Twenty-four student organizations, representing over 30,000 students, have voted to go on strike in Québec on March 21, with 100,000 students yet to vote. The demonstrations, largely led and organized by the militant student association ASSÉ (Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante), are a response to province-wide austerity measures that have impacted everything from education to pensions. Many people are wondering if this movement will turn into another “Maple Spring” as was seen in 2012 with hundreds of thousands of students and workers on the streets in Québec.
The capitalist crisis in Canada has been especially felt in Québec, which in 2014 experienced a very slow growth rate of 1.5 percent. This has created high levels of public debt for the provincial government comparable to what southern European countries are experiencing. The Liberal government has put this crisis on the backs of working class people and youth by implementing widespread cuts to social services and wages. Amongst the cuts are pension “reforms” that have meant the looting of hundreds of millions of dollars from public sector workers, while the 7 dollar a day child-care system has seen a rise in user fees. The Liberals have outlined over 2.3 billion dollars in cuts in order to achieve a balanced budget by year 2016.
We could very well see another Maple Spring in Québec, but this time it will likely be led by the working class rather than the students. On November 29th of last year, 100,000 workers took to the streets in Montréal in protest of the hated municipal pension cuts. Several months before the demonstration, hundreds of firefighters stormed city hall in Montréal, throwing papers in the air and chasing mayor Denis Coderre from room to room. The police stood by with their arms crossed as their pensions were under attack as well! Workers are on the move in Québec, and the mood is militant.
With the student demonstrations and public sector negotiations taking place near the end of the month and into April the situation looks to be explosive. The student movement of 2012 only succeeded in bringing down the government and temporarily freezing tuition fees because workers began to join the demonstrations. The bourgeois feared that the working class would come out in full force if pressure was not relieved. Students can not win the fight against capitalist austerity on their own. Only the organized workers can defeat austerity. Not a single wheel turns and not a light flickers without their kind permission.
As outlined in the IMT Québec Manifesto Against Austerity, students must abandon any ideas of elitism in regards to the workers. While it is true that ASSÉ is looking to link up with the general population rather than isolating the students, the organizers need to concretely link up with the workers and lend them support. Quoting the IMT Manifesto Against austerity, “Solidarity strike action from the student unions should be on the order of the day. Solidarity picket squads should be organized through the student unions to send support to picket lines, with students adopting the workers’ demands and combining them with student demands to foster solidarity and unity. Students can play a vital role in the struggle by providing energy that helps ignite the workers’ struggle.”
This spring we could see a massive anti-austerity movement in Québec, but to finally defeat austerity it will not be enough to only challenge the policy itself. Capitalism, which insists on putting its crisis on the backs of workers and youth in Québec, must be replaced with a democratically socialist planned economy.
Fight the cuts!
Support the Workers!
by Jack Rising