Image courtesy of Via Reyes
Image courtesy of Via Reyes

By: Drew MacEachern

Originally published Friday, September 11th 2015

New societies often pop up during the annual Society Fair put on by the Student Union, but few are as controversial as the newly formed Revolutionary Student Movement (MER-RSM). Passing out fliers and pamphlets declaring that “We are the Canada-wide revolutionary, combative, militant, and anti-capitalist student movement” in front of a display board adorned with the faces of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, the display was certainly eye-catching.

The Revolutionary Student Movement is a Canada-wide student movement dedicated to revolutionary change. It aims to create a working class movement of students to help end the exploitation and oppression they view as inherent in the capitalist system, rejecting reform and praising revolution while doing so. To support this goal, it also strives to create an anti-racist, anti-ableist, anti-fascist, anti-homophobic, and “proletarian” feminist culture. It proudly “maintain[s] [their] independence from the bourgeois state.” The RSM maintains chapters at universities in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and now, PEI.

The Cadre reached out to the founder of the new UPEI Chapter, Nova Arsenault, to get some insight into the organization. Arsenault explained that while he saw many UPEI students engaged in social activism, from feminism, to anti-war activism, to supporters of LGBTQIAP+ students, no one tried to unite these movements together “in theory and practice”. According to Arsenault, “I saw the need to establish this chapter to educate, organize, and mobilize UPEI students in the struggle against the sources of all those issues: colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism.”

The term revolution can conjure up certain images of violence, which inspired us to try to clarify exactly what kind of revolution they mean. After some investigation, the Cadre uncovered certain links between the Revolutionary Student Movement and the Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada. The RCP declares itself to be a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organization dedicated to revolutionary change. It appears that the RCP interprets this call to revolution as a literal and inevitable eventuality. On its programme, the RCP declares that The objective of the proletarian movement is to destroy the bourgeois state and all of its institutions. It is also to liquidate the private ownership of property of the big bourgeoisie……..Such a perspective excludes straightaway any possibility of a pacifistic transition. The recourse to violence is unavoidable. The preparation of revolutionary struggle that will overthrow the bourgeoisie is what we must plan.” Furthermore, it also declares, “We will make revolution in Canada through protracted people’s war.

Through an email exchange, the Cadre asked Arsenault to clarify the relationship between the RSM and the RCP. He explained, “The RSM UPEI chapter has no direct connection or contact with the PCR-RCP, but we align ourselves with their theoretical approach. Centrally, the PCR-RCP supports the MER-RSM and the two organizations have contact with one another.”

However, with the fact that the organization describes itself as militant still in mind, we also asked Arsenault how would respond to criticisms of his organization that it appears violent. He responded that militancy refers to the willingness to struggle to end oppression. Furthermore, if violence refers to something that is harmful or destructive, then many aspects of the status quo itself is violent; from the negligence towards missing and murdered aboriginal women, to poverty to the violation of bodily autonomy with lack of abortion access. To sum up the argument in Arsenault’s own words:

If we connect the myriad of these passively violent tendencies within capitalism and imperialism to their actively violent enforcers – the police and army – we see that the Canadian state is a violent entity that exploits the majority of its population to accumulate wealth, and does so on land that was stolen in an ongoing genocidal campaign against indigenous peoples. I think that to characterize any form of resistance against the brutal colonial-imperialist state of Canada as “violent” would require one to take the side of the oppressive state. To put it in simpler terms, it would be like calling someone a bully for standing up against a bully; it is a defense of the aggressor which contributes to the abuse of the oppressed. It is dishonest to analyze actions without analyzing the context in which they occurred, and in this historical and material context the Canadian state, its bourgeoisie, and their armed forces are aggressors which should not be defended.

Arsenault explained that after discovering the RSM and finding a group of like-minded people, he reached out to the organization to start a local UPEI chapter. After gaining their approval, he began the process of registering with the Student Union as an official society. The group should be ratified with all other new societies at the Student Union meeting on Sunday.