This strategy consists in designing an action plan that proposes a series of actions that are progressively more radical, beginning with actions that aren’t very engaging for participants and are easy to take part. For example: petitions, political flash mobs or taking a position in a general assembly. We knew these tactics, by themselves, didn’t contribute much to stopping the hike. But before organizing more ambitious and effective protests, we needed to build up activist communities in many different CEGEPs (colleges) and universities. In colleges, where students are generally aged between 17 and 20 years old and turnover is high, political consciousness among the student body is low. Organizing simple actions like petitioning offers an opportunity for such students who are interested in doing something about the tuition hike and who might otherwise be very reluctant to get involved in anything that could lead to confrontation.
A lot of our collective experience as activists in Quebec taught us that building political campaigns through progressive involvement of participants is much more effective in elevating people’s political consciousness than mere information or propaganda campaigns. When a petition you’ve worked on fails to produce any results, when your pacifist sit-in is attacked by police or when a demonstration you were in is ridiculed or mocked in newspapers or on the radio, it tends to highlight the limits and contradictions of the system much better than a flyer might. Of course, it’s a process that takes time and which asks of experienced activists who might be veterans of radical movements to take part in some organizing that they would otherwise brush off as being a waste of effort.
Between 2010 and 2012, our commitment to this process led to a new generation of involved students who in turn, contributed massively to get more of their colleagues involved. In time, our rallies grew larger and larger and local unions were increasingly active and dynamic. On many campuses, we could count on solid cores of activists who eventually reached the conclusion, largely by themselves, that the only way to stop the hike was with an unlimited general student strike.