November 23, 2014

From Ayotzinapa to Montreal: Overview of the Global Student Struggle

Special to RY

Student struggle week of action underway

Every November 17th, International Students’ Day, is commemorated by remembering the important role of students in fighting for a better world. In honour of this day, the World Federation of Democratic Youth’s Commission on Europe and North America has called for a student week of action against the current attacks on our education system taking place across the region. The week of action runs from November 17th-23rd.

In Canada, students are facing skyrocketing tuition fees, mounting debt, the privatization of education, cuts to student services, attacks on the living and working conditions of campus workers, the elimination of programs and classes, and the corporatization of research. More and more students now graduate without a future: either unemployment, or work in precarious, part-time, low-paid, non-unionized jobs. Students in Canada are fighting for free, accessible, quality and emancipatory education. They are fighting for a future!

Canada is not alone in this fight. The attack from governments and corporations is being resisted, at home and internationally. In recognition of this week of action, Rebel Youth Magazine takes a look at ongoing international student struggles:

Solidarity protest demanding justice for the disappeared
Toronto, Nov 20th - Rebel Youth 

Students and their allies in Mexico have been protesting and building a growing movement for the last 2 months. In late September, 43 teaching students in Guerrero state were disappeared by police after protesting discriminatory hiring towards rural teachers and the inadequate funding of their education. Since then, massive protests of students, families of the disappeared and allies have been demanding an end to the repression of the student movement and other social movements by police, the government and drug cartels. The call to return the students from Ayotzinapa, under the slogan “they were taken alive, we want them back alive”, were taken up across Mexico, Latin America and the world. It has been discovered that the missing students were brutally tortured and murdered. The current demonstrations, growing stronger each day, are demanding the President of Mexico resign.

Demonstration against military recruitment - May 2014 

Students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are fighting repression by the administration of the University for organizing “unauthorized” demonstrations against military recruitment on campus by the Israeli Defense Forces, and solidarity demonstrations for hunger striking Palestinian prisoners. At the end of September, 12 students were threatened with disciplinary action by the university. Student conduct protocols are designed to disallow demonstrations that challenge Israel’s occupation of Palestine and disciplinary action almost always targets Palestinian students. It is not a coincidence that at the same time the university has signed a corporate research agreement with Lockheed Martin, the US weapons manufacturer and war-profiteer. As the students have said in a statement: “We will not be silenced and we will not allow the university to suppress us. We will expose the university for its racism.”

Spain - October 22nd

At the end of October, tens of thousands of students participated in a three day strike with actions occurring in 43 cities. The students are protesting the new “increasing the quality of education” law, which reduces scholarships and raises tuition fees. They are demanding the resignation of Spain’s education minister. Tuition fees have risen by 50% over the last three years, which means that 45,000 students have been shut out of the university, unable to afford the increased fees. Official unemployment figures (usually deceivingly low) show that youth unemployment is 53.7%.

One of many mass demonstrations of Chilean students

In 2011 and 2012, Chile witnessed a massive mobilization of students. Chile has one of the world’s most expensive and privatized education systems in the world. Strikes, occupations and demonstrations with hundreds of thousands of people demanded a fully public and free education system with continued and escalating mobilizations. This helped lead to the defeat of the right-wing government and the election of a new government on a platform of free education. The national student leader at the time of some of the largest mobilizations, Camila Vallejo, was elected as a member of parliament for the Communist Party, along with other student union leaders. This fall, the government has passed a bill to stop subsidized schools from being able to make a profit, as a step towards free, accessible education. Students have declared 2015 a year for continued student mobilizations.

50 000 march on October 31st - Montreal

After several of the largest demonstrations in Canadian history, and the longest student strike in Quebec’s proud history of student resistance, the Liberal government of Jean Charest was defeated in 2012. The Parti Quebecois didn’t keep their promise to freeze tuition fees and instead increased fees by inflation. Now the Liberals are back in power students have started to mobilize against a reinvigorated austerity agenda. On October 31st, over 85 000 students participated in a one day strike and demonstration under the Halloween-themed slogan of “Austerity: a horror story”. The Coulliard Liberal government has announced it wants to cut social spending by $4 billion by attacking healthcare, childcare, public workers pensions, education and more. Quebec students and the labour movement have called for escalating actions against the current government.

 International Student Day and the WFDY

November the 17th has been designated International Students’ Day since the 1939 execution of 9 Czech students at the University of Prague, and the sending of 1200 students to concentration camps by the Nazi occupiers of Czechoslovakia.

The World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) is an international anti-imperialist federation of youth organization, with member organizations in over 100 countries. The WFDY’s Commission on Europe and North America has issued a call-out for mobilizations to occur on International Student Day (November 17th) and the following week.

The Young Communist League of Canada (YCL-LJC) is a member of the World Federation of Democratic Youth. The YCL is a cross-Canada activist youth organization with the goal of building a socialist Canada

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