As of 1st March, there are over 100,000 students across Quebec on an all-out unlimited strike against tuition increases. Over the course of March, there will be many days where new student associations join, or vote to join, this movement. So far, however, this demonstration of force and solidarity among students and against the policies of the provincial government has been ignored by the Quebec government; Education minister Line Beauchamp is urging schools to ignore the empty classrooms and picketing students. It is clear that the student movement must spread and become larger and more resounding. How it can do this, and be most effective, is an important question.
During the upcoming month, over 40,000 students represented by 36 different associations, are mandated to join the strike. This would still be less than half of the total number of students in the province. But, an additional 80,000 could join the strike depending upon the results of strike votes at different schools and colleges. This means that it is necessary to be prepared and organized, both in mobilizing and spreading information, as well as organized at the debates that will inevitably take place at the upcoming assemblies. The implications of this are made clear by the Mouvement des étudiants socialement responsables du Québec, a group recently exposed with strong (to put it mildly) ties to the Liberal Party that is pushing the tuition hikes to begin with. With a platform of collaboration and non-confrontation, and a green square to match, they have been able to show up in force and be effective in confusing rank-and-file students. In the past week, three English CEGEPs, Vanier, Marianopolis, and John Abbott, have had failed strike votes marked by low turnout and a well organized counter-mobilization. At Dawson College, the March 1st General Assembly attracted well over a thousand students, but was cancelled and the vote pushed to a referendum.
Several departments at Concordia University will join the strike on March 5 (together with over 25,000 other students). Also, the Concordia Student Union is set to hold a vote on March 7 to decide whether or not the 30,000 students will join the strike movement. At McGill University, the Arts Undergraduate Society is scheduled to hold a strike vote on March 13. A few schools have held failed votes and others have not made the decision to hold votes, yet. But, this just stresses the need for well-prepared mobilization on these campuses.
In order to be successful, any sort of mobilization needs to do two things. First, it needs to try to reach the largest possible number of students, with a clear and coherent message. This is especially important at schools that have yet to join the movement, where often traditions of struggle and political activity are not well established. However, the students at these schools are in the same position as students across the province; with sound arguments and patient convincing, they can, and will be, won over.
Second, in order for any strike to be effective, students must be brought into the process and into the struggle itself. A strike vote does not enforce itself, and with university administrations pressuring students and faculty alike to hold classes anyway, mass participation is crucial. To this end, any strike mobilization and administration must be public and transparent to new, inexperienced students, allowing the movement to grow in size but also in strength and in political awareness.
It is clear that the government of Quebec will not give up easily. If an indefinite student strike of 100,000 is not loud enough for them to hear, then the movement must grow until they can no longer ignore it. Students across the province are being faced with the same attacks on their future, and must unite as a common force. Building this unity and solidarity among students (and among the population in general) is the key to spreading the strike and winning the struggle.