#redspring2015 Day of Action Statement

#redspring2015 Day of Action Statement

Mar 24 PP

The #redspring2015 Pan-Canadian day of action has finally arrived!

When the Revolutionary Student Movement first called for a March 2015 day of action, we had no idea how students across Canada would respond. We hoped of course that students would take up the demands we issued –for free, democratic, liberating, and anti-colonial education- and run with them. So far we have been completely blown away by the response; literally thousands of students from across Canada are mobilizing today. There are actions taking place in over a dozen locations across the entire country, from Halifax, to Montreal, to Toronto, to Saskatoon, to Kamloops. This is truly a pan-Canadian movement.

As you read this, the administration offices at uOttawa are being occupied. In Toronto, students are standing in solidarity with striking workers at York. In Sudbury, Oshawa, and Saskatoon walk-outs are occurring. Tonight, in Montreal and Quebec, there will be “Fucking Big Demonstrations” numbering in the thousands in support of the student strike in Quebec. And these are just a few of the examples of what’s going on across Canada today.

It would be clichéd to say “this is just the beginning”, but truthfully, it’s not even that. A strike of educational workers has effectively stopped ‘business-as-usual’ at York and the University of Toronto for the past month. Students in Quebec have been on strike for nearly a week now. This day of action, in addition to the events of the past month, are simply other steps in what will surely be a long struggle to achieve liberating education in Canada. But for the first time ever, in spite of conciliatory student associations in English Canada, in spite of the attacks by the state and university administrations, we are beginning to build a movement that will shake all of Canadian society to its foundations. It’s a good time to be a revolutionary student.

So what next? What direction should the momentum from the day of action take the student movement?

Three years after the biggest strike in Quebec’s history, we are conscious that the issues are complex and the student movement’s goals numerous. The immediate task is to support the student strikes, and try to spread them as widely as possible. We also encourage people to begin preparing for a possible strike in the Fall. The more militant and radical forces, including our Montreal and Quebec City chapters, are definitely leading this struggle. The FECQ and the FEUQ do not have influence within the student movement anymore, and they have only themselves to blame; their lobbysim, their bureaucratism, their numerous betrayals and their long-time relationship with the Parti Québécois are the causes of their failure.  We have great expectations for this struggle; it’s a good occasion to learn and to consolidate stronger mass movements.

In Toronto, all efforts should go towards a strike victory for CUPE locals 3902 and 3903 at UofT and York. In order for the strikes to be successful there will necessarily have to be a continuation of the escalation of tactics already taking place. Striking academic workers must also continue to build cross-local solidarity, so that the current movement cannot be split.

In the rest of Canada, now more than ever the weakness of the current federal student associations (the CFS and CASA) is apparent. In the wake of a strike in Quebec, a strike in Toronto, and a day of action across Canada, even the ostensibly more “action oriented” CFS has been unable to do anything other than try to dampen initiatives in some locations. Local student associations continually fail to educate and organize students to effectively oppose increasing tuition and the austerity agenda threatening education. Thus, to overcome this barrier, we must organize a democratization of the current student movement. In student unions where general assemblies don’t exist, they should be fought for. General assemblies should be extended down to the faculty and departmental level. In places where they do exist, general assemblies should be given real decision making power and held more frequently.  This will be a protracted process but it is an absolute necessity; as contradictions within high schools, colleges, and universities continue to sharpen, we will need democratic structures that will allow for future struggles. The time to start building them is now. Together we can change the face of the student movement in Canada.

Finally, we encourage students across Canada to involve themselves with the Revolutionary Student Movement. We are an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-oppressive, and anti-colonial student movement. In places where RSM chapters do exist, we encourage new members to get involved. In places where RSM chapters don’t exist, we encourage activists to get in touch with us to start new ones. Now more than ever, as austerity shows us the ugly face of capitalism, as the attack on our already limited civil liberties increases, as Indigenous peoples continue to struggle against the oppression of colonialism, it is necessary for us to get organized and to fight back.

But what’s most important is that the momentum from today is not lost, and that we continue to build a militant student movement in the weeks, months, and years to come.

See you in the streets!

How to Form a Spring 2015 Mobilization Committee

How to Form a Spring 2015 Mobilization Committee

You’re new to political organizing. You don’t have the experience or the networks, but you know you want to help somehow. You’re excited about the March 24 day of action that’s coming up, but don’t know where to start. You want to organize a Mobilization Committee, but aren’t sure how. Don’t worry; we’ve all been there. The only way to get good at organizing is to organize; there’s no trick, secret method, or anything like that. The RSM has created a small guide to help you out.

Any action begins with a plan. You should have some idea of what you want to accomplish. What sort of action do you want to organize? What are the necessary steps required to get there? But before any of that, you need to get people together, and that’s the point of a Mobilization Committee. The Mobilization Committee fundamentally is a committee that brings people together to organize an action, in this case the pan-Canadian day of action on March 24. The first goal in pulling together a Mobilization Committee should be to hold a successful first planning meeting, which usually means getting a decent number of people involved, developing a basic plan of action, and assigning responsibility for carrying out the tasks contained in that plan.

Begin by figuring out who you already know that would be interested in organizing a Mobilization Committee. Start with a meeting to plan the launch of your Mobilization Committee. Specific tasks should be assigned to specific people, and one or two of your most dedicated and reliable people should also be tasked with making sure everything is getting done.

In terms of getting a Mobilization Committee started, promotion is generally your most important task. There are a number of ways you can do this kind of outreach:

  • Making posters advertising the date, time, location, and purpose of the meeting. These posters should be full-colour if possible, eye-catching and attractive. The RSM has a number of designs that can be modified for this purpose so don’t hesitate to ask for one if needed.
  • Putting posters up everywhere on and around campus, including places off-campus where working-class students hang out. Every campus has rules about who can poster, what and where, and those rules are always a little different from place to place so it’s a good idea to find out what those rules are to minimize the chances that all your posters will be taken down and your hard work will go to waste. Often the local student association office will know, so ask them. That said, if it’s impossible to poster without breaking the rules, fuck the rules, do it anyway.
  • Small handbills are also nice for face-to-face outreach. These can be sized as 1/4 of a standard piece of paper and should be double-sided. One side should be a smaller version of your poster, with the other giving a brief description of what the Mobilization Committee is and what it aims to accomplish, plus an invitation to the meeting. Hand these out in highly-trafficked hallways on campus, or approach people sitting on benches and tables with them to start a conversation.
  • One-on-one conversations with people are your most valuable and important organizing tool. Most people are used to getting a wall of bullshit advertising thrown at them day-in-and-day-out; more often than not, people don’t even notice posters. One-on-one conversations are your chance to show people you’re sincere, have a plan to win, and aren’t full of shit. When you’re talking to people about the Mobilization Committee, try getting them pissed off – not at you, of course, but at the system that leaves them indebted, unemployed, and oppressed – and show them getting mobilized is how they can finally do something about it. Get their names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers for follow-ups and reminders.
  • Professors will often allow students to make quick announcements before class. Find out where large classes are held, and where lectures are held that might have students who would be sympathetic to your efforts. Show up before the classes and ask the professor if you can make a quick announcement about a student activist initiative. Have a quick, 2-minute speech prepared (and practiced!) and pass a contact sheet through the class. Stick around until it’s circulated and collect it afterwards, then send a follow-up text or email to the people who signed up.
  • Find out what publications are distributed on your campus. Most schools have at least one newspaper, and many faculties or departments will have one as well. See if you can get an announcement of your meeting in the paper, or write a letter to the editor about it.

The meeting should be in at least a semi-private place so that you can focus, but preferably on campus for accessibility. Ask the student association office and/or the Student Life department of the school about booking a lecture hall or study room for your meeting, and if that fails then pick a room on campus you can access freely without having to ask for permission. Worst case scenario, a table in the cafeteria or a common area works just fine.

Generally speaking, people should be given at least one week (ideally two weeks) notice before a meeting. Think about how much time you need to adjust your own schedule; everyone else faces the same challenges. Try and be accommodating to other people’s schedules.

So you’ve done all the promotion you’re capable of, and it’s time for the first meeting itself. First off, many of the people you talk to, even the ones who say they’re interested, won’t come to the meeting. Don’t be discouraged! People are busy; they work, have families, hobbies, etc. . The majority of people will not be able to be political organizers, and that’s alright. What *is* important is that you don’t adopt a self-righteous attitude, looking down at those that don’t show up; that’s a perfect way to isolate yourself. Some new folks will come, and anything at this point is progress. Often times the people who don’t get heavily involved will become part of the base of contacts you can call on for one-off marches, rallies, events, etc.

Be prepared for your first meeting in every way possible. Be there early to set up and greet people. People will show up late, so expect to start about 15 minutes after your scheduled time. Chat with the people who show up on time and try to find out what they’re all about.

When you’re ready to start the meeting, do a quick go-around for people to introduce themselves and maybe say a little about why they want to be involved in a Mobilization Committee. This helps people become comfortable with one another. Then get down to work.

Before the meeting, you’ll want to have an agenda prepared. You’ll want to think about what you hope to accomplish in the short-term (the next weeks) and the medium-term (March 24 actions) and the specific steps to take so you can get there (what actions, what outreach strategies, what messaging, etc). Come up with this plan at the Mobilization Committee meeting.

The people who show up will probably have some ideas about what they want to do, but chances are they won’t have spent as much time developing a whole, cohesive plan. If somebody brings up something clever, integrate it into the plan! If somebody brings up something that’s a little hazy or half-baked, there’s often at least some kernel of truth in it. Your goal as an organizer is to find that kernel and integrate it into your plans. Not everyone has to agree on everything, but everyone should feel as though they had input into the decisions that were made. The best way for people to feel invested in the Mobilization Committee is for them to feel as though they have ownership over it; without that, people will begin to drift away, and will prioritize other things.

At the meeting you should set out the specific tasks that have to be completed – which at first may just be doing more wide-spread promotion for the next Mobilization Committee meeting using the strategies above. All tasks should be assigned to specific people based on what they volunteer for. You should also decide on one or two people who are responsible for coordinating tasks and making sure things are getting done. You should set the next meeting date and location, and get a contact sheet to collect people’s information so you can follow up with them.

From there, a lot of what happens will be determined by the specifics of your campus and the goals you set out for your Mobilization Committee. This basic guide should help you get to a place where you can figure that out. Of course, if you ever feel stuck or lost as to how you should proceed, contact the Revolutionary Student Movement, which has accumulated a fair amount of experience and might be able to point you in the right direction on the challenges you’re facing.

See you in the streets on March 24!

Students of Canada: Rise-up! Pan-Canadian Day of Action, March 24

Students of Canada: Rise-up! Pan-Canadian Day of Action, March 24

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This spring, students across Quebec will strike against austerity. The Spring 2015 movement has united students and workers in the fight for free and accessible education, and is benefitting from the lessons learned in the Maple Spring of 2012. Coming from outside the traditional student organizations, the Spring 2015 committee has already organized a number of actions to promote the upcoming strike. For instance, over 80,000 students went on strike against austerity on Halloween 2014. This is all leading up to February, when students in Quebec will be convening special general assemblies to vote-in strike mandates. Combined with commitments from a number of labour unions to also support the movement, this spring is shaping up to be very exciting in Quebec.

And in the rest of Canada? Despite the fact that austerity measures have hit students in the rest of Canada even harder than in Quebec –Ontario, for instance, has the highest tuition fees in the country and the lowest per-capita funding for education- virtually nothing is being done. The main student associations (the Canadian Federation of Students and Canadian Alliance of Student Associations) are nearly silent on the movement developing in Quebec. Just like in 2012, they are not mobilizing for a strike or even for solidarity actions, and instead have a strategy of conciliatory government lobbying. And despite the fact that we’ve had three years to learn from the example of the Maple Spring, the CFS and CASA have been content to maintain their bureaucratic and anti-democratic structures, which have proven to be ineffective at protecting the interests of students.

Enough is enough.

The Revolutionary Student Movement is calling for a pan-Canadian day of action against austerity and in solidarity with the Spring 2015 movement on March 24, 2015. We call for the creation of mobilization committees on campuses across Canada with the intent of organizing actions –strikes, demonstrations, walk-outs, etc. – on March 24. These mobilization committees will be safe and accessible to all people that wish to participate; in short, any sort of oppressive behaviour (racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, national chauvinism, etc.) will not be tolerated within these committees. The committees must strive to be anti-colonial, feminist and LGBTQ2S+ inclusive, expressed in the committees’ political leadership and in their actions.

Let’s use this opportunity to build a student movement across Canada that is not afraid to fight, and not afraid to win. Let’s use this opportunity to build a student movement that is not content with simply begging the government for scraps by lobbying. And let’s use this opportunity to show the students of Quebec that the rest of Canada stands behind them in their struggle.

We demand:

Abolition of tuition at all levels of education! Cancellation of all outstanding student debt!
Students should no longer have to pay for education. Students who could not afford post-secondary education should no longer be punished by high-interest student loans.

Open access to post-secondary education for all!
Free tuition alone cannot guarantee accessibility. We demand guaranteed admission to every post-secondary institution for all students. Good quality post-secondary education should not simply be for the elite; everyone should have access to the schools and programs of their choice.

Education in the service of the people, not profit!
Education should serve the interests of people, not corporations or profit. Research should be done for the benefit of all, not the benefit of private firms. We demand that a democratic and scientific education should replace the imperialist, settler colonial and patriarchal curriculum in post-secondary schools. Education should prepare us to struggle for justice and liberation, not simply prepare us to work.

Access to post-secondary education for all indigenous people and an anti-colonial aspect to all programs!
We recognize that Canada, as a settler colony, is built on stolen land and the genocide of Indigenous peoples. Increased funding must be made available for all indigenous people to have access to post-secondary education, as well as for the creation of indigenous colleges and universities. We demand that education preserves the cultures and languages of indigenous people within post-secondary education, and a necessary anti-colonial component to all programs.

Democratic control of post-secondary institutions!
Universities and colleges should be run by the people they serve, not by unelected boards of governors filled with representatives of the big banks and large corporations. We demand the abolition of boards of governors, and their replacement with representative bodies composed of students, faculty, support staff, and members of the community. All representatives should be determined by the university’s community, and subject to recall at any time.

By uniting across Canada and Quebec, we can build a movement that will shake society to its foundations. We can win a truly liberating and democratic education system that serves the people. So what are we waiting for?

See you in the streets on March 24!

For more information, email: mobilization@mer-rsm.ca