Québec students show the way: if you do fight you can win
Something very interesting happened in Québec which is relevant for the higher education sector in Australian generally and for staff and students at the Australian National University and University of Canberra specifically. I have recent experience of both the ANU and UC.
The Liberal Government of Jean Charest fell at the recent elections after ten years in power. The Parti Quebecois won the most seats and will likely form Government.
In part the Charest Government was defeated by a mass democratic protest campaign by students against university fee increases.
Last semester around 150,000 students in Québec struck, protested and picketed, effectively closing down many of the province’s Universities indefinitely.
When the Charest Government criminalised the students’ actions, 300,000 Quebecois illegally protested against the Government and for students.
The Parti Quebecois has promised to scrap the fee increases.
The students have won.
They won by taking mass, democratic action on the streets and in their Universities.
Here in Canberra we have two neoliberal Vice-Chancellors chaffing at the bit to attack their staff and students. The School of Music debacle at the ANU is a foretaste of the future of higher education in Canberra.
We students and staff and the wider community did not really fight to defend the School of Music. There were no sit ins, no pickets, no ‘illegal’ stop work meetings to close down the University in defence of the School and the idea of education as a public good. As a consequence we lost.
The next round of attacks on staff and students at the ANU and the University of Canberra will occur soon enough. For example bargaining around Enterprise Agreements at both Universities is under way.
The ANU School of Music defeat shows us that if you don’t fight you lose. Québec shows us that if you do fight you can win.
I interviewed Guillaume Legault, one of the strike leaders,when he was in Canberra a bit over a month ago.