Springtime in Québec

The article which follows is a translation of the main item in L’Internationale (March 2015) the French-language intervention broadsheet of the Internationalist Workers’ Group (GIO) which was distributed in the current student demonstrations in Montreal and Québec in which thousands turned out to protest not only over cuts in the education budget by the PLQ ((Parti Liberal Québecois or the governing Liberals) but also against the austerity attacks on the whole working class. Chanting “1,2,3 4, this is fucking class war, 5,6,7,8 organise and smash the state” in last Monday’s (March 23) demonstration they have proclaimed a Printemps (Spring) 2015 of protests to equate to the year long protests which began in with the so-called Maple Spring of 2012. Union leaders have already refused to support the protests but the students hope that, as in 2012 their movement will be the catalyst for a wider class movement. This week’s demonstration was met with fully tooled up riot cops who used batons, dogs, pepper spray and tear gas fired at point blank range which left one woman severely injured. More than 450 people have been arrested and many have been hurt (the worst injuries have been inflicted by the bites of police dogs). The students intend to demonstrate every week and have earmarked 2 April for a major demonstration. The article below was written as an initial encouragement to the movement to go beyond the current slogan of “Against Austerity, Against Hydrocarbons”. There are already open assemblies and organising committees not under any one organisation’s control in many educational institutions but the next step is to go beyond the universities and colleges to get the wider working class involved, as eventually happened in 2012.

It Won’t Be Easy

Austerity. It’s a word we have heard a thousand times in all the main media over the last few months. What does austerity mean? It means to work more, more accidents, more burnout, and more anger and irritation when you get home. It means to earn less and pay more for child care, for medicine, school and groceries. It means to live from hand to mouth with all its stress. If there are repairs to make, the car breaks down or the price of a metro pass goes up again then you have to cut down on the little luxuries which you still allow yourself.

Austerity is anything but an accident, anything but a decision of a bad government or a case of bad management. It is a direct result of a generalised crisis of the capitalist system since the 1970s. The bursting of the housing bubble in 2008 created through the indebtedness of US housing has narrowed markets and plunged the world into a recession from which some believe they can get out of but to be frank we cannot really see how they can do this. Even the capitalists of the World Trade Organisation foresee a decline in the entire world economy until 2060. Because, let’s be clear, the capitalist system will not be patched up at least not in the short term and not without it costing us dearly. Is the pain worth it? After the last crisis of this magnitude capitalism only got out of it thanks to the Second World War. With the weapons available to each State now a generalised imperialist war is anything but desirable.

So what is to be done? Resign oneself and swallow the poisoned soup of the Liberal Party? And we could add a touch of blue colouring for the Parti Québecois, or CAQ as well as orange for Québec Solidaire[1]? Accept the rules of the system and to see our lives become more and more miserable year by year?

The choice which remains is simple: to overturn the capitalist system, to build a society for ourselves, the workers, the proletarians. To accomplish the communist dream of a society without classes or a State. To unite beyond national frontiers and language barriers to fight this system. We have more in common with a worker on strike in Cairo,or a nurse in Seoul than with Pierre Karl Peladeau,Yves Thomas Dorval, Gaétan Barette,[2] or any other bourgeois. We know however that capitalism will not be beaten tomorrow morning. Whilst waiting we need to sell our skin dearly. We must make sure that each cut is passed with greater and greater difficulty. We fight for better not simply for "good" as there never will be "good" under capitalism. It is necessary just to assure ourselves that the steamroller will not crush us. Strike despite injunctions, the special laws and the cowardice of the union bureaucracies. Let’s organise ourselves speak to each other not as “hospital worker”, “primary school teacher”, “student”, “civil servant” or “private sector worker”. It’s necessary for us to form strike committees which go beyond the divisions imposed by the bosses and the laws of the State. Then above all through our struggles to regroup as revolutionaries to give ourselves an organisation which allows us to act in an organised enough fashion to overthrow this rotten system.


[1] The Parti Quebécois (PQ) is the main opposition regional party in the province, CAQ is the Coalition Avenir Québec (Coalition for the Future of Quebec) which is a right wing split from the PQ and Québec Solidaire, a leftist nationalist party founded in 2006 based on support for feminism, ecology and social equality.

[2] Pierre Karl Peladeau is a media tycoon known for his anti-working class posture now leading the race to become boss of the PQ, Dorval is leader of a bosses’ organisation like the CBI, and Barette is a Liberal Party MP in the Québec Parliament and Health Minister in the provincial government.

Friday, March 27, 2015


A nice article and nicely translated and easy to read. But I want to nit-pick a little.

[quote] We fight for better not simply for "good" as there never will be "good" under capitalism. It is necessary just to assure ourselves that the steamroller will not crush us. Strike despite injunctions, the special laws and the cowardice of the union bureaucracies. Let’s organise ourselves speak to each other not as “hospital worker”, “primary school teacher”, “student”, “civil servant” or “private sector worker”. [/quote]

I query "the cowardice of the union bureaucracies." Surely the Trades Unions (all of them that is) should be generally recognised now as agents of the bourgeoisie within the working class itself. All Unions serve the interests of the ruling capitalist class. If they appear reluctant on occasion to challenge the ruling class - which they continue to have to appear to do for the preservation of their phony allegiance to the working class - if they manifest "cowardice" before the bourgeoisie this is only to deceive gullible workers, or because they fear exposure of their true motives. (NB I am not saying Union bureaucracies do not contain any genuine workers with genuine working class commitment. Like real communist workers sucked into Trotskyist organisations, proletarianised workers trapped in the Union bureaucracy will inevitably have to toe the left wing bourgeois line, like it or not, resist it or not.)

My second query relates to the final sentence in the quote above. "Let's organize ourselves to speak to each other...." This is an absolutely vital suggestion. Worker solidarity thrives and grows organically on generalised and widening communication between workers. It was the life blood of the revolution in Russia in 1917 - talk, discussion, reading, the opening of minds through endless talk, all described by Trotsky early on in his History of the Russian Revolution.

So let's organize ourselves to speak to each other, not as workers trapped inside particular jobs, with their particular professional deformations, but as a class aware of itself as a class and the revolutionary class at that. The class that bears a new humanity and a new social world within its currently subjugated existence.

I think it is important to point this out. That we should learn to speak to each other as the bearers of communism, breaking through the barriers and isolationism imposed by capitalist relations of production, and our daily imprisonment within particular and poorly paid exploitative jobs, or trapped with no job at all!