The common goal of every student and their representative union at this point in time should be the complete abolishment of tuition fees. We are re-publishing an article written by Fightback activist, Jahan Niroomand, on the importance of the student movement fighting for free education and which first appeared in the YorkU Free Press, a student publication at Toronto’s York University. Jahan also helps to organize the Socialist Fightback Club at York.
If you are a university or college student, and wish to get involved with our Socialist Fightback clubs, please make sure to contact us.
As a student activist at York University, I think the common goal of every student and their representative union at this point in time should be the complete abolishment of tuition fees.
Too many youth and working class people have dropped out of school or not even considered post-secondary education for us to sit around. There needs to be a clear statement for the fundamental right to free education and at the same time we need to start organizing activists on campus towards this goal with an urgent and serious attitude.
There is an argument out there that says the finances for free post-secondary education do not exist, that under the current economic crisis, everyone has to do their part to pay off the national debt. But according to statistics, the finances do exist for free post-secondary education and apparently not everyone is doing their part to remove the national debt, specifically the wealthiest individuals in our society.
A study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives revealed that between 2008-2010, during the stock market crash and economic crisis, $114-billion was handed out to bailout financial institutions in this country. The Canadian Conservative government spent more than $100-billion dollars in public money to pay off the losses of big banks and corporations who were in part responsible for the economic crisis.
The logic here was, “Let’s take money from the average working class Canadians and youth, then pay the wealthiest people in this country for a crisis created by the rich.” Billions of dollars in bonuses were handed out to the executives of major banks and corporations. In 2009, executive bonuses for the CEOs of the top five major banks totalled $8.3-billion, growing to $8.6-billion in 2010, and to $9.3-billion in 2011.
Free education would total approximately $8-billion per year. Apparently the money is there for free post-secondary education; however “our government” feels it’s better spent as bonuses to the wealthy. A new article can be written on the other expenses by the Conservatives which include more than $30 billion for new military fighter jets, billions on expanding prisons and the list goes on.
The point being, public money that should be going towards essential social services like childcare, health care, education and housing is being directed away from our communities. Would a government that truly represented the people take money away from the average person and give it to a minority of rich individuals?
As students we have the privilege of educating ourselves about these injustices, so let us not keep it to ourselves and our circle of friends. Let’s get out there and educate the average student and worker. Our knowledge of these injustices means nothing unless the vast majority of society would stand behind us in action.
Continuing the student movement in Canada
As I write this article, news is coming in that the newly formed PQ government in Quebec, has agreed to officially cancel the infamous tuition hike in the province and block the undemocratic Bill 78. This is a massive victory for those students who had gone on strike for the last seven months, while thousands of others joined them in the streets to protest the former Liberal governments proposed tuition hike. The results of the recent elections show a rejection of the Liberal government’s policies and represent a genuine victory for the mass movement of the students.
The tuition increase has only been cancelled for the time being. Students must not lose focus of the fact that their pressure on the government is the result of their victory. This is another stepping stone among decades of student struggle in Quebec. Aside from fighting tuition fees, this is a struggle against increasing government austerity which will continue to hit students when they graduate.
The next step for the student movement across Canada would be connecting to the working class. This means sending delegations of students to factories and workplaces and mobilizing a sector of society that could serve the ultimate victory.
The same methods of collective action that brought victory for Quebec students can bring victory for the working class. The workers are a class that has the ability to shut down the economy and sway effective power against the interests of the wealthy. A good historical example of this occurred in France, May 1968 when students brought out millions of workers on to the streets with students.
Free health care, the right to form a union, the minimum wage, better working conditions, the list goes on, these are all results of successful methods of collective action. These experiences are returning to us, it is our job now to build on these methods and involve every sector of society that is under attack by a capitalist system in crisis.
Socialism is the next alternative
The global agenda of austerity is being put forth in every section of society across the world. Cuts to employment, degradation of social services and privatization are the calls being put forth by the financial institutions who have gambled their money in the free market economy. It is important to remember that these attacks are not coming from our governments alone; they are coming from the orders of the global capitalist system.
Global capitalism is the problem we are up against. In the words of Karl Marx, it is a problem of overproduction and excess that would inevitably come crashing down. Global capitalism is therefore a system which is in deep crisis at the moment. A crisis that is worsening by the day, no country is immune to the economic problems as long as the system exists.
These are not just the words of Marxists and socialists, just ask any intellectual capitalist economists, go read the Economist magazine for example and they will grievously agree with me. But their solution to this grief comes in the form of austerity. Marxists from marxist.com for example or the Canadian section of marxist.ca have written analysis in opposition to this claim, and offered an alternative in every issue and event that has come up around the world. A new society is an ambitious goal, but it is a necessary goal.
Attacks on students are not isolated events; they are part of a global offensive against youth and working class people. As the system goes deeper into crisis, we see mass movements pop up all around the world. Revolutionary movements across Asia, Africa, Latin America are spreading. From the massive ongoing revolutions in the Middle East, to the massive response by workers and youth in North America and Europe, what we are seeing is a response to the problems of the global capitalist system.
We live in a period of time where people are looking for genuine alternatives to capitalism. Socialism means serving the interests of workers and youth. It means expropriating the wealth in society that already exists, and putting it under the democratic control of the working class.
We need to do our part, so let us start on the campuses. Join the Socialist Fightback Club at York University. We aim to build a solid base of revolutionary ideas on campus to teach militant and collective methods of political action among students. Email us at email@example.com to get involved!