Category Archives: education

Course Guide for lectures on Marx’s Capital 2013

Lecture course on Marx’s “Capital” at Goldsmiths: everybody is welcome

Capitalism and Cultural Studies – Prof John Hutnyk:

tuesday evenings from january 8, 2013 – 5pm-8pm Goldsmiths Room RHB 309. Free – all welcome.

No fee (unless, sorry, you are doing this for award - and that, friends, is Willetts’ fault – though the Labour Party have a share of the blame too).

****** weekly course reading guide is here: Cap and cult studs outline013********

This course involves a close reading of Karl Marx’s Capital (Volume One).
90 minute lectures, 60 minutes discussion
The connections between cultural studies and critiques of capitalism are considered in an interdisciplinary context (cinema studies, anthropology, musicology, international relations, and philosophy) which reaches from Marx through to Film Studies, from ethnographic approaches to Heidegger, from anarchism and surrealism to German critical theory and poststructuralism/post-colonialism/post-early-for-christmas. Topics covered include: alienation, commodification, production, technology, education, subsumption, anti-imperialism, anti-war movement and complicity. Using a series of illustrative films (documentary and fiction) and key theoretical texts (read alongside the text of Capital), we examine contemporary capitalism as it shifts, changes, lurches through its very late 20th and early 21st century manifestations – we will look at how cultural studies copes with (or does not cope with) class struggle, anti-colonialism, new subjectivities, cultural politics, media, virtual and corporate worlds.
****** weekly course reading guide is here: Cap and cult studs outline013********

The lectures/seminars begin on Tuesday 8th January 2011 between 5 and 8pm and will run for 11 weeks (with a week off in the middle) in the Richard Hoggart Building (Room 309), Goldsmiths College. You are required to bring their own copy of the Penguin, International Publishers/Progress Press or German editions of Karl Marx Capital Vol I. We are reading about 100 pages a week. (Please don’t get tricked into buying the abridged English edition/nonsense!)

Education Commission Report No 1

Click on the boot to download and read the full report, or here EdCommReport1

Snitching about…

was sent this by the folk at V.I.S.A. (Victorious International Student Army):

 

Stop the Snitching: What We Mean By Non-compliance

 

The pastoral idyll is dead. It was bulldozed long ago only to be overlain with a grid of barbed wire. If it ever had any real existence, it is now best described as a border fence, an internment camp, an interrogation room at the dock or airport. What we mean by this, is that the argument that attendance records – from lectures, classes, tutorials – need to be kept for pastoral reasons is now untenable. It needs to be jettisoned, however much nostalgia or regret we may feel in doing so. It is no longer safe or strategic to record attendance, for whatever reason, now that the border crosses us in our places of work and learning.

 

If the border is a social relation and not a thing, then we must pay attention to the ways in which we are reproducing, enabling and enforcing that border in our day-to-day lives. The most obvious way we might do this is, of course, the demand that teaching staff act as border agents by forwarding attendance records to the UKBA. Three missing strikes and you’re a terrorist. Goldsmiths UCU were quick to adopt a position of non-compliance, and has re-affirmed this stance in a recent statement. We need to be clear, however, about exactly what we mean by non-compliance, and alert to those who might be in a weaker position, from which non-compliance becomes more difficult to uphold.

 

Regarding the latter, two groups immediately spring to mind: administrative staff, and international students themselves. Admin staff are easier for management to single out, scapegoat, and threaten with punitive measures. Even a well-meaning attendance record kept for pastoral purposes can become a border snitch if intercepted once in administrative hands. Alternatively, lying on attendance registers makes teaching staff liable. To co-opt a reasonably repugnant, and thankfully now redundant, phrase from the US military, the best policy with regard to non-compliance is: don’t ask, don’t tell. If the data is never recorded, it can’t be passed on. Simple.

 

Management will, however, undoubtedly try to fulfill the UKBA’s demands whilst at the same time seeking to sidestep hostilities from staff and students. ‘Light touch’ is management-speak for this covert-cavity-search-on-campus approach. If they are unable to get the information they need from teaching or admin staff, rest assured they will exploit the vulnerabilities inherent in the precarious status of international students directly. We need to make it clear – strikes, occupations, public refusal – that any requirement or request that demands international students act as their own border agent, or assumes them to be criminal or terrorist until proven otherwise, is in blatant contradiction of our position of non-compliance. We need to make sure our non-compliance doesn’t leak. Stop the snitching – solidarity across the board and the border.

 

Love and rage,

 

Goldsmiths Migration Solidarity

School for Study

See this (click on the pic to be taken to the website):

Welcome notes Goldsmiths CCS – JH #newterm

 

a million urgent fiddles to do on the blog, website, ordering of books or some such, then meetings, campaigns, the fucking UKBA, new students, information emails, a student shafted by MET/UKBA, colleagues in disciplinary hearings in need of support, general chaos, and marking, lets not forget the marking, and the plagiarism cases than need to be – well, second offence really should get more than a book thrown at them – but then there is the welcome drinks, the welcome party, the welcome seminar, tutorial and photo opportunity. I lay myself down on New Cross Road and wait…

The Education Commission. :: a militant inquiry into privatisation and immigration controls in education ::

Students, lecturers, admin workers and anybody else interested in education are invited to join a new group aiming to research and take action around the current conditions in the education sector.  In the wake of the UK Border Agency’s revocation of London Met’s Highly Trusted Sponsor Status and consequent plans to deport potentially thousands of international students along with further plans for privatisation across the sector, we propose to investigate and take action around the changing nature of the education in the UK since the abolition of the EMA and mass increase of university tuition fees in 2010. We aim to draw together student, parent, and education workers’ experiences as well as available data in order to produce and disseminate as accurate a picture as possible of the current state and trends in higher education in the UK.  We do so in support of and solidarity with current and future struggles in education. Our next meeting is on Wednesday 26th September at 6.30pm at London Met Holloway Road campus (the tower building next to Holloway Road tube station). Here is a link:http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/about/buildings/tower-building.cfm

Anybody interested in participating should contact: contact.edu.comm[at]gmail.com. This project has been initiated by Plan C London, it is however open to individuals and groups to get involved.

Spin Out!

This sure is a spin out invite. Free drinks! :) – Actuall;y, I think its a prank, put up by my ‘friends’…

Dear Professor Hutnyk

Just a few places remain at our inaugural Senior Higher Education Leaders’ Symposium which is taking place on Tuesday 30th October.

This is an ideal opportunity for you to meet leading experts in higher education, followed by dinner at Imperial College London with guest speaker Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University.

The Symposium commences at 1pm, with a drinks reception starting at 6pm. Presentations and seminars include:

‘The Emergence of the Skills Training Agenda in the UK’
Professor Peter McCaffery, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, London Metropolitan University

‘Researcher Development – A case study from Australia’s Go8 universities’
Professor Shelda Debowski, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Notre Dame, Australia

‘International Trends in the Development of University Teaching’
Professor Graham Gibbs, Retired Director of the Oxford Learning Institute, University of Oxford

‘Modelling the Benefits and Costs of Blended Learning’
Professor Diana Laurillard, Professor of Learning & Digital Technologies, London Knowledge Laboratory, Institute of Education

‘Leadership and Management Training – Do we need to become more like corporates?’
Sir David Watson, Professor of Higher Education and Principal, Green Templeton College, University of Oxford and Professor Jill Jameson, Professor of Education, University of Greenwich

‘Future Strategies for Researcher Development and Training’
Dr Douglas Halliday, former Dean of the Graduate School, Durham University and Professor Shelda Debowski

If you are able to join us please confirm your attendance by registering via this link:

http://www.epigeum.com/downloads/conference.html

Please note there is no charge for attending the Symposium or dinner. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me, and I very much hope you are able to join us.

Kind regards

Wendy

Wendy Harbottle
Sales & Marketing Manager
<snip>
www.epigeum.com <http://www.epigeum.com/>

UK & Europe
1 Kensington Cloisters
5 Kensington Church Street
London, W8 4LD

USA
Cambridge, MA Office
One Broadway, 14th Floor
Kendall Square, Cambridge
MA 02142, USA

Epigeum Ltd is a spin-out company of Imperial College London,
www.imperial.ac.uk

London Met Demo Friday 28 Sept 2012

From London Met UCU:

London Met – Defend Our Students – London Demonstration Friday 28/9

Dear all,

London Met UCU, London Met Unison, and London Met SU have called a London-wide mobilisation and march from ULU (Malet Street) to the Home Office (Marsham Street, Victoria) for Friday 28th Sept. Assembling at Malet Street for 1pm. Under the banner: ‘Amnesty Now – Save London Met – No to Privatisation’. This initiative is supported by London Region UCU, and University of London Union (ULU).

This Friday (21/9) the High Court will consider granting an immediate injunction (an effective ‘stay’) in favour of London Met Uni and against the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Such an injunction should allow for a full Judicial Review of the UKBA’s decision to revoke London Met’s Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) Tier-4 licence – an action that has condemned over 2,500 of our students to either forced university transfer or deportation.

However, even if an injunction is granted it will only be a temporary reprieve until the outcome of the Judicial Review itself – which is expected to take at least several months to be heard. Meanwhile, our license to recruit international students is still suspended, our current international students are still in limbo – particularly if they have more than this academic year to complete, and our courses/jobs still threatened.

If an injunction is not granted then we will be in the fight of our lives – not only for all our international students against an immediate and very real deportation threat but for the very survival of London Met as a public university.

We are refusing to sit on the sidelines and by mere observers of our destiny as others shape it. We are therefore fighting as hard as we can for our students, our university, and for real justice. We will have much more chance of winning that fight with your support and solidarity – as wonderfully expressed during last Friday’s UK-wide solidarity events.

Last week’s TUC Congress in Brighton unanimously supported the call for an immediate amnesty for our students

We now need your support once more – particularly, if you are based in London. We want as many trade union banners as possible on next week’s march/demonstration – along with as many colleagues as you can bring. This is not just a fight for London Met – this is a fight for public education as a whole.

Please send messages of support to mark.campbell_home [at] btopenworld.com

In solidarity

Mark Campbell
London Metropolitan University UCU (Chair)
UCU National Executive Committee (London and the East HE)
SERTUC Public Services Committee (Vice-Chair)

H.Ed Horror Show (‘Exporting UK Higher Education’ – BIS)

If you were missing the Olympics, here is another bread and circuses event that may or may not have the G4S doing security.

(click the screenshot to go to the confluence website):

Anyone remember the Hotel Nikko in Sydney August 1991? (http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/740)

 

New Scanner for Student monitoring to be introduced (by your border-agent-tutor)

Trinketization must-have item of the week! this new electronic gadget from Opticon: website http://www.opticon.co.uk is a barcode scanner about to be rolled out at Queen Mary, to be used by seminar leaders to register attendance at seminars by scanning students’ ID cards.

[i am reliably informed from deep inside the administrative apparatus]

forget the new iphone five, this is the trinket you need for the proper management of scholarship in the knowledge economy

its sleek design makes it an oh so slick silver status object, with curved corners™

first an arm and a leg in fees, then electronic tagging as the staff are made agents of UKBA. FFS.

A reminder of the Centre for Cultural Studies position against being agents of the Border regime here.

Update:

—– Forwarded Message —–

MESSAGE FROM CCLS Director and Head of Dept, Laws

Dear all,

As a result of the tightening of immigration rules, from this academic year
onwards all universities must monitor students’ lecture attendance on an
ongoing basis. This encompasses students from all postgraduate taught
programmes. The attendance monitoring exercise will require the assistance
of academic staff members and guest speakers teaching postgraduate modules.
We have purchased scanners that read students ID cards. There is one scanner
per module. Each module convener must ensure that the person responsible
for the weekly lecture brings the scanner into the class, gives it to
students to record their attendance and brings it back to CCLS/Mile End
reception as appropriate.

It is VITAL that this is done every week as continuity is required when
checking for absence.

Scanner control

Modules taught at LIF OR CH SQ can collect and return scanners to LIF
reception.
Modules taught at Mile End OR at IALS by department staff can collect and
return scaners to Mile End Law Reception

We will start the monitoring exercise from week one, although for the first
two weeks it is trial run as class lists are not yet known. Your help in
implementing this is very important. As you know, foreign students are vital
for us and we must do what is required by the authorities to ensure our
right to sponsor student visas is not affected.

If you have any queries please contact Aqib (Ext. 8091 A.Khan@qmul.ac.uk or
Wendy Ext 8104 ccls-helpdesk@qmul.ac.uk).

There are some basic guidance notes attached -

Many thanks in advance for your collaboration with this task.

Kind regards,

Spyros and Valsamis

Malignancy Ed

20120913-144755.jpg

UKBA demo weds

URGENT
Come to the demo on Wednesday 5th Sept and protest against the UKBA– defend London Met students! 
Wednesday 1pm outside the Home Office’s headquarters in Marsham Street, SW1P4DF
Supported by: London Met’s UCU and Unison union branches

but:

“The National Union of Students are fully backing the demonstration on Wednesday and we’re asking people to bring to bring suitcase/bags so that we can use them build a massive pile in front of the Home Office and we are asking everyone to bring their national flags!”

I have to say I am dismayed that NUS and London Met SU are calling on people to bring their country’s flags to the demo on weds. As an internationalist, and for other reasons, I’d find it deeply discomforting to carry my own national flag for this. Let alone that some nations barely support their ‘internationals’ (surveillance etc) and when they do it is along the lines of getting them along to the grotesque celebration of Nations we have just endured under the 6 ring oilypigs circus. I’ll come for international solidarity, as a worker of the world etc… Not on behalf of some fake elitist nationalist ecumenium.

Surely the only way to pull this off is if you carry the flag UPSIDE down, as a signal for distress! Good grief, Nationalism is not the message here – the jingoism of the the #closingceremony teaches that at least. Money for parades, yet education is shafted.

The bring a suitcase idea appeals. I even may have one with a Qantas flying kangaroo sticker on it :). Upside down of course.
See you there. Red salute.

more notes on educationium

…the pressure for academics, and by extension students, at least student activists, the SU and postgrads, to themselves become the malignant and parasitic managerial class is operative here. Becoming self-regulating means complicity in several modes. The university now demands managers to present as petty bourgeois shop keepers, marketing specious wares; or as entrepreneurial visionary explorers tasked with terra-firming new vistas of corporate training, consultancy and product placement; as public brand-uni sprukers of tele-genic ‘ideas’ and Verso-controversy coffee chat radical publishing… Etc. The malignancy here is an emergent but hollow expertise of those who are not just measurers – if all they did was bean-counting we might more readily discount their dodgy deals.

Alternative Art College Questions Answered.

Hi Paul

Dear John
I recently contacted you about talking at the Alternative Art College event in May and now i am currently writing my MA diss on the ‘Autonomous education/learning space.I was wondering if you had time to answer briefly a few questions written below, It would be great to have your input.
The questions below are broad and provoking.
These questions require much longer answers than I can give. If you want to be involved with Higher Education Quality Assurance you must find a way to format these as multiple choice tick box questionnaires - only this kind of practice counts in the metrics-regime HE sector today.
I wish i had time to do this in person as it would have been a very
interesting conversation.Questions:

1. How do you feel you function within the institution? Is it possible  to function autonomously within an institution?

I joined the University system in order to maim it. OF course even this position is now totally in complicity with its afterlife – ie, a life after its already tragic-yet-welcomed demise.
2. When it comes to  the element of an art input do you feel it  enhances the production of ‘alternative’ learning or education
spaces?
Art input is the path to complicity made palatable to those who think radical activity lies in the pretense of form and formlessness. The only thing radical in art is that it continually gets co-opted into Institutions, suggesting that there is perhaps – ever so maybe – something worth co-opting. This of course is its value, to capital, and it is a facade. No, worse, a charade. Perhaps a puppet show. Answer A.
3. If situated outside of the institution does it have a increased
autonomous position?
What is outside? Do you mean art? The autonomy of art is a faded inversion of its former subservience to power. Now it is mere decoration. The only radical artists are part time landscape gardeners working in the suburbs, never likely to be nominated for the Turner Prize. Is this what art can be. I think its best we have another look at Adorno’s great book ‘Aesthetic Theory’ – the question is still unresolved as to whether art remains the place of ‘a secret omnipresence of resistance’. Probably not.
4. In regards to the relationship an individual can have with the institution, it is possible to see
contradictions, I see this as positives as it is a corner stone of how to function when creating work in an art practice, do you feel the
role of the contradiction is important when creating ‘alternative’ learning spaces?
See Mao – On Contradiction. This is the essay that must be brought to class. Its not so much that there are contradictions to be understood, but there are only contradictions, to be managed – which is why the quality assurance people offer their inane questionnaires - they produce these things to justify their own contradictory non-practice as a malignant and parasitic growth that fosters bureaucracy within a zero-degree blast zone of what once was education and thinking.
5. DO you feel that there is a definitive model for which
education should proceed?
There is a definitive model of how to resist education. Education is not a social good insofar as it reproduces class hierarchy. This of course is not news. See chapter 16 of Capital.
6. when it comes to suggest that either are a blueprint for a ‘better’
HE structure do they then become what they once were opposing? or are
neither of them opposing the institution but merley reflection on its
current form?
When were they oppositional? The opposition here is an integrated structure. It thrives on complicity and the fiction that greater thinking and critique can have some autonomy outside of the very contradictions that make it possible. All else – and this is a very big else – is training for the alpha, beta and theta drones required by the market system. Tragically, the old university (heaven forbid if we were to save that battered carcass of privilege) is no longer even the preferred mode of preparation for the military-entertainment complex of contemporary capital. Hence McDonalds degrees for graduates of the McDonalds Olympics… etc…
Thank you again i hope these questions make senseBest Paul


* The Alternative Art College *
*
*
*www.alternativeartcollege.co.uk*

 

Yup, all good. Write well. J

Tommy Smith, Peter Norman and John Carlos.

Let the Olympiss games begin – remember Tommy Smith and John Carlos showing support for Muhammed Ali’s anti-Vietnam war stance, against poverty and lynching, for Black power, part of the Olympic Project for Human Rights – see http://www.good.is/post/fists-of-freedom-an-olympic-story-not-taught-in-schools/ - which also brings to light a little known factoid making it worth remembering that the white guy who came second in the 200 metres that day was a runner from Melbourne named Peter Norman. Norman supported the protest, citing Australia’s mistreatment of indigenous people, by ‘pinning an OPHR patch onto his chest to show his solidarity on the medal stand’.

I like this because solidarity is not showboating, its standing alongside in support. Smith, Norman, Carlos: 1,2,3.

Remember Peter Norman:

http://blackathlete.net/artman2/publish/Cubefour_3/Remembering_Peter_Norman_2426.shtml

Plan C and Quebec solidarity actions

An invitation to an evening in support of CLASSE (Quebec) // 7pm Friday 22nd June // Centre for Possible Studies

7pm Friday June 22nd, 2012 

Centre for Possible Studies
21 Gloucester Place
Marble Arch
London
W1U 8HR

In response to an urgent appeal for support from CLASSE in Quebec - due to
mounting legal costs because of the massive student strike and rebellion -
Plan C London is hosting an evening of support and solidarity with films and
discussion.  The urgent appeal from CLASSE can be found here:

—————————————————————————————-
Solidarity with Quebec students on strike
Called by: Education Activist Network & Defend the Right to Protest Supported by: Disabled People Against the Cuts, Plan C London
4pm Sunday June 24th, 2012
Canada House,
Trafalgar Square
London
Following the call-out for international solidarity with Quebec students on strike, we have decided to call a demonstration in London, UK.

The last solidarity demonstration brought more than 300 people into the streets. Let’s make sure that this demonstration strengthens the determination fof students in Quebec to continue the fightback against the Charest government.

We invite all organisations and individuals to sign the call to support the solidarity demonstration on Sunday June 24:

http://educationactivistnetwork.wordpress.com/

http://www.facebook.com/events/153410228127030/

‘Earth Shattering Fact’ – you cannot measure education…

Via Marcus and the SMH.

I like journalists whose three word sentences do not hide their contempt for bean counters. Even if the comparison with mining flies in the face of the actual convergence of schools and industry, still…:

For a start, schools are complex environments. They are full of people. They aren’t mines. This might be seen to be stating the bleeding obvious but you can’t measure schools and the people in them in the same way you measure iron ore. The human variable affects everything that happens in a school. Good teaching is impossible to measure. Examination results might be easy to measure. They tell us that students at well-resourced schools will do better in examinations than students at poorly resourced schools. Isn’t that incredible? Examination results will also suggest that students from comfortable middle-class backgrounds will get better marks than students from less privileged backgrounds. Another earth shattering fact.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/baillieu-has-no-idea-how-teachers-work-20120605-1zu5x.html#ixzz1wzy3dgnR

Research Trends

Pretty interesting trends identified in stats from the ESRC on what topics our best and brightest choose to write their PhDs (we will need an algorithm correcting for nerdiness of course).

Seems there has been a big drop in these areas:

a number of disciplines fell below the target to a greater or lesser extent. These disciplines were: anthropology, area and development studies, education, human geography, science and technology studies, social policy, social work and sociology.

While there were massive increases in the areas of Economic and Social History, Environmental Planning, and Politics and International Relations.

Just saying – sign o the times.

See the general breakdown here.

Against Blind Faith in Learning

Mao on Professors in 1958 (22 March) talks at Chengtu (p116-7 Talks and letters):

 … of entering into the spirit of it, or really understanding it’ (p117).

 

best bit:

… ‘Naturally, we cannot go out tomorrow and beat them up … we have to make friends with them’

 

“We didn’t know it was impossible, so we did it!” The Quebec Student Strike celebrates its 100th day

Origins of an unlimited general strike (“grève générale illimitée”)

Students in Quebec are marking their 100th day of an unlimited general strike on Tuesday, May 22nd, the culmination of the most stunning mass protest movements of recent months and North America’s largest student movement in years. In fact, the mobilizations in Quebec might just be Canada’s Arab Spring.

Students have been organizing against tuition hikes for nearly one and a half years, when the Quebec government first proposed to raise tuition fees by 75% over five years (amended to 82% over seven years by the government at the end of April). Before the general strike began in February, protests, demos, trainings, letter writing campaigns and attempts to negotiate in good faith with the government were consistently met with obstinate silence from the Charest administration. For the students there has been a growing sense of urgency and a shared recognition that increased tuition means a heavier student debt burden, hundreds of more hours a year spent working instead of studying, less access for working class and lower class students, and a shift in university culture toward the market, the commodification of education, the financialization of student life, and the privatization of the university.
Even if fees increase, Quebec students would be paying less than other provinces in Canada, a gap the provincial government has been aiming to close. But so far every time the administration has proposed to do so, students have gone on strike. Deep in the Quebec struggle is a culture of solidarity and security, a social fabric, a sense of community that endures and mobilizes a powerful defense of their commonwealth. Call it what you will, it is precisely this that Margaret Thatcher declared war upon on May 1st 1981 when she said that the project of neoliberalism is to change the heart and soul of a ‘collectivist’ spirit, and its means is economics. Indeed, the Finance Minister of the Quebec Liberal government recently called its austerity policies “a cultural revolution” and they are not shy about their plan to reorganize Quebecois life through fiscal discipline. The Modèle québécois of social collectivism (in its traditional social democratic sensibility, but also, and more importantly, its directly democratic ethic that has emerged in the course of the last 14 weeks of strike) is the target of these policies, specifically through education and health. This is what explains the Charest government’s attempts to break the strike and destroy the student unions.

Student unionism is particularly strong in Quebec, and for a reason: they are inherently political, engaging, and participatory, using principles of direct democracy in weekly general assemblies. A dispersal of power, where students have a direct role in shaping the culture of university life through the policies and activities of the unions has been the backbone of the growing movement against tuition hikes, and the secret to why it has been able to mobilize such a broad and popular base. Yet, while a rejection of political parties and emphasis on direct democracy and militancy infuse the movement, there are in reality a range of unions—from the combative wing of the movement, such as the Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ) that demands free education, to more corporatist and mainstream student unions that integrate with bourgeois political parties.

But this struggle represents more than students. It represents an attack on the middle class and lower income families, their sense of social cohesion, and the social entitlement and equality of access to public services amid rising cost of living. The strikes register across these domains of everyday life, in the university, in the family home, the workplace, and the hospital, where increasingly the same growing resentment of the imposition of austerity measures in Quebec emerge, as the tuition increases coincide with the first ever “health tax,” alongside a 20% increase in hydro rates, the raising of the federal retirement age to 67, as well as mass layoffs.

A chronology of the last weeks of the movement

On November 10th, over 200,000 students went on a one-day strike, and 30,000 took to the streets. 20,000 of which marched directly to Charest’s Montreal office to demonstrate against rising fees.  Hundreds, including the Quebec Women’s Federation, shut down the Montreal Stock Exchange in mid-February, a site dear to the 1%, and where the Charest government, who had so far been ignoring the budding movement, would certainly devote its rapt attention.

By February 23rd, forty thousand post-secondary students across the province joined the unlimited general strike. Thousands of students occupied the Jacques Cartier Bridge. If the tactical approaches of the movement had been ignored by university administrations and the provincial government in its first weeks, by March 22nd, student unions such as CLASSE (The Coalition large de l’Association pour une Solidarite Syndaicale Etudiante), whose 80,000 members have been leading the strike, couldn’t be missed. Since then, they have shifted focus toward targeting governmental offices, ministries, and crown corporations, placing strategic emphasis on economic disruption, an approach to direct action that has had precedence in many earlier urban protest movements in the last decade or so.

On March 22nd, as over 300,000 students had been on strike, a massive march in the streets inaugurated the Maple Spring (“Printemps Érable,” a play on words in French), with university after university, and college after college, going on strike. Two months later, on Tuesday, May 22nd, the Quebec students’ unlimited strike will celebrate its 100th day, already one of the largest student mobilizations in recent history. During 100 days of strike, contempt, and resistance, students have mobilized against steep tuition increases, austerity and debt, and the criminalization of the right to education.

On Friday, a friend Lilian Radovac, who has been active in the student mobilizations in Montreal, described a cultural shift expanding in the cracks of everyday austerity:

“For years, May ’68 was a dry, dusty thing other people theorized about in poor translations, but these last months, something like it has been happening in the crevices of our viequotidienne.  How strange that it is just there, between bus rides and doctor’s appointments and trips to the grocery store, a thing that is so extraordinary and so bizarrely normal at the same time.  The metro has been shut down by smoke bombs?  Oh well, I feel like a walk anyway.

Did it feel like this when OWS started?  It must have.”

Each week, in local general assemblies of student associations, students have voted to sustain the ‘renewable general strike’. With over 180 different unions representing some 170,000 students, university departments and the government can no longer hope the movement will dwindle on its own, and are increasingly forced to repress the movement actively. Indeed, days after the Education Minister Line Beauchamp resigned on May 14th over failed negotiations with student leaders, the Quebec Government enacted a special emergency law.

Bill 78 specifically targets the massive student assemblies and mobilizations in order to break the growing strike and destroy the power of the student union. One member of the Quebec political opposition used the term “Loi Fuck” to refer to the blunt and draconian tool that outlaws public assembly, imposes harsh fines for strike activity (even tacit support), and effectively makes organizing an arrestable offense. The bill also gives more power to the police in enforcing student protest. Indeed, during the last many weeks of escalating street demos, police have repeatedly preempted demonstrations with CS gas, sound grenades, ‘blast disperser’ grenades, and rubber bullets. Nevertheless, it is not clear how this law will be used in the coming days and weeks, or whether it will be successful in intimidating students.

An emergency law announced on the previous Wednesday “suspended” the semester for many CEGEP (academic and vocational college) and university students, with provisions for classes to be postponed until August. Provisions of Bill 78 that followed include:

  • Fines of between $1,000 and $5,000 for anyone who prevents someone from entering an educational institution.
  • Steep penalties of  $7,000 and $35,000 for anyone deemed a ‘student leader’ and between $25,000 and $125,000 for unions or student associations. Fines double after the first offense.
  • Plans for public demonstrations involving more than 50 people (originally 8) must be submitted to the police eight hours in advance, and must detail itinerary, duration and time at which they are being held.
  • Offering encouragement, tacitly supporting, or promoting protest at a school, either is subject to punishment.

In Montreal, specifically, a new municipal anti-mask law accompanies Bill 78, and another has been proposed at the federal level. With Charest’s attempts to legislate the end of the student movement, the struggle has deepened and is now at a turning point. Yet, on its 100th day of an unlimited general strike, the movement does not show any signs of slowing down or veering from its median tactic of general assemblies, its preferred direct action orientation, and its culture of horizontal democracy.

The return of the red square and our right to assembly

Students in Quebec have popularized the symbol of the “red square” to signify being financially “squarely in the red” amid tuition hikes, cuts in social entitlements, and the specter of spiraling student and consumer debt. As their movement has powerfully reminded us, we are all ‘in the red’ as long as the 1% imposes upon us austerity, debt, and repression.

The politics of austerity and the increased policing of everyday life reveal themselves in these instances to be inseparably linked. We can see the direct link between tuition hikes and the criminalization of assembly in Quebec, just as we can see Bloomberg’s management through “free speech zones” of political protest, the silencing of media, and the increased police aggression in suppressing the Occupy Wall Street movement. Thus, solidarity with Quebec students is also important work in defense of our right to demonstrate here and everywhere. When times of crisis provoke ramped up police power and allow desperate politicians to pass “emergency laws” that target unquiet sectors of the population, we are certain that the class balance of present society is threatened. But it is a cautious joy we should preach, along with the sober insight that without powerful international solidarity and coordination, as James Baldwin once wrote to Angela Davis, “if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”

The police backlash—through intimidation, repression, and wanton brutality—we have faced in NYC for trying to assemble is enormous. On May 2nd, students at Brooklyn College were met with police hostility as they demonstrated against policies that restrict access to education for lower-income students. Wherever the site of struggle, the very idea of opening up space for collective imagination is policed. But we are not battling on the plane of the imaginary. An attack in Quebec on the right to assemble, if unchallenged through coordinated international solidarity, will have real and chilling effects on our movements here.

Solidarity in NYC

Speaking about the Quebec students’ strike in New York, there is often enthusiasm and support, if not bewilderment upon learning of the size and power of their movement, something that the media blackout in the U.S. has successfully eclipsed. But there is also a bit of shoulder shrugging. “Are they really on strike for $250 dollars?” one unmoved passerby queried as we were wrapping up an assembly in the park on Sunday. Indeed more popular education needs to be done here on the plight of students in the climate of this crisis. But the student struggle, here in NYC as in Quebec, is not only a struggle for the student: it is about access to education for all regardless of economic circumstance, a challenge to the very economic and political planning that has been transforming our cities into spaces for the elite over the last three decades.
This past weekend, several groups from Occupy Wall Street and other organizations held an assembly to address these “emergency laws” and discuss solidarity with Quebec on Tuesday. Immediately a robust day was in the works: At 2PM on Tuesday, the time marches are slated to begin in Montreal, demonstrators in NYC will gather at the Quebec Government Offices at 1 Rockefeller Plaza. The Free University, which organized a day of free education in Madison Square Park on May Day, is hosting a pop-up occupation open to all students, educators, and community members.  At 5PM, there will be a gathering on the north side of the fountain in Washington Square Park, where people will paint banners, make ‘book bloc’ shields, and cut red squares for the evening march. At 6PM, there will be a teach in/speak out assembly about the Quebec student strike, the emergency laws, and the criminalization of dissent, followed by a number of self-organized lectures, workshops, skill-shares, and discussions.
In coordination with Quebec students who have been holding nightly assemblies, there will also be an assembly and march originating from Washington Square Park at 8PM to celebrate the successes of the student movement and to march against repressive anti-protest laws worldwide.

On this day, in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Quebec, we will paint the town red.

Malav Kanuga is a doctoral student in Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York, NY and editor of the publishing imprint Common Notions.

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