The student collective is named just that: Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM), or Mouvement Etudiant Revolutionnaire (MER) in French-speaking regions. Guided by communist principles, the RSM was formed in 2012 after the Revolutionary Communist Party in Toronto held a conference, inviting similar groups nearby to come together and share resources. Since then, the RSM has grown across Canada and developed its own website, mandate and constitution.
Within their mandate, the RSM states: “We align our struggles with those of the broader working class… We will end exploitation, alienation, and all oppressions by supporting struggles against
institutional and individual oppressions in their various forms. We strive to support externally and maintain internally a strong anti-racist, anti-fascist, anti-ableist, LGBTQ2S*-inclusive, and proletarian feminist culture in both word and action.”
Its constitution further explains its hierarchy and lackthereof. Congress is the highest decision making body within the RSM whose members are voted on by the local chapters and general members. Although congress annually passes proposals of local chapters by majority vote of all members, it holds a lot of power too. Congress can strike any committee or committee member it sees fit and local chapters must uphold all decisions made by congress. This is due to right wing efforts to dismantle the organization.
One of the attending groups of the 2012 conference was the Marxist Student Association of the University of Ottawa, founded by Martin Rosso. Now a graduate student completing his Masters in Canadian and Indigenous Studies at Trent University, Rosso brought the RSM to Peterborough last year, creating one of fifteen local chapters across Canada. He is not currently a part of the Peterborough RSM chapter but instead is on the Coordinating Committee of the Canada-wide RSM. The Peterborough RSM Facebook page has 678 Likes as of October 1st but sees less attendance at its meetings.
Low attendance does not affect its regular members’ hard work. One of its most dedicated persons is undergraduate biology student Kenneth Kollontai who handles a lot of the group organizing and promotions, but stressed that he is no more or less of a member than any other meeting attendant. After Trent University, Kollontai’s education will not fail his social justice commitments as he plans to challenge the issue of corruption in science for ring wing agendas, by honest research in biological determinism and social biology.
When asked about experiencing limitations and backlash on campus, Kollontai replied: The RSM takes an antagonistic position against what we see as reactionary forces on campus be they political parties or Groups like Men’s Rights Organizations that promote misogynistic views. Sometimes this leads to verbal attacks and threats but this is not surprising and The RSMs strength has been proven across Canada by not being deterred and confronting these attacks with solidarity and pushing forward. Otherwise the RSM has met the challenges that are common to any organization starting out which is making people aware of your presence, however I think the Hammer and Sickle in our logo gives us an edge on this front.
Rosso says that the largest limitation is connecting with working-class students. Not only are they commonly low on time to spare, but many are unable to attend university. Furthermore, working-class students are often used to being told that they must work with the system instead of against it. It takes time to help students build up their confidence and education.
When asked about his experience of on-campus backlash, Rosso commented: The right always attacks the RSM in one form or another, but it’s usually fairly muted. When I was at uOttawa they’d draw swastikas and write mild threats on our posters, tear our materials down, stuff like that. When we got a bit bigger, the Campus Conservatives would do weird stuff like harass us when we tabled, video-record us, etc. We’ve had people online threaten to call the RCMP on us. When we ran a slate for the OPIRG uOttawa elections, the campus right organized an “Anyone But Communists” campaign, that failed miserably. It’s mostly just nonsense.
Recently though, a group of neo-Nazis attacked the meeting of our section at Algonquin College, and so we’ll be taking that threat more seriously. The official website of the RSM mentions the public ignorance of leftist politics as a large limitation on its efforts. The group focuses on tactical choices and thought-out stages, methods and detours to address the common myths about the political left. One example of this behaviour is that the RSM encourages students and members to not only question capitalism, but to question the leadership of its own local chapter.
Across Canada, the RSM is working towards the upcoming annual congress meeting which will take place on October 31st and November 1st. At this event, local chapters can bring forward ideas, helping congress to decide if there will be any large projects planned in the new year. Each local chapter can work on its own goals though. The immediate goal of the RSM on campus is to give students the confidence and support to be resistant and push for justice within post-secondary education systems. Trent’s RSM participated in the Pan-Canadian Day Of Action campaign last spring, in solidarity with the Spring 2015 movement against austerity. The campaign demanded the abolishment of tuition, canceling of student debt, open access to education and an anti-colonial aspect to university programs. Campuses and busy street across Canada were flooded with student demonstrations on March 24 2015.
With the federal elections moments away, many local chapters across Canada are supporting the Boycott Elections campaign which is an active boycott, calling to organize and take action instead of simply not voting. The RSM of Peterborough will be taking part in this campaign as well. “We boycott in order to send a message that we reject the current bourgeois so-called democratic electoral system,” (from boycottelections.wordpress.com).
The RSM rejects the NDP party of Canada as leftist and rejects any fundamental party differences in the electoral choices as each one supports capitalism, imperialism and colonialism. By pointing out each party’s repeated lies, broken promises and continuous corruption, the RSM labels each running party as anti-people. Of course, much of this is common knowledge and it is a public practice to vote for the “least evil” of the parties. The RSM further rejects this practice as well, labelling the current electoral system as a “bourgeois democracy”, being a democracy only for the upper class while the lower classes are left without choice or change. This is the way the elections are designed: to control itself to maintain predictable consistency and exclude working class Canadians and Indigenous Peoples.
By boycotting, the the question changes from Who do we want? to What do we want? and allows organization and changes from the connecting proletarians of Canada. The RSM may not be alone in the lack of faith in elections. There has been a steady decline of election turnouts in Canada, with only a 58.8% turnout in the federal 2008 elections and just a 49.2% turnout in Ontario’s 2011 election. To the RSM, this means that the masses understand that voting will not change their lives.
The argument to ‘change from within’ is also rejected by the RSM as it requires time, opportunities, funding and privilege that the working and lower class do not have access to. Furthermore, in our neoliberal society, parliament has limited power today so their is no use in ‘playing their game’. There is no time to waste; one must be outspoken by creating a strong and demanding movement in order to drive change. Check out this week’s article “VOTE… or don’t: your guide to either” online to learn what exactly RSM Peterborough has planned for those that do not want to vote, but instead take action!