On February 4th, 2019 a rally and a march for student rights was held at Parliament Hill, as part of Ontario-wide day of protests. The event was organized by a new coalition of students who are passionate about resisting the recent cuts in tuition fee subsidies to working class students and the further dismantling of student organizations that were enacted by the current conservative government. Recently, career activist groups such as the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and Carleton Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) have been latching on to similar spontaneous protests organized by members of the masses. The CFS is notorious for its corruption scandals and waste of student money that sustains them, while both they and the GSA are largely disconnected from most students who are not even aware of the existence of these organizations. Despite access to significant institutional funding and student networks, these organizations are rarely able to mobilize more than a few dozen students on each campus largely due to a lack of political perspective to rally most students around. What these groups bring to student organizing is the push to undermine militancy of the masses, the cooptation of events made by others in order to control the political messaging and speakers, and the same old ineffective methods of organizing that boil down to politely asking politicians for small handouts (which they never even give). These groups and their methods of organizing are one of the major reasons why student resistance is at a very low level everywhere outside of Quebec, as they bring much more harm than good by undermining any sort of radical, combative initiatives while most of their leaders seek to bolster their resumes for a future career.
Despite the abundant organizing resources available to the CFS and GSA, the event only attracted around 50 people and was one of the many traditional methods of organizing that does not threaten the ruling class and their drive to harm the working class and people from oppressed groups. Members of the MER-RSM in Ottawa attend many events like this with the aim of offering a more radical perspective on student organizing, as we talk to participants, and try to push the militancy of such events forward when possible, as well as learning more about the grievances that the people and groups that organize such events have. We recognize that the initial drive to go and do something against outrageous processes that harm the masses is a just cause and we support the intent behind it. However, we also understand the limitations of traditional organizing and lead campaigns of our own, with the goal of growing the militancy of the masses that we organize with and winning major gains instead of defending against every new attack that keeps being hurled at us by the ruling class daily.
We are often met with hostility from some anti-communist participants, who are usually unhappy with our flags and banners, as well as stunts that phoney leftist activists pull to exclude us as they feel threatened by our presence. However, something really uncommon has happened at this event that has left us highly disappointed and dismayed at the conduct of the main organizers. A known extreme right “yellow vest” organizer has attempted to disrupt the event, recording everyone in it and raving about the made-up harms of immigration. Two comrades confronted her, putting flags in front of her camera in order to block her from the event and protect those in attendance. She was aggressively pulling our flags, trying to get into a physical alteration and somehow managed to get a small cut on her face. She backed off shortly after this, which shows that standing up to racists and extreme right organizers is the only way to get rid of them.
Since most of the organizers, especially those in the CFS and GSA constantly talk about how anti-racist and progressive they are, surely they would want to rejoice at the sight of an extreme right troll being pushed away from the rally. But their response couldn’t have been further from this. Instead, the organizers rushed to check up on the “wounded” racist that tried to disrupt the rally, asking if there is anything she wanted them to do. She asked them to go and report this to the police, which some of the organizers gladly did. But one of the organizers shined the brightest among them. Zidane, who works with the GSA and was recently affiliated with the student organization called the Young Communist League (YCL) and the Communist Party of Canada has taken the initiative of being ready to dial 911 on his phone as we were attempting to block the right wing troll. A comrade from our group has notices this and quickly confronted him. In response, he claimed that he was only prepared to call the paramedics in case that the extreme right racist would have needed medical attention.
Such behavior is completely unacceptable, disgraceful and dangerous for any leftist, as everyone knows that doing so would invite police harassment of the rally and its participants. Cops in Ottawa have a long history of racist and politically motivated violence, against leftist protesters. It is especially egregious, since someone affiliated with the communist movement would choose to call the cops instead of helping confront a racist. People who choose to act this way should not be allowed in any progressive organizing, much less be allowed to take leadership of it.
It is extremely disappointing and shocking to see organizers of the event making more efforts to protect a racist organizer rather than students who opposed her attempts to disrupt the rally. The organizers have tried to blame us for the confrontation and kept asking us to leave after that incident. Seeing that the cops were getting closer and pointing at our group, and realizing that most people at the rally do not have our backs, we decided to leave it early.
As the result, we no longer have any reason to join events organized by the same organizers. We cannot be a part of events where we not only have to be on guard against cops and extreme right counter-protesters, but also need to watch our backs around event organizers. It is time to break away from the ineffective, traditional methods of organizing that have exhausted any potential they could have had. We are moving forward with the organizing for a student walk out across Ontario in February 15th, leading on to a one-day student strike across the country on March 20th. It is time to sweep away the corrupt and unprincipled career activists and their decaying organizations that suck the life of radical student organizing. We need to end this blight upon the student movement and organize a truly combative, militant student movement that dares to struggle and dares to win!
Revolutionary Student Movement in Ottawa