Spartacist Canada No. 157
For Open Admissions, Free Tuition!
Defend U of T Protesters!
(Young Spartacus pages)
At the behest of the University of Toronto administration, Toronto cops arrested and charged 14 activists for taking part in a sit-in at the Simcoe Hall administration offices on March 20 to protest massive hikes to student residence fees. The sit-in itself was broken up by campus cops. The charges run the gamut from mischief and forcible detainer (the unlawful detainment of someone elses property), to forcible confinement and making death threats. If convicted, some activists could face years in jail.
The Fight Fees 14 were released on outrageous and restrictive bail conditions. They were prohibited from associating with one another or even setting foot on the campus, except for classes, and barred from protest activity on campus. Additionally, some 15 students face possible disciplinary charges under U of Ts Code of Conduct which could bring their expulsions. The Spartacus Youth Club demands: Drop the charges against the Fight Fees 14! No academic reprisals!
The U of T crackdown is one of many—often brutal—attacks on political protest at universities across Canada and beyond. Fuelled by the reactionary climate created by the capitalist rulers war on terror, this campaign has seen student activists and leftist academics witchhunted for defending the Palestinians against the blood-drenched Zionist regime of Israel, for opposing the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, or for merely speaking out against the miseries produced by this capitalist system. Tamil students in Waterloo have been swept up in a repressive terror scare. At McMaster University in Hamilton the phrase Israeli apartheid was banned in February. Weeks later, the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) prohibited all protests by striking students and others within a 100-meter radius of the campus—on pain of a $50,000 fine and possible jail time! Most recently, at Vancouvers University of British Columbia, an April 4 concert/protest was violently attacked by police and at least 19 people arrested (see page 8).
Open repression and McCarthyite thought control have gone hand in hand with sweeping attacks on access to higher education. Massive and ever-increasing tuition fees—which have doubled since the early 1990s—hit working-class, minority and Native youth especially hard. Students often have to work two jobs to survive, and by the time they graduate are indentured to the banks and credit card companies, saddled with massive debts. The Simcoe Hall sit-in was against a 20 percent fee hike at New College residence that would drive many poor and minority students out of school.
Abolish the Administration!
The attacks on political protest, democratic rights and access to education have not gone unopposed. Demonstrations and meetings have taken place at U of T, McMaster, UBC and around the perimeter of the no-protest zone at UQAM. In Toronto, the SYC has joined several protests in defense of the Fight Fees 14. Addressing a May 21 rally, SYC speaker Tynan Maddalena called to drop all charges against these activists and placed the U of T crackdown in the context of the police terror against black and South Asian youth that has been on the rise in Toronto in recent years. Ominously, there were nearly as many police as protesters at this event, and our comrades chant of Cops off campus was enthusiastically taken up by the demonstrators.
The Committee for Just Education (CJE), formed in defense of the 14, calls for Equal access to education through the elimination of all fees and for Student, worker, and faculty parity on university decision-making bodies, including the Governing Council. The call for parity on the universitys highest governing bodies is a call to be co-opted; in the unlikely event of its achievement, it would spell the further integration of student groups and trade unions into the universitys administration of austerity, fee hikes and job cuts. In contrast, the SYC demands: Abolish the administration! For student/teacher/worker control of the universities!
AlwaysQuestion (AQ), the group that organized the March 20 sit-in, first came under attack when it postered the campus with indictments of Canadian mining conglomerate Barrick Gold for endless atrocities, including funding militias, killing dissenters and labour leaders, instigating wars, and burying miners alive (Varsity, 14 February). Who pays the piper calls the tune: Barrick chairman Peter Munk is a major U of T benefactor, to the tune of some $12 million, and so the administration ordered custodial staff to tear down the posters. This really is the bourgeoisies university, and the attacks on AQ and others starkly highlight this truth.
As capitalist institutions, universities have never been the ivory towers of intellectual freedom they claim to be. Rather they are elitist, class-biased institutions whose functions include developing new techniques of production in order to maximize profit and supplying capitalist society with managers and bosses as well as socially useful skilled workers and specialists. U of T, which has direct investments of hundreds of millions in corporations like the Royal Bank and Petro Canada, is a historic bastion of WASP ruling-class privilege and has always jealously guarded its gates against the lower orders. For many years, U of T had anti-Semitic quotas limiting the number of Jewish students. Today, only a tiny handful of Torontos huge black, South Asian and Native population manages to get into its hallowed halls.
We fight for free tuition for all and open admissions, and we demand a state-paid living stipend for students. The capitalists maintain elite schools centrally as preserves for their offspring, but when it comes to the education of those they exploit and oppress, the rulers invest only as much as they can realize back in profit. Free quality education for all—everyone in this society—requires the overthrow of this decaying, profit-driven capitalist order by victorious socialist revolution around the globe.
In defending the Fight Fees 14 against the state, we put forward a revolutionary working-class perspective, fighting the illusions that AQ and others spread that the Governing Council and university administration (which is currently howling for their blood) can be reformed in the interests of students, workers and faculty. This is in stark contrast to the other self-styled Marxist groups on campus, such as Fightback and the Bolshevik Tendency (BT), who are manifestly incapable of offering a fighting revolutionary program to youth.
The Fightback group, which has a supporter among the Fight Fees 14, is a case in point. The Fightback reformists echo the demand for parity on U of Ts governing bodies, and their call for the NDP to Power on a Socialist Program fosters the worst illusions that this consummately pro-capitalist social-democratic party could ever become a force for socialism. You can get the measure of Fightback from the gushing support its British comrades give to cops demanding better pay (see Craven Reformists Back Cops, Workers Hammer No. 202, Spring 2008). Bolshevik Bobbies, headlined their paper Socialist Appeal (March 2008) while a June 4 internet article comments feelingly on a policemens lot.
This disgusting subservience to the racist capitalist states armed thugs should give pause to campus activists embroiled in struggle against state repression and police violence. It is also not new for Fightback and their co-thinkers in the International Marxist Tendency, who have long held that the police are part of the working class when in fact they are a core part of the capitalist state, along with the army, courts and prisons. In Canada and all other capitalist countries, the state exists to defend private property, and as such the cops are the deadly enemies of workers, oppressed people and leftists. The only way to end cop violence once and for all is through workers revolution to smash the capitalist state.
As for the BT, back in 1990, they issued a leaflet, aimed at U of T students, raising the demand for open access for all qualified applicants, plus remedial upgrading for those who lack the prerequisites. The BTs call for access for qualified applicants is a far cry from our Marxist demand for open admissions to cut across class barriers to education. U of T is replete with class hatred and all the snooty affectations of the English Canadian rulers, in whose eyes the overwhelming majority of working-class youth, especially blacks and other minorities, will never be qualified for quality education. And these are essentially the same eyes through which the BT views society.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the BTs opposition to Quebec independence (a position they share with Fightback as well as the big-time social democrats of the NDP). Anglo-chauvinist bigotry against the Québécois and francophones in general has always been a cornerstone of Canadian capitalism. The BT has the distinction of being the socialists officially invited to a Montreal Canadian unity rally on the eve of the 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty. It is no accident the BT was invited to this We love Canada rally organized by top business leaders—because the BTs leaflet on the referendum (issued only in English!) also called on Quebec workers to vote No to independence. When the BTs only Québécois member quit, he protested their de facto bloc with the Canadian bourgeoisie.
In contrast, the SYC advocates independence for Quebec, opposing the ugly anti-Québécois chauvinism which permeates every aspect of political life in this country. This is the only road to bringing to the fore the real social contradictions between the working class and its own bourgeois exploiters in both English Canada and Quebec, thereby laying a genuine basis for common class struggle in the future.
What Way Forward?
Students who want to fight for real change must break from a narrow campus outlook and ask how to get rid of the entire capitalist system. The working class is the only force in society with the interests and social power necessary to overthrow capitalism because, through its labour, it creates the profits that are the motor force of capitalist production. Labour organizations such as the Ontario Federation of Labour and CAW Youth Network, along with representatives of CUPE and the OSSTF teachers union, have gone on record against the repression of the U of T activists. Yet the pro-capitalist politics of the trade-union tops are an obstacle in the struggle to mobilize workers to defend victims of capitalist repression, to say nothing of making the working class conscious of the need to sweep away the capitalist system.
The muzzling of student protest and attacks on education in Canada are paralleled internationally. With the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union—the worlds first workers state, product of the 1917 October Revolution—in 1991-92, the imperialist rulers everywhere have been emboldened to step up their attacks on workers and the poor. From Canada to West Europe, the capitalists have been slashing pensions, health care, unemployment benefits. They regard the concessions granted to workers and the oppressed in an earlier period, including in education, as no longer necessary to placate the working class and dissuade it from fighting to overthrow capitalist rule. Meanwhile, imperialist plunder has bled the neocolonial world dry.
Just as we fought to defend the Soviet Union against capitalist counterrevolution, we fight tooth and nail to defend the gains of the working class that are on the chopping block today. But our program is not to return to the days of the welfare state. Our program is to fight for new October Revolutions. The capitalist system in its death agony cannot provide a decent education, a decent living and a decent future for mankind. It must be overthrown. We fight to build the revolutionary, internationalist workers party, like Lenins Bolshevik Party, that the workers need to carry out a successful proletarian revolution. The Spartacus Youth Club seeks to win students and other youth to the fight to build such a party. Join us in our struggle!
We reprint below a June 6 letter by the SYC to Ontario attorney general Chris Bentley and U of T president David Naylor demanding that all charges against the Fight Fees 14 be dropped along with all threats of academic reprisals.
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The University of Toronto Spartacus Youth Club vehemently protests the laying of criminal charges against 14 protesters, including students and their supporters, who participated in an anti-fee sit-in at Simcoe Hall on March 20. The laundry list of trumped-up allegations includes forcible confinement, mischief and (in one case) making death threats. This blatant attack on the democratic right to protest on campus, which the haughty U of T administration despicably labels as thuggish tactics by mobs, is part and parcel of a general attack on the right of working class and minority youth to an education.
On March 20, protesters gathered to oppose the raising of residence fees at New College by 20 percent. The protest, ending with the sit-in, was broken up by U of T police, who manhandled a number of protesters under the lying pretext of protecting staff against harassment and forcible confinement. Several weeks later, Toronto police charged 14 protesters with various offenses, while at least 15 students are also threatened with disciplinary measures under the U of T Code of Conduct. The arrested students, staff and alumni face stringent bail conditions, banning them from protesting at U of T and preventing them from associating with one another outside of court or classes. Several have been banned from the campus entirely, preventing at least one, Oriel Varga, from going to her job. Campus cops have followed others, even searching for one student when she came on campus to defer her exam.
The treatment of these youth is an outrage! The SYC says: Drop all the charges now! No academic reprisals against the student protesters! Cops off campus!
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Send protest letters to Chris Bentley, Attorney General, McMurtry-Scott Building, 720 Bay St., 11th Floor, Toronto, ON M5G 2K1; email: firstname.lastname@example.org, and David Naylor, President, University of Toronto, 27 Kings College Circle, Room 206, Toronto, ON M5S 1A1; email: email@example.com. The Partisan Defense Committee has contributed to the legal defense of the Fight Fees 14 and urges others to do so. Send checks to OPIRG Toronto, 563 Spadina Ave., Room 101, North Borden Building, Toronto, ON M5S 2J7. On check memo line put: Fightfees Legal Fund.