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Josée Legault August 9, 2012
Original French Text: http://www2.lactualite.com/josee-legault/2012/08/09/exit-gabriel-nadeau-dubois/
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois is stepping down from his position as co-spokesperson of CLASSE.
In his resignation letter, GND (as he became known during the student strike) sets out his reasons.
“I am leaving with my head held high, with the conviction of having done my duty and of having participated in a historical popular movement,” he says.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, like the other leaders of FECQ and FEUQ, effectively gave a “human face” to the student conflict.
His rapid rise to fame also caught the attention of international media, as did his actions, and the clarity and coherence of his discourse.
Because CLASSE is an organism based on the principles of direct democracy, GND and his co-spokespersons Jeanne Reynolds and Camille Robert delivered a serious lesson in popular mobilization, a lesson such as Québec has not had in ages.
Frustrating for some, and misunderstood by others, it is by this same direct democracy and notably political language that CLASSE built a base of support that has grown in size over the entire conflict.
Over the weeks, that conflict would mutate into a popular movement and a social crisis, targetting not only the commercialization of education, but also the government of Québec and the “neo-liberal” agenda surrounding it.
It continued to the point where, this spring, one could read in the pages of Britain’s prestigious newspaper The Guardian — far from being a den of dangerous anarchists — how the students of Québec and their red squares had become “the most powerful symbol of the questionning of neo-liberalism in North America.” Nothing less.
This social movement was, and will always be, opposed to the special law of the Charest government, because of the restrictions it places on fundamental freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
That’s why, too, entire families took to “the street” with their casseroles, night after night.
In his resignation letter, GND says he is, “more convinced than ever of the necessity to maintain the mobilization of the past six months. The climate of social and political ebullience to which we’ve contributed in Québec must imperatively be maintained in the coming months and coming years. The criticisms that were raised by Québec’s youth this spring are far too profound to be settled by a 35-day electoral campaign.”
Having analyzed this strike and this movement from every angle, I make the same observation as I made in May. I concluded a piece in Voir with these words:
“And now, where to? It’s hard to know. But there is a powerful feeling of a citizen discourse that was left to percolate, to rattle around, before having nowhere else to go but into full-fledged political action. In short, we are starting to patch up what it means to be progressive. Is that not the principle lesson of the student strike?”
The Devil himself?
GND upset people. A lot of people.
He upset people because he attempted a kind of discourse that Québec, lulled by comfort and indifference, weren’t used to.
He upset people because CLASSE single-handedly brought forward the concept of ”civil disobedience.” Although it is peaceful by definition and by nature, this concept was too often falsely represented as being violent and intimidating.
He upset people because media from around the world spoke to him, and by extension, to the conflict itself and its causes.
He upset people because, like the other student leaders, he uses language expertly and has ideas that unbalance many people.
Above all, he upset people because he was not afraid.
He was not afraid of being caricatured or outright demonized. Tired, maybe. Disgusted, surely. But not afraid. Not for a minute.
Here and everywhere, GND was publicly vilified. He was said to have the darkest intentions. He was called a revolutionary, a communist, an anarchist, a terrorist, an extremist, and I could go on.
He was the whipping-boy of talk radio and endless populist hyperbole.
The devil himself! One more step, and they would have called him a grown up Rosemary’s baby.
“Everything that is excessive is insignificant,” declared Talleyrand. Maybe in his day…
But today, with so many media outlets, the repeated effect of such exaggerations ultimately does affect public opinion.
Last April, I wrote that Martine Desjardins, Léo Bureau-Blouin and GND were “informed, clear and eloquent speakers. Imagination,” I wrote, “might not be found among those in power, but it reigns supreme in the stunning parade of manifs and economic actions.”
Furthermore, they achieved the impossible: despite repeated attempts by the government to divide them by isolating and demonizing CLASSE, they stuck together. All spring. In spite of the disagreements, the tensions and the enormous media pressure they were subjected to day after day. A lesson in leadership.
You can be for or against the tuition increase, for or against the strike, for or against the casseroles. But, over and above what you are for or against, how can you not admit the courage, intelligence and tenacity of these young leaders?
They have powerfully contributed to breaking Québec out of its torpor. And above all, they have pulled Québec out of its profound slumber towards which it was sliding as inexorably as dangerously.
You upset people. A lot.
For that, thanks. A lot.
One day, history will remember it all, for posterity.
Rest assured, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois will be there beside his colleagues of CLASSE and the other student associations. That much is certain.
* * *
As a post-script, thank-you to Internaut Marc Gauthier for reminding me, via Twitter, that it is now four women — Martine Desjardins, Éliane Laberge, Jeanne Reynolds and Camille Robert — who represent the three principal student associations. We will see….
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 email@example.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.