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Jacque Phosphore – Activist during the 2005 student strike and member of the Union communiste libertaire
July 20, 2012
Original French Text: http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/quebec/354963/a-propos-de-l-anarchisme-de-la-classe
To my surprise, while reading the July 11th Le Devoir, I came across a letter signed by Louis Fournier, an “old man from days gone by”. Mister Fournier, who is pleased to remind us of his status as a journalist and union activist, offers us a charming post… an anti-union and hardly journalistic one.
Depending upon “information” largely covered in the media from some right wing columnist at a loss for a scandal, Mr. Fournier contributes to the isolation and demonization of the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE), the only student organization currently able to cause the defeat the liberal government. As a member of this “quasi clandestine” (ha!) Union communiste libertaire (UCL), I propose to you then these clarifications of anarchism and, since it seems necessary, of syndicalism.
Anarchism is a revolutionary political current that emerged during the second half of the 19th century, during the First International, and whose objective is to achieve a libertarian and egalitarian society, free from all power relations.
While the majority of supporters of capitalism and of the state institution justify the necessity of these coercive systems with the allegedly fundamentally egotistical and cowardly nature of humanity, we believe the contrary, that the human being is first and foremost the fruit of its environment and its education. Therefore, we strive, in our respective milieux and every time that the opportunity presents itself, to encourage and arouse critical reflection, mutual aid, and solidarity. We know very well that anarchism has a bad name, notably thanks to the media, which, in general, only represents anarchists as vulgar vandals. And yet, we choose to assert and to assume this sullied label.
Syndicalism has not always been what it is now in Québec and Mr. Fournier, as a former syndicalist and specialist in workers movements, certainly knows it. Two principal trends have marked the history of the province. On one hand, there is “business” syndicalism, fully represented today by the large central unions, which notably believes that negotiation takes place on equal footing, that the credibility of leaders prevails over the mobilization of members and that it’s agreed – a popular turn of phrase nowadays! – that everyone has their “fair share” of the pie.
We find, on the other hand, class struggle syndicalism, advocated for example by CLASSE, which, on the contrary, is based on the recognition that the adversary – state or boss – is not neutral and also has interests himself (generally opposed to ours), that our best weapon is information and the mobilization of the largest number of people possible and that it is generally only by asserting sufficient pressure that we succeed in making an intransigent adversarial party bend. Unions of this fashion have always advocated an authentic democratic mechanism, where decisions are made at the base, as well as an independence from all political parties.
And so imagine, Mr. Fournier, that even revolutionary unions have already existed, fighting at once for the immediate improvement of living conditions as well as for the reversal of an economic system that engenders misery, exploitation and war! Several hundreds of thousands of members, I tell you! The editor of Lux recently published an excellent little book by Michael Schmidt on the subject.
In conclusion, I would be happy to cite a passage from a statement published on our website last May entitled – listen up! – “Corrections on the connections between CLASSE and the UCL” : “Concerning the Québec student movement, our action is similar to that of many other activists: participation in general assemblies, protests, symbolic actions and civil disobedience, organizing meetings, assemblies, educational workshops, conferences.
Our approach is not to impose practices or to “infiltrate” organizations by obtaining positions of power (which would be contrary to our principles). It is instead to defend direct democracy, to insist on the sharing of knowledge and responsibilities, to instill a suspicion of leaders (student or otherwise), to promote a non-corporatist vision of the struggle by going above and beyond the defense of strictly student interests, etc.”
When the reactionary trash-radio hosts start a witch-hunt against the “terrible anarchist conspiracy”, you can see it humorously, but when it’s taken up by some one like Louis Fournier, you feel you have the right ask some questions. Maybe we no longer have the syndicalists that we used to…
Jacques Phosphore – Activist during the 2005 student strike and member of the Union communiste libertaire
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.