Response to: Toward a More Perfect Student Unionism: Lessons From the Maple Spring

I wrote this below comment in response to the article Toward a More Perfect Student Unionism: Lessons From the Maple Spring,* posted on Alternet. Sharing it here as I feel what I said in this comment is important to me and it embodies how I hold direct democracy to heart (and how I’d (and continue to) put the concept on a pedestal). In this comment, I also express what I think is important in a student movement. That is, writing a motion and succeeding in passing it are only the very beginning of the work.

Posted on another article by the same author, as the comments to the article I was responding to were closed:

“Dear Isabelle, I couldn’t comment on one of your articles (comments were closed) so I am posting here. hope to see your reply.

This is regarding Boila’s and your piece on Alternet about the lessons from Quebec movement Towards a more Perfect Student Unionism.

The issue of students of color that you further elaborate in the comments is something that instigated my response.

“From what we know all the way in New York City is that students of colour had to really push the large predominately white student associations to adopts anti-racist rhetoric and platforms. We actually met with some of the students of colour who were apart of the drafting of the document you included in your comment, and it was their sentiments that we included in this piece.”

What I am about to write is I believe a general knowledge for people in Montreal if not elsewhere in Quebec. I wondered how much you’d looked into this:

Given the very nature of the structure of the movement, where any decision has to come from bottom up (aka, discussed in CLASSE members’ (i.e., departmental / faculty /college level) general assemblies first). So I am not sure what it actually means to say: “students of colour had to really push the large predominately white student associations to adopts anti-racist rhetoric and platforms”.

I feel that there are two things here:

1) drafting a motion (what’s referred to as “document” in your piece/comment), which is really instigating the idea, is great but it is equally or more important is that people actually had those discussions in their general assemblies (which took time, and yes it was not on their “agendas” and the said motion brought it in their “field of vision”), but they did discuss it, took a position locally and then finally voted in the congress.

2) I wondered if Boila and you had tried to get a perspective from those who actually presented the motion in the congress or from the associations who actually voted for it. I’m asking this ’cause I wondered if those who wrote it were even members of CLASSE (were those you spoke to members of CLASSE? that’s probably a better question to ask!). Did you speak to anyone else about why the student movement didn’t adopt an anti-racist mandate? Just curious.

Furthermore, have you even attended a general assembly in Quebec (of an association member of CLASSE) or the congress? “Cause from your article and from your comment it seems like you’re making major accusations (which is reproduced elsewhere) without even understanding the dynamics.

some more thoughts on this issue (maybe it’d help your own understanding of it):
The motion itself was great, but I find an over-emphasis on the drafting of it rather than on all the other people who actually made it work (those who discussed in their GAs, those who proposed at the congress, which finally resulted in CLASSE adopting it).

Throughout the strike, when we had weekly general assemblies, there were tons of motions written. I agree they didn’t include the one on anti-racism, but giving credit to who drafted the motion discredits the movement that we hail for being directly democratic where members at the grassroots make decisions (I believe you agree with that).

I understand and agree that the problems highlighted in the motion exist, and that the movement needed to adopt an anti-racist discourse, but with all due respect, that project doesn’t end with writing a motion and I am not even sure if it changed things much.
In my mind, (only) writing of the motion and giving credit for it comes off as armchair activism, as student movement couldn’t have been built if people were only writing motion (and not doing associated mobilization required to built upon it).

The issue of CLASSE and anti-racist discourse (or absence thereof) is something that needs to be explored, but the emphasis given in your article to who wrote the motion is unnecessary. Your article in fact does not touch upon what was so racist about the movement, where the anti-racist discourse would have been beneficial and so on. What were the concrete examples of racism (if it existed) within CLASSE, and where it would have been good to include anti-racist anti-colonial discourse.

I am simply disappointed that your article makes this vague reference to student of color having to push the anti-racist motion, and the quotes are making rounds in other documents and sites. I hope you will be more careful in future before making such serious accusations on a movement this vast that made history over and over again.

Best wishes for your future journalistic endeavors.

(the fact that you mention Quebec only in the passing in the current article makes one wonder if you were totally turned off from Quebec movement…)”

*under a pseudonym (long story there!).

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