North America's Strongest Union

Giant student uprising in Canada

More than 125,000 students have been on strike for weeks in Quebec over a proposed tuition increase.

As Martin Lukacs writes in the Guardian, the strike is about more than just tuition. It's about austerity and inequality:

The social unrest roiling Quebec is colour-coded red. One cannot miss the hundreds of thousands of people with cloth of the colour pinned to their coats and satchels; the stickers pasted on street poles and storefront mannequins; and the sheets fluttering from balconies and windows. The red squares – punning visually on a French expression to be squarely in the red, or in debt – are a gesture of solidarity with university and college students on a massive general strike against government tuition fee hikes... 

The government's response has been to wage a war on the students' right to collectively negotiate the conditions of their studies. It has mocked and vilified students in the corporate media; sought legal injunctions to dismantle picket lines and force teachers to class; and unleashed vicious police crackdowns and mass arrests against peaceful protesters as young as 15 and 16. Some students now wear red eye-patches after one was shot at close range by a flash-bang grenade and lost his vision. 

In the painful tumult of daily protests, an entire generation of Québécois youth is learning a political lesson no class would ever teach: violence underlies all of society's inequalities, and power doesn't yield an inch without a fight. 

The students' courage and creativity in the face of such brutality has lit a fire under Quebec. Their achievement has been to begin to clarify for a broad swath of society that a tuition hike is not a matter of isolated accounting, but the goal of a neoliberal austerity agenda the world over. Forcing students to pay more for education is part of a transfer of wealth from the poor and middle-class to the rich – as with privatization and the state's withdrawal from service-provision, tax breaks for corporations and deep cuts to social programs.