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March 22, 2012 was the largest popular demonstration in the history of Montreal, part of a mass protest across the province of Quebec. Saturday the 7th of April 2012, the Monument-National Theatre Montreal was packed for the event Nous? ‘From noon to midnight,’ as Louis Guertin notes, ‘70 Quebec personalities joined the event to talk about solidarity and a collective sense of liberty.’ What follows is an English transcript of the speech given by a spokesperson of the CLASSE (Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante), Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. A French transcript is posted online by Louis Guertin here, and the speech can be found here.
Thanks to Susan Ruddick (Department of Geography, University of Toronto) for the translation.
oday I am on strike. For 54 days I have been on strike. 54 days of struggle, 54 days of beatings, of teargas, of pepper spray. I, my friends, my comrades, the students of Quebec. 54 days against the Liberals, against the boss, against the police, against duplicitous commentators. 54 days and already, already we have won. We have already won against cyncism. We have already won against powerlessness, against those who say that all this is is a few weeks of trouble, the people of Quebec are dead, the youth aren’t worth much. This is why I believe I will take advantage of the platform I have been offered today — to offer my heartfelt thanks to the Premier Ministre of Quebec, Mr. Jean Charest. Thank you Mr. Charest, you have given us an unwavering confidence in ourselves. Thank you Mr. Charest for showing us what we can accomplish against you.
But now you are adjourned. You declared war against an entire generation. We have made an indelible mark on history. From this day on, the history of Quebec cannot be read without pausing at this point. You have demonstrated the violence of your world, which has enabled us perhaps to better imagine our world. Because it is our hope, that it is your world that comes to an end. We do not long for your commercialized education, your laboratory schools, and your society of “Me, Inc.” We now have confidence in ourselves. We now have confidence in history. We now have confidence in our comrades. We have confidence in our people and we will not stop there. Our anger, the anger of students is already echoing in the four corners of the province. And it fills the ears of our children, our nieces, our cousins.
The strike has become our school, and for us this spring  already one of the best educations. It was free, and much more than that. We learned a lot this spring and we really learned. We learned what injustice is; we learned what violence is; we learned what the violence of the system is. We learned the taste of pepper spray and we learned the smell of teargas. But above all we learned resistance. We learned by hundreds of thousands what it is like to fight like we have never fought before in our lives, as has never been fought in the history of Quebec. Our strike is not a question of “a generation.” It is not a matter of “a springtime,” it is a question of a people, of a world. Our strike is not an isolated event. Our strike is just a step, a stopping point along a path that is much, much longer. Our strike is already victorious because it enables us to see that path, the path of resistance. That is the real meaning of our strike. 250,000 people do not turn to the streets just because they don’t want to pay $1625 more for tuition. The meaning of our strike lies in the durée, in the revolt that follows tomorrow. This spring of 2012 we planted the seeds of a revolt that may not germinate for several years. But already we can say that the people of Quebec are not asleep, nor are their youth.
They might have the hardest clubs, the thickest flack jackets, the biggest newspapers, the largest wallets. But we have the longest breath, the best staying power. We have the courage of the oppressed, the force of the multitude. And above all quite simply, we have reason on our side. We have reason to get up, to shout out. We have reason to demonstrate, to go on strike. We have reason to block the entrance to our CGEP, to our universities. We have reason not to be intimidated by the injunctions made by a little idiot who lost the vote in the general assembly, whose parents are rich enough to pay for his lawyer. We have reason to fight against this. Against a world that wants to clip our wings; to burden us with debt; and grind us down with the worst work.
But this struggle is not simply a student struggle. Actually it cannot be only a student struggle. Because the people who want to raise fees for education, who may in fact raise the fees for education, the people who decided to impose a health tax, the people who developed the Plan Nord, the people who are laying off the workers at Aveos, the people who are trying to lay off the workers at Rio Tinto Alcan in Alma, the people who are trying to keep the workers at Couche-Tard from unionizing, these people are all the same people. These are the same people with the same interests in the same groups, in the same political parties, in the same economic institutions. These people are a single elite. A gluttonous elite, a vulgar and corrupt elite, an elite who only sees education in terms of investment in human capital, who only sees a tree as a piece of paper, and a child as a future employee. These people have a converging project and they have converging political interests. And it is against these people that we must fight, not just against a Liberal government. And I have hope today, I believe in the best of students who are actually on strike today in Quebec. And it acts as a springboard; this strike is a springboard for a much larger struggle, much deeper, more radical, than the direction that Quebec has taken during the last few years. If there is a Quebec tradition to conserve, it is not poutine, it is not xenophobia, it is the one that the students of Quebec are promoting. A tradition of struggle: a tradition of union struggle, student struggle, popular struggle. And to speak of this struggle I cannot leave you today without turning to the words of Gaston Miron.
We push on, we push on, the front of a delta
We will return, history at our backs,
And through our efforts, our hatred of all forms of servitude,
We will have become ferocious beasts of hope.