Quebec Students Fight Back

Mass Struggle Repels Austerity Attack

From February to August 2012, Quebec was rocked by a powerful strike involving hundreds of thousands of students, actively supported by unionized faculty members, many of whom defied court injunctions directing them to cross their students’ picket lines to resume teaching. At its high point, the strike posed the possibility of a social explosion on the order of Paris in 1968. By far the broadest and most successful struggle against austerity in any imperialist country in recent years, the Quebec student strike contains valuable lessons for militants around the world.

Quebec’s Liberal premier, Jean Charest, initiated the conflict by announcing that tuition costs would rise by 75 percent over five years. This was a key element of a broader capitalist assault, and the students’ determined resistance tapped into widespread popular anger at ongoing factory closures, public-sector layoffs, union bashing and attacks on healthcare, education and pensions. The “newspaper of record” of the Anglo-Canadian ruling class acknowledged the breadth of popular discontent:

“Much like protesters from the infamous ‘battle in Seattle’ during the 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization to the recent Occupy movements, Quebeckers…[are] connecting a number of threads from the environment and the state of public services to abuses in the financial industry over the past decade.”
Globe and Mail, 2 June 2012

Charest’s Liberals, already languishing in the polls and facing near certain defeat in the next election, were further damaged by revelations of widespread corruption—including bid-rigging in construction contracts, influence peddling and connections between cabinet ministers and organized crime. Charest hoped that by taking on Quebec’s historically militant student movement he could rebrand himself as a tough, “law and order” leader, and perhaps wriggle out of the dead-end the Liberals found themselves in after almost a decade in power.

Universities, Colleges & the ‘French Fact’ in Quebec

Quebec, a historically oppressed francophone nation which enjoys a limited autonomy as a province in the Canadian federal state, was until the 1950s an insular, priest-ridden and predominately rural backwater. In the 1960s, a section of the educated French-speaking elite, demanding to become “maîtres chez nous” (masters in our own house), undertook an extensive modernization program. During this “Quiet Revolution” the Liberal government vastly expanded and secularized education and healthcare (which had previously been the domain of the Catholic Church). It legalized trade unions, expanded the public sector and nationalized the production and distribution of Quebec’s abundant hydro-electric resources.

The creation of a network of new universities and colleges was vital to modernizing Quebec while preserving it as a viable francophone island in a sea of English-speaking North Americans. If Québécois youth were educated in English Canada or the U.S., the “French fact” would rapidly erode. The creation of free two-year junior colleges (CEGEPs) and universities charging half as much for tuition as those in English Canada (which is much lower than that charged by their American equivalents) has led the vast majority of Québécois students to stay in Quebec and complete their studies in French. This has been essential to maintaining the vibrancy and vitality of Quebec’s national culture. Many Québécois are strongly attached to the idea of affordable post-secondary education, as well as the comparatively good childcare and other social services that distinguish Quebec from the Anglo-American neoliberal “mainstream” in the rest of North America.

This largely accounts for why Charest’s demand that Quebec students start paying their “fair share” failed to gain the traction he had hoped. Québécois youth have a history of mobilizing against attempts to raise tuition, with successful strikes in 1968, 1974, 1978 and 1986. Determined resistance by two generations of student militants ensured that for 22 years—from 1968 until 1990—tuition remained at $500 a year. In 1990, a Liberal government managed to raise it to $1,668. Vigorous student opposition defeated a subsequent attempt in 1996 by a Parti Québécois (PQ) government to further increase fees. In 2007, Charest’s Liberals managed to overcome resistance and push through a $500 hike (which was phased in over five years).

By 2011, when the Charest government announced plans to raise tuition a further $325 each year for five years (which would have taken it from $2,168 to $3,793 by 2017), public opposition to austerity had grown, and a serious grass-roots student organizing drive was underway by the Coalition Large de l’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Etudiante (CLASSE), the largest and most militant of Quebec’s four student federations.

Core activists in CLASSE had participated in the powerful anti-globalization protest in Quebec City in 2001. CLASSE, which represented a majority of the striking students, identifies with broadly anarchist and feminist critiques of the inequities of capitalist society and prides itself on making decisions by “direct democracy” in local assemblies.

In preparing for the 2012 strike, CLASSE militants drew two lessons from the 2007 defeat. The first was that it was essential to forge a bloc with the more conservative federations: the Fédération Etudiante Universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and Fédération Etudiante Collégiale du Québec (FECQ), each of which represented roughly 20 percent of the strikers, as well as the smaller Table de concertation étudiante du Québec (TaCEQ), representing another five percent. The agreement they reached was adhered to by all (with only minor exceptions) throughout the struggle, which made it difficult for the government to play them off against each other.

The second lesson drawn by CLASSE from 2007 was that to defeat the government it would be necessary to go beyond students and win the active support of a broad section of the population, including Quebec’s powerful and historically militant working class. Throughout the struggle, CLASSE leaders sought to present their resistance to the tuition hike as one front in a larger fight to defeat the Liberals’ austerity project that targeted not only students, but also immigrants, aboriginals and, particularly, women. Student strikers reached out to indigenous peoples opposing Charest’s “Plan Nord,” a corporate development project for northern Quebec, as well as to aluminum smelter workers in the town of Alma locked out by the vicious union-busting mining conglomerate Rio Tinto.

The “CLASSE Manifesto,” released during the struggle, held out hope that a more “democratic” society could somehow be created through popular pressure and mass mobilization:

“When the elite feels threatened, no principle is sacred, not even those principles they preach: for them, democracy works only when we, the people keep our mouths shut.
“Our view is that truly democratic decisions arise from a shared space….As equals, in these spaces, women and men can work together to build a society that is dedicated to the public good.
“We now know that equal access to public services is vital to the common good. And access can only be equal if it is free.”
•     •     •
“Our strike goes beyond the $1625 tuition-fee hike. If, by throwing our educational institutions into the marketplace, our most basic rights are being taken from us, we can say the same for hospitals, Hydro-Québec, our forests, and the soil beneath our feet. We share so much more than public services: we share our living spaces, spaces that were here before we were born.”

Over the course of the struggle, the Charest government was frustrated by the success that CLASSE had in getting out its message, and particularly by the favorable response it received from a large section of the population. The government’s initial tactic was to paint the strikers as spoiled brats who wanted a free ride from taxpayers. This was supplemented by massive and unprecedented police repression, which the capitalist media played down while denouncing strikers as thugs and violent hooligans.

From February to May: Strike Gains Momentum

The strike was launched by CLASSE in February 2012, with the other federations initially adopting a “wait and see” attitude before joining in after three weeks. Charest had hoped to wait out the students, and initially refused to negotiate. But, as the weeks passed, instead of fizzling, the strike gained momentum with mass pickets barring entrances to classes on struck campuses. In many cases student scabs (often Liberal Party youth) obtained court orders for the suspension of picketing, but the injunctions were routinely ignored. Rather than contracting, the strike expanded, as CLASSE pickets moved off campus and began disrupting “business as usual” by blockading bridges, financial institutions, courts and other government buildings.

On 22 March 2012, strikers held their first mass mobilization, which drew an astounding 200,000 participants in Montreal. Throughout the strike there were large demonstrations on the 22nd of each month. The date was chosen in homage to the French “Mouvement du 22 Mars” (March 22nd Movement), the Nanterre student group led by Daniel Cohn-Bendit whose occupation of a university administration building initiated the mass worker-student revolt in May-June 1968 that took France to the brink of social revolution. The success scored on 22 March 2012 drew more students into the movement, particularly on the francophone campuses. The strikers’ symbol, a red square, which had been introduced in the 2005 strike to protest the fact that tuition hikes would put students “squarely in the red,” was worn by tens of thousands of supporters.

Charest’s offer to negotiate with student federation representatives (with the exception of CLASSE) was rejected as the strike continued to grow in strength with nightly marches through Montreal. On 4 May 2012, striking students gathered outside a Liberal Party conference that had been moved from Montreal to the small town of Victoriaville 150 kilometers away to avoid demonstrators. Quebec riot police viciously attacked the protesters: more than 100 people were arrested and two seriously injured, one of whom lost an eye. Pauline Marois, leader of the official opposition Parti Québécois, which had spent the past several years criticizing Charest’s Liberals for failing to implement austerity with sufficient vigor, denounced the government’s “authoritarian” tactics at Victoriaville.

The next day Charest announced a tentative settlement brokered with the help of the leaders of Quebec’s three major trade-union centrals. If students would return to class, the government promised to “freeze” tuition for the rest of the year, appoint a committee to look for ways to cut spending, to reduce the amount of new revenue required and to implement the resulting tuition hike over seven, rather than five, years. The strike leadership agreed to put the proposal to a vote. To the considerable surprise of the bourgeois media and the government, the offer was overwhelmingly rejected. Instead of becoming demoralized, it became clear that tens of thousands of strikers, who had grown increasingly politicized through three months of hard struggle, were not prepared to settle for so little. Line Beauchamp, the Liberal government’s education minister and deputy premier, took the fall, announcing that she was resigning her parliamentary seat and leaving politics.

Politicizing the Struggle

From the outset, the leading elements of CLASSE rejected the model of lobbying government and university officials, and did not rely on the capitalist media to get their message out. Instead, they focused on educating their base by providing information and analysis that framed the struggle against the tuition hike in a broader context. This strategy worked, and is a large part of the reason why, to the amazement of the government and media, tens of thousands of students were prepared to fight on, week after week, month after month, without wavering.

Much of CLASSE’s analysis was based on the work of the left-wing think-tank, Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques (IRIS). IRIS research revealed that, far from being starved for investment as the government claimed, “grants and research contracts allocated to universities [in Quebec] more than doubled from 1995-1996 to 2005-2006, swelling from $721 million to $1.276 billion in constant 2006 dollars” (quoted in Academic Matters, November 2012). At the same time, public funding was increasingly redirected from operations and teaching into applied research tailored to the requirements of Quebec business. The tuition hike thus represented a concealed transfer from students (many of whom are from working-class families) to corporations. IRIS researchers estimated that if Charest got his way, as many as 30,000 students might be forced to drop out.

The government insisted that keeping the university system viable depended on the additional $160 million that the proposed tuition hike would have generated. CLASSE countered with a proposal to find most of this money by reducing expenditures on commercial research (while leaving funding for basic research intact). The balance, they proposed, could be obtained by freezing the pay of the upper layer of administrators (whose salaries had risen an astronomical 83 percent between 1997 and 2004). CLASSE also proposed that national “Etats généraux” be convoked—a sort of mega public forum—where issues relating to education and social priorities could be thoroughly aired. CLASSE promised to use such an opportunity to make the case for abolishing tuition altogether and replacing it with a 7 percent levy on financial institutions (which are currently taxed at lower rates than other businesses in Quebec). These sorts of reforms, fairly moderate by historical standards, are directly counterposed to the current ruling-class austerity project.

When the strike began, CLASSE had a substantial number of members who identified as “anti-capitalist,” and their numbers grew as the struggle intensified. Another, broader, layer was composed of those who did not necessarily oppose capitalism per se, but were not happy with the idea of going further into debt to acquire a qualification to work in the future—particularly as obtaining secure, decent-paying jobs is increasingly difficult. These people tended to be open to arguments that education provides positive social benefits, and that a rational society would not make access to university dependent on personal finances.

As the struggle progressed, a process of radicalization occurred in which a substantial layer of relatively apolitical students, angered by the combination of government cynicism, wanton cop brutality and the willful distortions of the capitalist media, began to see their problems as part of a larger pattern in which the rich and powerful have interests at odds with those of the vast majority further down the social pyramid.

Social Media & Campus Television: Countering Corporate Propaganda

The strikers and their supporters skillfully employed the internet and social media to bypass corporate outlets and put their case directly to the public, as the Globe and Mail observed:

“Political authority isn’t the only target of deep distrust—the mainstream media have been relegated to a secondary role as the movement demonstrates a fresh determination to resist policies and test limits. For example, online rumours that police had killed and seriously wounded protesters, and journalists were conspiring to cover it up, were conclusively debunked, but spread widely anyway, often with the help of prominent entertainers and activists.
“At the same time, use of alternative sources such as social media and live feeds from Concordia University’s decidedly pro-student community television have exploded during the conflict.
“Last fall, as students carefully prepared their strike and protest campaign, CUTV obtained a backpack broadcasting system that allows it to stream video over the Web from the midst of marches. Its crews have walked long into the night, often pounded by police for their trouble, while the major networks have slept, or been bound by their satellite trucks and tight overtime budgets.”
op cit

Concordia has a well-deserved reputation as by far the most leftist of Quebec’s English-language post-secondary institutions. CUTV played a vital role in exposing police attacks on protesters and their indiscriminate use of percussion grenades, rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas to disperse demonstrators. As the struggle went on, CUTV’s viewership grew, and, according to the Globe and Mail, “drew more eyeballs some nights than leading local newscasts.”

Repression Backfires—Bill 78 Provokes Mass Resistance

Instead of resuming negotiations after the students voted down his original offer, Charest raised the stakes on 18 May 2012 by pushing through legislation—Bill 78—which closed campuses for three months, banned picketing within 50 meters of universities, required teachers and student union leaders to advocate obedience to the law and prohibited rallies or marches of more than 50 people unless they obtained advance permission from the police.

This draconian legislation was applauded by Yves-Thomas Dorval, president of the Conseil du patronat du Québec (Quebec Employers Council) but immediately denounced as unconstitutional by strike supporters, trade unions and even the Quebec Bar Association. The student strikers responded the night after the law was adopted with an “illegal” protest in which thousands marched through the streets of Montreal. Police attacked the demonstration but were unable to disperse it.

It became clear that Charest’s gamble on repression was a spectacular failure when, on 22 May 2012, an “unauthorized” demonstration of at least 250,000 people marched against Bill 78 in Montreal. This was a turning point. Defiant “casserole” demonstrations (with participants banging pots and pans) took place on a nightly basis across Quebec, drawing in broad sections of the population. On 28 May 2012, several hundred robed lawyers staged their own protest against repression in Montreal.

Demonstrations against Bill 78 and in support of the student strikers spread to English Canada. The largest was in Toronto, on 30 May 2012, when approximately 2,000 people marched in solidarity with the Quebec strikers. A few weeks earlier the Globe and Mail (7 May 2012) had reported that a poll of “students across Canada” found: “About 62 per cent of postsecondary students said they would join a similar strike in their own province; 32 per cent said they would not, while 5.9 per cent were undecided.” In Ontario, the most populous English Canadian province, “Sixty-nine per cent said they would strike to oppose a raise in tuition.” This is not the first time that militant struggles by Québécois workers and youth have resonated among their English Canadian counterparts (see “Marxism & the Quebec National Question,” Trotskyist Bulletin No.7).

For several weeks, tens of thousands of people joined students banging pots and pans in protests across Quebec. The students’ anti-austerity struggle was particularly popular in working-class neighborhoods, where there was already widespread resentment at growing income inequality and attacks on public services. In a few areas of Montreal, “Assemblées populaires autonomes de quartier” (popular independent neighborhood assemblies) began to meet to coordinate local protests. With hundreds of thousands actively defying Bill 78, the police announced that they were not even going to attempt to enforce it. On 30 May 2012, the Globe and Mail ran a story with a headline reading: “How casseroles overcame cudgels on the streets of Montreal.”

Union Bureaucrats Sabotage Struggle

CLASSE attempted to capitalize on the mass anger over Bill 78 with a call for a one-day “social strike” to galvanize resistance to the increasingly isolated Charest government. The union leadership was alarmed when some units of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN—Quebec’s second-largest labor federation) endorsed the idea. This tactic, while limited in scope, would have represented an escalation and broadening of the struggle and, as such, was completely counterposed to the strategy of the union tops, who were trying to work out a backroom deal with Charest to end the strike.

Unlike the CSN, the larger Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) has many affiliates which also operate in English Canada (where they are grouped in the Canadian Labour Congress [CLC]). Charest’s outrageously anti-democratic Bill 78 produced an outpouring of sympathy for the student strikers from anglophone trade unionists across Canada. In response, FTQ President Michel Arsenault, intent on demobilizing the struggle, wrote to CLC head Ken Georgetti on 28 May 2012 to request his assistance in squelching union support for the strikers. Noting that the “situation in Quebec is currently very volatile,” Arsenault complained that the campaign of mass defiance of Bill 78 (aka Law 12) was led by “radical wings.” He explicitly opposed the CLASSE call for a “social strike” with the gratuitous lie that, “despite their apparent strength, the student associations are exhausted,” so “the best approach is to facilitate a settlement instead of fueling the fires.” In spurning the spontaneous solidarity of English Canadian workers, Arsenault cynically lamented a lack of militancy outside Quebec: “if students in other provinces were paying less for their school tuitions, this would put less pressure on ours.”

Georgetti forwarded Arsenault’s letter to his members the same day with the “hope” that there was no truth to “rumours…that some national affiliates [of the CLC] plan to organize potential illegal actions in Quebec in violation of Bill 78, to support the student protests.” He instructed member unions to “respect the jurisdiction of the FTQ in their province” and not do anything without its sanction.

The desire of the union leadership to derail the struggle is ultimately rooted neither in personal cowardice nor an inability to understand the issues, nor is it the product of the Anglo-chauvinism of the English Canadian union bureaucrats or the Québécois nationalism of their counterparts in “La Belle Province.” It is rather an expression of their role as “labor lieutenants of capital” whose job it is to ensure that social struggle does not seriously threaten the interests of the ruling class. Diane Kalen-Sukra, a disenchanted former union staffer, perceptively observed that the private communication between Arsenault and Georgetti (which was leaked to a leftist website) illustrated the vast gulf that separates the interests and concerns of the union tops from the ranks:

“Rather than feel the pain of their members—the eroding wages, lack of dignity at work, and loss of all security—such union bureaucrats cling ever more tightly to their positions, their privileges and perks. Any challenge to the status quo, is a threat to this parasitic existence, even if it means turning a blind eye to gross injustice.”
—, 25 June 2012

Charest’s Election Gamble Backfires

The student strikers remained active over the summer, with successful mobilizations on both 22 June and 22 July 2012. On 1 August 2012, Charest called a snap election for 4 September and, channeling Richard Nixon, sought to cast himself as the champion of the “silent majority”:

“‘Now is the time for the silent majority to speak,’ Charest told a news conference at the Quebec City airport.
“‘In the last few months we’ve heard a lot from a number of student leaders. We’ve heard from people in the street. We’ve heard from those who have been hitting away at pots and pans. Now is the time for the silent majority.’”
—Canadian Press, 1 August 2012

But Quebec voters had had enough of the Liberals and their leader; Charest not only lost the election, but his own seat as well. The separatist PQ (which assiduously avoided any discussion of independence during the campaign) formed a minority government and quickly moved to rescind Bill 78 and cancel Charest’s tuition hike, proposing instead to tie future increases to inflation. There are few illusions in the PQ among those who remember the damage wreaked on education and healthcare by the zero deficit policy of Lucien Bouchard’s PQ government in the 1990s. Marois, the new premier, had been personally responsible, as Bouchard’s health minister, for introducing draconian legislation to break a nurses’ strike in 1999.

Lessons of ‘le Printemps érable

The Quebec student strike, impressive in both its breadth and duration, successfully beat back a serious attack and brought down the government that initiated it. While the core organizers of the struggle were ultimately unable to realize their ambitious agenda of shifting the axis of the struggle into a fight to abolish tuition fees altogether, the depth and resilience of their movement shocked the capitalist ruling class in Quebec and English Canada.

At the height of the struggle, Mario Dumont, who for 15 years led the rightist Action Démocratique du Québec (at one time the official opposition in Quebec’s National Assembly), assessed the outcome as “basically a major victory for the unions,” and concluded that “one of the consequences of this will be that no government will dare propose any significant change for the next decade” because “Any reform will be seen as political suicide” (Globe and Mail, 2 June 2012). The article cited University of Montreal professor Christian Nadeau’s speculation that the impact of the Quebec student struggle might be to lead “people across the country [to] rise up against [Conservative] Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s steady march toward smaller government and freer markets.”

Unfortunately the impact, at least in the short term, has been less dramatic. While the 2012 mass mobilizations against austerity are likely to make the architects of future attacks more cautious, it is no secret that the PQ minority government remains committed to pursuing its own program of cuts and tuition hikes.

The 2012 student mobilizations, referred to by many as the “Printemps érable” (“Maple Spring”), politicized the issue of austerity within Quebec. It also demonstrated to an entire generation that solidarity and mass resistance to capitalist attacks can be effective, particularly if opposition is seriously prepared and able to communicate a counter-narrative to the lies and distortions of the corporate media.

One of the key slogans of the striking students during their months of struggle was “On ne lâche pas” (We’re not backing down). To their credit, they did not back down. However, when CLASSE raised the slogan “Cette victoire est la nôtre” (This victory is ours) for its 22 September 2012 demonstration, it was, as Montreal activist Micha Stettin wrote, implicitly abandoning some of the broader anarcho-utopian vision which had motivated its core activists because, “The pressure to ‘win’ something, to claim that which is external and easily identifiable, has proven too great.” Stettin complains that:

“Such a narrative suggests that the strike was just a fight over university accessibility. It makes the events of the previous months non-threatening; it removes the content and context from each act. According to this fiction, forming a new politics based on the negation of representation was just a side point. Autonomous organizing and direct, unmediated action were simply a means. Attacks on banks, government offices, and media were all just to put enough pressure on the government to listen to the primary demand of university accessibility….
“It is a beautiful truth that much went right; much has been gained and learned. But the story that is now being told is a fantastical one. A strike that based itself on a rejection of representative democracy has betrayed itself to electoralism—a reliance on political parties and voting to achieve an end.”
McGill Daily, 25 September 2012

It is hardly surprising that the “new politics” of “direct unmediated action” that seemed so transcendent in the heat of battle could not be maintained indefinitely—with Charest gone and his tuition program shelved, it was time to return to the classroom. Stettin is disappointed that the struggle “to build a society that is dedicated to the public good” as sketched in the CLASSE Manifesto, via a “negation of representation,” devolved into proclaiming “victory” with the electoral defeat of the Liberals and the election of the equally bourgeois PQ.

But the CLASSE Manifesto is mistaken in presenting the question of the future direction of human society as hinging on the form of decision-making—representative vs “direct” democracy. In fact, what is decisive is the question of which social class rules—those who do the work or those who possess the capital. This determines the fundamental structure of the economic system from which all other elements of social organization derive. There are essentially two options for a modern economy—either a for-profit system based on the private ownership of the means of transport, communication and production, or the creation of a planned, collectivized economy based on the expropriation (or “socialization”) of the means of production in which political power is wielded by those who perform the labor necessary to keep society operating. One system is in crisis; the other has yet to be born.

While the CLASSE Manifesto accurately describes the agenda of the ruling class, and calls for the creation of a society in which human need trumps the imperatives of profit maximization, it stops short of identifying the root of the problem as the capitalist system itself.

Although the “Printemps érable” was shaped in part by the relative isolation of the nation of Quebec within a predominantly English-speaking continent, the analysis presented in the CLASSE Manifesto is also flawed by an implicit assumption that the borders of Quebec constitute the political framework within which the battle must be fought and won. The fact that Québécois workers have a well-deserved reputation as the most militant and politically-conscious section of the North American proletariat lends the class struggle in Quebec an exceptional significance. But geopolitical and social reality dictates that any anti-capitalist revolt that begins in Quebec must spread to English Canada and the U.S., or risk being drowned in blood.

Under capitalism, the mass of humanity has no right to the essentials of life—employment, healthcare, food, shelter and education. In order to “provid[e] everyone with the resources they need to develop their full capacities” and create a society of “shared” decision-making, which the CLASSE Manifesto describes as “the heart of our vision,” it will be necessary to overthrow capitalism, expropriate the ruling class and break up its apparatus of repression. The only section of society with both the social power and material interest in carrying out such a perspective is the working class.

Yet the current leaders of the workers’ movement operate as a brake on social struggle and are agents of the bosses, as the FTQ’s sabotage of the proposed “social strike” illustrates. In English Canada, the labor bureaucracy—and its political expression, the New Democratic Party—pushes Canadian nationalism, a bourgeois ideology bound up with denial of the right of self-determination for the Québécois. In Quebec, the trade-union tops pursue class collaboration through political support to the PQ and Québécois nationalism. The central strategic task of revolutionaries is to struggle to break the grip of the labor lieutenants of capital on the organizations of the working class, drive them from their roosts and install in their place a class-struggle leadership committed to doing whatever is necessary to end exploitation once and for all.

The radicalization of thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands, of youth through first-hand experience with the ugly reality of capitalist “law and order” may prove highly significant for future confrontations. These young militants have learned a lot, but those who are serious about eradicating the root causes of the ravages of capitalist irrationality must study the history of the class struggles of the past. The only agency capable of carrying out the sort of fundamental social transformation dreamily gestured toward in the CLASSE Manifesto is a politicized working class led by a disciplined revolutionary organization composed of the best, most combative and self-sacrificing militants. This is the key lesson of the experience of the Russian Revolution of 1917—the only historical example thus far of a successful overthrow of capitalism by working people and the oppressed.