Young Communist League of Canada
Education is a right, not a privilege!
The unity and militancy of the Quebec student struggle has begun to shake the rest of Canada. Across the country, the youth and student movement has been inspired and emboldened by the struggle in Quebec. Many have correctly concluded that the best form of solidarity is to step-up a united fight back at home.
The Young Communist League of Canada supports this growing mobilization, made stronger by work like the Casserole Night in Canada protests that heard post banging from Antigonish, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia; and here in Ontario, by solidarity tours like that organized by the Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario and the Toronto student strike workshops which drew in over hundred eager participants.
Now is the time to start building a broad, militant and united fight back for accessible education, which is in crisis in our province:
• fees in Ontario are 23 higher than the cross-Canada average
• college tuition has outstripped inflation by 378%
• university tuition has outstripped inflation by 509%
• students graduate with an average debt of $37,000
The McGuinty Liberal government has just announced dangerous plans to compress four year degrees into three. In Canada and around the world we are seeing a new kind of education system where we pay more and learn less. As all students scramble to find work and pay our bills in an economic crisis of capitalism, indigenous peoples, women, and racialized communities face growing barriers to post-secondary education. International students are exploited as ‘cash-cows’.
In place of accessible education, we are being told to lower our expectations and accept a life of debt and unemployment.
BOOKS NOT BOMBS
The McGuinty Liberal`s sham 30% tuition grant promised to students in the last election is woefully inadequate. Two-thirds of students aren’t eligible. We are told by the government there is not enough money to pay for “luxuries” like education and that we must tighten our belts.
But if there’s billions of dollars that can be spent on corporate tax breaks and fighter jets, why is there no money to spend on education? Free education for Canada would be $5 billion annually. Harper`s annual military budget? $25 billion.
We must see what the government cuts to education really are – an ideological war being waged against students in tandem with attacks on the working class majority.
UNITY AND RESISTANCE IS THE WAY FORWARD
It is tempting to reduce the student struggle to a question of magic leaders — or magic structure. Of course, leadership that understands its duty, listens to members, and shows uniting ways forward is very helpful — as is a democratic approach as expressed by mass all-campus or department level meetings of students (General Assemblies), and especially when the students themselves not only make the decisions but also carry them out.
On the other hand, the main problem student’s face is not a question of personalities or decision-making process: it is the political problem of unity and militancy or bringing together the broadest and most powerful unity of students and their allies, behind a militant political strategy to win access to education.
The vast majority of students already see education as socially positive and support lower fees and greater access. In order to turn this sentiment into a visible force, hard work is required, convincing our campuses of the demand that access to education is a right, and of the urgency and necessity for united and growing strategy. United struggle is the only effective path for students to win.
The way forward for the student struggle must be to place front-and-center the question of a broad, powerful and united fight back with an escalating action plan that reaches beyond access to education and ultimately demands free education. The passive tactics of lobbying, post cards and petitions, isolated or one-day-a-year actions, and campaigns centered on media outreach rather than mass mobilization are simply not enough.
As the most progressive student union in English-speaking Canada, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is in the best position to build such a plan and win the students of Ontario to a program of united struggle. To its credit, not only reduced fees but free education is the policy (at least on paper) of the CFS. This strong mandate has to be put into action now. There is no contradiction between respecting the autonomy of local campuses and the CFS organizing and making a political battle to win students into struggle — in fact, the opposite.
On the other hand, everywhere reactionary students have won campuses to ditch the CFS, the campus has shifted to the right and political inactivity. If we got rid of the CFS, students would wake up with a big hangover and just have to rebuild.
Many campuses are controlled by right-wing student unions in Ontario, and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations support tuition increases. Everywhere progressive students must re-double their efforts to win their campuses back from these forces, linked to reactionary political parties like the McGuinty Liberals and Harper Tories.
The vast majority of students view education as socially positive, and strongly support greater access and lower fees!
There is also a new breeze in the air. Emboldened by youth protest internationally, more students are taking up the call of accessible, quality, public not-for-profit education from cradle to grave and challenging the policies of big business and their governments.
The neoliberal agenda is being implemented internationally, therefore we must also recognize this international reality in our local struggle. The same struggle is being waged by students in Chile, South Africa, Germany, Britain, Greece, Spain – and Quebec! Across the globe, students are fighting back!
STUDENT STRIKE, PEOPLE’S STRUGGLE!
Hundreds of thousands of students in Québec have mobilized over the last semester, despite violent police repression and the suspension of democratic rights using the strongest tactic to put moral pressure on the government– a student strike – and in doing so, have shown that a broad, mass, united struggle is by far more the most effective strategy.
The Quebec students have won strong support from labour, community groups and the people. Despite the Mulclair NDP`s silence, the sound of casseroles are clanging across Canada!
Key parts of the escalating mobilization in Québec include (1) campus “mobilization committees,” which operate under the regular direction of student General Assemblies, as well as (2) militant and relatively united leadership by student unions, and (3) an escalating action plan that the grassroots membership and all levels of activists feel they are democratically driving forward.
Quebec also shows that the demand for free education can open mass, democratic debate about people`s alternatives and social transformation.
Mass mobilization and cooperation between students and other movements, especially labour, is the only way we can effectively defeat corporate and government attacks on education. Ontario students cannot afford to wait to find the best direct democratic structure or for spontaneous opportunities, or the next election to fight back. Every month, every week we delay organizing has a cost.
GET ORGANIZED, FIGHT BACK!
• Show solidarity– wear a red square!
• Get vocal– demand accessible education as a right, not a privilege!
• Get involved — help build or grow a local action or mobilization committee
• Support and attend General Assemblies, student elections, and build your student union
• Demand an escalating plan of action for a broad and united fight back
• Open a broad democratic debate about free and emancipatory education.
Free education should be federally funded. Cut military spending by 75%! The YCL also supports the Post-Secondary Education Act, not least as the Feds and Premiers negotiate transfer payments currently. But unity with the Quebec student movement and Aboriginal students (for whom access to education is also a treaty right continually denied) must be found on a new basis of justice and equality of nations, not Canada`s existing Constitution.
The YCL thinks that a bold counter-offensive is necessary, and we propose a Charter of Youth Rights as a basis to bring together the youth movement behind a social vision of a better Canada.
Ultimately, we can and must win future that guarantees free education, peace, equality, ecological sustainability, and real democracy – which we call socialism!