No, not Occupy. Not quite.
Castigated as violent by the powers that were, the CLASSE student union protests -- which lasted months this last Spring and brought out hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of Montreal -- yesterday clinched an incredible victory.
The tuition increase that triggered such social strife in Quebec was cancelled Thursday during an action-packed first full day in office for the Parti Quebecois government.Derided as rabble and repressed by the then conservative government of Jean Charest, which passed a law that essentially made it illegal to conduct mass protests, the CLASSE student movement has had the last two laughs. In early September, the Charest Liberals lost an election they themselves had called early, and yesterday the new Parti Quebecois government repealed the hated tuition increases.
Marois said tuition will go back to $2,168 -- the lowest in Canada. With the planned increases, it would have been $600 higher this year and would have kept growing each year.But that's not all. As the CLASSE protests continued to grow, they morphed into a more general fight about austerity policies. In line with its anti-austerity posture, The new Parti Quebecois government has announced it will
- Not decrease funding for universities
- Support indexing tuition hikes to inflation
- Cancel a $200-a-year health tax and replace the lost money with income-tax increases for top-income earners.
- Shut down the aging Gentilly-2 nuclear reactor
And, oh yeah
Marois said she will also cancel the Charest Liberals' controversial protest legislation.
Parade route given to police as required by the new law
Game. Set. Match.
The Occupy movement was never able to mobilize hundreds of thousands. Even on it's best days so far in Oakland and New York, a few tens of thousands were brought out to protest the one percent, austerity and repression.
Montreal, Spring 2012
The odd thing about this is that tuition in Quebec is far lower than in the United States, the rich are taxed at higher rates, and the social net in Quebec is much more protective, with single-payer health care for all and other social services more readily available.
In the US, everyone who has any awareness at this point (and perhaps that is the problem) understands how banksters and their cronies destroyed the economy, and how the wealthiest continue to increase their share of America's wealth, leaving a few crumbs for the near wealthy and nothing for the rest.
It's obviously going to take more than the stark reality of vast and increasing income inequality and the spectre of austerity for Americans to do something about their government for and paid for by the one percent. But what?
Very few Democratic politicians -- Elizabeth Warren being an exception -- are willing to stand up and speak sensibly against an austerity imposed by these wealthiest on the rest of us. The President's dream seems to be a 'grand compromise' where large cuts in the safety net are traded for miniscule tax hikes on the rich -- it's a good thing Republicans have been too stupid to know a good deal when they see it.
What's the (practical) answer? Damned if I know.
For the moment I wear my red square, a symbol of solidarity with the Montreal protests, proudly.