Nearing my departure to Ireland, France and the middle east, I find myself a little sad that my trip prevents any time for a visit to Quebec. The current student strike there, which is in its tenth week, does appear to be a real political situation – and one in my home country nonetheless. Everything occupy did wrong, this student strike appears to be doing correctly – they have a clear prescription, a relatively clear leadership, and their disruptive civil actions go on day after day rather than exploding in disconnected “days of action”. They have created and sustained a conflict against the austerity movement which stands for a substantial notion of freedom, and by standing on the principle of ‘no tuition hikes’, they also stand for the whole movement against austerity. By focussing on one demand and creating a confrontation they clarify the situation, whereas Occupy insisted on (and continues to insist) that every marginalized group’s demand be considered equal in action as well as in principle. Clarification is essential because politics is an exercise in simplification: the complex world is real but can’t be acted in – the trick is to simplify it in the right way.
It’s easy to be critical of the current anti-capitalist movements for their lack of direction and lack of organization. But a year ago they did not even exist. As the struggles mature, analysis and leadership and key confrontations must emerge, it must become obvious who stands on which side of Right, who stands for freedom, and who remains the utopian who says things can go on indefinitely as they are. At the same time, the revolutionary positions must not become intertial, ossified, and so many little tyrannies themselves. The strength of a conservative revolutionary movement, one which sacrifices the plurality of demands for the clarity of a single clarion call, must give way to the weakness of a progressive one, one which doesn’t merely critique the failure of the existing system to provide what it promises, but demands much more from the idea of justice and liberty than is even conceivable to the defenders of the status quo. at the moment when a new world can be imagined by more than a few, just as the fluidity of progression must be instituted and conserved by structures and values which can take root in systems and in the social fabric of the places in the world as they undo and remake themselves.