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Julien Villeneuve, member of Profs contre la hausse, presented at CLASSE event at Cabaret Olympia
August 10 2012
Original French Text: https://www.facebook.com/Anarchopanda/posts/259944277450788
Dear students fighting alongside the CLASSE,
My name is Julien, I teach Philosophy and I am in favor of free education. I am part of the Profs contre la hausse [Teachers Against the Hike], which, despite the title, brings together many teachers who are also in favor of free education. I’ve been asked to tell you what exactly Profs contre la hausse is, and why we support you. Seeing that I only have a few minutes, I will try to do both at the same time.
If I had to explain to you what Profs contre la hausse is in one sentence in the most scientifically precise way possible, I would say, “Profs contre la hausse is like you guys, but less cool and with teachers.” I’ll explain myself.
Profs contre la hausse sprung from the teachers’ need to meet right away, all together, inter-syndically if not para-syndically if not almost extra-syndically (meaning the larger central unions, of course), in order to reflect (not too much) and to act (as much as possible) in support of your struggle. I know that I should say our struggle. I’ll come back to that later.
At Profs contre la hausse, there is no president. there’s not even a spokesperson per se or anyways, it’s definitely not me, everything is conducted in committees, in the most horizontal way possible, and together, along with those who are present, we try to do what we can. And it works well enough, I’d say. With the financial and logistical help of the central unions, which must be acknowledged and we are sincerely thankful to them, we have organized a journal, petitions, public statements, demos, a grand gesture at the National Assembly, picketing in support of the blockades in CEGEPs and universities, interventions at general assemblies when requested, the Student-Teacher Chain of Solidarity, a failed attempt at handing ourselves over to the SPVM because we planned on disobeying Law 12, and that’s just to name a few.
We have never really asked ourselves why we got organized in that way, and why that way led to the things we’ve done. But if there’s an answer to that question, it’s clearly this: because you’ve gotten organized pretty much in that manner, and because you’ve pretty much done those things, or to be more precise, because you’re right to be organized like that, and you’re right to pretty much do those things.
You’re right because you’ve understood that one of the most important things at the core of a social movement is to ensure that its means do not contradict its ends. We will never achieve a free, honest and fair society if we slog away at it within authoritarian and manipulative structures that tightly hold onto the very same privileges they feign to combat. The same goes for actions. The people who don’t understand us don’t get the fact that we cannot give a bloody itinerary before a night demo because they don’t get the fact that in order to hand in an itinerary in advance, it takes one or a few people to decide upon it in advance. It takes people who decide and people who follow. You and us, we want the greatest possible number of people who are to follow to decide as well, because we know that doing it that way, even if, let’s admit it, it’s sometimes a pain in the ass to do it that way, the action will be their action, the fight their fight.
It is impossible for me to express the extent to which I would love to tell you that the struggle against the hike is the struggle of Profs contre la hausse, but I cannot. Even though through Profs contre la hausse, your teachers are more involved than they ever have been in the defense of accessibility to higher education, I believe that the honest thing to say is that Profs contre la hausse’s struggle is still today mainly to support your struggle against the hike. That’s also a struggle, and it’s also against the hike, but as I’ve told you, we’re just not as cool as you. By way of excuse, I hope you will understand the extent to which merely waging this struggle is, for us, an extremely arduous thing. Many amongst our own administrators, our colleagues, our students, the media, and civil society in general think that to struggle alongside you for accessible education is not appropriate behavior for a teacher.
One could think that they believe the struggle for accessible education is not the students’ business, but I am convinced, perhaps unjustifiably, that they are not stupid enough to think something as grotesque as that. If they are not hypnotized by the mirage of selective austerity secreted by the ‘translucides’ [n. trans. : a reference to a right-leaning think-thank associated with Lucien Bouchard, the former PQ prime minister], what they’re thinking is, in the end, that you are not fighting for accessible education. You are only fighting to lower the tab on a service which benefits you and that is of no great social use according to their language, that is of no economic use. And indeed, if that was your struggle, I would have definitely spent the last five months working on my Ph.D. thesis.
These people can therefore not understand that you are delaying your own academic progress, that you are losing job opportunities, that you are suffering from a lack of sleep and from the strain of long marches, from the blows of clubs and from pepper spray, that you are losing organs, dammit, and run the risk of being hit, imprisoned and to be subjected to fines higher than the hikes you’re fighting against. So let’s tell them together that, if they don’t get it, it’s because it’s actually incomprehensible. We don’t sacrifice that much for cash, we sacrifice that much for an ideal, a dream, a desire to one day live in a society that measures up to the humanity to which we aspire.
Yours and other struggles should be led abreast, just as you lead yours, with all other human beings who share the same ideal, because your courage should be our courage and because the incarnation of this ideal is what human beings deserve – and we are many to fight alongside you according to our abilities, more numerous than we could have believed before you had shaken us from our torpor, though perhaps yet not enough, and perhaps yet with not enough courage. That would be reason enough to call it quits if it wasn’t a bad reason. The transformation of society as you would wish it, a real transformation, from the bottom up, with the people, and not from the top and in spite of it, is a daily struggle of education and of popular mobilization that requires an enormous amount of patience and empathy, the effects of which are often lagging to become manifest.
No one in Quebec’s recent history has propelled this fight as far as you have. No one has collectively sacrificed as much as you have in pursuit of a more just society by virtue of its greater equality. We, and I know that I can now speak for each and every Prof contre la hausse that I have had the pleasure and the privilege of meeting over the last few months, we know this. And it’s for this reason and for all that you have taught us, to us teachers, that I would please ask you to accept tonight, in our name, this inadequate testimony of our respect and of our infinite love.
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.