What turned the tide in Quebec?
THE VICTORY of the Quebec students is very exciting! It shows that intense organizing at the department level and reaching out broadly to create a mass movement can win reforms, even from a ruling class that is on the attack.
It does, however, have the potential of reinforcing the argument that focusing on the election of the Parti Québecois (PQ) was the most important thing. There was a raging debate within the movement between those emphasizing elections and those calling for a continuation of the struggle.
It is clear that the PQ, which had moved to the right recently, would not have granted these victories without the mass struggle. The ouster of Jean Charest was the byproduct of that struggle.
When struggle rises and people move to the left politically as a result, the immediate beneficiaries are often the established capitalist parties, now under pressure to accede to some of the movement's demands. This is, of course, a good thing.
But paradoxically, the best way to achieve this is not to give political support to the lesser evil, but to shift the whole climate to the left by maintaining as high a level of mass struggle as possible--struggle that is independent of the major parties.
Politically supporting business parties undercuts the political shift to the left, which is the basis of victories. Maintaining independence also means that there is a stronger base to fight the PQ when it inevitably tries to chip away at the gains of the movement and/or attacks other popular sectors and programs in its continual drive for austerity.
Those emphasizing struggle were correct. This argument needs to be emphasized as strongly as ever, since there will be a tendency to let the organizations of struggle atrophy and rely on the new government to "do the right thing"--especially among those who took an election-centered approach.
Steve Leigh, Seattle