Quebec: Congress of the Communist Party of Québec (PCQ)

Open and democratic debates

In its fight against the rule of big business the workers’ movement cannot afford to neglect internationalism and international solidarity. This helps to explain why the Left Socialist Party (LSP) is affiliate to the Committee for a Workers’ international (CWI). Moreover, the CWI and its sections maintain a lively correspondence with other groups elsewhere in the world, such as the Communist Party of Québec (PCQ).

I had the opportunity to represent the CWI at the 16th congress of the PCQ (Communist Party of Quebec). I was accompanied by a comrade from Toronto, who represented the Canadian section of the CWI. The congress took place in Quebec, which is the size of a continent but with a population of 7 million. I refer readers to the website of the PCQ, for photographs of the splendid surroundings. It took some time to adapt to Québeqois dialect, but I was met with warm hospitality which reminded me of the Flemish, Walloon, Scots, Bretons, and Welsh.

Who are the PCQ?

The PCQ originated from the traditional communist parties, and has also stood in the Maoist tradition. Amongst its young generation there is a growing interest in Trotskyism. The PCQ admits that it has not achieved the same political clarity as LSP or the CWI. The party is in evolution. That evolution takes place, however, in a sincere, open, and particularly democratic manner, without underhand maneuvers. During the congress, I was pleasantly surprised by the willingness to consider every proposal and to adapt formulations to clear obstacles.

It was only in 2006 that the PCQ removed from its statutes, all references to ‘Marxism-Leninism’. This is the title with which proponents of ‘socialism in one country’, one party rule and of authoritarian party discipline generally identify themselves. It has nothing to do with Marx or Lenin. By removing these references, the PCQ emphasizes that it stands for a democratic form of socialism. This is also how it defines itself in its monthly bulletin, La Voix du Peuple, "revolutionary, with the aim of replacing world capitalism with democratic socialism."

In the same presentation, the PCQ writes that they want to fight for every improvement for workers, but also argue for the abolition of the exploitation. PCQ call for the "dismantling of the capitalist states of Canada and the United States and their replacement by worker states based on democratically elected workers councils.

Workers states can combine their strengths in the future in a new confederation, this time not based on exploitation, but on cooperation on a voluntary basis." These are all declarations with which LSP and the CWI can identify. The PCQ stands for an independent, socialist Québec as part of a socialist confederation of North American states.

At the same time the PCQ must admit that it needs more time more to reach a common point of view concerning past events in the Soviet Union and China, in Hungary 56 and in Prague (Czechoslovakia) ‘68. The same counts for discussions around ‘socialism in one country’, popular fronts as opposed to the united front against fascism and concerning the need for a transitional program. The tradition of the CWI and LSP of engaging in discussions concerning political, economic and social perspectives and to develop from this the concrete tasks is not known by the PCQ.

However, an important similarity with the CWI and LSP is the way the PCQ approaches the need for a new, broad workers’ party. Just like the CWI and the LSP it does everything it can to promote the creation of a new workers party. In the creation of CAP (committee for different politics) in Belgium, the foundation of the Party for Socialism and Liberty (PSOL) in Brazil, and the establishment of the (WASG) in Germany, the sections of the CWI made an important contribution. In the same manner, the PCQ contributed its militant strength to the founding of the Union des Forces Progressistes (UFP) and, later, of Québec Solidaire (QS), which has about 6,500 members, today.

Open and democratic

Just like the different sections of the CWI, the PCQ has had experience of other groups who spoke of ‘left unity’, but kept their activists safely out of reach. Moreover, others tried to impose all kinds of restrictions on to the PCQ, which sounds familiar to the CWI. Like SAV (CWI in Germany) in Die Linke (the Left Party) and LSP in Une Autre Gauche (UAG) and later CAP, the PCQ also had a constant fight within the UFP and later also within QS, to preserve its right to continue to exist as an independent organisation. In the UFP, fortunately this debate was democratic and was brought to a vote in a congress of 300 delegates with a wide majority declaring itself in support of the rights of the PCQ. Another striking resemblance: the PCQ has seen maneuverings by other groups. In contrast to the PCQ, some other groups did not fight for the right to continue to exist independently, but at the same time they maneuvered to get so-called "independent" members of theirs elected to the executive bodies of QS.

The PCQ is a small party and still in evolution. Concerning party construction and clarification of ideas a lot needs to be done, but it is well placed, particularly by its long experience in the UFP and in the QS. Its attitude in QS has gained respect. Its uprightness, openness and democratic attitude in internal debate are enormous achievements for which respect is deserved. We will aim to intensify the process of exchange of ideas and solidarity with the PCQ in the coming period.

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November 2008