The Internationalist  
  May 2012  

A “Declaration of War” Against the Student Strike
Mobilize Workers’ Power
Against Quebec Police State Law!


Teachers and students in face-off with riot cops in Montréal, May 16. Now strikers face lockout and
picket ban under Charest's loi matraque (riot club law). Unions must mobilize against police-state law.
(Photo: La Presse)

The following Internationalist Group leaflet was distributed at a protest at the City University of New York (CUNY) on May 18.

MAY 18 – The militant Quebec student strike, now in its fourth month, is under massive attack. Initially called to block a whopping 75% increase in tuition, up to 300,000 students have braved vicious repression, including more than 1,600 arrests. It is the largest and longest student strike in Quebec’s history, and enjoys wide popular support. Hundreds of thousands of strike supporters have repeatedly poured into the streets of Montréal. Currently, thousands are demonstrating nightly. None of this is reported in the U.S. media.

After students across Quebec last week overwhelmingly voted down a government “offer” which maintained the exclusionary tuition hike (since raised to 82%!), the government of Liberal Party prime minister Jean Charest has responded with even more draconian repressive measures. On the night of May 15, 122 demonstrators were arrested in Montréal as they protested the threatened “special law.”

Last night (May 17) the Quebec government introduced Projet de Loi (Bill) No. 78 which (a) locks students and teachers out of the colleges and universities, shutting them down until mid-August; and (b) gives police arbitrary power to ban demonstrations. This is a frontal assault on democratic rights and a threat to labor, for the same pretexts (blocking access) used to outlaw student protests can be used to outlaw workers’ picket lines, effectively banning strikes. The government is railroading this police-state law through the National Assembly (Quebec’s provincial parliament) and intends to vote it into law tonight.

Student leaders have rightly denounced this as a “declaration of war” on the students. Not only the four student federations which are striking against the exclusionary tuition hikes (symbolized by wearing patches with a red square), but also the small minority who favor the increase (who sport green patches) and those who want a truce (white patches) have all opposed the special law, which would impose a state of siege on Quebec campuses. 

Demonstrators at protest at Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York City on May 18 show
solidarity with Quebec students by wearing red patches, the symbol of the strike.
(Internationalist photo)

Under Bill 78, individual students or teachers who organize unauthorized demonstrations (or anyone who encourages, advises, consents to or authorizes others to do so, even by omission) are subject to fines of up to $35,000 each, while student associations and faculty unions or any other group that organizes such demonstrations (or that does not order its members not to participate!) are subject to fines of up to $125,000. Student associations’ dues will also be cut off.

In addition, organizers of any “demonstration of ten or more persons” called by anyone, at any time, anywhere in Quebec, are required to inform authorities at least eight hours in advance and give the intended place and route to the police, who can order them changed at will. Any official of any group that refuses to order their members to comply is subject to the same fines as above. This is a naked demonstration ban, a blatant violation of freedom of association.

The Charest regime is notoriously corrupt and deeply unpopular. In the latest polls, 76% of the public are dissatisfied with it. The government claims students have “lost the battle of public opinion” and that people are fed up with the strike. This is a lie. A nationwide opinion poll released today shows that 40% of respondents in Quebec want to freeze tuition at its present level (the students’ demand) and another 15% want the fees lowered. Despite this, the government charges ahead with its loi matraque (riot club law) to outlaw student strikes and muzzle all protest.

Quebec students are in the front lines of an international battle against the capitalist assault on public education. They need our active solidarity and support. Last month, the head of the tax office of the Quebec municipal affairs ministry, Bernard Guay, called explicitly to emulate the fascist movements in Europe in the 1920s and ’30s to “put an end to the strike” by “giving leftists a taste of their own medicine.” Charest is seeking the same end by using police power to impose his decrees.

The three main union federations (FTQ, CSN and CSQ) have all condemned the new law. But what is needed at this moment is action, a mobilization of students and workers in the streets, to shut down Montreal and other major cities, up to and including by a general strike. The authoritarian Charest regime is a threat to democratic rights of all and should be swept away by class struggle on the road to a workers government. ■

The following flyer was also distributed by the CUNY Internationalist Clubs at the May 18 BMCC protest, called by Students United for a Free CUNY. The demonstrators voted unanimously to “stand in solidarity with the student strike in Quebec and against the repression directed against the strike and student protests”.

Also, for a report and photos on a May 10 demonstration at Hunter College in New York for the demands “No hikes! No cops!” where supporters of CUNY Internationalist Clubs and Class Struggle Education Workers (CSEW) also raised solidarity with the Quebec student strike, see the CSEW web site at: http://edworkersunite.blogspot.com/2012/05/solidarity-at-cuny-with-quebec-student.html

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com