With its cardboard stage set, contrived acting and empty issues, federal elections can resemble an interminable production of summer theatre. Thankfully, at the end of the day, the theatricality makes way for handsome and unshakeable democracy. Elections are in fact the people’s calling to vote and choose their own destiny. Is it not a deeply noble thing to see democracy enacted?
Theoretically, the answer is yes, indeed. But maybe you should check with Greece. They elected an anti-austerity party and won a referendum against austerity, and yet their creditors answered back with a categorical “no” and even greater austerity in order to possibly punish them for even thinking they could get away with a referendum. As Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund-Adorno once said, “if voting could change the system, it would be illegal”.Does this mean that our “less bad system” would be a simulacrum of democracy that is more pernicious than others because it suggests real political consequence? Is Étienne Chouard correct in stating that “the fact of having to designate our masters is a fraudulent imposition. It yields plutocratic results, with the rich leading for the past 200 years”? Continue reading →
Since the establishment of the first universities in Europe, students have mobilized around academic and social problems, such as the cost of rent. Student activism is not new. Strikes, occupations, and event disruptions have been part and parcel of university life, including at UQAM. Often, these collective actions have been at the forefront of progressive causes working towards social justice: feminism, pacifism, the environmental movement, amongst others.
Historically, university administrations have been relatively tolerant towards activist initiatives, including occupations, some of which lasted as long as six months (like at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1968). In the 2000s, administrators began to change their approach, choosing to quickly call the police, who have intervened in a brutal way, as has been the case at UQAM (not to mention at the UQO and the University of Montreal in 2012, among other examples). This conscious change is part of a broader tendency on the part of authority figures to be more and more repressive towards social movements. They jump on a few isolated incidents to justify an increase in repressive measures. In line with this tendency, UQAM’s administration increasingly prefers the repressive tactics of intimidation and institutional violence. This has important costs (security cameras and extra “security” guards) and contributes to the degradation of the social climate on a campus that is well known for its community and activist environment. And yet, there is no academic consensus about the effects of repression on social movements. Some studies show that repression weakens mobilization efforts, while other reports show that repression provokes increased mobilization and a radicalization of activists. Continue reading →