First Published: Solidaire No. 5 Sept 1973
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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This extract was taken from the statement of principles of Mouvement Revolutionaire des Etudiants du Quebec (Quebec Revolutionary Student Movement), a movement began at the Universite du Quebec and now with organizations in the CEGEP’s and the English universities in Montreal.
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The place of students in this working class struggle against capitalism can be understood only by first recognizing that students as such do not constitute a social class. Rather, they form a transitory social group whose members are drawn from all classes of society.
In the universities, the working class and the bourgeoisie both furnish a minority of the student body, while the majority comes from the petty-bourgeoisie. The university acts to complete the process of integrating students into existing social structures by diffusing bourgeois ideology designed to create subservient and cynical adults. At the same time, students are trained to enter a specific class – the petty-bourgeoisie – through the skills they are taught by the university.
For most students, then, their class position is merely confirmed by attendance at university. For the “privileged” working class minority, it is the final stage in the process of rising to petty-bourgeois status.
It is above all by creating and propagating the ideology of the bourgeoisie that universities serve to perpetuate existing class relations. The class character of university education is evident both in the content of courses and in the artificial barriers that the university sets up between theory and practice, and between students and the work-world. This sterile vacuum which surrounds bourgeois knowledge acts to emasculate all conflicts within the university. It renders meaningless ideological struggles which are not directly related to the extra-university struggles against the capitalist class itself.
It is easy for the student movement to remain isolated from the working class struggle, to concentrate only on issues involving the university itself, and to venture no further than the campus. These issues, be they the cost of higher education, student employment and summer unemployment, or the mercantile policy of the university, are only of secondary importance. Concentrating solely in this area does not further the workers’ struggle, nor does it change the structure and function of the university. This can be done when the working class takes power.
As students, we should investigate not how we can improve our own lot as students; rather, we should question which class the educational system would have us support.
Our student movement must fight against all types of reformist ideas. We must expose the myths of participation introduced by the Parent Report  and by the creation of so-called “popular” institutions such as Dawson College, (an English CEGEP) and the Universite du Quebec. It is possible for the bourgeoisie in a “gesture of generosity” and under pressure from the academic Marxists to create a university with departments that profess Marxism. As soon as the separation of theory from practice is assured, anything is acceptable within the university.
The political and economic powers and their servants Trudeau and Bourassa, will be only too pleased to see students organizing themselves inside the school system without concern for the position of the working class, without participation in the struggle for the future of the Quebec people. The administrators of schools, CEGEPs, and universities can call for student participation, but they do so only to integrate us into those institutions which are designed to bolster the interests of the capitalist exploiters, and not to further the interests of the working people. For this reason, we will not let ourselves be duped by the setting up of corporate-like unions (e.g. the Front des Etudiants du Quebec) or students’ councils which isolate students within the confines of their schools and separate us from the struggling workers. The call for student participation launched by administrators or professors, the illusion of student power, is merely a “new” reformist proposal to interest the students in the smooth functioning of the school.
Beyond denunciation of the school system now serving the established social order and resistance to repressions in the high schools and the ideological conditioning in the CEGEPs and universities, students must join the struggle of workers who oppose capitalist exploitation. In an educational system controlled by the government and big business, there is only one criterion to determine if a student actively opposes the social system which oppresses the Quebec people: does he or she take part in the struggles of the working class?
The task of progressive students within the school system is to make students aware of the position of the working class. In the absence of a revolutionary workers’ party guiding the struggle of the working class, to support the working class must be to commit oneself as a student to the working class movement in the form of active support for workers’ actions each time a struggle is undertaken against capitalist exploitation.
Mouvement Revolutionnaire des Etudiants du Quebec
The Parent Report, result of the provincial Parent Royal Commission on Education recommended a revamping of the education system in Quebec. The forming of the CEGEP’s and the Universite du Quebec were a result of this report. The reforms were aimed at producing qualified personal for the American branch plants and the growing Quebec civil service.