Quebec solidaire has issued a call for platforms in the lead-up to the party’s congress. They propose discussing these platforms in a series of citizen circles. The two following documents have been submitted by the International Marxist Tendency (Quebec), a recognized collective within QS. Fightback works in solidarity with IMT Quebec, and wish our comrades success in promoting a revolutionary internationalist perspective in Quebec.
Jean Charest’s 2010 budget had a clear message: free healthcare will be abolished, tuition fees will be raised, public sector workers will be attacked, hydro rates will rise and the standard of living of workers, and youth will fall–all to pay for the deficit and the capitalist crisis. This is in line with the declaration by the G20: to cut deficits by 50%, using these very same methods.
The recent economic crisis has proved that capitalism is a failed system. Billions of dollars were wiped out on the stock markets, and many workers’ pensions were destroyed. The capitalists speak of a recovery, but for many workers, the loss of skilled jobs is not made up for by the gain in temporary McJobs. For those of us attempting to feed our families and pay our rents, the recovery is no better than the recession. Finance Minister Bachand’s declaration of a “cultural revolution” in Quebec is a declaration of war on the working class. The bosses want to take back everything that made life halfway civilized. They say that to save capitalism we must have a generation of austerity. They may be correct, but we say that the people cannot afford this capitalism; to save our standards of living it must be abolished.
The bosses’ parties have all made clear, one after the other, that they represent the same future of attacks on the workers and youth to save this system. Our party, Quebec solidaire, was formed to fight back against the plans of the bosses to establish a “Quebec lucide.” We are already lucid; we must lead the struggle against the capitalist system itself and adopt a socialist program that provides an alternative for workers and youth. Production for private profit has failed and led to economic collapse –we need a democratically planned economy based on meeting human needs, not corporate greed. We say to the bosses, “It is your crisis –you pay for it!”
Quebec workers will not be alone in the fight against capitalism. Across Latin America, led by Venezuela and Bolivia, people are rising up. In Quebec, corporations feel that they can close factories and destroy communities with impunity. In Venezuela, workers say, “A factory closed is a factory occupied.” Workers democratically run the factories themselves and successfully demand their nationalization. Jobs are saved and a new socialist economy is being prepared. The ALBA socialist trade system provides cheap oil for Cuba and free healthcare for Venezuelans. Quebec must also join ALBA. And to unite all these movements, President Chávez has called for the foundation of a new socialist 5th International. We support the call for the 5th International with Quebec solidaire as a founding member
A society based on meeting the needs of the people would remove the anarchy of private profit from the most important sectors. Premier Charest declared the top 150 corporations to be too important to be subject to hydro increases –we believe these corporations are too important to be left to capitalist failure. The top 150 corporations must be nationalized under democratic workers’ control and management. No compensation to the CEOs who already ran them into the ground. Workers’ savings would be guaranteed and pensions would be improved and provided for all. These companies, particularly in communications, construction, transport, forestry, housing, and banking, hold in their hands the futures of millions of workers and consumers, and should be under the democratic control of society. By nationalizing them, we can begin to organize an economy planned rationally and democratically, producing for the needs of all, not the profits of the bosses. We declare that socialism is our aim, “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” Then we will be able to build a true Quebec solidaire.
A Socialist Plan For Full Employment
As capitalism has failed on the economic front, it has also failed to provide decent employment to the people of Quebec. Full time unionized jobs, which you can raise a family on, are being lost. If these jobs are replaced, it is by part-time low-skill minimum wage McJobs. The youth of Quebec face the prospect of being poorer than their parents with a return to pre-war conditions of exploitation. We do not accept this and instead offer a socialist alternative to achieve full employment.
Even before the financial collapse, Quebec was facing a jobs catastrophe. Between November 2002 and February 2007, 124,000 manufacturing jobs were lost. This represents 1 in 5 of all manufacturing positions in Quebec – which is even worse than the 1 in 8 manufacturing jobs lost across Canada in the same period. Statistics Canada recently concluded that workers displaced by firm closures and mass layoffs who find other jobs suffer an average decline of 25% in annual earnings, implying a loss of about $10,000 for a typical manufacturing worker. Now, 1 in 5 work part-time, the highest proportion since records began.
These results are not because of so-called “lazy” workers. According to a May 2010 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Quebec families work on average 8 more weeks of labour every year when compared with 1976. During the same time the richest 10% worked 61⁄2 weeks less per year. However, despite working harder, 70% of Quebec families are earning a smaller share of the income pie than a generation ago. The numbers are staggering; the richest 30% increased their share from 53% to 59% while the poorest 30% dropped from 10% to 7%. Total wealth in society as represented by GDP has increased by over 70% since the 1970s. But as we see, the benefits are only going to the rich minority.
If capitalism cannot provide decent employment to the people of Quebec then we must look to other solutions.
1) Reduction of the working week to 32 hours with no loss of pay. This measure is essential to free up the positions to provide full employment, and ending the detrimental effects of forced overtime on health and family.
2) Raise the minimum wage to 2/3 of the average wage. We do not accept that those who work should live in poverty. The money is there; currently the richest 10% of Quebecers make over 450% of the after-tax income of the poorest 30% of Quebecers.
3) Free education and life-long learning. We want a high-skill high wage economy and not low-skill part-time McJobs. We must end the debt burden on students. Massive investment in training is essential to fill any skill shortages Page 5 and reduction of the working week will give workers the time and energy to learn the best techniques and develop themselves as human beings.
4) Free childcare and the socialization of domestic chores. For too long the burden of child-care and domestic work has acted as a barrier to women workers trying to achieve their full potential. These are essential jobs for the functioning of society and the fact that they are mainly done for free is a massive subsidy to the capitalist class by working class women. We propose socializing this work so that it is paid, respected and available to all.
5) Reduce retirement to 55 with a full state- guaranteed pension. Increasingly we hear stories of people forced to work into their 70s and 80s. Capitalism wants us to work until we drop. We can protect and restore the pensions of the working class, many of which were destroyed by the stock market crash, by nationalizing the pension plans and taking them out of the stock market casino. Our banner must be a dignified and comfortable end to work for those who have contributed all their lives.
6) A Socialist Plan of Public Works. The infrastructure of Quebec is crumbling, reducing the quality of living and productivity of labour. By nationalizing the commanding heights of the economy, and combining this with democratic workers’ control of production, we will unleash the material and human resources to build a society we will be proud of.