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Anti-austerity movement in Quebec looking to May Day

Organizers preparing for actions and protest May 1st

by David Gray-Donald

March 28, 2015 in Montreal.
March 28, 2015 in Montreal.
Organizers in Quebec are preparing for a day of actions and protest to show their discontent at current and ongoing austerity measures as well as the economic system that has created these conditions. 
 
After May Day the movement will likely be strategizing longer-term, making less noise in the streets, and focusing on popular education over the summer.
 
 
May Day in Quebec
 
In most of the world May 1st marks International Workers Day, or Labour Day. The day originated after confrontational events in Chicago in 1886, spurred by years of build-up, led to workers securing their legal right to an 8-hour work day (down from 10 to 16 hours per day in unsafe conditions).
 
Canada and the USA are nearly alone globally in celebrating the victories of the labour movement in September. Still, May Day is a tradition for many on the left in Canada, with Quebec putting on some of the largest showings. In recent years, hundreds have been detained and ticketed by police during May Day protests in Montreal.
 
This year in Quebec, most junior college (CEGEP) teachers are on strike, as are hundreds of community groups, tens of thousands of students, and - while not on strike - unions centrals are encouraging members to show their discontent, like CSN President Jacques Leteourneau calling for members to "mobilize massively" in a widely shared video. Unions and community groups are also helping provide support for disruptive actions. CLAC (Convergence of Anti-Capitalist Struggles) is organizing a large evening demonstration in downtown Montreal, which will follow a busy day with actions and protests organized by many groups.
 
May 1st throughout Quebec, being called a "grève sociale" (social strike) by some groups, will be a test of the anti-austerity movement's ability to mobilize people, and will set the tone for what is possible in the fall. 
 
 
The Quebec anti-austerity mobilization context
 
The anti-austerity mobilization in Quebec, sometimes referred to as Printemps 2015, has been building through the spring with an eye to May 1st. In fact, May Day 2015 was put on the radar over a year ago by Industrial Workers of the World as a day for massive economic disruption in Quebec, with Montreal being an obvious focal point but also hoping for strong mobilizations elsewhere. 
 
Printemps 2015 in Quebec started with much enthusiasm at the end of March and on April 2nd for a 75 000 person march. Protests were happening daily in Montreal, more student associations were voting to go strike, and there were hopes that police repression, like in 2012, would not extinguish but instead fuel the resolve of those in the struggle.
 
But the mix of a scornful media, lack of clear goals, messy politics among leaders of the mobilization (including student organization ASSÉ's suggestion to wait until autumn and the Printemps 2015 Committee's counter-statement calling for immediate massive mobilization), public sector unions not being ready but indicating a potential strike in the fall, and frightening police and legal repression have all combined to make for a fairly quiet second half of April, aside from a number of occupations of offices and CEGEP lawns.
 
The last major show of popular force in Quebec was the 25 000 person Act on Climate March on April 11 in Quebec City, a friendly event whose organizers not only did not state their solidarity with the ongoing mobilization against austerity and the petro-economy, but instead, at least in the case of prominent environmental NGO leader Sidney Ribaux, have condemned that movement's tactics publicly.
 
 
Further resources on May 1st in Quebec
 
  • List of actions in Quebec for May 1 (in French): https://grevecontrelausterite.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/actions-et-manifestations-prevues-pour-le-1er-mai-2015/
  • List of groups on strike May 1st (in French): https://grevecontrelausterite.wordpress.com/mandats-de-greve/
  • "12 Ways to Strike on May 1st" document (in English): https://grevecontrelausterite.wordpress.com/2015/03/07/12-ways-to-strike-on-may-1st-2015/
  • History of anti-capitalist May 1st since 2004 by CLAC-Montreal (in French): http://www.clac-montreal.net/historique-1er-mai-anticapitaliste
  • "The Brief Origins of May Day" by Eric Chase in 1993 (in English): https://grevecontrelausterite.wordpress.com/2015/03/07/12-ways-to-strike-on-may-1st-2015/
 

 


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