Spartacist Canada No. 188
Quebec: State Repression and Class Struggle
We print below, edited for publication, the presentation by comrade Vincent of the Ligue trotskyste/Trotskyist League’s Montreal local at the January 16 Partisan Defense Committee Holiday Appeal in Toronto.
Everyone here has heard of the 2012 student strike in Quebec. I was one of the hundreds of thousands of Québécois students who participated in what soon developed into a social crisis. My college was on strike for nine weeks, and during this period of my life I learned to organize picket lines, a strike committee and protests. We occupied administrative offices, a local municipal court and even a whole university with barricades made out of chairs and tables in opposition to a court injunction. I have seen people that I knew to be apolitical, or even reactionary, becoming solid strikers, organizers and even public speakers for the first time in their life. I also witnessed mass arrests, cops on horses running into protesters, tear gas, sound grenades—in other words, the brutal repression of the state and its police.
2012 was rich in activism, but things continued. Since then, the Montreal student milieu often organizes protests, political meetings and strikes. To give you an idea, as a UQAM student since 2013, I haven’t had one semester without at least a few days of strike activity. And last spring there was another wave of student strikes, which were also brutally repressed.
Today, most of those thousands of students who were so militant in 2012 have disappeared from active politics. Since the 1960s, generations of students in Quebec have been very militant. But every time, in the absence of a real program for social revolution, they ended up quitting politics or supporting one or another bourgeois party.
As a former student activist, I learned basic truths about capitalism, but I generalized those lessons by studying the history of the workers movement and the program of revolutionary Marxism. The Trotskyist League was crucial for me to understand that students don’t have the necessary social power to transform this society, and that the only way forward was through the organized working class. And that’s the main point: without revolutionary leadership, without a perspective of socialist revolution centred on the working class, you end up vainly pressuring one wing or another of the bourgeoisie.
Speaking of the working class, in Quebec lately it has shown a desire to fight, giving us a taste of the social power this class possesses. I hope you read the latest Spartacist Canada, in particular the article describing the strike of the 400,000 public-sector workers organized in the Common Front. Just before Christmas, the union bureaucrats reached an agreement with the government that is essentially a sellout. However, health care unions in the CSN—representing more than 100,000 workers, mostly women who in reality don’t have the right to strike—have opposed it. And a significant number of teachers also disagree with the proposal.
Workers are eager to fight, but they are led by a bureaucracy that would do everything to avoid a real class struggle to defend and extend the gains of the working class. The 400,000 workers have, according to polls, the support of the population, so this could have been a hard political fight against austerity in general. But that’s exactly what the union bureaucrats feared.
By pushing the lie that a “social state” was created by the Quiet Revolution, making an open alliance with cop so-called “unions” and promoting the false ideology of nationalism, the pro-capitalist union leaderships are tying the workers to their bosses. A class-struggle perspective and leadership is the only alternative to the lies about the partnership between labour and capital.
Recently, the same bureaucrats have begged Pierre Karl Péladeau, leader of the Parti Québécois, to support them! Péladeau is a bourgeois, well known as the “king of lockouts,” and in no way a friend of workers! Since the ’70s, the union bureaucrats have always given explicit or implicit support to the PQ, a nationalist bourgeois party. And the populist Québec Solidaire is offering nothing different from the early days of the PQ. Bourgeois nationalism remains the biggest obstacle to class solidarity between Québécois and Canadian workers. In English Canada, it is crucial to win over workers to support independence for Quebec, as a way to oppose Maple Leaf chauvinism and forge unity with their Québécois class brothers and sisters.
Almost a century ago, Russia’s workers and peasants, under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, took power by making the first and only successful proletarian revolution in history. And today, the lessons from this tremendous victory are still valid. Workers in Quebec, Canada and internationally need the same kind of political party that Lenin and Trotsky built—a revolutionary party, in a reforged Fourth International, fighting for new October Revolutions here and around the world!