Yesterday the Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario (CFS-ON) launched a callout for a province wide student walkout on March 20th at noon. It is an interesting coincidence that they chose to initiate a callout for action on that specific date. This date and time is exactly the same as the Red Spring Day of Action which we made a public callout for on January 19th and have been actively organizing to promote on campuses across the country. Already the CFS leadership is feigning ignorance about this widely promoted campaign, admitting they didn’t try to reach out to us before announcing it. This is a dishonest and opportunistic move to co-opt and undermine what is and continues to be an independent, radical initiative of student organizers across Canada. Failing to mobilize quickly and effectively themselves, they have chosen to try and graft themselves onto the work of others. They hope to take the credit by throwing money at expensive promotion, photo ops with pictures of paid staffers and plastic mass-produced protest signs, all to go towards lobbying the politicians who keep on passing legislation to harm most students and prevent us from organizing. They will keep on pretending they have any semblance of relevance to the 500,000 students they claim to represent, the absolute majority of whom has never heard of the CFS despite funding it. This action cannot be swept aside as a misunderstanding, a miscommunication or an innocent mistake. Leadership of the group with a multi-million dollar operating budget, paid organizers and deep rooted networks among student bureaucracy knows perfectly well what events are organized by which student group across the country. The CFS exposes itself once again not only as ineffective and not useful to the student movement, but also as harmful to us all.
If they were simply useless, trying to foster professional careers in “activism” and secure jobs as staffers for political parties without repercussions for the lives of students it would be easy to ignore them. But they work to co-op, control and undermine every student initiative that is new, radical and bold. Their ossified bureaucratic apparatus is completely disconnected from the reality of most students and is incapable to represent us. They are rife with corruption and embezzlement scandals, as well as dishonest bureaucratic maneuvering instead of open political engagement. Our future is on the line and the CFS is part of the problem. The working class in Canada is facing harsh austerity attacks ratcheted up by every government and working class students are no exception to this. We are facing higher levels of debt post-graduation, if it is at all possible for some of us to afford attending school in the first place. Upon graduation we find ourselves pushed more and more into working temp jobs for capitalists taking a greater and greater share of the wealth that needs to be shared by us all. The situation is dire and therefore we need a movement that can fight and win. We need to put politics in command and build a genuine student movement led by the interests of the people who face the most oppression while making the most sacrifices and putting in the most work for everything around us to exist. We need to stop asking politicians for handouts. Instead, we need to strike as often and for as long as we need until we win major systemic changes. All the CFS can do is lobby and unsurprisingly in their 38 years of existence we have experienced 38 years of defeat. Their demands are hollow. They may sound appealing at times, but at best they pay lip service to the interests of most students they claim to represent. They call on the government to give us the right to organize, to protect student voices, for more grants less loans, and to eliminate tuition fees. But they are afraid of being bold, decisive and of fighting for these demands. Demands are not gifts to be handed down by benevolent lords but victories we must win on the streets, at our schools and at work. We will never win anything on the negotiating table not already won in struggle.
In contrast, our points of unity are explicitly political, they are not requests we make of a government that we already know would rather see us chained by our debt and dutifully working for them and the profit of their boss friends. And we are tirelessly organizing to mobilize more and more students around these:
- Education in the service of the people, not profit!
- Guaranteed paid internships for all students
- Abolition of tuition fees at all levels of education! Cancellation of all outstanding student debt!
- Barrier-free access to post-secondary education for all Indigenous people and an anti-colonial aspect to all programs!
- Democratic control of post-secondary institutions!
We have no illusions that the task of realising these demands is an easy or simple process. But we cannot afford to keep begging for scraps from the table of the ruling class and we have a plan to win our demands. Our task is to build a working-class student movement capable of exercising powerful, united student strikes. A movement that is only a part of a larger set of revolutionary forces which can demand on the negotiating table what we have already won. This is no small feat, but it is possible. The examples of Quebec in 2012 and 2015 most recently show us that we can win victories by strong, continuous resistance and working class solidarity. We do not see these experiences uncritically, but we also are not afraid to get our hands dirty and actually build a student movement that can fight.
The CFS-Ontario can definitely recognize they are at the brink of total collapse, as they cannot exist without money. And their only response is to attempt to pretend they have been at the helm of the work students across the country have been doing since January for the upcoming Red Spring actions on March 20th. We need to reject their insufficient demands and go beyond trying to prop-up the same failed strategies of the last 38 years. That union bureaucrats would stoop to grafting on to existing work speaks to their own pathetic desperation. Calling for an action to conflict with an already existing organizing efforts of many students across the country is an attempt to damage the student movement and assert their dominance in a hostile way. The government and the ruling class couldn’t have gotten better help than this – seeing a major student organization step on toes of independent, radical organizing to try to split students apart must make them really happy.
We reject any attempts to water down the politics of the student movement. We call on all of our comrades and supporters to completely abandon any kind of engagement with every CFS-aligned initiative. The student movement needs to get rid of this dead weight by building a genuinely radical resistance and organizing. We must fight knowing that it is right to rebel and it is even better to make revolution. We will continue to resist and to build a movement that can smash the current system of for-profit education and oppressive anti-people governments and we will unite the students across this country to build a new, better system in its place.
Coordinating Committee of the MER-RSM