Strike out

Version imprimablepublié par Hors-d'Øeuvre le 27 septembre 2012

To watch the movie with subtitles, just click the link below:

Happy those who, despite the mandatory pessimism the harsh reality impels on the revolutionary, will perceive a glimpse of hope in this movie.
The gravediggers of the struggle are taking center stage! Their false partisanship is walking among us. Eager for free publicity and as discrete as possible, they are waiting for their turn. It is difficult to tell them apart as all are so proudly wearing the symbol of the sacred movement. But let us remind ourselves that a turning point is approaching. Do you hear them crying out? Shouting at all these young people who wish to pursue hostilities and disregard the law? Here is our holy reformist alliance coming to lecture us! You will see the best of them save face to fan the flames of popular frustration, filled with pacifying wrath. Left and Right indiscriminately joined together to defend the interests of the state. They demand apologies for all the disorder caused as the only way to make amends. They proclaim from their platform that the ballot box is the solution.
Since its beginning, the strike has aimed to be the negation of this falsely political act which consists in voting once every four years. At the origins of the movement, let us never forget, are popular general assemblies whose direct democratic culture challenges the legitimacy of the state. How? By the force of an awakened common consciousness and through the concerted action of the individuals of which these assemblies are comprised and who bring them to life with their desire for autonomy. This fight is thus not against one party or another, but against the beast that is commodity fetishism which governs them all without exception.
The conception of politics since the rise of the modern state has been based primarily on a misleading delegation of power: parliamentarianism. We abdicate our power to those who think and decide in our place. As such, there is a time to do politics, which lasts approximately one second, and another time for work and for distractions, which never ends. Society's complete organization revolves around this violent separation that anaesthetizes the autonomy of individuals. On the contrary, the political being, the true and the insatiable one, refuses to yield their power to specialists. They exercise it themselves in all circumstances, and with particular vigor against the vile careerists who would exploit it for electoral ends. This is why the strike is the antithesis of representation, the obsessive fear, so to speak, of bourgeois democracy. Yes, bourgeois nonetheless. Let’s not be afraid of words like all those crooked politicians! The strikers, although perhaps unknowingly, negate parliament. But it's nevertheless what they do when they contest the Liberal party's hegemenony. After all, this party is merely exercising power that it obtained democratically. They are elected. They have the right.
The answer to their claim, our answer as it were, is direct democracy. Although we should remind ourselves that it cannot guarantee anything, however wonderful it may be. It is born from the efforts of the social struggle, unconscious of what preceded it. Alive for one day, otherwise dead, this democracy is namely one of History’s eternal losers. It is used beforehand to legitimize another form of permanent power that is still largely hidden under the ideology of the left. Before even the birth of the current movement, executives formed by a handful of radical militants well aware of the issues at stake and, at the helms of the student-union war machines, were fine-tuning plans for nearly two years. And you are today on their turf, like it or not.
One can no longer doubt that the CLASSE has breached the mainstream and it is thanks to you! It took nearly a decade to get there, for the student-left intelligentsia to rebuild a viable national association capable of competing, even eclipsing from one day to the next the influence of the traditional student federations, the prep-school club puppets of the PQ. In order to broaden the movement to its maximum potential while also wrapping its tentacles around it, it was necessary for them to hide yesterday's contradictions and to repress their historicity because strategically there is strength in unity, or so it appears. It is thanks to this strategy of union-activist cannibals that the CLASSE came across as responsible, side-by-side in news conference with its former usurpers and yet simultaneously dissociated from the acts of violence of its most committed elements, which had put it on the map. It digested its contradictions and turned its back on all those activists who, hidden in the shadows of clandestinity, ended up being a threat to its recognition.
The popular support for the CLASSE is a reflection of changing times coupled with an internal changing of the guard. The ASSÉ, its core, had to go through multiple struggles between political lines to survive the conditions of activist market pressures. Our current valiant and young communists are unlike those of the past, to say the least. No longer camera-shy, these university smooth-talkers take the spotlight, so do their interests. This new aspect contradicts the simplistic reading of the conflict put forth by friends of the regime, who would have us believe that a popular struggle against the 1% is underway. As such, scabs are merely petit-bourgeois, according to other petit-bourgeois. But the reality is much more difficult to ascertain.
Why is Québec, divided as it is about the tuition increase also so bitterly divided over the bounds of its economic and cultural capital? Cross the bridge and, well, support for the strike dissolves. This no doubt reflects an internal contradiction where productive forces and Capital clash, a contradiction related to the economy's diversification, exacerbated by the division of the proletariat. Montreal is the battleground city where culture now occupies a strategic position, whereas for the rest of the province, a different reality exists. The supposed success of the information economy is nourished on the bitter defeat of the labor movement, which saw its gains, hard-won through struggle, vanish like melting snow under the spring sun. The accumulation of inequalities is due to the decline in the balance of power. Changing dynamics of labor, increase in tax burden, reduction of social services, austerity, outsourcing, corporate restructuring and economic servility are just some examples of trauma aggravated by the failed left-wing honeymoon of the 1970s that united the proletariat with its left-wing organizations. The proponents of this failed vision fantasized emancipation on the basis of bourgeois society. Presently, we see the end of a proletariat dream, a very restructuring end that, not surprisingly, ostensibly shatters the unity of proletarian interests. In the process of aesthetic and ideological turgidity that characterizes our era, capitalism shows itself henceforward through in an increasingly un-egalitarian model where all segments are proletarian, thus the end results of capital lead us to a classless class society It is in perpetual transformation, with a stratum of the population of working-class origin, nourished by past victories and henceforth university-educated, escaping from the working-class to associate with the business community. The children of proletarians, in their search for freedom and enabled by past labor union struggles, see themselves as unencumbered from the proletariat as a potential collective actor, negative by nature. Herein lies the problem.
The artists have been deplorable, obsessed only with the surface of the problem. The archetypical urban-bohemian yuppie has claimed since the beginning that the strike is primarily a conflict between youth and old paternalistic and plutocratic liberals that are disconnected from the modern world. This lack of understanding allowed them to feel solidarity from supporting the strike with tacit indignation, without any political weight. Like the cultural rubbish that stand-up comics have become. They gave us a good laugh with their attempt to buy gestures of solidarity at a fixed price. What a bunch of clowns! And soon it will allow them to sell out, surrendering gleefully to the ballot box, to the movement they claim to bolster. But faced with the realities of the conflict presently underway, which one must know how to properly decipher, they remain blind and stupid. Without realizing it, they mock the clash between the cultural sector of the economy – for which the strike is very profitable from several perspectives – and the traditional sectors of the economy that want valorization and lower taxes, and don't have an interest in state subsidization of higher education. The conflict lies before them, but they are unable to think in political terms the strategic positions that they hold.
They do not understand to what extent the strike actually affects them, that it influences them economically and not only due to the sentimental attachment to the golden years of revolt which they associate, according to widespread alienation, with youth. If artists invest in the strike movement, it is because, for them, education is indeed an investment. What once was the left has become a formless mass of cultural proletarians; proletarians who will return unendingly to school in order to adapt to the constant upheaval of the world in which they evolve. It's their interests that the CLASSE defends and not those of underprivileged people who wind up as janitors. Whether admittedly or not, the CLASSE is the missing union of the offspring of these self-employed laborers, who's worldly lifestyle no one wants to pay for. And since the beginning of the strike, CLASSE has done what they are unable to even consider in their own work environment, dichotomized as they are by the division of labor that prevails. That is why they are behind it. But their solidarity, because it is expressed according to the rules of the spectacle and not against it, remains below all understanding of politics.
University offers not only professional training intrinsically tied to cultural production, but also predisposes a category of population to sophisticated goods whose exchange value depends on its reputation as a brand name. Thus, the supposedly cultured mind attracts and captivates their peers with the aesthete's representation that they give to themselves. By educating themselves, they improve both their rank and self-esteem, as well as their commodity value and their tendency to identify positively with their entourage produced through division of labor. They recognize themselves so well in the spectacle that they seek to use it even in the strike. Having completely shelved their desire to transform everyday life, they naively raise people's awareness only so that it becomes necessary to raise people's awareness in the first place. And while immigrant communities and Québec's outlying regions – removed as they are from the cultural sector of production – refuse to join the fight, the system, in its incredible ability to engulf everything in its path, will soon benefit from the new channels of communication made during the strike by members of the supposed creative class. So then, by misrepresenting the struggle, the cultural milieu builds a new refuge for capitalism in the event of social crisis.
This film however is not really addressed to the artists. It isn't addressed either to the sellouts who want to see us die alone, anesthetized and pacified, ballot in hand. If they are stupid enough to wish to see the movement survive such a ridiculous end, then they are stupid enough to believe those who label the electoral circus as democracy and who qualify the strike as a spoiled child's tantrum. This is why they will demand that you return to class, without having obtained anything at all, but promising that you'll have your victory, this September, as soon as the day following the Big Night! 
But to you who have stood up to the malicious attack from the mass media machine, to the scabs' injunctions who shamelessly push forth their agenda, despite the state repression and its police, you can also withstand elections. It would be the perfect occasion to show the politicians that it's no laughing matter, when you say that this fucking tuition hike is not going to happen! Now more than ever since the start of the strike, insisting on the original demand while refusing compromise has the potential to thwart those in power. Today's movement is part of a series of struggles predetermined by the history of Québec student strikes that undoubtedly renews the left, but a harmless left which takes refuge shortly after defeat in community groups or trade unions. A series that for so many years has been repeated, and after so many years still escapes us. But this time around the cycle was shaken and weakened. The deterministic outcome in which the movement must end in a watered-down agreement, negotiated behind the scenes by its leaders – an order faithfully confirmed by the last student strikes – this time, was contested. The conflict veered from its usual trajectory and it prepares for a showdown. But in Québec, there is another cycle, a historically determined one, superior in importance: the elections. The treachery of the leaders, who, let us not forget, signed some crap-agreement, should have been enough to halt the movement within a reasonable time, and thus to prevent a collision between the two rounds. But now the liberals are risking everything and have decided to go to the polls assuming that one of the two cycles, that of elections, will prevail over the other. They undoubtedly know what they're doing. But what can they say about you? What will you do at the last second before the impact? Charge or flee?
We see already some student association executives explaining the necessity of a strategic retreat. Trembling with fear in the face of fines, ready to capitulate to the first somewhat serious threat, they will defend, in cahoots with the electoralists, the normal order of things, the predictable outcome of the cycle, which in the end can only be postponed somewhat. Why bother contesting when one can quietly follow the masses and rejoice like everyone else? After all, the Liberal is surely bound to lose these unusual elections; and the celebration will be lively! Let us say that even the most fervent and principled among us will be entitled to their small treat: Amir will serve it to them, while beaming in his re-election speech! Who then will come to contest such a status quo? Who will choose to defend, against all odds, the humiliated and betrayed strike? 
One thing is certain; your political potential will not survive the contradiction between the heightened enthusiasm of the last few months and the miserable conclusion that awaits us around the bend. Such an ugly end would co-opt the movement completely. Each of the battles carried out during the last months, even the most heroic and forthright, would become instrumental to this ridiculous conclusion. Everything you did would now mean nothing. Everything you accomplished would become laughable, and we shall laugh at it! Because to vote is to give legitimacy to the institutions of which the strike is a negation. Thus, it amounts to you sabotaging the fruits of your own labor. The act of going on strike, to force a government to back downfrom its decisions cannot be legitimate if elections are legitimate. So whether you vote or don't is up to you. But if you do vote, don't complain afterwards, because your indignation will have already been cheaply sold-out. In vain you'll say you had never, not even for a moment, stopped supporting the strike but we will be there to remind you that support of this type, the strike could do well without. 
The dichotomy of student strikes and that of elections falls under a single ubiquitous cycle from which no one can escape, the one of the social totality being reproduced by and against us. You can talk, excited as you are by current events, of a popular uprising and social strike, but you should know that you're very far, very far indeed, from being able to undermine this effectiveness, even by one small speck. Only life-sized commitment can enable you, maybe, to one day claim that. If the student strike represents a school of thought where numerous problems relating to the social struggle can be tested and debated, the true battlefield remains the workforce. There one finds control mechanisms and power struggles that make the scheming of student representatives look like child's play. There one finds the all-powerful trade-union bureaucracies who have long-time disowned the cause of the proletariat and who no longer conceal the fact that they work hand in hand with the bosses. To talk about a social strike without being able to confront these people is an illusion. To be able to confront them takes a lot of time and effort. To pursue this strike to the end while keeping in mind that everything remains to be done would be a good start, but to give up now would be betrayal, proving that nothing was even started, that nothing really ever happened.