What is Neo-liberalism?

Michael HollowayOccupy Toronto
29 September 2012
by Michael Holloway

 
‘What is Neo-Liberalism?’ will be a continuing series.

I think that it would be of great benefit for us to understand just what it is we are dealing with – know thy enemy, so to speak. I think that this understanding will allow us to enunciate a clear alternative narrative to the debate. The following is my first submission here towards this end. Suggestion, or ideas for future posts under this heading are appreciated.

This entry is a translation by Richard Fidler – who writes “Life of the Left” – of an article from the quarterly, “Journal des Profs Contre La Hausse”. “Profs contre la hausse” (Profs against the fee hike) are a group of university and college professors who helped to mobilize support for the striking students in Quebec’s “printemps érable,” or maple spring.

Reprinted in it’s entirety from:

Life on the Left

News articles, commentaries, reviews, translations on subjects of potential interest to progressive minded individuals and organizations, with a special emphasis on the Quebec national question, indigenous peoples, Latin American solidarity, and the socialist movement and its history.

 

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

‘The struggle is class . . . against class’

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- Ceci n’est pas La matraque des profs contre la hausse

Strike or no strike, the struggle continues’

Introduction

The following is my translation of a feature article in the Autumn 2012 issue of a 16-page tabloid produced by Profs contre la hausse (Profs against the fee hike), the group of university and college professors that helped to mobilize support for the striking students in Quebec’s “printemps érable,” or maple spring. The newpaper bears the evocative masthead “Ceci n’est pas La Matraque des profs contre la hausse,” the matraque, or police truncheon, referring of course to the brutal repression of student demonstrators by the cops.

During the strike this spring, a statement (“We are all students”) issued by Profs contre la hausse was signed by more than 2,000 professors.[1] The current issue of the profs’ newspaper, which is subtitled “The spring continues,” states on its front page: “We present this newspaper to the students, who, through their unprecedented mobilization, were able to revitalize the Quebec political landscape. Their powerful speeches and their creative opposition to the bards of austerity and the ‘fair share’ inspire us in our own practices of political freedom.”

Richard Fidler

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The political economy behind this year’s student struggle and the increase in Quebec tuition fees

by Eric Pineault, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM)

The spring student strike is quite probably the inaugural act of a new period of social conflict in Quebec, analogous to the struggles that are traversing the other societies beset by the similar exhaustion of a neoliberal political economy. After three decades of relative “civil peace” (1982 to 2012) and neoliberal bracketing of conflicts, Quebec could be entering an era of political and cultural awakening in which it is once again possible to hope for a fundamental transformation of economic and social relations. Such changes do not occur without arousing strong resistance, and the social offensives needed to drive them forward must be equally combative.

It was precisely based on such analyses that the ASSÉ, then the CLASSE,[2] prepared the big strike of 2012. It was necessary, from the outset, to link the fight against the increase to a more comprehensive challenge to the neoliberal state model, in particular the so-called “cultural revolution” of fee-based public services, a regressive tax system and privatization of the common heritage of the Québécois and aboriginal peoples. So for the CLASSE, at least, it was not simply a fight against the fee hike — which, to be sure, would have soon unraveled in a negotiated increase. Rather, it was a social struggle for free education and for a decommodification of the university system.

The so-called “radicalism” of the CLASSE is derived, as the expression suggests, from the fact that the analysis framing its strike action went to the root of the problem and grasped it in its totality: the fee increase and the commodity and corporate drift of the university system are products of a neoliberal political economy that is imposed on all aspects of Quebec society. This political economy is not an invention of Jean Charest’s Liberals; they systematized and adapted a more general model applied pretty well everywhere in North America, some key aspects having been installed by the PQ in the socio-economic summits following the 1995 referendum.

image The former Conservative turned nationalist Lucien Bouchard passed the torch of austerity and competitive deregulation to the former Conservative turned Liberal Jean Charest who, at first, simply developed in complete coherence what was already implicit in Bouchard’s zero-deficit policy, then accelerated and generalized the establishment of the neoliberal model in Quebec. These developments followed a long period, between 1982 and 1995, of exhaustion of the social model established in the traces of the Quiet Revolution. The Quebec model of neoliberalism was also prepared through the construction at the federal level of its neoliberal macro-economic framework: free-trade agreement, conversion of unemployment insurance into “employment insurance,” a disinflationary monetary policy, financial deregulation, lower taxes and the fight against the deficit they provoked.

It can be said that the crisis of 2008 marked the end of this ascendancy of neoliberalism, both here and elsewhere in North America and Europe, for it was the crisis of the economic model it had spawned. Since then we have been caught in a trap that combines economic stagnation with austerity. There is nothing in the policies responding to this crisis that eases this tendency to stagnation. The elite has apparently turned its back on the growth on which, in theory, the viability of advanced capitalism rests.

Such is the political economy context of the coming social conflicts in Quebec: an anaemic economy, most incomes stagnating, and a state caught in the vice-like grip of an austerity that generates further stagnation, with greater austerity in response. This context is not peculiar to Quebec; the essential sources of this stagnation trap lie elsewhere, in the United States and Europe, and by opening up our economy we have made ourselves dependent on economic cycles over which we have no influence. The Plan Nord can only accentuate this dependency. In this context, what are the possible sequels to the social movement of the spring of 2012?

One way of thinking about the last three decades of neoliberal hegemony is to see them as thirty years of a one-sided “class struggle,” and one way of making sense of what began in the spring of 2012 is to understand it as the end of this one-sidedness. The class struggle is now working both ways. How can we understand neoliberalism as a one-sided class struggle? To understand that, a small detour through history is necessary. For the greater part of the 20th century, the political economy regime was characterized by a certain compromise between capital and labour, between big corporations and employees. The profits of the first rested on the consumption of the second, and firms were constrained to share their productivity gains with the workers so that the latter could (over)consume massively what was (over)produced massively. That was the major lesson learned during the crisis of the 1930s, a crisis of overproduction, underconsumption and under-investment.

From 1939 to 1980 in North America and Western Europe, real wages of the majority progressed from year to year, while everywhere the share of the wealth going to the most well-off (the highest 1% of incomes) decreased year by year, from the ceiling of 1930 to the floor of 1980. It was not through kindness or necessarily by far-sightedness that the capitalists were led to share the proceeds of economic growth. On the contrary, it was essentially thanks to the strength of the trade-union movement, the pressure exerted on the state by a mobilized citizenry, the presence in the political arena of left-wing parties, and the counter-model constituted by the so-called “communist” countries that the welfare state, and a form of partially socialized capitalism, developed.

Quebec’s Quiet Revolution arrived toward the end of this period, and constituted for us a sort of catching-up with an historical trajectory that was much longer elsewhere. Within a few years, Quebec acquired a modern social state and a progressive labour law; nationalized some major sectors of its economy; created the Caisse de Dépôt et Placement, the public university and college networks, and the health care system; made working conditions in the public sector a lever for raising conditions in the private sector; and, finally, equipped itself with the tools to develop its natural resources under its own control. Added to all this, a progressive tax system that took more from the well-off than from the majority, and that tapped into profits almost as much as wages, gradually but ineluctably reduced the power of the business elites and big corporations in the society and the economy.

Neoliberal policies are a struggle by the elites to reconquer the economic and political power they lost to the workers, whom they have managed to fragment into a multiplicity of groups, each forced onto the defensive, each attempting to preserve some acquisition that guarantees its dignity. The great secret of neoliberalism is that what we understand as the dismantling of some part of the social state, the privatization of some public service, the imposition of market competition in some sector, the deregulation of this or that is in fact a vast transfer of resources, wealth and power from “the commons” to the hands of the elite and their big corporations. That has been the true nature of the one-sided class warfare waged by the elite against society, for some thirty years.

That warfare could continue uninterrupted for as long as it held the promise that this was the only way to guarantee economic growth that would eventually allow the workers to increase their living standards. After the crisis of 2008, belief in the need for austerity helped to extend this context of one-sided struggle. But with the spring of 2012, the veil was lifted and the elite appeared for what it is: a class of “appropriators” who live and enrich themselves by transforming our collective heritage into their individual wealth and into assets for the big corporations. The future of the universities did not escape this logic, and the fee increase was an essential tool in this strategy of incorporation of the university. By challenging the increase in the name of free tuition, the movement altered the context. The struggle is now being waged by both sides. It is possible to think of a post-neoliberalism, and to go about constructing it. Over and beyond the electoral pause, a new era of change and social debate is opening before us.


[1] For an English translation, see “Massive demonstrations support Quebec students striking against fee hikes”; the statement is appended to the article.

[2] Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante – Association for student union solidarity (ASSÉ); Coalition large de l’ASSÉ – Broad coalition of the ASSÉ (CLASSE).

Posted by at Thursday, September 27, 2012

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References:

Life on the Left | Thursday, September 27, 2012 | ‘The struggle is class . . . against class’ | http://lifeonleft.blogspot.ca/2012/09/the-struggle-is-class-against-class.html

 

 

 

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Beyond Zuccotti Park

Michael HollowayOccupy Toronto
13 August 2012
by Michael Holloway

 

New Book takes a hard Look at Public Space Freedoms in the Wake of Occupy

With the book’s release the authors are planning a travelling series of happenings, “A parallel exhibition as live participatory experience—Beyond Zuccotti Park: Exhibition as Occupation…” – one or which will undoubtedly be organized in Toronto – and in cities across Canada.

Stay tuned here for updates.

More on the project in this video form the Kickstarter page (Funded) -
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/303382230/beyond-zuccotti-park

 

via New Village Press:

New Book Takes Hard Look at Public Space Freedoms in the Wake of Occupy
New York, NY – August 7, 2012

“Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of
Public Space”, to be released on September 11, 2012, examines the importance of public space as a
community forum for citizen expression. Actions against Occupy Wall Street demonstrations have spotlighted US Constitutional rights to freedom of assembly. The book puts issues of democracy and civic engagement into the center of built environment dialogue by addressing where and how people can congregate publicly today, whose voices are heard, and the factors that limit the participation of minorities. It also gives fresh attention to the planning, design, and programming of public space.

Beyond Zuccotti Park was conceived in response to the forced clearance of Occupy activities from public plazas throughout the country. Its distinguished editors are advocates of participatory civic process: Ron Shiffman, FAICP, Hon. AIA, Director Emeritus, Pratt Center for Community Development and Professor, Pratt Institute Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment; Rick Bell, Executive Director, American Institute of Architects, New York; Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, ACSA Distinguished Professor, School of Architecture, City College of New York, CUNY; Lynne Elizabeth, Director, New Village Press; Anastassia Fisyak, Urban Planning Fellow, Pratt Center for Community Development; and Anusha Venkataraman, Assistant Director, El Puente Green Light District. Beyond Zuccotti Park’s foreword was penned by Michael Kimmelman, chief architecture critic of the New York Times, and Pulitzer Prize finalist.

The AIANY Center for Architecture will hold multiple events in celebration of Beyond Zuccotti Park:
• Exhibit Opening – September 6 (runs thru 9/22) – Beyond Zuccotti Park: Exhibition as Occupation
• Book Launch – September 10 – presenters: Peter Marcuse, professor emeritus of Urban Planning
at Columbia University, and Nikki Stern, political, social, and cultural commentator.
• Public Workshops – September 16 – Democracy, Equity, and Public Space, celebrating the
anniversary of Occupy Wall Street

“This book, like Zuccotti [Park] itself, is a site of vigorous conversation, hard thinking, and bold proposals.”
—Mike Wallace, coauthor of Pulitzer Prize-winning Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898

 

New Village Press – August 7, 2012

___________

 

“..

A parallel exhibition as live participatory experience—Beyond Zuccotti Park: Exhibition as Occupation—is slated to open at the Center for Architecture on September 6 and will run through September 22, with fresh posters from Occuprint, broadcasts from May Day Radio, workshops from Occupy Town Square, and flashmob performances spilling onto adjacent sidewalks, La Guardia Place, and Washington Square Park.

The book and exhibition are a collaborative partnership of the Center for Architecture New York, City College of New York School of Architecture, the Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment, and Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility.

…”

Sean Gleason – New Village Press

 

Via Occupy Toronto Outreach Committee

 

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CLASSE calls for rest period – “Social Strike” does not rest: July 22 march, August 1st Casseoles HUGE

Michael HollowayOccupy Toronto
04 August 2012
by Michael Holloway

 

From ROAR Magazine, August 4, 2012
O, Canada, we stand on guard for thee!
by Nadim Fetaih

Monthly Quebec Student's march - Montreal July 22, 2012 via ROAR Magazine

They said that it had fizzled out. They said it was over. They said a lot of things. But one thing is clear: here in Montreal, the fight is far from over.

 

“On July 22nd, I went to Montreal to witness what was said to be a dying fight — but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Oh the folly of our times, believing that regrouping is in fact the destruction of a movement. What I saw was a beautiful sight of solidarity for the student cause in Quebec. Men and women, young and old, were out in full force, proving once again that the movement, which hides for but a moment, is only growing stronger below the radar of the media and general population.

As a person living in Toronto, all I could do was mire at the beautiful stories that would find itself within my city limits, to reach my ears as I would listen attentively at the admiration of my fellow Canadians. For the first time in a long time, I truly feel proud to be Canadian. A mass movement is growing.

…”

 

Read the rest at ROAR Magazine | “O, Canada, we stand on guard for thee!” | by Nadim Fetaih published August 4, 2012 – http://roarmag.org/2012/08/o-canada-we-stand-on-guard-for-thee/

 

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TRNN’s “Berlin Tenants’ Movement Occupy Square”

Michael HollowayOccupy Toronto
01 August 2012
by Michael Holloway

 

VIDEO

The Real News Network | July 31, 2012
Berlin Tenants’ Movement Occupy Square
Social housing tenants occupy central square demand a rent freeze and nationalization of social housing

“Berlin Tenants’ Movement Occupy Square
More at The Real News

 

 

The Real News Network | July 31, 2012 | Berlin Tenants’ Movement Occupy Square – http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=8637

The Real News Network | Occupy tab – http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=846

 

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TRNN’s “Quebec Students Continue Resistance”

Michael HollowayOccupy Toronto
30 July 2012
by Michael Holloway

 

VIDEO

The Real News Network (TRNN) – latest report from the Quebec movement against neo-liberal austerity.

80,000 participated in the July 22nd version of the monthly marches – the 5th such monthly protest – even though the leadership of the movement had called for a rest period, in preparation for an Bill 78 mandated reopening of the schools the week of August 13 – 17; and a looming Provincial election that could be called in August (if the Liberals have the balls to try that tactic) but for sure sometime this fall.

 

Quebec Students Continue Resistance
More at The Real News

 

The Real News Network’s multipart “Quebec Student Strike” series link: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=33&Itemid=74&jumival=872

 

 

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