Quebec students face government intransigence

Submitted by Matthew on 1 August, 2012 - 10:46

An eyewitness report from Quebec.

At the end of May there was a new period of negotiations between the government of Quebec and the student associations. The negotiations lasted from Monday 28 to Thursday 31 May.

The government hastened to end them, claiming that the student representatives were “intransigent” and it was impossible to reach an agreement with them. The real reason was the Liberal government that did not want to reach a satisfactory agreement.

To keep the increase in student fees is an ideological question for this deeply neoliberal bourgeois government; to give up on it would be seen as a capitulation by the whole bourgeoisie.

On Saturday 2 June there was a big demonstration, in grey and rainy weather, on the streets of Montreal, which rallied several thousand people.

Once again, the organisers, as a gesture of defiance to the police and to show that the new law restricting demonstrations is unworkable and unnecessary, had not notified the police of the route of the demonstration.

At the end of the demonstration, a representative of the CLASSE coordination, which had organised the event, described how the negotiations had gone and how stubborn Jean Charest’s government is in sticking to the increase in student fees. The government does not want to “lose face” in this struggle, and wanted to maintain an image of inflexibility and firmness.

Regular nighttime demonstrations have continued, but their size has much diminished.

There was a big demonstration on the afternoon of Friday 22 June which drew thousands of people in Montreal and in Quebec City.

There are more and more rumours of a general election in September. Québec Solidaire, the main party of the Quebec left, which includes many socialist activists, is actively preparing for such elections, and has participated in the struggle since the beginning.

Its only member in Quebec’s National Assembly, Amir Khadir, was arrested on a demonstration in Quebec during a civil-disobedience action.

That provoked the anger of the bourgeois editorialists and of the Charest government, which accused him of behaving in a way which was “irresponsible” and “unworthy” of an Assembly member.

The New Democratic Party (sister-party of the British Labour Party in the Socialist International) has maintained a shameful silence on the student strike and the government and police repression. It has refused to denounce law 78 (restricting demonstrations).

This despite the fact that the NDP took 58 out of 75 seats in Quebec in the federal election of 2 May 2011, and thus became the leading federal party in Quebec. Political commentators then talked of an orange wave (orange being NDP’s official colour).

Some NDP assembly members have participated in demonstrations, but as individuals.

The new NDP party leader, Thomas Mulcar, who replaced the late Jack Layton in March 2012, is a former Liberal minister in Jean Charest’s government; he resigned in 2006 on environmental questions.

The union leaderships have also been reluctant to support the students, and have done all they can to sideline the slogan of a “social strike” put forward by union activists to support the student movement against the Charest government.

Once again, the leaderships of the workers’ movement have shown themselves incapable of carrying out their duty to pursue the struggles against the cuts policy of bourgeois government and the bosses.

The activist rank and file should organise itself to avoid having its struggles sabotaged by the bureaucrats.

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