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The next four years for Québec solidaire

Jessica Squires

November 9, 2014

The election results in Quebec last year, when the Liberals gained a majority following a disastrously short couple of years for the PQ, meant several things. The political meaning of the election results was explored in several previous articles, as was the Liberal budget tabled this spring.
Another thing the majority government means, with the anticipated four years before another election, is that Québec solidaire (QS)—the anti-neoliberal party of the left and progressive forces in Quebec—has some breathing room to think, finally, about some of the issues it has not been able to focus on for quite some time: the relationship between elections and movement-building, and the relationship between political strategy in Quebec City and activism on the ground.
Recent elections in other provinces have given many people more reason to be suspicious of politicians and to wish for a really progressive option. Quebec already has one in QS. The QS campaign last year was incredibly hopeful and expressly oriented against strategic voting, with the campaign slogan that can roughly be translated as “be smart—vote with your heart.” But that doesn’t mean there are not problems to solve and issues to address.
The main challenge before QS over the next four years is how to help build the social movements against austerity. Because we undoubtedly need those movements to be built, now more than ever.
The main opportunities for QS are in the arenas of labour and climate justice. The labour movement is on the defensive in Quebec as elsewhere, but is showing importance signs of resistance—including against the Liberals’ attack on public sector pensions. And the climate justice movement in Quebec is seemingly the most cohesive of its kind, with solid momentum and demonstration after demonstration. The current partial victory in Cacouna, Quebec in the fight to protect beluga whales in the St Laurence and stop TransCanada from building its pipeline port project is only the most recent example.
But austerity has long since become a part of the wallpaper in Quebec, as everywhere else. Waves of attacks on front-line services under successive neoliberal governments are now followed by attacks on child care. Stories from the front lines say even the managers are revolting against the latest wave of Liberal cuts, because they have directed boards to find cuts and then tell them not to cut front line services—but there is nothing left to cut.
In the midst of this, how can QS join the fight most effectively?
There are at least six things QS can do:
1) Link struggles together. QS members, rooted in nearly every struggle going on in Quebec and federally, are positioned to be able to point out how struggles are linked, and help movements work together.
2) Highlight the role of labour and the need for union renewal. Offensive syndicale is an attempt at bringing this about; more such initiatives are needed to push the leadership to be able to fight against austerity going into collective bargaining this year.
3) Go beyond merely endorsing and/or attending demonstrations with QS placards. Even simply adding slogans to the placards would help, but better and more organized building is needed. A good example was the distribution of the QS newsletter Solidarité at the monster demonstration on Earth Day 2013 in Montreal.
4) Talk to people outside the left and social movements. QS has saturated progressive circles; we need to build bigger to survive and thrive. Door-knocking campaigns has worked well in some areas already.
5) (Re)build a culture of engagement in social movements as a political party. This is not easy as movements may see QS as opportunist when it tries to do this. But it has to be done.
6) Campaign on the national question. This is quite urgent as a void has been left by the PQ’s final two nails in the coffin of its own national project: the championing of a racist “charter of values” and the promotion of notorious lockout artist Pierre-Karl Péladeau as a candidate, and now a potential party leader. A new generation of activists, while not hostile to independence as a project, needs to be educated about why independence is a prerequisite to build the Quebec we want and need.

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