Spartacist Canada No. 148

Spring 2006


Québec Solidaire: A Populist Trap

A conference at the Université de Montréal on the February 3-5 weekend saw the birth of a new “progressive” party, Québec Solidaire. Launched jointly by the Option Citoyenne movement of feminist leader (and one-time Maoist) Françoise David and the Union des Forces Progressistes (UFP), Québec Solidaire claims to offer a left alternative to both the ruling Quebec Liberals and the bourgeois-nationalist Parti Québécois. Workers and oppressed minorities have plenty of reason to hate both these parties. The “deficit zero” attacks of the PQ governments of the 1990s and early 2000s meant sweeping attacks on social programs. Since the Liberals took over in 2003, they have deepened these attacks, producing widespread anger and protest. For all their differences on Quebec sovereignty, the Liberals and PQ are dual parties of capitalism in Quebec, enforcing exploitation and oppression against workers and the poor.

But Québec Solidaire isn’t even a half-step on the road to anti-capitalist struggle: it is a populist roadblock that fosters terrible illusions in a “reformed” bourgeois rule. The 1,000 delegates who gathered in Montreal adopted a declaration of principles that doesn’t even pay lip service to the class struggle, let alone socialism. Instead it pushes nostrums like “participatory democracy,” “an alternative globalization” and “promoting the public interest.” Quebec’s powerful union movement gets one passing mention, merely as one of the “citizen-based organizations” that are an “indicator of the health of a democracy.” When, prior to the conference, a UFP local proposed adding a vague reference to “socialist and progressive values,” this was dismissed out of hand. UFP and Option Citoyenne leaders deemed it “beyond the agreements negotiated between the two organizations,” adding that “no allusion to socialism exists in the founding texts.” Indeed.

Yet a host of self-proclaimed socialist groups have hailed the founding of Québec Solidaire. The Communist Party of Quebec, Gauche Socialiste (GS—affiliate of the fake-Trotskyist United Secretariat) and the Quebec wing of the International Socialists (I.S.) all immersed themselves in the UFP several years ago and have now, in turn, thrown themselves into Québec Solidaire. GS’s La Gauche website gushes, “Québec Solidaire, A Left Alternative on the March!” (6 February). GS’s international co-thinkers are long-practised in servile class collaboration: in Brazil, they even have a “comrade” minister in the Lula government, which is enforcing IMF austerity against the worker and peasant poor!

In order to sidle up to the UFP and now Québec Solidaire, the I.S. has quietly (and with no public explanation) shelved its long-standing opposition to the call for Quebec independence and now endorses sovereignty in its French journal Résistance. Of course this didn’t stop them from campaigning for the grossly Anglo-chauvinist NDP in the recent federal election—including, specifically, in Quebec.

In the lead-up to Québec Solidaire’s founding convention, the I.S. claimed this would be a “historic meeting.” It would mean “pulling together the anti-neo-liberal forces into one, united organization” (Socialist Worker, 5 November 2005). Unity of “anti-neo-liberal forces” means unity with those supporters of capitalism who aim to co-opt the workers with chatter about “social solidarity.” The Stalinists used to dress this up as the “people’s front” (against monopolies, fascism, etc.). The idea is the same, only the jargon has changed. Such subordination of the workers’ interests to a wing of the enemy class has brought only disaster and defeat.

From the Mouvement Socialiste of the ’80s to the Parti de la Démocratie Socialiste of the ’90s and the UFP, Quebec has seen multiple failed attempts to construct a “left” reformist outfit on the PQ’s fringes. The counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union, the world’s first workers state, in the early 1990s has added a new dimension to these maneuvers. This historic defeat for the working class has thrown consciousness among workers and especially left-wing intellectuals far back on an international scale. In Quebec, ex-“Marxist-Leninists” like Françoise David (and Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe!) have long abandoned the radicalism of their youth, and now most self-styled socialist groups no longer even claim to uphold such basic concepts of Marxism as working-class independence from the exploiters.

So it’s a sign of the times that Québec Solidaire eschews even the vaguest reference to socialism and working-class struggle in favour of ecological/feminist-tinged petty-bourgeois populism—and that so many nominally socialist outfits have rushed to join and promote this farce. Workers in Quebec and throughout Canada need a proletarian revolutionary party, not another class-collaborationist obstacle to their consciousness and struggle.