A multilingual banner at the Student Power Convergence in Columbus, Ohio, in August 2012. (WNV/Zachary Bell)
This article originally appeared at Waging Nonviolence and is reposted with the author's permission.
On November 10, 2012, tens of thousands of students flooded the streets of Montreal to express opposition to the proposed tuition hikes. Iain Brannigan, one of approximately 65,000 participants, often took part in the city’s frequent, massive student protests—but this day was uniquely exciting for him. As the University of Ottawa international-development student marched to the tune of À qui la rue? (Whose streets?) À nous la rue! (Our streets!), he knew that the words were being chanted simultaneously—in a dozen different languages—by students around the globe.
It was the beginning of the week-long Global Education Strike, during which thousands of students refused to attend school in Quebec, France and Belgium, while thousands more participated in solidarity demonstrations in Thailand, England, Indonesia, Italy and California. Only some of Brannigan’s comrades knew about the synchronicity, but he was well aware of it. For four years he had been a user of the little-known, unglamorous website where the global demonstration had been coordinated: ism-global.net, better known as the International Student Movement.
For All Students, Everywhere
The website has served as a communication platform since 2008, where activists have coordinated eight international actions. The International Student Movement has active members in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Balkans, and functions as a reservoir of multimedia news on the ever-expanding global student movement. Although the International Student Movement is explicitly a platform for autonomous coordination and not an organization itself, most of its users have united around a joint statement that lays out the community’s shared values.
“[We] have been protesting against the increasing commercialization and privatization of public education, and fighting for free and emancipatory education,” it explains. “We strive for structures based on direct participation and nonhierarchical organization through collective discussion and action.”
If the International Student Movement as a collective has an agenda of its own, it is to help students in many different places realize that they are part of the same struggle. It’s an idea that is already in the minds of many student leaders: that their protest is not only to reclaim their own education from profit-seeking institutions, but also to reshape the community of students that they are fighting for—all students, everywhere.