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On 1 October, the anti-austerity movements could see a major boost if several Québec Solidaire candidates are elected, particularly outside Montreal.
Thousands of workers are and will be on strike this Autumn. After the elections, the struggles will continue even if the media will not talk about them. The campaign and the vote for Québec Solidaire (QS) can be used to encourage these struggles and give them a political perspective. QS’ support for the struggle of the health sector workers in the winter of 2017, or its intervention in the National Assembly against outsourcing at the TELUQ [public university in Quebec-city] shows the role that this party can have in trade union struggles.
It is essential to organize politically to build an effective response to the austerity policies promised by the pro-capitalist parties, the CAQ, the PLQ and the PQ. Moreover, we must organize to fight against capitalism, this system of privileges for elites. Despite its potential, QS is not currently a political fighting force capable of mobilizing thousands of people to defend a project for a society free of exploitation and the law of profit, a democratic socialist society. Only such a party of struggle would be a real bulwark against the austerity of the capitalist parties. Activists of Socialist Alternative (CWI in Quebec) are fighting alongside those of QS to build such a party.
For combative elected representatives, subject to recall
To defend the majority of the population, elected representatives should share the economic reality of this majority. This requires rejecting the privileges that come with the elected office positions. These elected officials should keep the equivalent of an average wage (about $45,000) from their MP income (more than $110,000/year) and pay the difference to support social struggles. Elected representatives in the service of the people should also commit themselves to represent the collective and democratic decisions of party grassroots members and activists – which could subject them to recall at any time.
Build fighting movements
To fight against austerity, elected representatives should refuse any form of collaboration with the parties that have been applying it for decades. This logic applies equally to alliances with the PQ [Parti Québécois], even under the pretext of uniting the “pro-sovereignty forces”. To fight against austerity and implement reforms, QS elected representatives will have to rely on more than just their charisma. It will be essential to take initiatives to strengthen the balance of power in favour of workers, in order to break the financial and legislative constraints that impose austerity by default. When necessary, it means breaking laws that prevent us from meeting our needs. Such a strategy requires building a mass movement to rely upon. Demands such as raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, building affordable housing, fighting real estate speculation and lowering public transport fares cannot become a reality without massive campaigning from below.
Breaking with capitalism
Any reform that attacks the power of the capitalist elites to redistribute wealth faces strong resistance from them. Think about the violent reaction of the business community and their parties to the demand for $15 per hour minimum wage. Now imagine the balance of power required to achieve QS’s proposed partial nationalization of the pharmaceutical sector. Even modest struggles now require a socialist programme and methods based on the power of mass mobilisation. The elites will not hesitate to launch a flight of capital if their money is at stake.
To respond, a consistent government cannot content itself with a “public pole” bathing in a private sea. The complete nationalization of the pharmaceutical sector under democratic control and management will be the best weapon against collective redundancies or relocations. The example of SYRIZA in Greece reminds us that governments that do not dare to go all the way in adopting socialist policies only plunge their population into misery.
The rise of QS makes a difference in the balance of power against austerity. However, only a socialist programme based on the mobilization of the working class can guarantee the significant and lasting gains that this party offers. It is on this basis that QS could become a mass party of workers, a party that fight to plan production in a democratic way to meet the needs of the majority of the population.