December 1, 2012
YCL greetings to WFDY meeting in Ecuador
This meeting of the World Federation of Democratic Youth comes at an important juncture in the world-wide youth and student movement.
It is clear the forces of monopoly capitalism are instituting a strong offensive against the people and the environment through their reactionary, pro-war governments.
In Canada this takes the form of the Harper Conservatives who gained a majority in the Parliament last year.
At the same time the fight back is developing at an accelerating rate.
In Canada, there are some signs of increasing militancy from the labour movement, which is starting to push back against attacks to living standards and further erosions of democratic rights.
But the biggest resistance is in Québec, where the students played a leading role in the magnificent massive popular fightback in the winter and spring of 2012. The Quebec student strike, which brought together all the major components of the Quebec student movement in united struggle and saw 300,000 students and their allies march in the streets again and again, and developed into one of the largest mobilizations in our history winning massive public support.
The Quebec Spring has giving renewed strength to the youth and student movements and the broader peoples’ movements across the country.
The Québec Liberal government declared in a viscous and reactionary 2010 budget that tuition fees were to rise by 75% over a few years, of course citing austerity and the capitalist economic crisis. Students mobilized for over a year and reached out to workers and people’s movements in order to build a broad and militant coalition aimed at stopping the user fee increases.
The students also developed a united escalating plan of action, starting with general mobilization of their membership, towards days of action and finally an unlimited general strike built around the tuition fee increase. In a break-through moment, all the Quebec student centres which had previously been in disunity where able to find a common, militant basis for action. The English-language schools also joined in.
The YCL had said this was the key to building a broader fightback. But the struggle was very positive and went beyond everyone's initial hopes.
It was also articulated very clearly from the students that the end to the tuition increase was their immediate demand to end the strike, but quality, accessible, fully funded and free post-secondary education was their goal.
Students went on strike from February to August. They held protests and occupations almost every day, and monthly mass demonstrations with up to 300 000 people on the streets of Montreal, Québec under the slogan of “student strike, people’s struggle”.
It became clear that the slogan was very correct and the strike had become a flash-point for other people's struggles, particularly the environmental movement but also winning support from working-class communities.
The Liberal government reacted with court injunctions to end the mobilization and ignored the democratic decisions taken by students at a local level to go on strike. The refused to seriously negotiate with the students and instead spent millions on advertisements -- and police.
When these measures did not suceed to break the students and their popular support increased, the government brought in Bill 78 which made it illegal to demonstrate without approval by police, outlawed picket lines and leveled fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars against student unions that advocated the continuation of the strike.
Bill 78 was one of the most serious attacks of civil and democratic rights in recent times. It acted as a sign to the security forces to more explicitly transform into political police. Very quickly, and often under various municipal and provincial legislation, hundreds of students were arrested. By the end, the strike saw the largest number of mass arrests that had taken place in recent history.
This is part of the broader capitalist attack against democratic rights, which is accompanying the capitalist economic crisis.
This legislation was defeated in the streets with even larger demonstrations with more participation from the working people and especially parents, who chose to disobey the law, and organize nightly demonstrations of tens of thousands of Québecois. Suddenly we saw everyone from very young children to very old people in the streets.
Amazingly, these demonstrations soon spread across Canada in every major city and many small localities, symbolizing the general opposition to neo-liberalism and austerity in all parts of the country.
By the end of August, two Education Ministers had been forced to resign and the strike was ended by an election that threw out the Québec Liberals.
The new Parti Québecois government was forced to adopt several progressive demands of the mobilization, including an end to the tuition fee increase and the cancellation of the anti-democratic law.
The Parti Québecois however is still an ally of monopoly capital, and a bourgeois nationalist party. Its is expected to renege on many of its election promises in its budget. So, the struggle continues.
The outpouring of solidarity and support from student organizations around the world was appreciated and helpful.
The internationalist and anti-imperialist dimension of the Québec student strike was also demonstrated by what the imperialists said about it themselves.
Former advisor to the US state Department David Jones said that the danger of Québec was that "students elsewhere (may) determine Quebec has provided a `learning experience.'”
As the YCL Canada, that is exactly what we want for lessons like those of Quebec, and even more advanced struggles, like those taking place here in Ecuador, to be shared. Of course, we see the World Festival of Youth and Students as an excellent venue to come together and share our struggles, and build the necessary unity for the struggles ahead.
As communists we know that the fight for accessible education is a class and democratic struggle, and that unites us together.
We would like to also take note of the environmental movement against climate change, which is largely a youth movement. The YCL-Canada believes that the struggle against climate change is objectively anti-imperialist because imperialism is the main cause of climate change.
The YCL Canada calls for deep cuts in climate emissions by the imperialist countries, “climate reparations” owed to the oppressed people’s of the world, and that climate change agreements be strong, legally binding, comprehensive, and audacious. That they be based on international solidarity, peace and respect for sovereignty, self-determination, democracy and social progress.
In Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, over 1000 youth gathered two weeks ago for a conference in order to discuss the way forward in order to stop climate change and the global environmental crisis. There they had indigenous leaders, leaders from the recently victorious Quebec student strike and labour leaders, as guest speakers.
This conference shows that in Canada we are witnessing an awakening of the youth which now realizes the capitalists and their governments are the cause of the environmental crisis, and that they cannot rely on neo-liberal politics to avert catastrophes.
This is abundantly clear to Canadian youth who have seen the Harper Conservative government allow the Tar Sands oil developments in Alberta Canada become the single largest polluter on the planet.
What is lacking, in our view, is a common and united strategy. Isolated, spontaneous or small symbolic confrontations with police or smashing windows won't change the system. Nor is it enough to just wait until the next election. Youth should not count in anyway on the political parties within parliament and the increasingly right-of-centre social democratic New Democratic Party opposition.
We seek to build a united and militant movement, that links social movements with the environmentalists, and moves the people into the street, with labour at the core.
The YCL Canada proposes young people get behind a comprehensive Charter of Youth Rights that will unite their demands, including the right to a safe environment, full equality, employment, education, democracy and peace.
Today we must also condemn of the Canadian governments increasing role in the US/NATO imperialist project. In our view the direction of this project has not changed with the re-election of Obama.
The YCL Canada calls for the dismantlement of NATO and to slash military spending, redirecting the money to social programmes like free education. We have opposed Canada's participation in the war in Afghanistan and the bombing of Libya. We have also called for all peace-loving youth in Canada to support a peaceful and political solution by the Syrian and Iranian people themselves -- and to stop imperialist meddling in their affairs and aggression.
As we have seen in other places where Canada has shamefully participated in imperialist aggression like Libya, Afghanistan, Haiti and Honduras, and many other places: the people are not done any favours by imperialist intervention.
We salute you and your efforts to resist imperialism around the world. We salute our host country Ecuador, and the Communist Youth of Ecuador. We salute the people's of Latin American and their progressive governments, who have been an anti-imperialist voice to the world. We stand with all of you, with our friends today from Cuba, Korea, Palestine, Western Sahara, and many other countries resisting sanctions, aggression, war and occupation.
The good news is that the cynics and the disheartened progressives who thought that the working class and youth of North America were “hopeless” now have examples of mass fightback in Wisconsin, across the continent in the form of the Occupy Wall Street movement in the fall of 2011, and the Quebec student uprising.
This resistance has borne-out what the WFDY had said at the beginning of the economic crisis, that the youth should take courage at the weakness of capitalism and build the fight back. We are in dynamic times, with many dangers and challenges but also the potential for a better future for Canada and for the world.
Thank you comrades.
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