On Sept. 27, Montreal’s streets were flooded with more than half a million workers and youth demanding action against climate change. A total of 146 student associations, representing more than 200,000 students, were on strike for this day. As the pressure built up, the Montreal school board canceled classes and even many businesses closed shop to allow their workers to participate. What was also notable was that 11 trade unions, representing 7,600 workers, also called a day of strike action. This was the biggest demonstration in the history of Quebec and Canada!
Starting in Sweden in August 2018, Skolstrejk För Klimatet (School Strike for the Climate) has blossomed into a worldwide mass movement involving students, workers, major unions and political parties, but most notably high schoolers. This last week saw a wave of demonstrations across Canada with 100,000 marching in Vancouver, 75,000 in Toronto, 40,000 in Ottawa and tens of thousands in other major cities. In total, more than 7 million people worldwide took to the streets for the #WeekForFuture demonstrations.
Starting at Parc Mont-Royal in the heart of the city, hundreds of thousands flooded into the park in what became a neverending human sea. Protesters climbed traffic lights and statues to shout slogans and display their placards and the crowd erupted with electric energy. The march swept through downtown Montreal completely flooding the streets as students chanted to awed onlookers, “Dans la rue avec nous!” (In the streets with us!). For four kilometres, there marched a solid mass of people. There were so many people that by the time the speeches began in Montreal’s Old Port (including a speech by Greta Thunberg), tens of thousands were still making their way through the streets. Downtown Montreal was completely paralyzed. A protest of this size has not been seen in Montreal since the 2012 student strike.
Present at the demonstration were major trade unions such as the CSN and Unifor, as well as major political parties Québec solidaire, the NDP, the Green Party and even the federal Liberal Party with Justin Trudeau marching. This led to a wave of anti-Trudeau chants and jokes made at his expense. The common comment was “What is he protesting? Himself?” At one point a protester threw an egg at Trudeau and was subsequently tackled to the ground by security forces.
In particular, the left party Québec solidaire mobilized heavily for this demonstration, with a contingent of 1,000 people. Most importantly, a shift to the left was apparent in the march among students. It was common to see anti-capitalist placards and banners like “The Planet Over Profit!” and “The System Is Wrong” being held by high schoolers.
The socialist contingent!
However, while the general trend was to the left and most people recognized that capitalism was a problem, there was not a clear idea on what needed to be done. It is precisely for this reason that the Marxists of La Riposte socialiste, the Quebec section of the International Marxist Tendency, organized a sizeable socialist contingent to put forward a bold socialist solution to the climate crisis. Our banners read “Revolutionary Change, Not Climate Change” and “Crise écologique, solution socialiste” (“ecological crisis, socialist solution”), and we chanted slogans targeting the capitalists and their system for destroying the planet.
We had a very good response as hundreds of people flooded to our table, buying copies of La Riposte socialiste and Fightback magazine. We explained that in order to meaningfully address climate change, the main levers of the economy cannot be run for the profit of the few, but must be owned collectively and democratically managed. As long as the oil companies and other multinationals are owned by a tiny elite, their drive for profit will continue to destroy our planet. Many agreed with our ideas and expressed interest in fighting for socialism.
The march ended with a speech by Greta Thunberg, who began with a criticism of both Canada’s and Sweden’s governments: “You are a nation that is allegedly a climate leader. Sweden is also allegedly a climate leader … In both cases it means absolutely nothing. In both cases, it’s just empty words.” She concluded by saying that “We have been told so many times that there is no point in doing this, that we can’t have an impact and make a difference. But I think we have proven that to be wrong by now. We are the change and change is coming.”
This movement shows that the youth are showing the way forward and are not willing to watch from the sidelines as the world sinks into barbarism. Millions of youth worldwide are reaching the conclusion that capitalist politicians do not serve them. As socialism is becoming increasingly in vogue, and strikes are becoming commonplace among the youth, one can only imagine the shudders of fear the capitalist establishment feels when they hear those words: “change is coming, whether you like it or not.”