Second National Conference of Revolutionary Youth and Students
Seize the Time! It’s right to rebel!
Ottawa, June 15-16, 2013
Just over a year ago, in February 2012, students in Quebec walked out of their classrooms and began their mass student strike, which raged throughout the province for over six months. The strike against tuition fee hikes, an austerity measure proposed by the former Liberal government, ushered in the so-called “Maple Spring.” A whole generation of students radicalized, spurring mass economic and social disruption. The strike against tuition fee hikes became a radical questioning of the current social order, and perhaps even a questioning of capitalism itself.
There is no doubt that the students in Quebec inspired radical activists across Canada: the students of Quebec were able to bring the government to its knees not only by winning victories in classrooms and boardrooms, but in the streets as well. An evaluation of the victory of the strike, of the tactics and forms of struggle which pushed the bounds of bourgeois legality, is a task that radicals and revolutionaries must grapple with in the coming years. Fearing the worst, the government responded with draconian enforcement of the law, even making new special laws to clamp down on political dissent. The ruling classes know that they can throw a carrot to the masses by calling for an election. Unfortunately, a lot of good intentions and militancy was lost in the trap of electoral politics.
Not even a year has passed since the Parti Quebecois rode into power on the backs of the student struggle, promising the students they would reverse the fees increase if voted in. Today, Marois is intent on squeezing money out of students through incremental tuition fees increases. And indeed, the draconian laws are still in place: on March 22, an anniversary march for the strike was kettled and its participants arrested before the march even began. Liberal or Parti Quebecois, the Quebec bourgeoisie is still afraid of the militancy shown by the students during the long strike of 2012.
Students in English Canada face problems similar to those faced by students in Quebec. Throughout the rest of Canada tuition fees climb, and class sizes grow. Ontario students now have the highest tuition fees in the country, and are simultaneously burdened with the lowest per-capita government funding for education in Canada. Students finish their undergraduate degrees with an average of $28,000 in debt. Corporate investments in universities increase, undermining what meager democracy previously existed on campuses. Education continues to be entirely in the service of the Canadian bourgeoisie, and is used to produce obedient workers and loyal managers rather than being at the service of the liberation of the working class. And yet, despite the dire situation faced by all Canadian students, students in the rest of Canada did not engage in mass actions like the students of Quebec did. In part, this was due to the misdirection of organizations like the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, who while eager to play a solidarity role to the strike in Quebec, were totally unwilling to bring that militancy to their home provinces.
Everywhere, austerity is still being pursued and forcibly implemented by the agents of the big bourgeoisie and their government stooges. The economic and social conditions of the most exploited masses continue to deteriorate. In Canada 1.4 million people continue to be unemployed. Youth unemployment remains a flashpoint at over 14% (a conservative estimate of the real number). And while even the chief economist of the IMF now refers to austerity as a “brake” on economic recovery and growth, the Conservative government under Stephen Harper is as determined as ever to cut social spending and provide more tax cuts to the wealthy corporations and rich people, who hoard their riches and watch the people go desperate and hungry. Capital expands at the expense of the working class.
With all this in mind, the questions for us are: How can students in Quebec turn the massive student strike of 2012 into a revolutionary situation? How can students elsewhere mobilize their own struggles against reactionary student associations, the bourgeoisie, and their state? How can students put themselves in the service of the broader working class?
The student and youth activists are not going to sit idly by as capitalists continue on their path of destruction for the benefit of a small minority. We call on all radical activists in high schools, colleges, and university campuses to make their school a site of anti-capitalist agitation. We call on all radical left and far-left activists to work with the PCR-RCP in building an independent and combative revolutionary student movement, to make a break with tired old student unionism, at this second national conference to be held June 15-16, 2013 in Ottawa. Here, we will consolidate the gains achieved since the first “Seize the Time! Blaze a Revolutionary Path” conference of the revolutionary student and youth activists. Here we will reaffirm our resolve to fight for Communism.