Can a fight for a different world start on a university campus? In Ontario, students have recently been making the news with their fight against inflation of tuition fees in Canada. I sat down for a chat with Jahan Niroomand, 23, a fellow York University student and activist for The Socialist Fightback Club, a student club at York University in Ontario, to find out their take.
UT: How have you influenced change in the name of socialism? What methods do members of the Socialist Fightback Club or its community use to display their dissatisfaction or disapproval with the current system?
SFB: One method we use is educating students about ideas like socialism. There used to be an abundant amount of stigma around the idea of a socialist or communist system, but the capitalist economic system is in crisis and it is failing. If you don’t trust this coming from a socialist, read the opinion of any intellectual capitalist economist. And, if you feel it is overwhelming, go to a place like Marxist.com to see why you can be optimistic about society moving beyond crisis. People are looking for alternatives and many are asking what a new system, one beyond capitalism, would look like. Change in the name of socialism means the majority of students, workers and people in this world coming together and taking back a political and economic system that is supposed to represent and work for them.
Bringing the focus back home, students in Ontario still need to catch up to the same level of activism and resistance that is happening in Quebec’s student movement, for example. As students we are entering the workplace and a world that is in desperate need of change. That is why it’s important that a club like ours promotes the engagement of political discourse and raises youth consciousness. We aim to put our theory and methods of resistance into practice.
The world is changing around us; revolutions, uprisings and resistance are popping up all over. It’s time we move forward with a serious attitude towards social change, starting on university campuses.
UT: You’ve made no secret that one of your top proprieties is the abolition of tuition fees for post-secondary universities in your region. Why is this particular issue at the core of this club’s mission?
SFB: Tuition fees are directly the greatest obstacle to the development of youth in our society. Students in Ontario pay an average of $6,500 in tuition fees per year, which is the highest in Canada. Tuition has risen by 300% since the early 1990’s and in many programs the increase has been much higher. This is by far the biggest obstacle for the working class and immigrant youth when thinking about a post-secondary education.
UT: In theory, how would ‘free education’ work financially without a university making revenue from tuition?
SFB: If you’re asking whether there is or isn’t enough money to cover the cost of free education in Canada, I can tell you there is. According to the Canadian Center of Policy Alternatives (CCPA), during 2008-2010 (amidst the global economic crisis) massive government bailouts were given out to the largest banks in Canada, and $114 billion of public money was put into financial institutions across the country. In 2009, executive bonuses for the CEO’s of the top five major banks totaled $8.3 billion, growing to $8.6 billion in 2010 and $9.3 billion in 2011. The money is there, however the banks and corporations have their hands in our government’s pockets.
UT: While we’re on the subject of education, what do you make of the current situation for teachers in Ontario?
SFB: We think it is disgusting that the Liberal government in Ontario is outlawing teachers’ rights to strike and taking away their rights to collective bargaining by imposing a two-year wage freeze. One of the Socialist Fightback
Club’s philosophies is to promote student-worker solidarity. When teachers are attacked, it is a direct attack on students as well. This must be a united fight against government tuition raises, wage cuts and overall government austerity.
As we build our base of activists, our activities will continue to grow and become more effective. We encourage anyone interested in joining to find the club on your campus or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .