RSM-UPEI Denounces the UPEI Student Union Council!

RSM-UPEI Denounces the UPEI Student Union Council!

The November 2nd Day of Action against tuition increases was initiated by the Canadian Federation of Students, and while the Revolutionary Student Movement has a different political line and practice with regard to tuition issues, we resolutely support efforts to resist tuition increases. RSM-UPEI would like to delineate our position on the Day of Action from the positions of other groups, to ensure that the general student body of UPEI understands the varying political lines on the matter and acts in an informed way. The first group we will delineate ourselves from is the Student Union Council.

The UPEI Student Union Council is not supporting the Day of Action at all, because they believe that creating a “needs-based grants system” is sufficient to “increase accessibility”. This is an example of how well-intentioned social justice rhetoric (“accessibility”) is easily coopted by opportunist, reformist organizations so they can sound like their interests are the same as the masses’. We do not want tuition to be abolished simply so that people can “access” education; we recognize that capitalist institutions cannot and will not act in the interest of the masses, and we seek to dismantle bourgeois education that only prepares us to sell our labour so it can be replaced by revolutionary proletarian education that prepares us to transform society. The SU Council intends to accomplish their minimal and reformist goal solely through lobbying. The UPEI Student Union used to be part of CFS–in fact, they were among some of the founding members. In 2008 the CFS launched a lawsuit against the UPEI Student Union, and this lawsuit was never brought to court. Since then, our SU has been part of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) instead of the CFS. RSM-UPEI suspects that the SU Council’s negative history with the CFS is likely fueling this ultra-reformist political line.

While RSM criticizes the CFS for taking the approach of lobbying and making minimal demands, like reduced tuition instead of tuition abolition, we also commend them for launching the Day of Action and we intend to push even harder for even bigger demands. We know that one day of mobilizations and lobbying will not stop tuition increases; a strike is the only thing that can accomplish that, and freezing or reducing tuition is insufficient to begin with. Tuition must be abolished. RSM-UPEI also recognizes that a strike cannot be accomplished unless we seize democratic control over our Student Union by replacing the SU Council’s decision-making power with General Assemblies of all students. Nevertheless we will organize to march, demonstrate, and show the university administration and the state that we will not tolerate tuition increases! The SU Council has taken a nearly polar opposite position–they are avoiding the Day of Action and doing even less to achieve nearly nothing. It seems that the only way they could go further to the right on this issue is by demanding that tuition fees be increased!

The UPEI chapter of the Revolutionary Student Movement denounces the UPEI Student Union Council for their reformist, opportunist, do-nothing approach on the issue of tuition! The SU Council has, time and time again, shown us that they are nothing but a clique of liberals who look out for their own interests instead of fighting for the interests of the masses!

Down with Student Union bureaucracy!
Fight for revolutionary student democracy!
Abolish tuition and student debt!
ALL OUT NOVEMBER 2ND!
#AllOutNov2 #AllOutStrike

Solidarity with LDSS and CVDCS Student Walkouts Against School Closures!

Solidarity with LDSS and CVDCS Student Walkouts Against School Closures!

This past Wednesday, in solidarity with last week’s student walkout at Lively District Secondary School (LDSS), members of RSM-Sudbury gathered there to distribute a slightly different version of the statement below among the students, and to write messages of solidarity in chalk around the school. That same day, students at Chelmsford Valley District Composite School (CVDCS) also staged a walkout, inspired by LDSS students. We greet that action with the same enthusiasm and our statement has been amended accordingly.


Students of LDSS and CVDCS!

Down with the school closures!The Revolutionary Student Movement – Sudbury (RSM-Sudbury) congratulates you on the mass walkouts you organized over the past week to protest plans by the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) to close your schools!

As the local chapter of a country-wide organization of anti-capitalist students and youth, with members at a few high schools in Sudbury and at Laurentian University, we wish to extend to you our full solidarity and support in this struggle.

Last month we were dismayed to learn about the RDSB’s announcement of massive and accelerated cuts to school infrastructure and educational programs – but the defiant stand you have taken gives us hope! And we are sure there are many others being inspired by your rebellious spirit.

You know better than anyone about the countless hardships these closures will create for many thousands of students, families, teachers and support staff across Greater Sudbury. The loss of jobs, community resources, educational and extracurricular programmes, hopes and social bonds will be hardest felt among low-income, working-class, rural and Indigenous communities.

And for what? The RDSB is trumping up a relatively small budget shortage to justify a sweeping attack on many communities that are already struggling with effects of past school closures – and with a social, economic and political system that leaves us poor, powerless and without prospects for the future. Meanwhile the School Board has no problems finding $7 million to spend on a new office for their bureaucrats!

That is why the cuts must be fought, that is why you are fighting, and that is why RSM-Sudbury has been gearing up to join the fight by your side. When we first heard about the walkout in Lively, we were in the midst of organizing a series of student speak-outs across Greater Sudbury, including in Lively and Chelmsford, to condemn the school closures. The speak-outs are meant to let students and families express their anger and unite for mass actions, just like what you did last week. They will also provide a fighting alternative to the phoney public meetings that the RDSB will be holding in the coming weeks, the aim of which is to create the illusion of ‘community input’ and stem the tide of grassroots struggle.

And a broad, united fight to the finish is absolutely necessary, because we are going up against powerful forces that will not budge unless we force their hand. The School Board and the Government have already shown they are no friends of us students, like in Spring 2015 when they worked together to crush the high school teachers’ strike that fought for better quality of education, for smaller and more personalized classes. The system that these institutions represent offers us nothing, unless we demonstrate that we have the strength to take it regardless of the wishes of those in power.

Your example deserves to be imitated widely, both at schools directly affected by the cuts and at schools that have been spared for now. Our hope is that the speak-outs will go a small way toward building a combative movement of students and supporters in Greater Sudbury that will toss the RDSB’s plans into the trash.

Solidarity with students of LDSS and CVDCS!

Fight the school closures all across Greater Sudbury!

No compromise, no cuts!

We invite all sympathetic students and supporters who wish to work together with us to push this struggle forward to contact our Facebook page or email rsm.sudbury@gmail.com. You can also come out to our twice-weekly general meetings:

  • Tuesdays, 3:30-6pm on the main floor of the Mackenzie Public Library
  • Thursdays, 7-9pm in room C-318 (Classroom Building) at Laurentian University

Crisis in the SFUO and the way forward

There is a lot more than what appears on the surface concerning the financial crisis at the student federation (SFUO). As a militant anti-capitalist organization active on campus for 6 years now, we have been a part of, observed and struggled with the SFUO for some time and have noted what we have identified as structural weaknesses leading to an inevitable collapse as a center of power for students on campus. This is why the founders of our predecessor organization, the Marxist Student Association, broke with the politics of the core of left-wing militants who were struggling for power over the SFUO in the late 2000s and sought to lead a different way forward for the mass of students[1]. The current crisis is another sign that liberal politics are in decay at the SFUO and unfortunately it is afflicting students as well.

We’ll explain in this article how the crisis in the SFUO originated and how it’s negatively impacting us. We’ll also talk about how we can overcome this and organize ourselves to defend our interests not only as working-class students on campus but also to support the wider struggle for liberation from all exploitation and oppression.

The problem unfortunately runs deeper than this year’s budgetary situation. The current politics ruling over the SFUO are largely the result of a takeover by liberal, social-democratic student politicians with the support of radical militants in the late 2000s. The people who would later found the Marxist Student Association were then part of a wide coalition of militants organizing against tuition fees and in support of other progressive causes, such as opposing imperialist wars. One of the highlights of that time was when hundreds of students protested a planned talk by Ann Coulter in Marion Hall and forced her to abandon, in 2010. While never getting close to resisting the increase of tuition fees and other negative measures of the administration, the coalition did succeed in setting up a strong enough base to dominate student politics in campus over a number of years, and to get by referendum the SFUO to re-integrate the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), a liberal student union with locals (including many in dispute) across Canada but mainly centred on Ontario. The radical, combative movement that made this push would then gradually shift to reformist perspectives and bureaucratic tactics, forming a layer of cliquey student politicians. At the same time, through the connection with the CFS, the leading student bureaucrats placed the SFUO into a wide network of liberal organizations, chief of which were labour unions like CUPE, and the New Democrat Party (NDP), turning the SFUO into basically a revolving-door / escalator for aspiring politicians. To put it in other terms, the SFUO was sucked into a bureaucratic machine, and its resources were more and more preyed upon by bigger organizations.

In more details, a certain faction from the initial militant core set out to expand the organization’s bureaucracy rather than focus on building mass support and democracy on campus. From their elected position as executives, they built up a network of bureaucrats throughout the various departments and service centers of the SFUO, which would become their support base to engineer the re-orientation of the SFUO as a stepping stone for the bigger liberal organizations such as the labour unions and the NDP. By adding more and more positions and hiring their supporters, with the promise of further advancement as everyone graduating through the SFUO executive seemed to be moving on to fancy staffing jobs at the CFS, at CUPE locals and with NDP members of parliament, they established an effective support base that was constantly working to uphold the politics in power and direct the SFUO’s resources and the militancy on campus toward those ends.

But to keep things going, the mechanics had to be sheltered from oversight. What little transparency and accountability there existed in student politics at uOttawa at the time, it was thrown by the wayside; one of the ways this was done was to declaw the union of SFUO staffers, CUPE 4943, to render it unable to defend employees from the politics of management. Exec sympathisers were promoted to union leadership and gradually allowed their friends to strip the collective agreement of its power to resist management, paving the way for them to manipulate hiring for their political advantage. A toxic atmosphere of liberalism and opportunism set in the SFUO, causing lasting damage among people there. Another way bureaucratic control was installed was through the creation of the executive coordinator position; this un-elected, permanent, cushy and seemingly unsupervised job was designed to keep the CFS’  liberal politics in command at the SFUO in case some exec positions still ended up being lost to opponents, generally self-assuming conservatives, during elections. This is a common tactic employed by the CFS throughout its locals to ensure its hold over them. Needless to say, this position was consistently staffed with supporters who had carried the torch for the organization and subsequently went on to other bureaucratic positions in the movement. Through this kind of approach, the social-democrats were able to maintain their hold over quite some time in spite of consistent opposition from the anti-CFS right.

Energy was also sucked out of the combative left-wing elements on campus to sustain the machinery. Any legacy of combativeness as well as autonomy was drained away from the service centers for women, for queer people, for disabled people, for international students and others. Those centers came into existence as a result of intense struggle from oppressed people who wanted a center from which they could build resistance, but they were over time co-opted into the liberal SFUO politics. Similarly, the climate justice movement that was burgeoning in the early 2010s was diverted to make bureaucratic gains, and the more recent victories arising from intense mass work, such as the U-Pass and the healthcare insurance, were treated as mere services that only required an “apolitical” management, serving to justify the straight-up bureaucratization. This partly explains why the gap between the dues paid for the health insurance and its costs was allowed to increase since 2011; the health insurance was no longer being sustained as a material interest for the mass of students that needed to be fought for constantly. In this way, the SFUO began losing effectiveness even in its basic delivery of services, especially to students who needed them the most. Each scandal that made it into the news was another sign of cracks in the machine, from the fireworks debacle to Yogagate, from the sudden mass firings of last April to the unprecedented waiting lines for U-Pass this Fall.

Perhaps most sadly, the liberal direction over the SFUO failed to provide the leadership to tackle emerging problems arising on campus. The ills of rape culture, sexual harassment and the attempts by a tenured professor to organize students in an anti-feminist, misogynist and trans-phobic group for example require more mass action. There has been a lot of good work by many individuals from within student associations on campus, which has led to the issue of rape culture and specific acts of sexual harassment and violence to attain wide public attention, but it has so far been left to the initiative of the university administration. The mass of students, and especially gender-oppressed people, need be empowered to defend themselves against these threats. That is why we advocate organizing to fight the aforementioned anti-feminist group known as CAFE which actively denies the existence of rape culture and labels feminists as threats, while harbouring militant islamophobes and white supremacists. As well, the shameful loss by the administration of the personal information of hundreds of students who used accessibility services is another matter that should be met with more militant response. Under the democratic control of the mass of students, the SFUO could be brought more effectively to use in such campaigns.

Similarly, when it came to fighting tuition, which is most often used to justify the existence of the CFS, any expectations there were also fell flat. The CFS strategy on this issue amounts to nothing more than plain lobbying of politicians, cloaked in progressive discourse and assorted with stunt actions every 2 or 3 years. At the most crucial times in recent years, the CFS and the SFUO execs made little to no effort to express solidarity with and draw lessons from the student movement in Québec, the only movement that has had any success in Canada when it comes to fighting tuition fees. In 2015, when another attempt was made to launch a student strike in Québec and was facing heavy repression, and while the RSM was organizing a day of action of solidarity, the CFS and its local hacks were too busy networking on Parliament Hill to even pay attention. At best, the CFS will organize a “day of action” every 5 years or so to prove its combativeness, but these efforts do nothing to undermine the power of the bourgeois government and university administrations. The fact that for an 11th consecutive year now, the university has increased its fees, including an exponential growth over the year for international students, should lead everyone to reconsider the approach that has been taken.

From the beginning, as the Marxist Student Association and then as the RSM, we called for a different path to be taken, for attacking the roots of the system. We realized that fighting against tuition fees was part of a wider struggle against our exploitation and oppression as a class; the terms set out by the oppressing state and its academic institutions are only meant to disempower and manipulate us. As working-class students, we have to connect with the wider struggle for our liberation, and within our context, we have to build up a counter-power to defend our interests and win victories.

This is why in 2013 and 2014 we campaigned for GAs to be established, which was successful, in spite of opposition from such mainstream groups as the campus associations of both the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. It has been a struggle since then however to make effective use of the GAs, but we will continue to encourage students to use them and this year, more than ever, working-class students have a chance to turn things around in their favour.

The liberal politicians who ruled over the SFUO for all those years and who fooled so many militants into their trap are at their core a clique of petty-bourgeois students, attempting to draw power from their bureaucratic positions to go up while building themselves a nice base of loyal supporters. What is also interesting to note is that the first wave of these student politicians were overwhelmingly from white, settler backgrounds, while the next wave that succeeded them are in majority from racialized, colonized-nations backgrounds, who are left to pick up the pieces while a good number among the former are safely installed in their staffer positions further up the chain. Those petty-bourgeois politicians have caused enough damage, and they must never be allowed again to have leadership over left-wing organizing. More than ever, it is time for working-class students to chart their own path and organize their own power.

The MER-RSM will continue its efforts to organize students in this direction. If you want to participate in our initiatives, come to our general meeting on October 20, where we will discuss openly our plans for the coming year. This will include motions to bring to the GA to improve the situation and empower students with regards to the SFUO, as well as the continuation of our campaign to root out MRAs on campus, and participation in the planned day of action against tuition fees. There will also be other meetings and activities over the course of the semester. Nothing is lost! With mass work and organization, we can not only turn things around, but turn our student union into a powerful weapon at the service of the people!

[1] On this topic, you can read an in-depth analysis written by one of those militants in 2010, titled “Whither the student movement in Ottawa”

Against American Chauvinism: SDS Go Home!

Against American Chauvinism: SDS Go Home!

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Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) is an American multi-tendency student organization started in 2006, which is roughly based off of the organization with the same name from the 1960s. While they have many chapters and affiliates within the United States, recently SDS has branched out and gained an affiliate in British Colombia: a high school student organization called the BC Student Alliance.

The Revolutionary Student Movement denounces the spread of SDS into Canada. We think it is entirely inappropriate for an American organization to organize in Canada: a distinct country, with a distinct political history and tradition. SDS has virtually no knowledge of the material conditions in Canada, nor do they understand the context of student organizing and student politics: they simply have not done the social investigation. SDS has no ability to support any organization or any struggles that are in Canada, and their leadership has even admitted that they are not able to focus on Canada due to a lack of resources. In this sense, they do a disservice to the student and revolutionary movements in Canada by organizing in Canada.

The fact that SDS believes that they bring forward a unique perspective, or have unique insights into the Canadian situation –insights and perspectives that other organizations in Canada do not possess – reeks of American exceptionalism and national chauvinism. The Canadian left has a long history of perspectives gained through trial and error, as the left has responded to the conditions as they exist in Canada. SDS is totally ignorant of this history. Proof of this is the fact that organizers from SDS have actually reached out to RSM organizers, and have asked us to clarify the conditions on the ground and the practice of their own affiliate, the BC Student Alliance!

These actions by SDS show SDS’s complete lack of respect for revolutionary organizations in Canada, and our struggles here in building a revolutionary movement. For instance, when the RSM first approached SDS (in private) about our concerns, the SDS suggested that the RSM become the Canadian section of SDS! Such a condescending, national-chauvinist approach to international relations has no position on the left, let alone coming from a self-described anti-imperialist organization like the SDS.

By approaching organizing in Canada in such a haphazard, uninformed, and amateurish way, SDS actually harms the construction of a revolutionary movement among students in Canada. Furthermore, SDS wastes the time of organizers in Canada by bringing them into an organization that SDS openly has said they are not able to support. SDS has no place in Canada.

The RSM demands that the Students for a Democratic Society disaffiliate from all of their international sections, including the BC Student Alliance.

The RSM demands that the Students for a Democratic Society not organize outside of the United States.

The RSM demands that the Students for a Democratic Society issue a public self-criticism of their chauvinistic political line and actions.

The Revolutionary Student Movement will continue to build the revolutionary movement in Canada, with respect to the unique conditions faced by proletarian students across Canada. The RSM will not take orders from, nor will it affiliate to, American organizations.

The Revolutionary Student Movement stays dedicated to the struggles of working class students and the broader working class in Canada. While we disagree with the BC Student Alliance in affiliating to SDS, we remain dedicated to continued joint-work and line struggle with the BC Student Alliance as a means of building greater unity in Canada. 

  • A Statement of the Pan-canadian MER-RSM Coordinating Committee
Sixth Pan-Canadian Congress!

Sixth Pan-Canadian Congress!

display-imageThe Revolutionary Student Movement is pleased to announce our Sixth Pan-Canadian Congress, to be held in Montreal on November 19 and 20, 2016!

We invite all interested people and organizations to attend, to help build the revolutionary movement among students!

Since our last Congress in Ottawa during the fall of 2015, the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM) has continued to grow. Multiple new sections have opened across Canada: our expansion has been particularly notable in Western Canada and in the Maritimes. Our work as also developed: as part of our last Congress’ focus on consolidation and “digging-in”, nearly every section of the RSM has engaged in meaningful mass work. Our mass work has included: the fight against school closures in Vancouver, solidarity work with indigenous activists across Canada, serve-the-people programs including the “bouffes populaires” in Montreal, radical sex-education in Peterborough, the successful fight for access to abortion in PEI, solidarity with striking newspaper workers in Halifax, the campaign to remove the racist former police chief from McMaster’s campus in Hamilton, and the continued struggle against men’s rights fascists particularly in Ottawa. These are just a few of our activities; the sum total would be too great to list.

However, while the RSM has grown and our work has improved, we have also made errors. Chief among these errors was a failure to really specify what we meant by “consolidation”. Because of this, in some locations the RSM sections turned inwards, rather than orienting toward the masses of proletarian students. In turn, because of the speed at which the RSM has grown, we have often had difficulty leading an organization of our size: leadership development has not always kept pace with the growth of the RSM. On a political level, despite the last Congress adopting a comprehensive political report, the line has not always informed nor translated into the work of local sections. Further, the RSM has not moved forward in its plans to develop a comprehensive program for proletarian students across Canada. While the period between our Fifth and upcoming Sixth Congresses has been generally positive, there was certainly room for improvement.

With this in mind, the Coordinating Committee has identified the following focus areas for the Sixth Pan-Canadian Congress of the RSM:

  • Leadership Development: The RSM needs to better develop its middle-leadership. Given the size of the RSM, there needs to be a focus on building structure and an “internal staff” of sorts tasked with helping the work of the organization as a whole.
  • Further Consolidation: We need to grapple with precisely what it means for RSM sections to consolidate, and to really “dig in” to the mass struggles in their respective areas.
  • Strengthen Organization: We need to pay more attention to spreading best practices across different RSM sections. To that end, we will create a series of “organizational documents” – a guide to revolutionary work – in order to help the work of current sections and also to help build new sections.
  • Deepening Perspective: We invite updates to the political report which was agreed on at the last Congress.
  • Against Tuition Increases in Ontario: There is a strong possibility that Ontario will deregulate tuition fees in 2017. The RSM should initiate a mass struggle against the deregulation of tuition fees, pulling together a broad based campaign across political lines.

To this end, the Coordinating Committee invites all sections of the RSM to prepare resolutions dealing with these themes or others, and submit them for discussion at the Congress.

The Coordinating Committee invites all RSM sections to send delegates to the Congress. Details will follow regarding delegate selection procedures.

The Coordinating Committee invites all supporters of the RSM to form new sections of the RSM before the upcoming Congress, and apply to send delegates.

The Coordinating Committee invites existing groups to vote on joining the RSM to participate in the upcoming Congress, so as to strengthen the movement of revolutionary students.

And finally, the Coordinating Committee invites anyone interested in our practice and political line to send observers to the Sixth

Congress so as to better understand what we’re about.

The development of the revolutionary movement in Canada –both among students and among workers more broadly- is advancing by leaps and bounds. We invite you to become a part of the struggle.

If you or your organization is interested in participating, email: info@mer-rsm.ca .

See you in Montreal!

———————

The RSM is the Canada-wide organization of revolutionary and anti-capitalist youth and students. We first came together as a collection of small groups from Ontario and Quebec in December of 2012. We now exist in every region of the country, with over 15 different sections. We organize in CEGEPS, colleges, high-schools, and universities. We are against exploitation, alienation, and oppression in all its forms; in short, our goal is to contribute to the struggle against capitalism by organizing working-class students towards revolution.

All Out November 2nd – Towards a Student Strike in Canada!

All Out November 2nd – Towards a Student Strike in Canada!


ALL OUT NOVEMBER 2
nd!

On November 2, 2016, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) has called for a Canada-wide day of action against tuition increases. The Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM) unequivocally supports the call for a day of action. While we have differences of both political line and tactics with the CFS, the RSM will always support action against tuition fees and we commend the CFS for this initiative. We urge all of our members and supporters to help with the organizing efforts in their various locales towards making the November 2nd day of action huge.

While we support the day of action, we feel it necessary to qualify our support. Our position towards the CFS –that it is an ossified, anti-democratic, bureaucratic, and reformist organization that serves as a barrier to the creation of a combative student movement in English Canada – remains unchanged. The CFS did not call for a day of action out of a genuine desire to launch a truly mass-based anti-tuition campaign, nor out of a desire to increase the level of militancy in its current activities against the rising cost of tuition. Instead, it will again use the day of action as part of its lobbying efforts, as a means of cynically using the mobilization of students to provide weight to the annual meetings that CFS bureaucrats have with politicians. The CFS is open about this fact (though we doubt they will be open about this during the mobilizations this fall!): CFS-Ontario writes that its current campaign, Fight the Fees, has been launched in preparation for the 2018 Ontario elections.

It is worth pointing out that this basic strategy of the CFS –mobilizations to supplement lobbying- has been the basic strategy of the CFS since its creation. And sure enough, aside from a few minor victories here and there, the strategy has been ineffective: even the relatively benign demands that the CFS makes of the federal and various provincial governments are ignored. In the context of the looming deregulation of tuition fees in Ontario in 2017 – an act that will serve as a blueprint for other provincial governments outside of Ontario to follow -, mounting student debt, increasing tuition, and a lack of jobs for youth and students, the inability of the CFS to actually win gains for its members shows increasingly the need for revolutionary students to break from the CFS.

Furthermore, the demands of the CFS do not go far enough. The current campaign and day of action is directed only against tuition fee increases. The RSM stands for the complete abolition of tuition and ancillary fees, the cancellation of all student debt, and for complete open access to all post-secondary institutions in Canada. Only by eliminating fees and entrance requirements can education become truly accessible for the working class in Canada. The RSM stands for access to post-secondary education for all Indigenous people, and an anti-colonial aspect to all education programs. The RSM stands for education to be put in the service of people and not profit; we argue that research should be for the benefit of all people and not the benefit of corporations, and that education should serve struggles for justice and liberation. Finally, the RSM stands for the democratic control of post-secondary institutions by students, support staff, community members, and faculty. And this is just the beginning. On all of these issues –issues which we see as being at the core of fighting for access to education- the CFS has very little to say.

In 2012, students in Quebec launched a strike which brought the Quebec government to its knees. The RSM continues to argue that this is an example that deserves to be emulated in the rest of Canada. Since then, the CFS has done absolutely nothing to try to learn from and implement the lessons of the Maple Spring throughout the rest of Canada. The lobbying efforts of the CFS are a dead end; the only way to force the hand of the government on the issue of tuition is to strike. The RSM holds that the creation of a genuinely democratic student movement is a precondition for student strikes in the rest of Canada. In place of the CFS bureaucratic and corporate style of student unionism, where only a handful of elected officials are consulted on the affairs of the student association, the RSM will continue to work for general assemblies of all members as the highest decision making bodies of their respective student unions. In order to win we must strike, and in order to strike we need democratic control over our student unions.

To this end, the RSM encourages its members and supporters to use the November 2nd day of action to break further with the failed politics and tactics of the CFS. While we will throw ourselves into the mobilizations for the day of action, we will also continue to struggle against the CFS bureaucrats who seek to use the day of action to maintain their stranglehold over their respective student unions. We invite all students to join the revolutionary contingents that are being planned across Canada as part of the November 2nd rallies.

For a truly democratic student movement in English Canada!

Towards a student strike for the elimination of tuition fees!

All out November 2nd!Thumbnail

De Caire Off Campus Campaign Stages Disruption at McMaster

De Caire Off Campus Campaign Stages Disruption at McMaster

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On August 29, members of the De Caire off Campus! Campaign disrupted the President’s of McMaster’s undergraduate address. Students distributed leaflets as two members of the coalition spoke about why the De Caire Off Campus! Campaign opposes De Caire, and the effect that a Director of Security and Parking like De Caire could have on new students at McMaster.

In December 2015, McMaster University hired former Hamilton police-chief Glenn De Caire for the position of Director of Security and Parking. We oppose De Caire because during his tenure as police chief he codified and encouraged racist practices among his officers, especially the practice known as “carding.” Carding in Hamilton disproportionately affected Black and Indigenous people; Black and Indigenous people were over four times more likely to be carded than white people in Hamilton. The Ontario Human Rights Commission stated that De Caire’s defense of carding constituted “a textbook description of racial profiling.” De Caire is also responsible for the creation of the ACTION police teams, which harass racialized, Indigenous, and working class people in the downtown core and act as the shock-troops of gentrification in Hamilton. More recently, a lawyer acting on behalf of De Caire contacted the McMaster student Newspaper, The Silhouette, and intimidated the newspaper by suggesting that an earlier article on De Caire’s hiring had contained defamatory statements; an accusation which the De Caire Off Campus! Campaign rejects. Given De Caire’s record, the De Caire Off Campus! Campaign believes that De Caire’s presence at McMaster is a threat to racialized and Indigenous, as well as a potential threat to campus activism.

The De Caire off Campus! Campaign was launched in late 2015, after De Caire was hired as the Directory of Security and Parking. The De Caire off Campus! Campaign demands that McMaster immediately remove DeCaire from his position. The De Caire Off Campus! Campaign is a coalition of a number of campus and community organizations including the McMaster Womanists, the Revolutionary Student Movement, and the Young Communist League. Our first meeting for the Fall 2016 semester will be on September 12, at 7PM, in the McMaster University Student Centre, Room 220.

Thank you Carly Spoelstra for the footage below

Political Report of the Coordinating Committee of the Revolutionary Student Movement

Political Report of the Coordinating Committee of the Revolutionary Student Movement

Table of Contents

 

A. The Education Sector in Canada   2

B. The Student Movement in Canada   12

C. The Work of the Revolutionary Student Movement   21

 

This report represents the current understanding of the Coordinating Committee of the Revolutionary Student Movement on the state of the class struggle in the education sector. We proceed by examining the state of the education sector itself, then on to its foil, the student movement. Finally, we conclude with a critical appraisal of our organization’s history.

Our analysis, while far from complete, represents the summation of three years of work in forming the RSM and bringing the class struggle to campuses across Canada. The analysis represents the knowledge we have gained through the process of social investigation through trying to change our conditions, as well as the experience of leading and engaging in several large movements: TransformUS at the University of Saskatchewan, the Maple Spring, the Spring 2015 movement, the CUPE 3902/3903 strikes, and the GA campaign at uOttawa. We hope that the analysis contained here proves useful for all revolutionary students in Canada, and serves to guide our work in the years to come.

 

A. The Education Sector in Canada

 

Overview

 

A1. Though the development of capital and austerity measures have had incredible effects across all parts of society, their influences upon education are of particular interest as they define the situation that the Revolutionary Student Movement works within.

A2. Universities were initially developed as labour organizations, designed to protect the interests of academics and students from broader social pressure and power systems that would undermine the value of principled enquiry and knowledge dissemination. In time, universities developed into a means by which certain classes –sometimes ruling and sometimes subordinate- would produce and reproduce themselves. Under capitalism, the university was first a tool for the reproduction of the bourgeoisie and those tasked with the ideological defence of the bourgeoisie. It was only in the post-war period that university educations in Canada were extended to a large portion of the white-settler population, including the working class, as a means of building a mass of skilled workers to work in an advanced industrial economy. Over the past fifty years, the internally democratic functioning of universities in Canada has substantively withered away as a result of increased influence by governments in the functioning of institutions. More recently, universities have been fully subsumed under the logic of capital, which has incited joint-action between universities and capital such as the prioritization of certain programs, corporate partnerships, and the introduction of bureaucratic managerial measures to run Post-Secondary Education (PSE) institutions.

A3. The restructuring of PSE across Canada has been part of a decades long shift to redefine the purpose of education, away from what was a highly subsidized institution to train people to work as well as provide them with a liberal education, towards one that focuses its abilities towards job training, the reproduction of capitalist culture, and sells its education as a commodity intended to promote the future financial position of buyers.

A4. This commodification of education has led to expanding the market of consumers to include larger elements of the proletariat and oppressed nations, largely through an increase in available credit towards them and inflating the need for education in the labour force. This however has coincided with a rapid trend of increasing tuition costs and exploitative amounts of debt that students have to take on to pay their fees.

A5. A major shift that has occurred to overcome funding shortfalls from austerity is increasing the burden that students must take on in enrolling in University. The proportion of tuition fees that are currently collected for university revenues has more than doubled in the past three decades. Over the past 30 years we have seen a rapid reduction in the amount of funding that PSE receives from both the federal provincial governments, where in many places across Canada these institutions were receiving near to 80% of their total resources from public funding. Now most institutions receive roughly 55-65%, most of which comes from provincial sources. This has forced institutions to seek other sources of revenue and cost cutting measures to ensure the viability of their programs.

A6. Currently across Canada, graduates of university with student loans are expected to leave with nearly $27 000 in debt, and the overall average debt of recent graduates is roughly $15 000. This debt has an overwhelming impact on the life choices of graduate who will be forced to focus on paying off their debts rather than other goals. Given current work opportunities, 1 in 4 graduates will have to enter into an entry level job, likely one which does not apply to their area of study, just to pay off their student debts. This leads nearly 15% of graduates to default on their loans each year, while filing bankruptcy in most circumstances will not affect student debt until 7 years have after they have graduated. In this way, debt disproportionately effects students from proletarian class backgrounds, and ensures that despite education supposedly acting as an equalizer, students that are not “independently wealthy” will be forced to take on proletarian jobs. Thus, the university is consciously structured to enforce and reproduce class divisions within Canadian society.

Furthermore, on some campuses ancillary levies disadvantage proletarian students by making essential aspects of the student community opt out which leads to a difficult position making proletarian students choose between trying to save money through opting out and getting access to services such as rent advocacy, or child care. It also means that these essential services are placed on students as opposed to being ensured funding without necessarily ensuring any independence.

A7. This continues to inform why poor and proletarian youth are poorly represented in universities, while these debts will disproportionately burden women, Transgendered, and Indigenous peoples and other oppressed peoples who systemically face marginalized incomes.

A8. Graduate retention programs that aim to keep graduates within the province or country are being cut or reformed to save money in provincial budgets. This increases the burden of education upon students and extenuates the issues of student debt. While similarly, government provided grants are being reformed to either reduce the costs, or in certain situations incentivise certain topics of education or research in a manner that is more covert than direct funding. As a result, students are subsidized to enter programs of importance to industry, reproducing and hegemonizing capitalist-colonial ideology by offering avenues for proletarian and oppressed nation students to be upwardly mobile.

A9. Austerity measures have exacerbated the capitalist alignment of institutions by further developing pressure to seek alternative funding methods in the private sector. Though traditional post-secondary institution formally maintain collegial structures, power has largely concentrated into a growing bureaucratic and managerial tier of administrators and overseeing Board of Governors that are predominantly representatives of local governments and industry. Their modus operandi is to function as an arm of capital which will faithfully shift the burdens of austerity onto students, faculty and staff.

A10. This change has to do with a shift in the Canadian economy which has seen service and management jobs increase at the expense of industrial jobs. This means that people are being educated to manage workers, rather than rising through the ranks as was traditionally done, and workplaces are becoming increasingly bureaucratized. Thus the bureaucratization of education mirrors the bureaucratization of most sectors of Canadian society, and in turn, the university is changing to provide the new means by which the bourgeoisie maintains control over the Canadian economy.

A11. Austere conditions have further been capitalized upon by university administrations to redirect funding away from the education of students and towards corporate research and infrastructure. In effect, helping stabilize corporate profits in a receding economy by employing public post-secondary institute resources and assets to subsidize research and projects. Notably we have seen the administrators at Dalhousie University, Guelph University, and seemingly the University of Saskatchewan fabricate deficits based upon rhetorical distinctions between particular “academic funding” and the university’s total budget. This has allowed them to deceive students, staff and faculty into accepting highly reactionary and ‘urgently needed’ cuts and help further entrench bureaucratic management models onto the workings of universities. Almost universally, this has negatively affected programs and spaces that have fostered social critique and radical thought, and undermined the quality of educational spaces.

A12. To overcome funding inadequacies, class sizes have grown greatly and the practice is destined to exceed the physical limitations on campuses as online classes increasingly become viable and designed for excessively large amounts of students. This distances those enrolled from their teachers and causes inadequately guided study, as larger classes dissuade critical discussion. For professors, marking a larger number of students has required revolutionizing testing procedures, away from more nuanced and hands-on manners of expressing proficiency and understanding, to highly standardized and mechanized forms, such as standardized testing and online quizzes. This robs students of being able to demonstrate the quality of their knowledge or skills, and often reduces education to a game. This helps foster disengagement from relevant material, and ultimately transforms education into a passive rather than engaged process. This overall process represents the ultimate goal of commodified education, in which the production of the education commodity has become rationalized. The university becomes a factory for producing standardized, low-quality education, a veritable ‘degree-mill’.

A13. Outside of the classroom, lack of funding leads to necessary and practical spaces such as libraries and labs being liquidated or devoted away from students so that their upkeep costs can better be returned to the institution.

A14. Across institutions, the scholarship of academics and students is also taking a hit as research increasingly requires external funding. Many of these come from private sources, so that professors and students have to cater their work to industry at the expense of interesting or socially beneficial work. Though public funding for independent research has previously been accessible, these sources have made major shifts in the last five years to change their priorities.  Both the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the two of the largest public funding pools for academic research in Canada, in this time have made explicit changes in terms of their representation and mandate to specifically fund research that will promote Canadian business interests. It is also worth pointing out that state-funded scholarships, as well as many of the leading scholarships from charitable foundations, attempt to ideologically guide Canadian scholarship by privileging certain areas of study over others. Currently, resource extraction, aboriginal policy, and public policy are areas that seem to concern the Canadian bourgeoisie.

A15. The internal institutional shift of power away from academics and staff towards a bureaucratic managerial administration has changed the state of academic labour in Universities. This has given rise to new relations with tenuous sessional teaching staff at the mercy of their employers. They are not granted the labour protection of tenure, are poorly paid, and are rarely granted meaning length of terms or job security. This creates a barrier for teachers to develop strong teaching skills due to a lack of exposure, makes it difficult for them to more heavily involve themselves PSE communities, carry out effective research, while the ease of hiring and dismissal means that students are not receiving the quality of education that they could from educators who had gone through more strenuous hiring practices. But most importantly, their lack of security functions as a means of disciplining intellectual labour whereby outspoken or radical academics can be punished for opposing the policies or invested capital interests within their institution.

A16. To further reduce the costs of academic work, increased demands upon faculty is often mitigated by deferring it to undervalued student labour. While many graduate students depend on employment as teaching or research assistants, they are not given a livable wage. This is all despite their full time workload as students as well as restrictions on the amount of work these students are allowed to take on. While universities are looking further to even lesser valued undergraduate students to fulfill duties previously allocated to graduate students, which in appearance puts them at odds with each other especially where undergraduates teaching and research assistants are not members of their local unions. And, in many situations International Students lack the documentation to even allow off-campus work. The result is that foreign graduate students are generally required to be “independently wealthy”, either through money from their class-background, or from scholarships which are ideologically geared towards certain types of “respectable” study.

A17. Often neglected, the non-academic staff are one of the biggest targets of cuts within institutions, with thousands of people losing their jobs on campuses across Canada due to cost saving measures. This has resulted in a lack of support for academic workers and students, by secretaries and other workers, and a lack of upkeep and services. As unions atrophy across Canada, these workers are often unable to fight back against the assault on their working conditions.

A18.  Decreases to public funding have progressively motivated the increasing proportion of International Students enrolled in PSE. Many institutions create policies that are presented as a means of increasing cultural diversity and forging international connections amongst students, while the underlying material advantage is that these students tuition is not subject to the same government subsidization and control that Canadian residents receive. As a result, international students are utilized as cash cows and targeted by predatory policies because they are legitimated by the evocation of a xenophobic attitude of otherness that divides them from residents. In turn, the financial restrictions imposed on international students by exorbitant tuition fees generally restricts access to Canadian education to those international students coming from higher class backgrounds.

A19.     In another attempt to recoup lost revenue, PSE institutions with campus residences have been investing in the development of housing properties and residences. By this, they can put money towards capital projects that provide tangible returns to the institution, and exploit, for many universities at least, their abundance of land. To increase revenues, institutions have been overturning policies of rent control or price deflation so that costs to their students are increased. In some instances these have been raised to market value, or even higher where institutions are capable of monopolizing on the difficulty that international student might have finding residences.

 

The Provincial Situation

 

A20. British Columbian PSE institutions have faced a strong attempt to shift the cost of education directly to students, though in indirect manners. In particular, the administration at UBC increased the financial burden on students by increasing the fees of International Students by 10% and raising the cost of residence housing contracts by 20%. This change in housing costs brought the cost of campus housing to nearly the market value of housing in Vancouver, which currently has the highest property prices of any major city in Canada. The response from the #iamstudent movement must be commended for its ability to mobilize hundreds of students over the issue outside of their student association and acting in solidarity with often overlooked and divided international students.

A21. The Prairies have seen only modest tuition increases. However, there has been more predominant attempts at restructuring and prioritizing money towards corporate investors – predominantly resource extractors. In Saskatchewan, PSE institutions faced modest reductions to funding resulting in massive cost-cutting measures and restructuring. The focus of administration is the dismantling of critical programming and bureaucratic restructuring, both of which entrench the elite nature of these institutions. The University of Alberta has evoked strong responses from staff and students against the concentration of institutional power among their head administrators. While Universities in Manitoba have seen hikes to the tuition fees of their International Students.

A22. PSE students in Ontario continue to both receive the lowest amount of public funding per capita and pay the highest tuition across all of Canada. Due to the great diversity in institutions (urban VS rural, north VS south, etc.) there are a number of different challenges across the province. However, broad issues include: increasing tuition fees, corporatization of education, the elimination of tenure, and bureaucratic restructuring of institutional administrations.

A23. The Quebec government has been handed down a budget that calls for austerity across all sectors. As a result the universities across the province are faced with a funding decrease of $20-40 million dollars, which will be aimed at cuts rather than tuition increases. CEGEPs are threatened by potential privatization. As it stands, the universities are being primarily targeted by the government at this time as their students are seen as less responsive than those from CEGEPs, and this is being done to potentially divide a joint-coalition and mitigate action between students on the streets.

A24. Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest tuition in the country due to a decade and a half of a tuition freeze. The strong sympathy from bourgeois parties to help maintain this relatively low price is seemingly due to the predominantly working class makeup of the province and the necessity of building an educated work force to develop the nascent resource extraction sector. Despite this, austerity measures have been directed at privatizing adult learning programs and making cuts to education funding.

A25. Nova Scotia has seen strong austerity measures that have motivated their largest university, Dalhousie, to involve itself in an in depth prioritization and restructuring process over the past few years. The government recently deregulated tuition caps so that tuition can “market regulate” and out-of-province students can be targeted for higher fees. Though P-12 schooling is expected to receive an increase of funding, much of this is prefaced on corporate reformed programming, aimed at employing public education as a tool for capital.

A26.  PEI has seen large assaults upon primary and secondary school teachers, with over 100 jobs being cut in the last three years. This has occurred alongside consistent cuts to PSE funding and raises to tuition. In 2010 UPEI raised tuition by 3.2%. In 2012 UPEI & Holland College had their funding cut by 3% by the provincial government. In 2013, UPEI laid off 39 employees, most of whom were CUPE members. That year, the cost of tuition was raised by 4%. In 2015, UPEI tuition was raised by 3.1%. So we have seen regular increases in tuition of between 3% and 4%. UPEI’s budget cuts & tuition increases have negatively affected both students and UPEI workers alike. All of this coincides with the construction of a new Sustainable Design Engineering Building. With budget cuts & unrelenting tuition increases, the construction of this new building hardly seems “sustainable”. It appears as though UPEI students are simultaneously paying for this new building and suffering from the effects of dwindling resources & quality of education.

A27. New Brunswick is currently facing intense austerity measures, motivated by an illogical deficit maximum. This will have an astounding impact across all public services as each sector has been informed that they will have to cut about 10% of their budget. This will ring through all levels of education. Notably, the tax rebate for staying in province after graduation from post-secondary is going to be cut, greatly increasing the burden of debt on students.

 

High Schools

 

A28. The conditions within high schools across Canada continue to deteriorate due to austerity measures, both due to its effects on education as well as a lack of infrastructure that depends upon cheaper and less inhabitable temporary buildings. This has led to teachers raising issues about excessive class sizes and the lack of attention that can be devoted to each student. This is further problematized as many schools are cutting back on the resources required for special needs students, and placing them into normal programming that is both detrimental to their development and requires more one-on-one attention. This results in more work for teachers at the detriment of the attention and quality that each student receives. Similarly, cutting programs continues to be a way in which schools and school boards save money. As a result, the quality of education degrades quicker for proletarian students, who not only have to rely on public institutions, but who generally do not have extra resources to subsidize their own education.

A29. Outside of the classroom, public schools are being forced to save money by allowing the wages of teachers to stagnate, and streamlining governance of education away from community or municipal school boards to larger and less responsive organizations. Similarly to PSE, school boards are also seeking unsubsidized tuition from international students in order to increase revenue. As a result, we have seen large response from teachers across Canada striking to oppose austerity measures imposed upon them and their classrooms. Granted, teachers often because of their status as an entrenched unionized workforce experience relatively high wages and security among their ranks, potentially placing them as part of the labour aristocracy. This means that the struggles that their interests and the struggles that they engage in may be at odds with those of proletarian students who they teach, and that they themselves may not be subjected to the material conditions that would incite revolutionary tendencies.

A30. Beyond the degradation of high school funding, elementary and secondary education continues to function as an ideological disciplinary tool. It does this to socialize children and youth to subordinate to authority, have externally disciplined work habits, and to fit into a systemic, or industrial ordering. The primary goal of this behaviour management and social control, rather than education itself, often to become workers.

A31. Alternatively, this means of social control forges an alternative route for people that are demonized as problematic within society, creating the general tendency for neglected, struggling or problem students to be on a trajectory towards prison. This process overwhelmingly effects proletarian students, with students from working-class backgrounds identified early-on as being supposedly unintelligent, “problem students”, in need of easier classes, and streamlined towards applied or vocational education streams. Often these students are responding to the degrading quality of education, the dependence on systematic and uncreative forms of education and testing, and usually it is the students who most often need help to overcome these barriers that are designated as problems. With education structured in order to reproduce a loyal working class, it is unsurprising that drop-out rates at all levels are higher for proletarian students.

A32. There is a dramatic and increasingly troubling tendency of schools responding to the problems of “difficult youth” with police intervention resulting in the criminalization of youth. Some schools have begun to use the presence of police as a deterrent, rather than transformative or educational measures. This directly involves students within the criminal system, and puts them into even more marginalizing institutions. For many students caught in the school-to-prison pipeline, the school becomes a repressive state apparatus in-and-of-itself.

A33. Overwhelmingly the determination of problem students falls along racialized lines, whereby prejudices and cultural differences are motivations for othering and disciplining students. An assumption that plays out in both internalizing a position of antagonism within Indigenous or other racialized youth, and educating other students to assume them as problems. This racial dynamic also helps to inform as to why nearly 17% of the prison population in Canada is Indigenous, despite Indigenous people making up roughly 4% of the country’s population, and why a young Aboriginal man in Canada is more likely to enter prison than finish high school. Schools, at all levels, become mechanisms by which white-supremacy is upheld, and capitalism is reinforced. Under capitalism, education is not liberating, nor can it be.

A34. This racialization of the proletariat in schools is extended to immigrant students in Canada, in which undocumented students are denied access within education institutions. Despite the Education Act outlining a right to education for those under 18 regardless of their “immigration status” or that of their parents, this privilege is often denied to undocumented youth. As it is, there is still discrimination within schools, fear of deportation for migrant students, which culminates in the parents of students and their own potential futures in Canada being determined by exploitative working conditions without access to essential services. While undocumented students in high school are still subject to arrests by customs enforcement authorities within their schools, notably in 2006 in Toronto a pair of siblings, 14 and 15, were apprehended while at school and taken to a detention centre for deportation, outlining another form of police presence within schools.

It’s important to note that the state’s surveillance and enforcement of “immigration status” is, in the last instance, a means of managing a reserve army of extremely exploitable labour that can be deported whenever the ruling class finds it convenient to do so. Defining the conditions of membership as it pleases is also a means of managing the labour aristocratic character of the “citizen” working class over and against a racialized non-citizen proletariat from the global south. Through this, denying education to undocumented students is a means of maintaining the cost their labour-power by keeping undocumented communities uneducated and unskilled, as well as preventing them to state services.

 

First Nations Education

 

A35. The education of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples within Canada suffers from systemic negligence that disadvantages Indigenous youth from the outset of their public education. Because on-reserve primary and secondary schools are publicly funded by the federal government, rather than the provincial funding received by off-reserve schools, there is a discrepancy between the resources received by on-reserve and off-reserve schools. This amounts to each on-reserve student receiving, on average across Canada, $2000 less than off-reserve counterparts. This lack of funding is further exacerbated by relative detriment to buying power that rural communities have compared to developed municipalities when it comes to buying educational resources. This has negatively affected the performance of First Nations students, who are approximately 20% more likely to not reach provincial standards in education than non-Indigenous students. As a result, nearly half of the Indigenous youth in Canada who live on reserve receive less adequate education, leaving more than 60% of them without a high school equivalent diploma – more than four times the national average. This leaves many First Nations youth less employable and less likely to enter or succeed in PSE. Métis and Inuit students tend to perform more favourably than First Nations students, though still far worse than settler students.

A36. In Canada, Inuits are offered support for PSE while First Nations people are supposed to be offered access to PSE as a treaty right, which is carried out through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. However, this leaves the over 45% of non-status Indigenous identified people ineligible to attend PSE. Further, with over 26 000 people a year applying to this Post-Secondary Student Support Program, Canada rejects over 5000 people due to a lack of overall funding. Often this leads to a prioritization for funding prospective Indigenous students seeking cheaper programs. This can lead to an overabundance of indigenous students entering programs with poorer economic opportunities, and prevents the development of exceptional Indigenous scholarship.

A37. The corporate nature of universities causes many to have a close relationship with, or even investment in, resource extractors. Universities have historically been tasked with developing the ruling classes of society. In Canada, the bourgeoisie is predominantly white and settler. Also produced by the universities are the lower privileged classes, such as the petty-bourgeois and comprador bourgeois. The university education and connections these classes forge while at school ensures their placement by the Crown as managers of large tracts of stolen land, heads of Crown corporations, and most leading posts within Canadian white-supremacist settler-colonial capitalism. As such, PSE institutions have and continue the development of colonialism within Canada. This places them in contradiction with the liberation of Indigenous people within Canada. Despite this, many education institutions are vouching for increased Indigenous enrolment as a means of developing a reserve army of labour and the Indigenous comprador elements that facilitate resource extraction. Often they recruit Aboriginal youth to work for companies that directly assault Indigenous communities. In many institutions, these companies will even be notified by the school of students with bad or failing marks who then can be targeted for employment on reserves, if they are incapable of succeeding in school.

A38. Beyond these material disadvantages, Indigenous people continue to have to overcome prejudices that infantilize them as dependents and undermine their social value, which has the effect of making it difficult for many of them to socially break into traditionally white educational institutions. One of the primary factors in the reproduction of these prejudices is the lack of Indigenous content within Canadian education, and the continued propagation of ignorance towards Canada’s colonialism.

A39. Due to these barriers to Indigenous people being accepted within PSE, we have seen a rise of Indigenous pedagogical approaches implanted into these institutions that is focused on community engagement in Indigenous urban centres and in rural communities where education is based upon land-based practices. These programs succeed by resisting the colonial logic of inclusion within a Western academy that obviously has no interest in centering Indigenous methodologies, let alone epistemologies. While remedying student’s being separated from their traditional territories or needing to navigate inclusion in European capitalist-colonial institutions that are situated on unceded Indigenous land.

 

Conclusion

 

A40. As PSE institutions are shifting back towards being institutions aimed primarily at the ruling class and other privileged classes, proletarian students resist these shifts. As such, PSE becomes a site of class struggle. One of the aspects of this class struggle is the fight to be able to produce subversive knowledge along proletarian lines, which is of use to the revolutionary movement. As universities become increasingly bureaucratized by undemocratic managerial administrations, revolutionary students must organize against their structures with calls for greater democracy. As PSE institutions continue to become centres of capitalist development in research, we must organize against the restricted use of university resources for capital. Insofar as proletarian students are poorly represented in PSE, we must also organize to remove barriers to access to education for proletarian students. In short, while we fight for a series of reforms in the current context of education in Canada, we must smash the bourgeois education system in order for education to become liberating for all. And because education is a means of producing the working class, it is also a place where we can intervene and disrupt that production to create the future anti-capitalist revolutionaries who will overthrow this rotten system once and for all. In order to engage in a proper revolutionary practice, we must have a proper understanding of the contours of the student movement.

 

B. The Student Movement

 

The Student Movement in Quebec

 

B1. The current Quebec student movement was born in the 1960’s. It is a product of this epoch, of the rise of worker and union struggles, of the adaptation of the education system to the then new needs of the capitalist system and of the entry of new petty-bourgeois and proletarian people in PSE (CEGEPs and universities). Students in Quebec decided to base their mode of organisation on the union model (general assemblies, delegates, executive committees), to take the same ideology (combative syndicalism (syndicalisme de combat)) and the same forms of struggle: protests, occupations, strikes.

B2. The Quebec student movement has constituted a pole of politicization for many militants in launching its critique on a large spectre of issues, from the Vietnam war, the liberalization of markets, police repression, and sexism. However, it is on the questions linked to financial accessibility to post-secondary education – tuition and financial aid – that it has organised real mass struggles. From 1968 to 2015, no less than 8 general strikes have been waged on one or the other of those themes, the majority of them having succeeded. Those great movements of struggle have always been organized by a national (Québécois) organisation that federated local associations: the UGEQ in the 60’s, the ANEEQ from the mid-70’s to the 90’s, the MDE in the mid-90’s and from the 2000’s to today, ASSÉ.

B3. Even though the student movement in Quebec has always had a militant tradition which was sometimes very combative and that some extreme-left currents – Marxism-Leninism, Trotskyism, anarchism and Marxism-Leninism-Maoism – have played a more or less important role depending on the epoch, the Quebec student movement of the union type has always articulated its demands as part of capitalist society and has put forward a politics in accordance with social-democracy. This is not surprising considering that the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois youth have always constituted the majority of its social base, particularly in universities.

B4. The Quebec Student Strike in 2012 was a massive mobilization which came about after the Quebec government announced a yearly tuition hike of 1625$ over 5 years. This mobilization was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, mobilization that ever happened in Canada. The campaign was put forth by a campaign in which CLASSE, FECQ and FEUQ participated.

B5. CLASSE (Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante) was a coalition led by ASSÉ, which is the hard core of the student movement, and which basically advocates for greater accessibility to education (including free tuition at all levels of education). They base their principles on combative syndicalism and direct democracy in student associations. The supreme instance of ASSÉ is their congress. In 2012, the militant base of ASSÉ was more or less composed of anarchists and radical social-democrats (the latter being mostly close to Québec Solidaire).

B6. FECQ and FEUQ are mainly lobby groups that claim to represent respectively the CEGEP and university student associations. They are bureaucratic organizations which operate on the principle of representative democracies. They are also well known to try to present themselves as the more “pragmatic” organizations, the ones most eager to dilute the messages of the masses. They are also well known to be the political schools for the Parti Québécois.

B7. The 2012 strike was predominantly led by CLASSE, who had the most leadership in terms of actions and ideas. FECQ and FEUQ didn’t obstruct the actions as much as expected (due to their selling out of the 2005 strike), but they mostly tried to benefit from the cover that CLASSE led. CLASSE called the shots and was able to fully channel the anger of students. However, the FECQ and FEUQ still had most of the striking students in terms of membership numbers, though some FECQ and FEUQ associations had a double membership with CLASSE for the time of the strike.

B8. The government of Quebec attempted to end the strike by threatening to cancel the semester. This argument didn’t convince the students to stop the strike. On the contrary, the arrogance of the government and the successful media representation of the leadership of the CLASSE actually brought more people in the street. Negotiations were held between the CLASSE, FECQ and FEUQ, and the government. At first the government wouldn’t let CLASSE negotiate, but FECQ and FEUQ refused to hold negotiations if their stronger ally-in-the-moment wasn’t there. When the negotiations failed, the movement on the ground was stronger than ever. Economic disruptions were done very effectively and the government started to be afraid.

B9. We must underline that the big workers’ unions (CSN and FTQ) campaigned outright against the student strike by ordering the lower layers of the bureaucracy to not encourage the student strike. This fact will prove essential in understanding the Spring 2015 movement.

B10. The Quebec Liberal Party put forward a special law (Bill 78) putting the students in lock-out for three months, while making it so that the student associations would be held responsible if any blockade of schools happened until proven that they were not involved, and mandating that any march of more than 10 people would have to be declared to the police. This brought massive protests from the population who joined the students to make a popular movement against the repressive actions of the state.

B11. However this movement, being mostly spontaneous, lacked a direction. To kill that movement, the government held elections, in which the PQ was elected by a weak margin as a protest against the arrogance of the previous government. Though the special law was defeated and the tuition hike had been reduced to an indexation, while a large proportion of the students decided they had won the strike, the most radical elements took this as a half-defeat yet were too exhausted to be able to continue the strike.

However, there was something that was changed forever after the strike. More students had been radicalized and introduced to more radical politics, thanks mostly to the anarchist section of CLASSE. Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly ordinary folks, knowingly defied Bill 78 and screamed openly that they would break the law (la loi spéciale on s’en calisse).

B11. It was thought that the militants would regain strength after some well-earned vacation (and the time to catch up with their studies!), and that soon after, another offensive would be made by ASSÉ (CLASSE had dissolved after the strike). However, things turned out differently. Quebec Solidaire had gained ground since 2011 and the QS faction in ASSÉ was less restricted than before. The political and ideological leadership came to be more and more social-democratic. It was proposed now 2 years ago that ASSÉ would prepare a campaign to prepare a Spring 2015 strike, however, outright obstruction was done by the QS faction who was the majority faction in the ASSÉ congress. Class struggle politics were abandoned for an arguably more combative reformism than the FECQ and FEUQ, based upon a class collaborative fight for education.

B12. By that time, the Liberals (PLQ) came back to power and started an outright attack against the population in many aspects. This included: cuts to healthcare, education and social welfare with increased daycare tariffs. Many of these cuts were miserly decisions to fuel the economy, while the government promised hundreds of millions in money and electricity subsidies for businesses that will directly go in the pockets of the capitalists.

B13. The anarchist faction (especially from UQAM) decided in 2014 that this was enough, that it was necessary to get out of ASSÉ to organize the next struggle against the government. They called to organize Spring 2015 Committees that were to be a space of solidarity between students and workers, which was lacking in the Student Strike in 2012. The goal of the Spring 2015 movement was to make a common front against the government austerity measures. The modus operandi of the Spring 2015 was overtly to push propaganda in the base of the unions in the public sectors to push their union bureaucracies to vote for illegal strikes. In that time, the student associations would vote to go on strike by the start of Spring. The summit of the strike would be reached on May 1st.

B14. The political leadership was monopolized by a small group that we still call the Invisible Committee (in reference to other French Invisible Committee that has a political line somewhat close to this Invisible Committee). Their ideology, briefly summarized, is based in a total lack of confidence in organisations and in total confidence in affinity groups or literally, groups of friends. The French Invisible Committee calls itself communist, but it should more be classified as anarcho-insurectionnalist. The Invisible Committee was a group of 10ish people from UQAM mostly based around the AFESH (Human Sciences Faculty Student Association). They were also anarchists involved with ASSÉ in 2005 and 2012. The Invisible Committee tried to have a list of political demands for the Spring 2015 movement (for example, the government day care system should be spared from cuts), however the demands were rejected, mostly by some anarchists, on the principle that forcing these political demands on the entire group would be too authoritarian.

B15. As part of the Pan-Canadian Day of Action called for by the MER-RSM, a series of large demonstrations were organized in Montreal and Quebec City on March 24, 2015. Both demonstrations were heavily repressed; in Quebec City militants were shot with “non-lethal” weaponry at close-range. The night demonstration in Montreal, which numbered 10 000 people, was heavily repressed by the police but managed to continue after initial confrontations were won by protests. One of our militants was sent to hospital as a result of injuries sustained in the march.

B16. The protests that came after the Pan-Canadian Day of Action were less and less successful with time. Less people came: casualties and fear of casualties being a major deterrent. Nevertheless, specific protests that were particularly worthy of mention were the feminist protests and the May 1st protest organized by CLAC (Convergence des Luttes Anti-Capitalistes; Anti-Capitalist Convergence). Two big feminist protests were held. The second protest faced especially heavy police repression. The May 1st protest organized by CLAC was overall a very big success. Some CEGEPs teachers unions decided to go on an illegal strike on May 1st. Though participation for this was less than expected, it was still an action that had not been seen for decades.

B17. Most of the student strikes were over two weeks after they started in the beginning of the spring. Only the student associations with the most entrenched militant culture, mainly in UQAM, were on strike after that. The police and administrative repression endured there was terrible.

B18. ASSÉ’s implication in the struggle against the government was dismal. At every step, the ASSÉ executive only entered the conflict because they were pressured by the student associations, and when they did enter the conflict, they tried to obstruct the deployment of the forces by systematically calling for a retreat. ASSÉ did its 2nd of April annual march but had called for an end to the strike in order to prepare for a strike on Fall 2015 with the help of the union bureaucracy. However, the bad faith of the union bureaucracy was well known at the moment, and the logistical concern of mobilizing a popular conflict with an incoming winter proved unpopular. Spring 2015 sent an incendiary pamphlet called L’ASSÉ ne fait pas le printemps (ASSÉ Doesn’t Make the Spring) which directly denounced the executive of ASSÉ. After having rocks thrown at them by participants in their own protest, the ASSÉ executive resigned. However, for the ASSÉ cadres who were close to Printemps 2015, it was not enough. The ASSÉ executive was impeached after having already resigned.

B19. For the MER-RSM, it was easy to work with the Invisible Committee, far easier than it would have been to work inside ASSÉ. The fact that the MER-RSM is, by definition, anti-capitalist and revolutionary led to some sympathy in the Invisible Committee. The Spring 2015 Committees were totally unstructured, which meant that anybody could start a committee and attach themselves to the movement. Applying the mass line, MER-Montréal started a daycare project, where the meetings and events of Spring 2015 would have a daycare to allow parents to involve themselves in politics. This was meant to answer to a feminist critique of activism in general and also a way to bring in new and more resilient elements to the struggle. The daycare committee was the last one to function and still functions on demand. We have to note that even though most of the members of the MER-Montréal had an anarchist past and were thus raised in feminist politics by anarchists, no men outside the MER-RSM came on the daycare project.

B20. The strike, however, was not as successful as some had hoped. It was very difficult to mobilize students on such propositions as the end of austerity and the end of extractivism. Those propositions were vague, and left no opportunity for a small victory. All had to be won or lost. The most eager students were disrespectful with the masses who sometimes had legitimate concerns about the possibility of success of this fight. After all, strikes are expensive, especially for proletarian students and those with children. Virtually no support structures were prepared for them. What killed the Spring 2015 movement was left-opportunism. This problem wasn’t understood by us before the strike had peaked.

B21. Under these circumstances, it was therefore impossible to make a mass movement with any direction except being against something the most vaguely possible or to produce any discourse or arguments. It is also impossible to fight the various oppressions inside the movement. It is thus finally impossible to bring new people in the struggle. Those are the dangers of left-opportunism, that were present in the Spring 2015 movement.

 

The Student Movement in the Rest of Canada

 

B22. The student movement in Quebec has a unique and more developed history than the student movement in the rest of Canada. As such, it is worthwhile to examine these two processes separately.

B23. The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is the main student organization in English Canada. It is a lobby group that fronts as a national coordinating body of student unions. It seeks to unite student unions across Canada, offer services to its membership and protect students’ rights. It arose at a time when the campus left in English Canada was desperate for organization. The CFS was founded in 1981 by a grouping of 61 student unions and has since grown to be the largest mainstream student organization in English Canada representing approximately 500,000 students, of which the majority are not even aware of the existence of the CFS. It is made up of a national organization, composed of numerous provincial organizations (such as CFS-Ontario, CFS-BC, etc.).

B24. Since 1981 the CFS has claimed to be at the forefront of the student movement in English Canada, and yet have very little to show for it. The CFS’s main political drive is against tuition fees, either through fee eliminations, reductions, or increase freezes. The CFS also takes on secondary campaigns such as the “No to Anti-Semitism, No to Islamophobia” campaign, the “No Means No!” campaign, and others. While there is nothing objectionable on the surface of many of the CFS’s campaigns, they do not go far enough, and their methods (predominately lobbying and maintaining bureaucratic control of student unions) are totally inimical to struggle. As noted in the first section, the situation of education in Canada is dire, and only getting worse. The CFS has been unable to answer the challenge history has presented to it, largely due to its reformist political approach and bureaucratic methods of leadership.

B25. The RSM holds that there are limits to the current student movement; these limits are best observed in the CFS’s incorrect assessment of the current conditions in Canada and in the CFS’s failed practice.

B26. First, the CFS lacks a class analysis of the education system in Canada. Therefore, being unable to scientifically and accurately assess the class basis and interests of their own membership, the CFS insists that students are a homogenous group. Because of this failure to recognize the multi-class character of students, the CFS constantly has to renegotiate its politics to accommodate the will of proletarian and bourgeois students. However, since bourgeois, petit-bourgeois, and middle class students make up an overwhelming majority in Canadian universities, their interests tend to win out.

B26. Thus, the CFS is forced into a difficult situation. Like all social-democratic groupings (unions, parties, etc.) the structural role of the CFS is to front left in order to reign-in potential revolutionaries. As such, the CFS fronts radical to varying degrees when convenient. However, because the majority of the CFS’s membership is not proletarian, there exists no objective basis for even social-democratic politics within their organization. Thus the CFS leadership is forced to simultaneously moderate its political approach, and resort to bureaucratic and anti-democratic measures to maintain control of the organization. Ironically, this leads to the CFS’s influence among its members decreasing, undermining the necessity of controlling the organization in the first place.

B27. Second, the CFS also has an incorrect conception of the role of the government and school administrations. Instead of understanding governments and administrations as apparatuses of the bourgeois state, they think that achieving the CFS’s policy goals is simply a matter of making cogent arguments to the party or individual in power at a given time. The CFS does not understand that proletarian students have divergent interests with the Canadian state and university administrations, and thus need to adopt a confrontational approach to ensure their interests are met. This misconception on the role of the state is why the CFS focuses so intensely on lobbying the government.

B28. Their third failure of conception and assessment is their misunderstanding of the trade-union movement. The CFS sees the trade-union movement as a resounding success in Canada. Their approach which mirrors that of the big unions is based upon the belief that the existence of unions is a victory in and of itself. They also see unions as de facto lobby groups (whether they are lobbying to an employer or the government), rather than as organizations for exercising the political power of workers. The CFS thus emulates the worst aspects of the trade union movement.

B29. The ideological underpinnings that the CFS bases its practice on, summed up in the points above, dictates the type of practical work engaged in by the CFS. The CFS’s main political work is lobbying, which generally happens during “lobby week”, and to which all other efforts are subordinate to. Lobby week is supposed to be a time for student representatives to sit down with members of parliament and government officials, express concerns about the education system, and hopefully convince politicians to make positive changes for students. While on the surface this is an ineffective approach, the CFS is not even able to engage in an earnest and honest social-democratic practice. What actually happens during lobby week is a series of meetings where empty promises are made, and young student leaders have a chance to make an impression on the Canadian political elite in hopes of impressing the right person and one day going to work as a party staffer or in a government agency. Lobby week winds up being more about the personal career advancement of the CFS representatives (and the reproduction of the ruling class!) than about actually lobbying for the interests of students; it is a mockery of itself. Lobby week is a prime example of the fact that not only is lobbying an empty process but that the CFS leadership lacks both the means and the will to go beyond attempting to stave off the effects of capitalism on campuses.

B30. The CFS is currently crumbling. Many locals have attempted to defederate from the CFS, a problem that the CFS regularly combats by taking their locals to court, and sometimes even bankrupting their locals with legal fees. Indeed, in the past 10 years, the CFS has passed resolution after resolution aiming to make it more difficult to defederate from the CFS, contravening basic democratic principles. However, some locals have been successful at disaffiliating. The CFS response to these democratic processes proves that the CFS leadership holds a flagrant disregard for internal democracy. Defederation attempts will likely become more and more frequent as the contradictions between proletarian and bourgeois students intensify, tuition fees skyrocket, and the CFS fails to listen to its membership and keep up with the times. In 2009 Maclean’s Magazine reported that as many as 13 student associations were holding votes to defederate from the CFS. Ultimately, these defederations, though sometimes orchestrated by right wing forces, are the fault of the CFS and the CFS alone. While we understand why students want to defederate from the CFS, we feel that this is a largely ineffective tactic, insofar as the majority of the CFS’s membership does not even know about the CFS’s existence. Defederation is good; building combative anti-capitalist revolutionary student organizations is better.

B31. Given the limitations of the CFS’s approach to political work, it has been unable to copy the organizational forms of the Quebec student movement and bring them to the rest of Canada. In 2012 there were minor solidarity actions organized with the Maple Spring by the CFS, though they were entirely toothless. The CFS leadership did not seriously contemplate organizing towards a strike in English Canada. In 2015, the CFS was completely silent about the Spring 2015 movement. Increasingly, as the CFS is forced to moderate itself further to appease bourgeois student interests, even the veneer of progressivism fades.

B32. The CFS is not a possible avenue for advancing the anti-capitalist and revolutionary movement on campuses. At best, the structures of the CFS are firmly entrenched in bourgeois forms of representation, making it impossible to use them for anti-capitalist or revolutionary ends. The CFS is also a registered corporation, meaning that its assets can be seized if it engages in any sort of illegal activity (strikes, etc.). This structural limitation necessarily excludes any politics that veer away from maintaining the status quo. This is why we often find many individuals within the CFS professing to be communists, anarchists, or some other form of leftist who are forced to curtail their own politics to hold positions in the institution. At worst, the CFS abandons any pretenses to democracy, and cracks down –through legal or bureaucratic measures- against any internal dissent.

B33. Currently the only institutionalized alternative to the CFS is The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). CASA was founded in 1995. CASA’s is linked to student union alliances such as Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) which is an affiliated organization of some CASA locals. While CASA organizationally is quite similar to the CFS, it is more liberal in its political orientation, often parroting the federal or local provincial Liberal Party’s educational policy. As contradictions tighten and more student unions pull out of the CFS, those without a strong revolutionary left presence may very well be absorbed by CASA. Arguably, CASA was founded in reaction to the CFS and its efforts to lobby the government in favour of education changes. This being said there is very little fundamental difference between the CFS and CASA aside from the front-end politics and the fact that the CFS has been more successful in acquiring a seat at the ruling-class table due to its size. Revolutionaries should oppose the CFS, CASA and their affiliated organizations.

 

Independent Student Organizations

 

B34. The Young Communist League (YCL) was founded in 1922 and is closely connected to the Communist Party of Canada. After disappearing during the Cold War, the current incarnation of the YCL was reconstituted in 2004. Their work in recent years has been comprised of: work on CFS campaigns, youth conferences, running candidates in student union elections, campaign for a charter of youth rights, and participation in the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade in Cuba. Geographically, the YCL appears to be confined to BC, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.

B35. The YCL recognizes that the student movement is a multi-class movement. However, instead of aligning with proletarian elements in that movement, it commits the same mistake as the CFS, and attempts to organize all students as students, and more broadly, all youth as youth. The YCL sees the student movement as a “democratic” movement, and thinks it would be “disastrous” to extend class struggle politics to the student milieu. Because of this mistaken conception, the YCL aligns itself with the CFS, which it sees as a mass organization, arguing that “unity” within the student movement is more important than politics.

B36. The YCL’s focus on the CFS has led to the increasing irrelevance of the organization in recent years. The YCL has adopted a style of work reminiscent of the ultra-bureaucratic methods of CFS organizers. It has oriented its recruitment efforts towards CFS and student union bureaucrats. In running candidates for student union elections under broadly “progressive” pro-CFS slates, the YCL has been forced to convey a certain level of bourgeois respectability which has alienated them from potential new recruits. Here we can think of Zidane Mohamed (elected YCL central organizer in 2014) whose anti-police comments were dredged up by the media during the 2015 Ryerson Student Union elections. Zidane later retracted the comments condemning all forms of violence against innocent people, lapsing into liberalism to maintain a particular public image.

B37. The YCL advocates that young workers get involved in their union locals while ignoring the reality that the majority of proletarian youth are working precarious un-unionized positions. Furthermore, much like their focus on the CFS, they are not critical of the current labour movement in Canada; they have no program for pushing for revolutionary politics or waging class struggle within existing unions. In practice, this means they are asking young workers and students to back institutions that are not struggling for them or in their interests.

B38. The International Socialists (IS) are a Trotskyist organization. While they were quite large and pervasive during the hey-day of the anti-globalization movement, in recent years their influence has retracted significantly, confined now to only Toronto and Vancouver. This is largely due to their undefined and liberal politics; they had a large membership turnover, that was only further complicated when the NDP became the official opposition. The IS used to run student groups on various campuses as student wings of their party-organization. They had no real practice aside from tailing student union initiatives, and the CFS. As a result, with the collapse of the IS across Canada, and the weakness of the IS’s political line, the student sections of the IS have also all-but disappeared.

B39. Fightback is another Trotskyist organization. It is renowned for its entryist practice. There are multiple levels to this approach; on the surface, it argues that the NDP will be where most workers turn in a time of crisis, and as such, revolutionaries should be present within the NDP. Underneath this justification is an understanding that the NDP will not be able to shift to the left, and so will split during a time of crisis, with Fightback hopefully taking a substantial section of the NDP’s membership with it. Fightback has had very little intervention into the student movement. In Toronto they organized the Toronto Young New Democrats (a city-wide rather than riding-based organization), which allowed them to seize control of the Ontario Young New Democrats, from which they were promptly expelled. Fightback also entered the YCL in Toronto, and using dishonest tactics, destroyed that organization. Fightback’s approach is fundamentally limited by a misunderstanding of the state and illusions in social democracy, as well as an incredibly dishonest practice.

 

Conclusion

 

B40. The Revolutionary Student Movement emerged in a context of stagnation and institutionalization of a large amount of the left in Canada. Based on our experience as organizers, we rejected the mistakes of the existing student movement, and attempted to chart a new path. We internalized the successes –notably the Maple Spring of 2012- while maintaining a critical distance. Most importantly, we sought to extend class struggle politics to campuses, as a means of consciously strengthening the emergent revolutionary movement across Canada and Quebec. Very quickly our politics moved beyond rejection and critique; the next section is an evaluation of our short history, as a means of moving forward.

 

C. The Work of the Revolutionary Student Movement

 

The First Conference and the Idea of the MER-RSM

 

C1. Three years ago, in December 2012, the First Conference of Revolutionary Youth and Students, initiated by the PCR-RCP, brought together anti-capitalist student organizers from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. Inspired by the Maple Spring, the goal of the conference was for the student organizations to come together and share perspectives and experiences. Some of the organizations, like the RSM Toronto, were new, whereas others, like the Marxist Students Association at the University of Ottawa, had existed for some time.

C2. At this time, while there was certainly talk of forming a defined organization, there was no movement towards consolidation. The conference was preceded by the release of Seize the Time! Blaze a Revolutionary Path!, a document which built on the experience of the 2012 Quebec Student Strike and set forward a more scientific analysis of the student milieu and the student movement. The analysis contained therein suggested that students were not an abstract group in and of itself, but rather were cleaved into social classes with contradicting interests. This document would go on to form the core political approach of what would become the RSM.

C3. The conference produced little in terms of immediate results. Broadly, in place of reformist politics, conference participants agreed to carry out open and independent anti-capitalist work on all campuses in order to unite newly radicalized students, as opposed to the approaches of the establishment left. This work was to be carried out amongst working class students and connected with the goals of the proletariat in general, rather than around “student interests”. The conference also agreed to hold a second conference, and elected a “Conference Committee”, to oversee the planning of the next conference.

C4. The first conference proved fruitful for the comrades from Ontario, and allowed them to correct their approach to work. The experience of the Maple Spring underlined the necessity of reaching out to the masses. Shortly after the first conference, the Marxist Students Association at uOttawa launched their General Assemblies Campaign, and the RSM at the University of Toronto launched their initiative to save the Transitional Year Program.

 

The General Assembly Campaign at uOttawa

 

C5. Coming out of the 2012 Quebec Student Strike, one of the most inspiring and notable facets of the months-long struggle was the culture of direct democracy through general assemblies. These general assemblies saw hundreds of thousands of students come together in order to democratically govern their student unions; something that the RSM saw was sorely lacking within English Canada.

C6. In February of 2013 a campaign was launched by the uOttawa chapter of the RSM to make General Assemblies the highest decision making body of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO).  The uOttawa RSM (then known still as the Marxist Students Association) was able to make this political demand a reality during the 2013-2014 school year after a second referendum and months of hard campaigning. This represented not only a historic success for comrades at uOttawa, but also a successful example of the practice of the pan-Canadian RSM and a victory for working class students fighting for a voice on campuses across English Canada.

C7. The GA campaign is of particular importance to the history of the RSM for a number of reasons.

First, it was a campaign where the method of the mass line was proven an effective tool on campuses.

Second, it proved that class struggle not only happens on campus but that communists can successfully integrate with working class students by putting forward demands that benefit them- in essence it disproved the long peddled myth that students are a homogenous group with similar interests.

Third, it forced the RSM to break with the bureaucratic and social-democratic student movement, who attempted to hold back these types of structures in favour of bureaucratic and reformist methods of organizing students. It also forced the student bureaucrats to expose themselves as undemocratic in the eyes of the student body as a whole.

C8. Aside from these important lessons the chapter at uOttawa also saw a spike in membership and gained a reputation of being a group that isn’t afraid to engage in hard work, a reputation that had a ripple effect into the rest of the pan-Canadian organization. No longer was the RSM simply a fringe group or another leftist sect- the RSM had proven itself in action.

C9. In many ways the GA campaign laid much of the ground work (especially in Ontario) for the logistical and political planning of March 24 Day of Action. Locally it also opened up the possibility for the uOttawa chapter to put forward a strike motion at the GA. Unfortunately this motion has not been taken up yet due to the GAs not making quorum and direct interference from CFS backed executives in the SFUO.

C10. While the GAs have yet to be successful, we remain optimistic. Ultimately what we was achieved with GAs at uOttawa is not a perfect solution to the problems of the mainstream student movement in English Canada, but rather we built a space in which agitation and class struggle can take place. This can only be a positive thing for the RSM and other left groups hoping to change the course of the struggle on campuses- it’s now up to us to continue to win GAs on other campuses, be leaders within those spaces and through this, form a strong revolutionary culture among working-class students.

 

The Second, Third, and Fourth Conferences and the Consolidation of the RSM

 

C11. The Second Conference of Revolutionary Youth and Students was held in June, 2013 in Ottawa. It brought together a wider variety of anti-capitalist organizers from across Canada who had been consolidated around the perspectives outlined at the first congress. This included comrades from Saskatoon, Kamloops, as well as a number of locations across Ontario and Quebec.

C12. The Ottawa conference made explicit the now nascent RSM’s desire to expand itself. Particular emphasis was placed on the West Coast, where the RSM at this time had no presence. It also helped consolidate the RSM’s political approach (as seen in the conference resolutions), which has carried through to this day. The second conference was the first to insist on some sort of standardized structure among conference participants, insofar as it mandated each “section” (loosely) to appoint someone responsible for maintaining contact with the broader RSM.

C13. Following the second conference, a concerted outreach strategy began. A speaking tour was conducted, somewhat unsuccessfully, across Ontario and Quebec. The RSM also sent organizers to BC where they were successful in launching a Vancouver section of the RSM.

C14. Between the second and third conference, the conference committee, building on the successes of the organization and its now expanded presence, issued a call for the creation of a defined organization. The conference committee called on all participants to submit motions outlining what would be necessary to create a real anti-capitalist student movement, rather than just a paper organization. It was this perspective –towards organizational consolidation- that influenced the Third Conference of Revolutionary Youth and Students.

C15. The Third Conference of Revolutionary Youth and Students was held in Montreal in February of 2014. In addition to the existing sections, the conference was attended by new contacts from Vancouver, Kamloops, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Guelph. The Young Communist League also sent observers, who were generally disruptive, sectarian, and unhelpful during the conference.

C16. Participants at the conference discussed the necessary points that needed to be met in order to form a real pan-Canadian organization. They agreed that there needed to be some sort of activity in all major regions of the country for the RSM to truly be a pan-Canadian organization. They voted to form a committee tasked with preparing a draft constitution. The RSM was to create a basic study guide for its sections. The third conference also saw the creation of the Coordinating Committee, which was to not just prepare the next conference, but rather was to be the leading body of the organization. Last, in the spirit of unity the RSM sought to enter a series of debates on the role of revolutionaries in the student movement with the YCL; the YCL has yet to agree to this process. The participants endeavoured to meet again before the end of 2014 to evaluate the work of the RSM.

C17. In the summer of 2014 the main goal –that of Canada-wide activity- was fulfilled with the first RSM events taking place in Eastern Canada, Halifax specifically. In addition the RSM was now active across Ontario and Quebec, had a section in Vancouver, and had rallied some contacts (Saskatoon and Winnipeg) on the prairies. The reality of a pan-Canadian RSM was coming to fruition.

C18. The Fourth Conference of Revolutionary Youth and Students was held in Quebec City in November of 2014. While the RSM was at this point the largest left-wing student organization in Canada, our section in Vancouver had unfortunately liquidated itself due to mistaken conceptions of the possibility of organizing among students. Despite this, the participants at the conference decided to forge ahead and formally declare the formation of the pan-Canadian RSM. A constitution was adopted, and a plan of action for the following year was agreed upon. Specifically, the RSM endeavoured to support the Spring 2015 movement, and plan a day of action across Canada in solidarity with the anti-austerity struggle in Quebec. In many ways, the adoption of the constitution and the formal declaration of the RSM was a watershed moment for the process that had begun two years earlier in Toronto.

C19. The first four conferences of the RSM –the process by which the RSM moved from being an approach to being an organization – represents a single period in the history of the RSM. During this period the organization consolidated its political perspectives, tested them through engaging in mass work, and expanded its presence. While the process was largely a success –the numbers speak for themselves – it was not an unmitigated success. The RSM had difficulty developing new leadership and cementing our political perspectives across some chapters, which ultimately resulted in the loss of our section in Winnipeg. Though we abstractly maintained an anti-colonial position, we still have difficulty in building lasting links with indigenous students. RSM sections also began to face difficulties as older leaders moved out of the student milieu, with new leaders struggling to fill their shoes. The Infoprop committee, which had been created at many of the conferences, never fulfilled its mandate. Despite these difficulties, we consider the process of our formation to have been successful, with minor self-criticisms noted.

C20. With the structure of the pan-Canadian RSM formalized, the RSM set about the undertake its first major cross-Canada action – the March 24th pan-Canadian Day of Action, in solidarity with the 2015 Quebec Student Strike. The conference called on RSM organizers in Quebec to join in with the mobilization committees, and for such committees to be created throughout English Canada in solidarity with the student strike. This coordinated cross-Canada action, which was hitherto the most complex action the MER-RSM had taken upon itself, would not have been possible without the struggle-unity process that had occurred through all four of the conferences. The methods of work, political lines and working bodies of the MER-RSM that had been established through the first four conferences were all a necessary precondition for the development of a range of disparate anti-capitalist student clubs into a truly pan-Canadian Revolutionary Student Movement.

 

The March 24th Day of Action

 

C21. The Fourth Conference also passed a resolution for a pan-Canadian Day of Action across English Canada. RSM chapters were to establish mobilization committees on their campuses to campaign around a series of demands that had been decided on by the RSM Coordinating Committee. The mobilization committees were to organize students for a day of action on March 24th, with the specifics of that action being up to the committee’s preference. These committees would provide MER-RSM members the opportunity to struggle alongside a broader section of the student base. In the process of struggle, the hope was that the mobilization committees would pull people closer to the RSM ideologically and organizationally.

C22. In Quebec, the March 24th Day of Action saw an incredible turnout. Montreal organized 10 000 participants into a march led by the Revolutionary Communist Party, and Quebec City saw a turnout of 350-450 people.

C23. English Canada saw a good turnout to some the actions and a more moderate turnout for others. The Saskatoon Socialist Students Association pulled 250 people into the March 24th Day of Action. However, RSM uOttawa, originally aiming for a student strike, held a demonstration of only around 35 people. The action in Toronto brought together all Toronto campus chapters into one small flying squad action at York University with a number of around 12 people. In total, actions were carried out in 16 cities across Canada.

C24. RSM consistently encountered wrecking behaviour on the part of the CFS across English chapters leading up to March 24th. In Winnipeg, the CFS privately discouraged other student organizations from participating in the March 24th Day of Action. In Halifax, the CFS tried to hijack the mobilization committee’s efforts and strangle militant action by discouraging occupation of the President’s office, and by demanding the Maritime Anarchist Initiative sign onto various CFS initiatives. Elsewhere, the CFS ignored the mobilization committees, such as in UTSC, York, Ottawa and Algonquin.

C25. We consider the March 24th Day of Action to have been a success with room for improvement. In total, we mobilized over 11 000 students across Canada. We were able to mobilize around a consistent set of demands, with coordinated propaganda across all sections. The Day of Action provided a relaunch platform for our section in Montreal, and spread the reputation of the RSM even further than before. However, disorganization and a failure to actualize the mass line resulted in poor mobilizations of some sections. And in Toronto, Toronto-centrism resulted in a lack of importance put on the Day of Action as opposed to local events. There is much room for improvement for our next coordinated action.

 

The CUPE 3902/3903 Academic Workers’ Strike

 

C24. Simultaneously with the Spring 2015 movement, a bitter strike among education workers developed in Toronto. In the months leading up to the strike at U of T, no one, including no one in the RSM, believed that the membership of CUPE 3902 (teaching assistants at the University of Toronto) would reject the tentative agreement reached by the bargaining team in February. While the local had been able to secure a very high strike vote going into bargaining, the CUPE 3902 executive had thoroughly undermined any genuine pro-strike sentiment and had no plans for a possible strike. When CUPE 3902 membership voted to reject the tentative agreement reached by the bargaining team, members of the RSM, and the campus left in general, were caught by complete surprise.

C25. At this point in late February and early March, CUPE 3902 was alone in the strike. The executive had, in typical capitulationist fashion, completely forgone any preparation for an actual strike during bargaining, and thus CUPE 3902 was sorely unprepared and disorganized in every way possible going into the strike.

C26. The RSM at U of T was quite small. The RSM issued a letter of support of the strike, and denounced the executives who at this time were well known traitors. The RSM, rather than haphazardly sending out members onto the picket lines with little to no plan in mind, was slow to enter into the strike, and instead continued carrying on its usual work towards the March 24th Day of Action.

C27. After one week of the strike at the University of Toronto, CUPE 3903 (education workers at York University), voted to go on strike. CUPE 3903 was also plagued with a collaborationist leadership, largely composed of members of the International Socialists, who did everything they could to run the strike into the ground. In lieu of two poor strike leaderships, the RSM (including RSM York, now entering into the fray) met with radicalized members of CUPE 3902 and 3903, as well as the Proletarian Revolutionary Action Committee (PRAC) in early March in order to draft a coordinated plan for support of the strike. At this meeting, people voted to found the Joint Strike Committee (which later became the Education Workers Action Committee). The RSM’s role in this coordinated plan of action was to organize undergraduates and non-member students to support the picket lines.

C28. At UofT Scarborough, these strike support actions were crucial to introducing both undergrad students and strikers to the RSM. Strike support proved useful in helping pull attention to the mobilization committee, and the mobilization committee served as a useful operating base for undergraduate strike support. The RSM was able to gain membership during this struggle.

C29. At UofT St. George campus, efforts by the RSM to organize undergraduate students gave way to focus by RSM organizers on organizing on the picket lines for the Joint Strike Committee. Continued efforts at organizing the March 24th Day of Action gathered no attention, and several events catered towards the strike were not well attended. Most of the remaining RSM member’s work was for the Joint Strike Committee. While the Joint Strike Committee would be very successful during the strike, the RSM St. George collapsed during this period.

C30. The RSM at York was able to gain membership and form connections with other progressive student groups on campus, including the York United Black Students Alliance.

C31. The strike support efforts ultimately culminated with the decision by the Joint Strike Committee to hold a “long march” from York to UofT in support of both strikes. Both the leaderships of CUPE 3902 and 3903 did everything they could to quash the effort, but ultimately failed. In a last desperate move, the leadership of CUPE 3902 advised their members to agree to arbitration, which ultimately passed. Despite this, the long march went ahead and gathered around 1000 people on March 25th, 2015. The following week the York administration agreed to the demands of the strikers, and the strike was over. The long march, organized by the Joint Strike Committee, played an important role in winning the strike.

C32. Following the strikes, the collaborationist leadership of CUPE 3903 was defeated, and an anti-capitalist slate (with members of the Joint Strike Committee included) was brought to power.

C33. Why then, despite the success of the strike at York, and the modest success of the RSM sections at York and UofT Scarborough campus, did the RSM St. George collapse? The RSM at UofT St George campus largely put all its efforts behind building the Joint Strike Committee, and both RSM St. George and the Joint Strike Committee fell into total inactivity after the strike. The RSM was unable to consolidate politically any of the contacts made during the strike, or demonstrate why an organization like the RSM was useful or necessary. This demonstrates the danger of “ambulance chasing”; the RSM liquidated itself into a movementist practice, and so fell apart when the movement was over.

 

Conclusion

 

C34. In the aftermath of the March 24th Day of Action, the RSM again rapidly expanded. We were joined by comrades in Woodstock NB, Fredericton, Hamilton, St. Catharines, PEI, and a renewed section in Vancouver. As of September 2015, we have 20 sections either currently existing or in formation. We are active in every major region of the country, and we are unquestionably the largest and most wide-spread revolutionary mass organization in Canada.

C35. Our expansion has been largely due to our political perspectives, and our willingness to fight. We were present in leading roles in both of the major student/education sector conflagrations of 2015, indicating the relevancy of our politics. We have experienced organizers, many coming from the social-democratic student movement, that bring with them a wealth of experiences.

C36. Despite our successes, we have much work to do. While our pan-Canadian organization is strong, many of our sections are weak. The first generation of leadership –those that built the RSM- will have left the organization as of the fifth congress. We have to broaden and deepen our political perspectives, and build concrete links with more sections of the masses. We need to actualize a revolutionary politics that speaks to the needs of proletarian students across Canada. Our political approach, and our willingness to fight will allow us to rise and meet the challenges presented to us. We will continue to train communist organizers, and organize working class students in the interests of our entire class and the revolutionary movement. We have a world to win; let’s get to it.
RSM Coordinating Committee, December 2015

Revolutionary Students of Canada and Quebec: Get Involved with the RSM!

Revolutionary Students of Canada and Quebec: Get Involved with the RSM!

In December 2012 a loose collection of anti-capitalist student organizations, inspired by the experience of the Maple Spring, came together with the goal of building a Canada-wide anti-capitalist student organization. Between December 2012 and now, we have experienced many successes. We succeeded in unifying around a political line that emphasized class struggle within the student movement. We spread that perspective across all of Canada. We built new sections of our organization, and expanded existing ones. We initiated, and won, political campaigns. We synthesized our experiences.

We are now prepared to announce the completion of this project – the establishment of the pan-Canadian Revolutionary Student Movement!

We know based on our experiences that the militant, revolutionary movement we need won’t be built by bureaucrats in student unions tied to the capitalist political parties, or by staying within the bounds of what the ruling class deems to be “acceptable”. We should not be afraid to break with tired, old models of activism. These are the very forces that have worked against building the student movement for years now, and it’s time to leave them behind! We need to unite together around a political line that emphasizes direct action, militancy, democracy, and combative unionism.

Capitalism cannot be fixed or improved. Far from being a ticket into middle class comfort, education under capitalism is increasingly just the means by which massive debt is yoked around the necks of working class youth. At best, under capitalism the education system either trains workers with the skills needed by capitalists, or consolidates the children of the capitalist class – the ruling class of tomorrow. Education, which should be liberating, is not. To be blunt, we can’t afford to fuck around any longer. We need a movement that is not afraid to organize, mobilize, and fight. This is the movement we’re building.

But what does the RSM actually do? RSM organizers were very active during the 2012 strike across Quebec, including within our student associations and in the demonstration at Victoriaville. We unified anti-capitalist students in both Quebec and the rest of Canada in order to spread the lessons of the 2012 strike across the country; our members in the rest of Canada were active in building solidarity for the 2012 strike. We organized across the province of Ontario to boycott the sham provincial elections. This summer, at the Montreal Student Movement Convention, we led the charge among radical students and succeeded in having the convention denounce the bureaucratic lobbyists in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ). At Algonquin College we have successfully campaigned for affordable public transit for students. These are just a few of the successes that have informed our experiences.

More recently, with the spectre of a Spring 2015 strike hanging over our heads, in Quebec our forces are pushing harder than ever to make the upcoming student strike as large and as militant as possible. In English Canada we’re fighting to make truly democratic General Assemblies a reality on as many campuses as possible. In fact, the RSM at uOttawa has already been successful in this effort, and is forging ahead with a plan for a one-day strike in the Spring of 2015 – the first of its kind in English Canada!

At our most recent Conference we successfully unified our political perspective on a solid foundation which is revolutionary and anti-capitalist. Furthermore, we ratified an organizational constitution for the pan-Canadian RSM. These milestones represent a convergence of the last two years’ work as well as a jumping-off point for the years to come. In the two years leading up to this milestone, the RSM has emerged as the most militant, most active, and largest organization of anti-capitalist students and youth in the country. We have been able to engage in work and build contacts with radical students in every single region in Canada. In the years to come we will continue on this path, advancing the class struggle, winning fights for working-class students on campuses, and putting those struggles in the service of the broader working-class movement.

But we can’t do this alone. While our perspective and activities have advanced significantly over the past two years, we are far from perfect. We seek to unite with all anti-capitalist students across the country, either individual or groups, and build an organization that can truly shake society to its foundations – an organization that can make revolution. We call on all revolutionary students from across Canada to take part in this effort by joining their local RSM chapters, or by organizing chapters in schools or cities where they don’t yet exist. We call on all revolutionary student and youth organizations across Canada to engage with the RSM in building the Spring 2015 strike movement. You can get in contact with us by emailing info@mer-rsm.com . We look forward to hearing from you!

Either we will destroy capitalism or capitalism will destroy us. Living conditions for workers are continuing to deteriorate. Unemployment is rising, while good jobs are disappearing. Austerity is an ever-present reality for increasing numbers of people. Another round of imperialist wars has been launched against Iraq, Syria, the Ukraine, and Afghanistan. Colonialism continues to ravage indigenous populations across Canada. The environmental crisis worsens. Now more than ever we have a chance, and the responsibility, to make history. Let’s not miss our chance.