Friday, May 25, 2012

Protest is a Many Splendored Thing

I think the ongoing strife in Quebec is quite the Rorschach test.  People can find something in the past 14 weeks of events whatever they want to find: entitled students, oppressive government, corruption, the power of unions, the divide between Quebec and the rest of Canada, a battle against capitalism and neo-liberalism, whatever.

Bill 78 did not create an unholy alliance between student protesters, unions and the Parti Quebecois.  That existed before, as the PQ was supporting any effort to attack the Liberals as good governance has never been its mission.  Unions supported the students because they are not thrilled with the Charest government.  There were already folks involved in the movement spouting off the usual rhetoric about capitalism and neo-liberalism.  But Bill 78 did cause folks who believe in civil liberties, such as this McGill Poli Sci student, among others to oppose the government.

I understand that Occupy movements have been complaining about capitalism and that neo-liberalism is a nice thing to blast.  I do ponder what the hell would be the alternative.  Socialism?  Where is that working out?  I do believe in well-regulated capitalism, so I wish the focus of mobilization in Quebec would be good governance rather than tuition avoidance and whatever is now being demanded with the expanded coalition of the mobilized.  Indeed, this thing was never has coherent as advertised, but seemed to be since the two non-CLASSE groups tied themselves to CLASSE which sought a rollback in tuition and then some.  Negotiations were already hard since CLASSE was never interested in any kind of compromise, but now that the "movement" has grown to include folks seeking the end of capitalism, well, good luck bargaining on that.

Given the union funding behind the students and given the principal-agent problems on both sides, I am skeptical that this will end soon.  So, expect a summer of protests with occasional outbursts of violence.  I guess I picked the right summer not to attend the Just for Laughs festival.

1 comment:

R. William Ayres said...

Case in point - a friend and former colleague of mine who tends to support liberal causes unabashedly saw an article on the Montreal protests, and immediately reposted it to FB with a supportive comment. He saw what he expected to see - good and noble students standing up to the evil, rapacious Man (whoever that is). If that's the narrative you want to spin, you certainly can - although it's pretty far removed from the truth. (In his defense, he's an American, and we neither know much about Canada nor get much news about it - I've heard the protests mentioned maybe once on NPR in the last 100 days).