Last Wednesday Oct. 25, on the initiative of the Palestinian Youth movement, thousands of students walked out across Canada to protest against Israel’s war on Gaza, and denounce our ruling class and universities’ complicity with the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Palestine. The communists of Fightback participated in and helped organize many of these walkouts from Vancouver to Montreal.
Since Oct. 7, Israel’s military has killed nearly 7,000 Palestinians and effectively displaced millions. With the complete support of the Trudeau regime, Israel has signaled that thousands more will die from an imminent ground invasion.
But, already, the images of bombed out hospitals, schools and apartment blocks have sparked off a mass movement against Israel’s genocidal war.
And, last week, that meant walkouts at schools across Canada and the United States.
At the University of British Columbia, we organized a walkout of 350 students and community members. At the end, the students occupied the UBC president’s office, demanding an end to Canada’s complicity in Israel’s war.
At the University of Victoria, in a rally our campus club played a part in organizing, 200 students walked out under banners reading “end the occupation!” and “Canadian imperialism is complicit!”
At the UVic rally, one Fightback comrade spoke about the history of the first Intifada—a revolutionary movement against Israeli imperialism—and the need for a new revolutionary movement to end the current war.
At the University of Alberta, Fightback organizers took the initiative to organize a walkout, speaking on the role of Canadian imperialism in oppressing Palestine and the need to end Canada’s complicity—by smashing the Canadian state.
At Toronto Metropolitan University, we led the initiative for a walk-out after the administration threatened dozens of students with expulsion for opposing genocide.
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Speaking at the rally, Fightback comrade Hanna Raider-Gingrich denounced the threats and demanded the board of governors resign. Soon after, the students occupied the Provost’ office for over an hour chanting “Free Palestine!”
Our comrades also joined a walkout at York University, protesting the administration’s reprisals against the York Federation of Students. We spoke on the need to topple York’s unelected pro-imperialist administration and replace them with one democratically controlled by students and workers.
In Montreal, walkouts were organized at Dawson College, Concordia, McGill and Université de Montréal.
At Université de Montréal, the group Solidarité pour les droits humains du peuple palestinien UdeM, with the help of La Riposte socialiste members, organized a walkout of around a hundred students. They were joined by a contingent from UQAM (where it was reading week).
At Concordia University, the energy was high on the ground floor of the Hall building. At least 400 students, waving Palestine flags and chanting for a Free Palestine, shook the campus.
At McGill, where the Solidarity for Palestinian human rights group (SPHR McGill) were recently threatened by the administration, hundreds of students walked out. They were joined by hundreds coming from Dawson, UdeM and Concordia, and the rally became a sit-in lasting throughout the afternoon.
Our comrade gave a speech calling out Trudeau, Biden and other Western politicians and their “crocodile tears,” after the Hamas attack on Oct. 7—when they themselves have backed imperialist wars around the world.
This movement was not confined to Canada. In the United States, students walked out at the University of Michigan, New York University, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University, and others.
These walkouts have hardly received any mainstream media coverage. The media has shown a very clear bias in favour of Israel’s imperialist aggression, downplaying the atrocities it commits against the Palestinian people. They have demonized opponents of Israel’s ethnic cleansing and accused them of antisemitism and of supporting terrorism. But as Israel’s war crimes become impossible to ignore, more and more people are coming out against it. This makes it difficult for the media to paint everyone who opposes the war as a terrorist-supporter; instead, they downplay the mobilization.
In another example, Radio-Canada did not even cover the mass demonstration in Montreal on Oct. 28. It is little surprise that the same capitalist media outlets that demonize the poor and oppressed, in the lead up to imperialist wars, seldom grant coverage to the opponents of those wars.
A common feature of many of these walkouts is the lack of participation, or total absence, of the student unions. These organizations have the power to mobilize thousands of students, and now is the time to use it. The walkouts were a good start, but for the movement on campus to escalate, the student unions need to act. There has never been a more important time to do so.
We communists will continue mobilizing to support the cause of Palestinian liberation. The most important thing we can do here to help further the cause is to fight to overthrow our own imperialist ruling class at home!