On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Rushdia Mehreen talks about her involvement as a student organizer in the lead-up to and during last year’s massive student strike in Quebec.
Though the strike was one of the most visible and successful struggles so far in North America against the global austerity agenda, many people in the rest of Canada and in the United States are skeptical about whether that kind of mobilization can happen in places where such an approach is not already firmly established. The example of the students at Concordia University in Montreal may provide the best place to take lessons about how to do that. This is because unlike the francophone universities in the province, Concordia, an anglophone school, had no tradition of the directly democratic general assembly-type organizing that is the basis for the powerful strikes that have historically been rooted in Quebec’s francophone schools. Yet in the lead-up to the 2012 strike, a group of students at Concordia took steps that lead, within the space of only a year, to a substantial transformation of the political environment on campus and the implementation of general assembly democracy among a significant proportion of the student body.
In both this episode and the next one, Mehreen talks about how they did that. This episode focuses on the political context in which they were organizing, on exactly what the general assembly model entails, and on the progression of actions and events through which it was implemented at Concordia. On next week’s show, Mehreen reflects in more depth on certain key questions and talks about the possibilities and barriers for implementing this approach elsewhere in North America.
For more material in English on student organizing in Montreal, check out the website of Free Education Montreal. Those interested in implementing assembly-based student organizing in new settings might also be interested in this how-to document (in PDF form) on the subject by Mehreen and Matthew Brett.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada through in-depth interviews that concentrate not on current events or the crisis of the moment, but on giving people involved in a broad range of social change work a chance to take a longer view as they talk about what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. To learn more about the show in general, click here.
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Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.