Why CLASSE is Right not to take sides in the Quebec Election

In any revolutionary situation there is a question of resolution: which demands are enough, what kind of compromise do you make with power when you can’t win? Moreover, most revolutionaries during an actual uprisings are not extremists but moderates, and they require radicalization by a difficult situation to side with those who insist impossible ideas must be brought into being through struggle. Therefore, any revolution not sold out at the right time is in danger of becoming weak and undemocratic – when only a small portion of the revolting group supports the “popular” action there is a danger either of collapse of those actions or of authoritarian control over the entire group such that participation is sufficiently encouraged. What is more likely is the increasing isolation and vilifying of the revolting group, and increasingly strong (and, in fact, correct) counter revolutionary voices denouncing the ability fo that group to represent those they claim to represent. 

Therefore, workers as a class, students as a whole, and any other groups constituted as unities enacting a revolutionary line, must have some hermeneutic mechanism, some way of being herd, to respond to the failure of vanguardist parties to organize them. They must be allowed to say – and perhaps say quietly – to the activists, “no you do not represent us”, there must be the possibility not only of dissent within the radical movement but of the interpretation of the failure of such a movement as a revolt, a mutiny by the class the movement attempts to bring to the fore. The possibility of waning support must be considered not simply a failure of the working class to wake up to what is obvious, it must be interpreted as a failure of the leftist political institutions to move along a pragmatically possible yet revolutionary line.

In Quebec, this is represented by the PQ which is willing to give into the key demands made by the protestors. Now the movement must decide whether to sellout, to accept the demands and vote for the PQ. Or, to continue the revolt – to vote for more extreme parties that are ideologically superior or who can’t win. In order to continue the protests the revolutionaries really need a Liberal victory in the election, otherwise their cause will be marginalized as the moderates come into control of the situation. If the liberals win, however, then the moderates will likely side with the extreme left and a form of popular revolt will continue. The potential gains from such a a revolt are higher than the concessions being offered by the PQ, but they are much less certain and also such a revolt would affect political repression and counter-revolutionary ideological formation everywhere, not only in Quebec.

In the face of this situation, CLASSE has decided not to make a decision: “CLASSE has decided not to encourage its members to vote”, not to encourage its members to vote either for the liberals, for a more extreme but ideologically superior group, or to boycott the election altogether. It has, in fact, chosen to stand back and allow students as an organic class resolve the tension. Actually “stand back” is wrong, it has encouraged students to increase protest pressure during the election. CLASSE rep Jeanne Reynolds:

The possibility of a strike during an election is really weird, because you are not directing your strike to any one government, but against the electoral system. This might work in university, but in cegeps it might not, because a lot of students are more attached to political parties.


Because other major student organizations are calling on students to vote “against the liberals” a fracture is emerging in the wider student movement. But by not taking a line on the election, CLASSE leaves its options open either to side with the popular line or against it, as it sees fit. That is to say, it leaves things open to side with or against the more reactionary student groups who have already sided with the PQ.  This is the right political decision, because siding with or against the PQ would risk putting CLASSE at odds with the concretely expressed interest of students. On the other hand, if students overwhelmingly do not lend support “against” the PQ, the conservative student associations will appear needlessly reactionary. This suggests that CLASSE is operating as a revolutionary institution sensitive to the real existence of students as a group.



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