[Marxism] FW: Quebec government bludgeons student strikers with emergency law - but the struggle continues

Richard Fidler rfidler_8 at sympatico.ca
Thu May 17 18:41:02 MDT 2012

 Quebec premier Jean Charest announced May 16 that he will introduce
emergency legislation to end the militant student strike, now in its
14th week, that has shut down college and university campuses across
the province. The students are protesting the Liberal government’s 75%
increase in university tuition fees, now slated to take place over the
next seven years.

The special law, Charest said, will suspend the current session for
the striking students and impose harsh penalties for those who in the
future attempt to block physical access to campus premises or
“disrupt” classes. It will not include the terms the government
offered following a 22-hour marathon negotiating session May 4-5 —
although, as we shall see below, we have not heard the last of some of
those provisions.
shabby.html> That offer was rejected overwhelmingly by the students in
mass meetings held during the past week. In all, 115 associations
representing 342,000 of Quebec’s 400,000 college and university
students voted to reject it. Of these, more than 150,000 students are
still on strike.
ncy-law.html#_ftn1_8083> [1]

The law will effectively end the present strike, but without resolving
any of the underlying issues. The immediate goal of the strike was to
stop the tuition hike, but the strike also revived a major public
debate over long-standing proposals in Quebec to expand access to
university education through abolition of fees and to roll back the
increasing subordination of higher education to market forces and
private corporate interests. The government turned a deaf ear to the
students on all these questions.

“The Liberals have spit on an entire generation,” said Gabriel
Nadeau-Dubois, a spokesman for the CLASSE,
ncy-law.html#_ftn2_8083> [2] the largest student association. “It is a
repressive and authoritarian law. It restricts the students’ right to
strike, which has been recognized for years by the educational
institutions.” The CLASSE has called for a massive march of students
and their supporters, to be held May 22 in Montréal. It hopes the
numbers mobilized in the streets will be comparable with the estimated
200,000 who came out on
d-with.html> March 22 and the even greater number who assembled on
ajor.html> April 22, Earth Day.

Equally outraged was the president of the national teachers union, the
ncy-law.html#_ftn3_8083> [3] Jean Trudelle. “They talk of
accessibility as if was simply a question of opening the doors,” he
said. The president of the university professors’ union, Max Roy,
likewise denounced the government for failing to take the students’
concerns seriously.

Charest’s announcement came less than two days after education
minister Line Beauchamp suddenly resigned not only from the cabinet
but from her seat in the National Assembly, admitting that she was no
longer “part of the solution” to a crisis that has shaken the
government. Arrogant and obdurate to the end, Beauchamp said she had
“lost confidence in the willingness of the student leaders to search
for solutions and
 a genuine way out of the crisis.” Premier Jean
Charest promptly replaced her with Michèle Courchesne, a former
education minister.

“The problem for us has never been Ms. Beauchamp,” said CLASSE
spokesman Nadeau-Dubois. “The problem is the hike in tuition fees. And
it is not by changing the minister
 that the present crisis will be
solved. The crisis will be solved when they agree to talk about the
reason why the students are on strike, that is, the increase in
tuition fees.”

Charest’s self-imposed crisis

The minister’s resignation underscored the depth of the crisis the
Charest government has brought upon itself. For months it tried to
trivialize the strike, ignoring the students’ demands, refusing to
negotiate, evidently hoping the movement would exhaust itself,
especially as the current spring session approached its end with no
resolution in sight. But even as they faced loss of their session
credits if the strike continued, the students for the most part held
firm, successfully mounting defiant mass pickets at many campuses and
frustrating more than 30 court injunctions to reopen the institutions,
often in the face of massive police violence and multiple arrests.
Well over one thousand students have been arrested — a total that far
exceeds the previous record arrests in the 2010 G20 protests in
Toronto — and many face criminal charges for disruptive tactics or
defiance of police orders to disperse.

In recent weeks they have marched each night, usually in the
thousands, through the streets of Montréal, in colourful impromptu
demonstrations that play cat-and-mouse with police attempts to control
their route. It is the “Printemps érable” — the “maple spring” that is
the Quebec version of the Occupy movement — in this case occupying the
streets of the province’s metropolis.

Although the government and the corporate media have worked
relentlessly in recent months to turn public opinion against the
students, there were signs that the students’ militant resistance was
opening breaches in this strategy. A Léger Marketing poll published
May 11 reported that 71% of those interviewed think the government has
“mismanaged” the conflict. Another Léger poll found that Francophones
(more than 80% of the province’s population) and those under 55 years
of age tended to hold the government and not the student associations
responsible for the failure to settle the crisis.
ncy-law.html#_ftn4_8083> [4]



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