RSM-UPEI Opposes School Closures!

RSM-UPEI Opposes School Closures!

On February 1st a public meeting about the proposed closure of 5 PEI schools was held at Colonel Gray High School in Charlottetown. RSM-UPEI chairperson Nova spoke at the meeting, highlighted that these closures are an attack on working class communities and, in the case of closing St Jean Elementary, they are a step toward gentrifying the midtown area. This is a video of the speech from RSM-UPEI, and the following is a transcript:

“Good evening. My name is Nova Arsenault and I’m the chairperson of the UPEI chapter of the Revolutionary Student Movement. We are an anticapitalist organization for youth and students with chapters from coast to coast. We oppose the proposed closures because we believe they amount to an attack on working class communities and, in particular, the children in those communities. I’ll explain in what way this issue affects the working class as a whole.

In order for people as workers to get decent jobs with livable wages, to make healthy decisions in life, and ultimately to liberate their class from capitalist exploitation, education is of utmost importance. This education must be as cheap as possible — preferably free of charge, it must be accessible to all, and it must be thorough and accurate. Schools must also provide programs for children with special needs, and services that benefit the community as a whole. In the case of St. Jean Elementary specifically, we have that. Contrary to what the government-appointed school board has said, an average class size of 17-18 students is not “underutilization”, it is an adequate class size that provides students an opportunity for one-on-one time with their teachers. Operating at 100% capacity should never be the goal, as any influx of new students — refugee students or new immigrants — would abruptly overcrowd the school and put unnecessary stress on both students and teachers. Closing a school like St. Jean that provides services for autistic children, math and literacy programs, and houses a dental clinic*, would also overburden other local establishments that provide these services, and would leave people scrambling to claim their place in line at another establishment. Affordability and the cost of travel would also become a major issue for families who have to travel longer distances to take their children to school, or for those who may have to relocate to make transportation easier. This would impact poor working class families and rural residents the hardest.

In terms of the capitalist exploitation of entire communities, the closure of St. Jean in particular is just one more step in the process of gentrification of the midtown area. For those who are unfamiliar with the term gentrification, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.” In simpler terms; when people with money come in, poorer people tend to get pushed out. We can see that this process has already begun: the construction of pricey condominiums on Passmore street and the block surrounding it, and the closure of the Co-Op grocery store just a few blocks north are early factors of making this area unsuitable for poorer people. The next major obstacle to the gentrification of this area is St. Jean Elementary. Now, I have no ties with any local political parties, businesses, or developers. I have no insider information on this issue of gentrification. But to paraphrase Bob Dylan who I’m sure you’re all familiar with, “I don’t need to be Boomer Gallant to know which way the wind is blowing.” The wind of capitalism is blowing the downtown petty-bourgeois development northward into midtown, and we need to brace ourselves for the storm of capitalism that will follow if these closures happen.

Now, my recommendations to the board would be a reinvestigation of capacity and zoning issues, taking into account very carefully the zoning-related and capacity-related recommendations of the other speakers today, and also to not close any of the schools most importantly.

My recommendations to the public are that these closures absolutely must be stopped, and if we band together we can stop them. If the closures go ahead, the Revolutionary Student Movement intends to organize students at UPEI, high school students across the province, workers, parents, and the affected communities at large, to march to the PEI Public Schools Branch and make our demands heard as loudly as possible if they proceed with these closures.

And I leave you with three basic principles:
Education before greed;
People before profit;
And the interests of the children before the interests of the government!
Thank you.”

*the part about the dental clinic is out of date, the dental clinic was removed and the office is now used by CHANCES.

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!
#AllOutNov2 #AllOutStrike

International Working Women’s Day 2016 – A March and Demonstration for Abortion Access in Charlottetown, PEI

In February 2016, the Revolutionary Student Movement at UPEI initiated a united front for abortion access. Working with affiliates of the Campus Alliance for Reproductive Justice (CARJ), the PEI Reproductive Rights Organization (PRRO), the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARRC), and Abortion Access Now PEI (AANPEI), we organized a demonstration which took place on March 8th, International Working Women’s Day, to raise the struggle for abortion access.

The rally started on Kent Street at 4 o’clock, where we distributed signs, flags, and the now-iconic red braids and bandannas of the ‘militant Anne of Green Gables’ street art, created by a local artist known only as iamkarats. We started by singing an abortion-themed parody of the Ice Cream song from Anne, and then began our march down Great George Street, past the Province House, and toward the Gentleman’s Club on King Street. Speeches were given over a megaphone by a few participants. The demonstration ended with a Scream Choir, to put the frustration and rage of the masses on display.

This demonstration, however, does not signify the pinnacle of the struggle we are waging for reproductive justice and against patriarchy. Capitalism and patriarchy have developed together, out of the same historical process, as a dual system of exploitation and oppression. As long as there is capitalism, there will be an economic system in which patriarchy can flourish. And as long as there is patriarchal oppression, there will be a society that favours capitalist exploitation. It is only by smashing both capitalism and patriarchy through communist revolution that we can end gender oppression, and secure a future that is free from exploitation and oppression. We will continue organizing demonstrations like these to bring more proletarian women, and other gender-oppressed people, into the mass struggle for liberation. Guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and Proletarian Feminism, we must wage an endless struggle against all forms of oppression to build socialism and communism.


A March and Demonstration for Abortion Access
Photo by Jon Viau