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Why a climate justice general unlimited strike?

Climate change heralds a bleak future, marked by political tensions linked to the sixth mass extinction. While policy makers maintain the status quo, we study to perpetuate a system running to its doom. It makes our studies absurd. Why go to school if it is to perpetuate the current established order? Faced with this nonsense, we must act so that our training contributes to the common good. It is time for action to reverse the direction in which society is heading.


In the history of the student movement, there have been 10 indefinite general strikes, eight of which were victorious. One of the most famous is that of 2012 when the student community went on strike for several months to oppose the increase in tuition fees. Ultimately, tuition fees were indexed to inflation by the Marois government.


Since 2019, several student associations and even secondary schools have gone on strike for the climate. The peak of this movement for climate justice was during the strike of September 27, 2019 when 500,000 people came to demonstrate in the streets. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a few climate strikes in 2020, 2021 and 2022. However, after all these walkouts, governments have not put in place the necessary measures to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions Greenhouse. In Canada, the government continues to exploit the tar sands, to build the Coastal Gaslink pipeline spoliating the territory of Wet'suwet'en and to build oil drilling in Newfoundland. In Quebec, there is certainly the Plan for a green economy that has come out, but it is clearly insufficient.


In short, the occasional strikes that have taken place in recent years have not convinced governments to implement ambitious climate policies.


We must, therefore, go through other strategies to achieve our ends. The unlimited general strike is an effective tool if used well. In fact, by paralyzing a very important and costly sector in Quebec, namely education, it forces the government to react to their demands and to make a decision. Faced with a silence from this adversary or unsatisfactory answers, students can continue to disengage. 


Moreover, when there are thousands, even hundreds of thousands of students who are on an indefinite general strike, this creates a balance of power against their opponents. These opponents can no longer ignore student demands at the risk of making a pale figure in front of their public.


The student community has the ability to disengage as soon as their association votes for it. Quebec unions can only go on strike during periods of negotiation of their collective agreement. Outside of that time, their strike is illegal and they risk serious penalties. The student population, having the right to strike as soon as their rights are violated, at any time, is a mobilizing force. She is able to rally hundreds of thousands of people to their cause and create mass movements. It has the potential to make the strike not only student, but also popular.


Indeed, a large-scale movement, disrupting daily life, attracts the attention of the media and the population. The demands of this movement generate polarizing discussions and debates, thus swaying public opinion. This kind of reflection in society is healthy and advances the causes defended. An indefinite student general strike therefore has beneficial effects on public opinion and political action.


In short, by creating an unlimited general strike movement, this paralyzes an important sector in society, creates a balance of power, considerably multiplies the politicization and mobilization of students and can potentially mobilize civil society. It therefore becomes impossible for the government to ignore student demands, since such behavior would be taken for a declaration of war.

When to do an indefinite general strike (GGI)?

As previously written, an indefinite general strike is a good pressure tactic if used well. This type of action is preceded by other means.


Historically, the student community has escalated pressure tactics. This means that the protest movement proceeds through more moderate actions before arriving at a GGI. First, the claim guiding the purpose of the campaign is defined. Then there is a petition to gain popular support for the claim. Following this, the student community launched a dialogue with the government to endorse these demands and issue an ultimatum. It is, in a way, the deadline before which the adversary must accept the claims and implement them. If that person turns a deaf ear, that's when the student community makes a GGI. Thus, the student population is on strike until their demands are accepted.


The chart below shows the escalation of student action in the 2012 strike against tuition hikes.

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