The War Waged Against Us – Manifesto by teachers against all that comes with austerity

Originally posted on March 3 2015 (circulating on social media for a few days prior)
Original French text:

Dear friends, known and unknown,

Our text does not seek to collect the signatures of either a great number of people nor of those whose certain notoriety would lend importance to this collective address. In these days when protest is marginalized by wall-to-wall security, we are betting our anonymity as a wager capable of an eventual impact. Your involvement remains essential to the dissemination of this text and its ideas. Offer it visibility and this visibility will be a new collective effort that will demonstrate that we are many behind it. If its analysis seems true to you, if you succeed in skipping over the clumsiness, metaphors or register shifts that you yourself would have avoided, then do step in where you’re needed, not simply by relaying this little text, but by being the counter-hegemonic energy we need to amass, one step at a time, against that which wages its war against us. And let’s not wait to be organized: let’s do it ourselves where we can, with our own means to be claimed or invented! This manifesto is a contribution to that idea.


We refuse the human, social, political and intellectual impoverishment that the antisocial offensive called austerity is putting the world through, making it look sinister, cynical, slavish, sorry, mediocre and a touch sadistic.

Waged to satisfy the interests of the economic elite, this offensive aims to submit all people and things, sector by sector, to the oppressive domination of commodification and almighty profit.

Having long since been set in motion, this conservative revolution is first and foremost a war waged against the collective mechanisms of wealth redistribution, of the pooling of resources in order to weather life’s vagaries. However imperfect, however incomplete they may be, public services represent the most basic agreement of solidarity stemming from our collective concern for an equitable life. And in order to defend such assets, we are ready to fight.

In our field, that of education, such a revolution is carried out through the exploitation of knowledge, teaching and research, which are increasingly entirely bound to the toxic and fatal demands of accumulation and optimization. The pervasive and forceful introduction of managerial methods and measures buttressed by the great neoliberal calculus, shrivels education both as a system and a gesture. Far from such impoverishment, the education that we stand for seeks to support the adventure of minds engaged in the process of learning and questioning realities, and to help them shoulder the affective and intellectual intensity that this process involves.

This widespread offensive is an assault on the very strengths and resources that make up our communities. As actors within the realm of education (our friends in health care and social services are also aware of this), we are made to be continually aware of the numerous infringements upon the times and spaces within which our professional autonomy and collegiality are expressed. The means by which we can perform our responsibilities are decreasing in step with the increase of managerial bureaucracy and its infantilizing measures of control under the guise of absurd accountability frameworks.

Austerity targets all forms of collective action within the whole of society. Union action, be it autonomous or direct, the strike, anti-hegemonic political practices beyond the parliamentary stage, are increasingly marginalized, criminalized, suspected (namely of radicalism), misapprehended, repressed in the name of protecting a natural order of things, sealed, polite and policed, put somewhere out of reach, behind windows through which we can only gaze.

This negation of our agency is part of a depoliticizing apparatus which would trick us into believing that we are in need of political decisions. This isn’t a banal issue. It does symbolic and effective violence against the very bases of the commons and of every community: politics and its core, conflict. Austerity is the face of a revolution that confines politics to a neutral and procedural space. What remains is a sterilized and infinitely impoverished system embodied by its professional politics and politicians.

What is insidious about this violence is that it imposes the very terms of the debate with which we’re trying to unravel it in our defence. This violence arrogates to itself the meaning of words, dragging us by the tongue across its marketing bottom-line, which is dictated strictly by commercial supply. Even when we claim to defend the citizen, s/he is merely a “client,” thus curtailing the political reach of his or her demands. If the word dog has never bitten anyone, the language of power, to the contrary, is waging a war directly against another degraded form of wealth: the ideas and language used to state the complexities of the world.

Austerity is therefore an internal impoverishment dominated by fear of sanctions and hunger for rewards, stress and social insecurity, fear of the future and of the other, scared out of wits and means. A besieged state of mind, austerity becomes a formidable producer of impotence and obedience. Its product will be custom-made for a liberal-paternalistic system; one where the manifestations of our presence in the world are trapped, where audacity, creation and inventiveness see their frenzied power hijacked in favour of platitudinous innovation.

You only need to become a successful manager of the self, to measure your worth with the yardstick of your belongings, stocks and investments, to consider others as partners at best and as competitors in the infernal wheel of neoliberal fortune at worst.

Austerity is also marred by the violence waged against the land and its natural elements: it is the bleeding edge of the surrender of the common wealth of our geography to ecocidal transportation and extraction projects (namely of oil), which are the cause of disasters that are always already there and that nothing can fix.

In the eyes of the austere neoliberal as well as of the white man who Chief Seattle spoke of well over a century and a half ago, the earth is an enemy to be plundered: as soon as he has conquered and exploited her, he pushed farther; he steals from her children without remorse; his appetite devours her leaving only a desert behind.

In fact, it is the entire human and social landscape and all that makes up the value of life, that is man’s real wealth—and which is all treated like a sick body to decontaminate or a budget to reduce. And then it is from the ruins that are pulled the blood diamonds of tax-evading millionnaires.

The burden euphemistically known as austerity is the kidnapping of our existence by work, ever more work, occupying the heart of our lives and the time of our best years. It steals all the days we can no longer spend living, living well together, taking care of one another, loving, conversing, abutting our solitudes, inventing new ways of doing, of saying, of making, of thinking.

The war waged against us is refracted in each and every space of our lives. It bends our rhythms and our daily life, with its gestures and its hours, to its imperatives. It hits all of us, keeps us out of the common lands in which we try to live only to offer them to privatized extraction schemes.

We refuse the neuroses of the all-commodified and its social anxiety.
We refuse the very little to which we are reduced.
We refuse our threefold objectification into taxpayer-consumer-silent majority.
We refuse the tremendous shame of wanting the good life for one and all.
We are getting organized.
Here is where the rose is growing, here is where we dance!

Translated from the original French by Language and Dissent, a collectively-run blog supporting the anti-austerity struggle in Quebec. These are amateur translations written by volunteers; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may have their flaws. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us via email (languageanddissent [at] gmail [dot] com). Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.

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