During December 2011, we drew up plans for how we would start the unlimited general strike based on the experience of the 2005 strike. To ensure success, the launch of the strike was thought out as a succession of three “waves”.
In the first wave, the most active and radical student unions would hold their strike general assemblies and votes before all other student unions. The motions put to a vote included a conditional component, whereas the strike would only become effective as soon as a total of seven student unions representing at least 20,000 students would adopt similar motions. Right on the heels of this first wave, a second wave consisting mainly of progressive and well-established student unions would hold their own general assemblies. Lastly, weaker student unions with fewer activists or with unconvinced student bodies would try to join the strike in a third wave.
Starting the strike in such a progressive fashion provides some key advantages. First, it allows activists to focus their efforts on fewer student unions at a time. SInce the hardest part of the strike is to get it going, this is a major advantage. Once the ball is rolling, energies can be focused on other unions which aren’t on strike. Secondly, on campuses where the strike is effective, many students suddenly have much more free time which can be invested in mobilizing the student bodies of other campuses. And thirdly, a certain “mass effect” is created as soon as a critical number of students are on unlimited strike. As information starts trickling through media outlets, as journalists turn their attention to student organizing, and striking students discuss the issues with their friends, the strike can quickly snowball into a large and powerful movement.
In order to harness these benefits, the planning of the strike’s launch calendar needed to be centralized. Unions who planned to join the strike would consult with the provincial executive in order to work out an appropriate date for a strike general assembly. As the beginning of any such strike is fragile, failed votes in the first days and weeks can undermine morale and hurt the chances of launching the strike. Consequently, the pressure is very high on the first few student unions who consult their membership on strike action.
At this point, we also drafted our strategy for the strike itself, based on past experiences. Here’s how we thought it would play out, more or less:
- The strike would begin in mid-February and grow in numbers until mid-March
- Our goal was for 100 000 students to be on strike at that time;
- The government would maneuver to isolate CLASSE as a “radical faction” and negotiate with FECQ and FEUQ behind closed doors
- These negotiations would happen around mid-March;
- The FECQ and FEUQ would capitalize on a one-week strike strategy in March culminating with a big unitary student demonstration on the 22nd;
- After this show of force they would cut a flimsy deal with the government, near the first week of April as the academic semester started becoming threatened;
- Our goal was to shoot down this agreement in general assemblies and convince our fellow students to press on
- If the movement maintained its strength for one or two weeks after that, we thought the government would make bigger concessions to end the strike and avoid a disaster with semesters
In short, according to our best hopes, the strike would last between 6 to 9 weeks.