Émilise Lessard-Therrien and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois

Quebec solidaire is in crisis. With the resignation of co-spokesperson Émilise Lessard-Therrien, what many of us could see occurring behind the scenes is now out in the open. A small clique of bureaucrats around Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois are turning Quebec solidaire into a run of the mill social democratic party. 

The context of this crisis is the inability of QS to make headway. This is in spite of extremely favourable circumstances with a collapse in support for the CAQ government. Due to the constant opportunist pandering, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and his clique have made certain that QS would not be a pole of attraction for the anger in society. The party meetings show low turnout, the party’s finances are in trouble and they have had to cut jobs.

As Lessard-Therrien explained in the facebook post announcing her resignation: “I wanted [QS] not to allow itself to be obliterated by the usual compromises, image calculations and vote indicators. I wanted us to get back to building enthusiasm for this project, rather than pandering to what’s ‘winnable’ in the short term.” 

In response, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois came out in the media being more transparent than ever, stating that this is not a clash of personalities but a “political clash.” To explain this, he contrasted his vision to the vision of many others in the party explaining that: “I believe that Quebec solidaire must become a party of government.” 

The contradiction comes to the surface

Quebec solidaire was formed in 2006 as a “party that was created to do politics differently,” as Lessard-Therrien puts it. The party was in fact a coming together of the Quebec left, including multiple Communist groups among others. The party’s 2009 manifesto stated that “Those who want to ‘restructure capitalism’ are missing the real issues. We believe that capitalism needs to be overcome.” In addition the party’s program contains many radical propositions such as nationalization of certain sectors of the economy, including financial institutions.

When QS was founded, there was a healthy revulsion against Tony Blair’s “third way” which saw the Labour Party government support the war in Iraq as well as carry out austerity measures against workers and youth in Britain. In a similar fashion, the memory of the betrayals of the NDP government of Bob Rae in Ontario in the 1990s was still fresh in everyone’s mind. QS was founded in opposition to these discredited parties. 

Ironically, Nadeau-Dubois’ argument about wanting to make QS a “party of government,” is almost word for word the argument that Blair used against the left in the Labour party when he said, “Power without principle is barren, but principle without power is futile. This is a party of government, and I will lead it as a party of government.” What this meant was abandoning the party program and loyally and “realistically” carrying out the dictates of capital. 

However, from day one, there has been a conflict between the initial impetus which gave rise to QS and the pressures of capitalist society which the leaders bend to. This was bound to erupt sooner or later. Over the years, especially with GND becoming leader, the openly reformist wing was clearly ruling the roost. The slow motion elimination of the anti-capitalist roots of the party is now brought out into the open for all to see. 

We only need to look at who defends GND to understand what is going on. Richard Martineau, the reactionary radio host and columnist, went as far as saying that it was a battle between the “realists” and the “utopians” and that “I never thought I would say this, but I’m on Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois’ side”. 

Former PQ leader Jean-François Lisée also said he would gladly sign the QS leadership’s new programmatic document (Déclaration de Saguenay), while former Liberal MNA Marie Montpetit said that this could very well have been written by the Liberal Party. How far are the days where Lisée accused QS of being “anchored in Marxism”!

The Marxists were right

QS’ trajectory should not be surprising. As the Marxists of the International Marxist Tendency (soon-to-be Revolutionary Communist International) consistently pointed out: “Unless the party clearly commits itself to break with the capitalist system, all of the reforms that the party fights for will not be ‘realistic’ or ‘pragmatic’ at all and the capitalists will force a capitulation one way or another.” And this is precisely what has happened. 

The so-called “realistic” and “pragmatic” leadership of the party has capitulated on issue after issue. GND and his clique are allergic to anything that makes the party seem “radical”. This is leading to QS not seeming any different from the PQ, which has been catapulted to first place in the polls. 

At times, QS is completely unrecognizable from the parties of the establishment. In March this year, as if they were just any other capitalist party, they promised tax breaks for property developers to encourage construction projects. One of their first statements on the pro-Palestine encampment at McGill was by MNA Alexandre Leduc, who said students had the right to protest, but “it’s also a right for McGill to go to court and ask for help”. Such a middle-of-the-road statement would have been unthinkable a decade ago.

It is really ironic to hear GND talk about wanting to govern, precisely when he has presided over the stagnation and decline of the party for the past six years. He has no lesson to give to anyone on that score.

It is possible however that all of the bourgeois political parties become so discredited that QS eventually takes power. But the Quebec capitalists would equally force QS to capitulate and renounce any significant measure to improve the life of ordinary working people. As the major decisions are carried out in the boardrooms and not the parliament, the economic power of the big capitalists, unless fundamentally challenged, is decisive. This is the lesson of the Bob Rae government in Ontario. 

The only way out of this contradiction would be to adopt a clear socialist program which does not respect capitalist property relations. While this might not be “realistic” for the bourgeois parliament or the capitalist system – this is the only realistic way to implement the radical propositions contained in QS’s original program. 

Unfortunately, the left inside QS has failed to understand this fact. While the Marxists were warning against the opportunism of the leadership, the left of the party buried their head in the sand and systematically capitulated without a fight. 

Now, in response to the crisis, 40 of them published an open letter, in which they correctly denounce the opportunism of GND and the fact that this so-called pragmatism is in fact capitulation to the limits set by the “economic and media elites”. 

And yet, they still fail to come out in favor of a clear socialist program, and cling to vague calls for a “reinvention of our bankrupt democracy”, a “new constitution” and a “social movement”.

They still fail to understand that the only way to have genuine democracy is to get rid of the ruling class, its state and the capitalist system it defends. No amount of reinventing and rewriting of constitutions will ever allow the workers and poor to really have their say in a world where we allow a handful of bankers and bosses to own the economy. 

In fact, neither of the two wings of QS actually want to overthrow capitalism.

This is why we have founded the RCP: to organize the overthrow of the bastards that keep us in poverty, in hunger, in rotten housing, in war. To all the disappointed solidaires, those who still vote QS but with not much conviction, or that used to, to those that are tired of rotten compromises, of accepting ever less and of bending and making excuses to the rich and powerful, to those that want to fight, we say: the RCP is your party.