a chorus of condemnation. The students who occupied and disrupted the school were called: “protest gangs“, “hard-core protesters,” and “thugs.”
Now, the tactics may not have been good or helpful, but perhaps a little context would be important: for three months of striking, the government spent two months ignoring and dismissing and refusing to talk to the students, then it attempted to divide the students against each other. The state has intervened to provide legal injunctions to even small groups of students in an effort to use them as “strike breakers” by legally enforcing their return to the schools (as the state does not recognize the legal right of students to strike), and it has been enforcing that with the blunt force of the baton, the sting of pepper spray, and the taste of tear gas. The state has repeatedly used violence against protesters: pepper spray, beatings with batons, tear gas, smoke bombs, concussion grenades, driving police trucks and cars into groups of students, shooting them in the face with rubber bullets, and undertaking mass arrests. One student lost his vision in one eye after being shot in the face with a concussion grenade, another lost his eye after being shot in the face with a rubber bullet, and another ended up in the hospital with a skull fracture and brain contusion, also after being shot in the head with a rubber bullet. When a few students threw smoke bombs in the Montreal Metro, they were charged on “anti-terrorism” charges, and the national media loudly condemned them. Again, the tactics were not helpful, but this also followed the Victoriaville violence against students, where several were almost killed (which did not get anywhere near the same national and international media coverage). Violent actions create increasingly violent reactions. While throwing smoke bombs in the metro is a bad tactic, police shoot smoke bombs at students on a regular basis, but the students are “terrorists” and the police are “restoring order.” All this context does not exist in the media discourse.
And now, with the passage of Bill 78, which is “unconstitutional,” as it puts severe limits on the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and imposes immense financial penalties for exercising our rights as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter and Rights and Freedoms, the situation has become more intense, the risks are greater, and the state is all the more oppressive.
In short, the situation which exists between the students and the state in Québec is inherently imbalanced. I see no value in presenting a “balanced” argument about a circumstance in which no balance exists. I see no value in presenting oneself as “neutral” in situations of oppression, exploitation, and domination. The perspective of the state is given by the state and its spokespeople, is repeated in the media, and backed up with the economic power of the corporations and banks (who own the media). It’s always easy for power to speak in support of power. Nothing is demanded of them, except for allegiance. They are held up to low standards, require little to no proof, and can even openly call for violence to be used against students, and it all goes unquestioned, their views are “facts” and their “bias” is overlooked.
I may use harsh rhetoric, but I back it up with hard facts. I may write that the National Post knows nothing of democracy, but that is because I have never seen that publication support any grassroots, indigenous, or social movement for democratic progress: I have seen that publication support war, justify empire, encourage violence, condone oppression and demonize progression. Respect must be earned, and I have never read anything worthy of respect out of that publication, worthy of the values and ideals I hold dear. So yes, I do not restrain my rhetoric in describing it. Is it inflammatory? Perhaps. But I believe it to be the truth, at least as I see it.
What we, here in Québec, see and experience in the streets is a world away from what we read in the English media across the country. The disparity is so vast, the misrepresentation is so consistent, the rhetoric is entirely dismissive, insulting, and even hateful, the discourse is vitriolic and ill-informed, the lies are expansive, and the presentation is perverted. So am I biased? Absolutely! I will always stand with the people against the violence of the state, against the lies and misrepresentations of the media, and the abuses of authority. What others call neutrality, I call cowardice. I do not pretend to be or present myself as an unbiased or “dispassionate” observer. I have marched in the streets, I have friends far more involved at every level of the protests than I have been, I know people who have been arrested, attacked, and gassed; I marched in peace with peaceful friends, and we were charged by riot cops. I watched as the police threw students face first into the pavement and ran out of the way as the riot police drove their van through a crowd of students. I listen to more intense and infuriating stories from friends and others. We see the images and hear the stories and watch the videos of those who have been seriously injured. We are pepper sprayed, gassed, beaten and bruised, and then to add… we are insulted and degraded by the national media. We are referred to as “spoiled brats” and “entitled” fools.
Am I biased? You’re damn right I am!
Solidarity, brothers and sisters!
For a “biased” view of the student movement, here is list of my articles on the subject:
Quebec Steps Closer to Martial Law to Repress Students: Bill 78 is a “Declaration of War on the Student Movement”
Quebec Steps Closer to Martial Law to Repress Students
Bill 78 is a “Declaration of War on the Student Movement”
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
Originally Published at: The Media Co-Op
On Friday, May 18, the Québec legislature signed a special “emergency law” to “restore order” in the province following three months of student protests in a strike against the government’s proposed 80% increase in the cost of tuition. A legislative debate lasted all night and resulted in a vote of 68-48 in favour of the legislation. The legislation has three main focal points: (1) it “suspends” the school semester for schools majorly affected by the strike, (2) it establishes extremely high fines for anyone who attempts to picket or block access to schools, and (3) it imposes massive restrictions on where and how people may demonstrate and protest in the streets. The law is set to expire by July 1, 2013.
On Monday, May 14, Quebec’s Education Minister Line Beauchamp resigned, and was replaced with Quebec’s Treasury Board president Michelle Courchesne, a former Education Minister from 2007 to 2010, who had also participated in the failed negotiations the weekend of May 4. Premier Jean Charest commented on the change of ministers and the continuity of the government’s position on the tuition hikes, saying that, “We believe in this policy… This policy is going to go ahead.” On Tuesday, May 15, protests continued in Quebec, with about 100 riot police called in to break a student strike blockage of a community college in Montreal. Students were told that “all necessary force” would be used to ensure that classes would resume, in line with a legal injunction obtained by 53 of the school’s students to return to class. Legal injunctions have regularly been used to undermine the student strike, as the state refuses to recognize the right of students to strike. As a result, a few dozen – or even one or two – students can obtain legal injunctions to force the schools to re-open and go to class. The injunctions are backed by the power of the state, and so the riot police are called in to pepper spray, tear gas, and beat with batons those students who form picket lines blocking access to the schools. On May 15, parents and teachers of striking students were involved in helping organize the picket line which ended with the riot squad using tear gas and arresting several people.
That night, student leaders met with the new Education Minister Michèle Courchesne, in a meeting that lasted just over an hour, at which students urged the government “to abandon any hard line strategy and impose a moratorium.” The students pushed for a “truce” with the government, and said, following the meeting, that the new Minister was “receptive” but had “refused to commit herself to a position.” Students, however, were assured by the new Minister that no special laws would be adopted to force a settlement. The spokesman for the largest student association – CLASSE – Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, stated that, “We cannot say that the impasse has been overcome. The Minister told us the decision will be taken by the cabinet (on Wednesday).” Martine Desjardins, another student leader expressed optimism in thinking a solution may be at hand, “This is a crisis and we need to solve it quickly and everybody is working hard to do that.” Leo Bureau-Blouin, head of the college student federation, stated, “We certainly hope [the] cabinet will be open to compromises.” The student leaders warned against using legislation to end the conflict, with Nadeau-Dubois stating, “It would be a major step backward… You can’t end a strike like this with police force.” Gabriel-Nadeau indicated that CLASSE was discussing the possibility of sacrificing the semester, and Martine Desjardins of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) indicated that they were willing to make concessions in negotiations, but was concerned about the government’s hard line with court injunctions and police interventions, which only stoke anger and incur harsher reactions. Léo Bureau-Blouin of the college association stated that, “I’m sure that if they gave us new proposals it would help move things along,” but condemned the idea of a special law: “This would do nothing to help the crisis, to help settle the conflict. With battery of court injunctions, the tension has grown. A special law would only make matter worse.”
Students emerged from the meeting with the new Education Minister stating that they were “relatively satisfied” and that, “we hope that the council of ministers is going to be open to our compromises,” referring to the cabinet meeting to be held the following day. Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois described the meeting as “cordial” and stated, “We also unblocked certain channels of communication that had perhaps been blocked by some misunderstandings with Madame Beauchamp.” Jeanne Reynolds, another spokesperson for CLASSE, stated that Minister Courchesne had “assured the students she has no intention of seeing the semester cancelled,” and that this was, “very reassuring.” She added: “Like us, the minister seems to agree injunctions are not the solution to solve the current crisis… Obviously we were very happy to hear that.” The student leaders were surprised to hear the next day that Minister Courchesne commented on their meeting, stating, “On their side I sensed a hardening of their position… That was very clear.” She added, “I will report to the cabinet soon. The government will judge what decision to make then.”
Resentful of the fact that a minority of students have used legal injunctions to violate the declared strike, roughly one hundred students on Wednesday, May 16, went through the hallways disrupting classes at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal (UQAM). Emotions were heated in confrontations with some of the other students and teachers. This happened as Jean Charest and his cabinet met in Quebec City to discuss a “solution” to the crisis by passing “emergency legislation.”
On May 17, Quebec’s opposition Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois called on Premier Charest to sit down with students instead of legislate against them, “Why is the premier attacking the youth of Quebec?” As the Quebec government tabled legislation to crack down on the student protests, students from all sides of the debate – wearing a red (pro-strike), green (pro-hike), or white squares (proposing a moratorium on tuition fee hikes) – all banded together to urge the government to negotiate instead of passing “repressive” legislation. Student leader Léo Bureau-Blouin commented, “You can clearly see it here today. Regardless of the colour of squares we carry, regardless of the political parties, today is not a time to play partisan politics… Parliamentarians were elected to ensure social peace…we are open to compromises, we are open to discussions.” Student leader Martine Desjardins commented, “All the coloured squares are here to say that it would be better to negotiate a deal rather than unilaterally impose a resolution to this crisis.” Even the main student representative demanding students return to class and end the strike, Laurent Proulx, asked the government not to resort to the legislation, “We want to make sure that both sides reach a settlement that won’t require either to surrender.” Student leaders announced that they would challenge the legislation in court as it violates their right to legitimately protest.
As the Quebec government began an all-night debate on Thursday night on the proposed legislation, protests took place in all five of Quebec’s largest cities. Before Thursday night’s debate, student leaders were calling for new negotiations, with Martine Desjardins opposing Jean Charest’s legislation, “Let him come sit with us, and negotiate a solution to this crisis… Let him come show us that he is a head of state, not just a party leader.” Bureau-Blouin stated, “We are more ready than ever to compromise.” Protests in Montreal the night before – when the legislation was first announced – drew thousands into the streets and resulted in riot police arresting 122 people.
In “abandoning any hope of negotiating a settlement with striking students,” Jean Charest announced that, “We need to bring down the pressure where strikes are still on. We need to bring back social peace.” With student leaders saying they were willing to compromise, Charest announced that he will not back down from the tuition hikes, and “promised a tougher approach to ensure classes can resume in August, with stronger police intervention to guarantee access.” He added, “No student will be forced to attend class. But for others, they have the right to attend classes in a secure environment.” Charest stated that, “We cannot accept that access be blocked … we will not bow to violence and intimidation – our laws need to be obeyed.” Apparently, this means passing new laws to violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. After all, “our laws need to be obeyed.” Student leaders warned of the dangers of passing such a law, as the reaction is sure to be intense. Léo Bureau-Blouin commented, “If there is violence, if there is tension, Mr. Charest will be the only one to blame.” Martine Desjardins commented, “We now know that Mr. Charest never had any real intentions of solving this conflict.” Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of CLASSE responded to the proposed legislation, “The bill that the government is proposing to table is an anti-union law, it is authoritarian, repressive and breaks the students’ right to strike… This is a government that prefers to hit… its youth, ridicule its youth rather than listen to them.” The student leaders continued to call on students to hold peaceful demonstrations and support the plans for a massive demonstration on Tuesday, May 22, to mark the 100th day of the strike.
The legislation – Bill 78 – includes heavy fines for those participating in student strike demonstrations: “fines of between $1,000 and $5,000 for any individual who prevents someone from entering an educational institution,” and these numbers climb to “between $7,000 and $35,000 for a student leader and to between $25,000 and $125,000 for unions or student federations.” The bill would essentially aim to bankrupt and destroy the student associations. Further, it includes strict new regulations in regards to holding demonstrations – manifestations – which include mandating that demonstration organizers must give police (in writing) at least eight hours before a scheduled demonstration, the details of the itinerary, duration, time, and route for a march. Police are then granted the “right” to demand changes, “in order to keep the peace and maintain order and public security.” Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois commented, “This is an abuse of power… It’s totally unacceptable in a democracy to table such legislation.” Leo Bureau-Blouin, the student leader who has been most willing to compromise, commented, “This legislation strikes a blow to the freedom of expression.” Martine Desjardins stated that the bill is a “declaration of war against the student movement.” The bill, explained student leaders, will only increase tension and make the crisis much worse. Jean Charest commented, “We hold the conviction that this decision is important — not only for our young people, but for the future of the Quebec people.”
The legislation has promoted calls for increased civil disobedience. Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois stated, “When laws become unjust, sometimes you have to disobey and we are now thinking seriously about that possibility… Police repression never scared us. The demonstrations will continue tonight, I believe, every night if necessary.” A member of the National Assembly Amir Khadir, leader of the Quebec political party Quebec Solidaire, stated that, “Civil disobedience is a noble thing… In my democratic perspective and that of my party, civil disobedience, when justified and morally right and commendable, it is politically appropriate.” On Friday, May 18, the Quebec Bar Association stated it had “serious concerns” over the legislation, which it described as “excessive.” Student and union groups united on Friday to oppose the bill, describing it as turning Quebec into a “totalitarian state” and stating, “This law is guided by the aggressiveness, anger and revenge of the Liberal Party.” But not everyone was upset about it. As the law requires organizers to inform police about gatherings of 10 or more people, the chamber of commerce of Gatineau, Quebec, released a “tongue-in-cheek” statement of plans to hold an “assembly of more than 10 people” and asked how many police officers would be present “so that they could prepare the appropriate number of hors d’oeuvres.”
Nadeau-Dubois stated, “I believe my anger is quite representative of the way students are feeling, and I am convinced that will be expressed in the streets… over the next few days and the next few weeks.” He then added: “It’s a declaration of war, not only against students but also against anyone who clings in any way to democracy, against anyone who clings to what Quebec was before this legislation was tabled.” He predicted that Quebecers would “rise up against such an unacceptable document.” The heads of three major Quebec unions came out in opposition to the law, with one leader stating, “The Quebec government chose to use a club instead of dialogue and negotiations… Quebec must not become a police state and that’s what this law means.” Louis Masson, president of the Quebec Bar Association, stated that, “This bill, if adopted, is a breach to the fundamental, constitutional rights of the citizens.” A university and college teacher’s union stated, “If we are no longer able to protest in our society, it becomes a totalitarian society… We are telling our members to defend their fundamental right, the right to demonstrate.”
The legislation also bars students from demonstrating inside or even within 50 metres of college and university buildings. This essentially amounts to making freedom of assembly and speech illegal on college and university campuses. Bureau-Blouin stated, “This bill transforms all civil protests into a crime and transforms a state that has a tradition of openness into a police state… It is an unreasonable limit on our right to demonstrate and aims at killing our associations.” The legislation directly targets the student associations. If a student association attempts to disrupt or prevent students from getting to classes, “it will lose its funding.” Further, “for each day classes are disrupted by actions taken by a student group, the penalty will amount to cessation of funding for a term.” This bill could “virtually bankrupt student associations” for supporting the strike. It also severely restricts the ability of other unions and professors and teachers to support striking students.
Legal experts began speaking out against the legislation, saying that it “goes too far and contravenes fundamental rights.” To add insult to injury, on the same day the legislation was voted for, the City of Montreal quietly passed a by-law which bans masks being worn at protests. The Quebec Bar Association explained that its “serious concerns” about Bill 78 included the fact that, “The scale of its restraints on fundamental freedoms isn’t justified by the objectives aimed by the government.” The president of the Quebec Bar added, “The government is making it harder for people to organize spontaneous demonstrations. It is a limit on freedom of speech.” A Laval University law professor, Louis-Philippe Lampron, an expert in human rights, commented, “Read it. Stunned. Can’t believe that a democratic government can adopt such a law.”
Another Laval University law professor, Fannie Lafontaine, raised concerns about the provisions in the law “which aim to prevent protesters from barring other students from attending school,” as Section 13 and 14 state that no one can “directly or indirectly contribute” to delaying classes or preventing others from having access to them. Section 15 said that student associations must undertake “appropriate means” to ensure their members do not “directly or indirectly” contribute to delaying or denying access to classes. Section 25 threatens fines that go as high as $125,000 for student associations that violate these provisions. Law professor Lafontaine warned that “those sections are too broadly defined while at the same time they are twinned with stiff penalties,” adding: “The students are told to take `appropriate means’ and we don’t know what this implies, to `induce’ members to comply, so there’s an obligation to get results… this doesn’t work in law. You can’t have offences that are written so vaguely they’re impossible to respect.” She also stated, “In times of crisis, all governments tend to restrain fundamental rights and history shows that excessive restrictions don’t help restore order.” Louis Roy, who represents most of the province’s teachers said that his members are “disgusted,” and that, “[t]hey will not be collaborating in any kind of police action. They are not going to become some kind of police squad for the provincial government. We are very close to having a government ready to trample on fundamental rights.” Another union leader stated, “This law is worthy of a banana republic.”
The Canadian Association of University Teachers spoke out on May 18 in condemnation of Bill 78, “for violating fundamental freedoms of association, assembly, and expression.” James L. Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, stated, “This special law is a terrible act of mass repression… The Quebec government has opted to exert the heavy hand of the law as a weapon to suppress dissent.” The bill not only imposes heavy fines and limits freedom of assembly, but it also stipulates that students associations (and other supportive associations, including unions) will be held responsible for any third party violence which takes place at demonstrations. Turk stated, “Now, more than ever, the rest of Canada needs to be pinning on a red felt square showing their support for the students of Quebec and for civil liberties… Bill 78 needs to be defeated in the name of democracy or the rest of Canada should be joining the students on the streets.”
Lucie Lemonde, a law professor at Universite du Quebec a Montreal, stated, “It’s the worst law that I’ve ever seen, except for the War Measures Act,” which was the invocation of martial law in Quebec in 1970 during the FLQ crisis. She added, “We knew something was coming, but I didn’t think they would use it to change the rules of the game in terms of the rights to demonstrate.” Meanwhile the President of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, Michel Leblanc, “welcomed the bill as a way to protect downtown businesses which say they are suffering because of the frequent demonstrations.” All in all, over the course of Friday May 18:
Student groups, unions, opposition politicians, a host of legal scholars, the Quebec Human Rights Commission, right-wing and left-wing commentators, and the normally restrained Quebec Bar Association blasted the provincial law as an assault on the right to speak and assemble freely.
“This bill infringes many of the fundamental rights of our citizens. The basis of a democracy is the rule of law. We must respect the law. We must also respect fundamental freedoms, like the freedom to protest peacefully, the freedom of speech and the freedom of association,” bar association president bâtonnier Louis Masson, said in an interview.
Quebec Solidaire party leader Amir Khadir stated, “This is a bludgeon law imposed by an illegitimate, corrupt government… I call upon all citizens to respect the laws. But we have to ask ourselves the question: Must we obey a law that takes away fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution? Can we be justified to disobey?”
So this is where we’ve come to now: the government of Quebec has decided that instead of compromising on its tuition hikes – something it has stated from the beginning that it was unwilling to even consider – and instead of negotiating in good faith with the students, as all the negotiations have been farces thus far, it will instead “crack down” on the students of Quebec, implementing the “worst law” since the War Measures Act of 1970, which was a declaration of martial law. Bill 78 amounts to a pseudo-declaration of martial law against the students of Quebec. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights to freedom of speech, assembly, and expression. Bill 78 is the most dangerous law in all of Canada, and one of the most dangerous laws in our history as a country. It must be opposed, and in the face of such measures which are expected of a ‘Third World’ police state but not of a so-called ‘democracy,’ civil disobedience is just, righteous, and necessary.
This is no longer about tuition.
Our very freedom is at stake.