United in action to overcome HIV/AIDS

AANBy Darren Edgar

In the lead-up to World AIDS Day and a Day With(out) Art on December 1 there will be numerous events in communities across Canada commemorating past struggles, surveying the current lay of the land, and anticipating future developments in confronting the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

One such event was held in Toronto on November 27 at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It was organized by AIDS Action Now! (AAN), a grassroots group formed in 1988 “to look at problems of medical care, access to drugs and research facing people with HIV in Toronto.” The event was a free screening of a recently produced documentary film called United in Anger: a History of ACT UP, and was followed by a panel discussion featuring past and present members of AAN.

The film itself is well produced and chronicles the formation of the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP) in New York City in 1987 and its activity over the subsequent years, focusing mostly on events from 1987 to 1992—the height of the AIDS crisis in North America.

Much of the archival footage used in the film was originally created by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people themselves out of a desperate need to overcome either blackouts or gross distortions in the mainstream media regarding HIV/AIDS. This material was not only used to counter the mainstream narratives which only fueled AIDS hysteria and homophobia, keeping most people completely in the dark about the facts of HIV transmission thereby allowing infections to spread even faster, but also to educate the communities themselves which at that time seemed to be most at risk of infection. This was media created by people with or at risk of HIV/AIDS for themselves and as such it allowed for diversity in voices to be heard and stories to be told, and to be done so with unfettered creativity—something unknown in commercial media.

This archival footage of ACT UP meetings, demonstrations, rallies and actions, some of which were incredibly effective (both practically as well as emotionally) not to mention withering in their criticisms of existing power structures, was interspersed with recent interview footage of participants from those days—far too few of whom are still with us. A fair amount of the film focuses on how ACT UP organized, as well as the tactics and strategies involved in its activity, with some analysis all these years on of its relative effectiveness and it is within these scenes where the film is most useful for activists today.

After the film screening, a panel consisting of former and current AAN members spoke about their various experiences with organizing around issues related to HIV/AIDS in Toronto.

Many topics were covered in a brief amount of time: from the founding meeting of AAN to the creation of various committees focusing on specific areas of work such as outreach, advocacy, education, health and legal issues; from tiny actions of only a half dozen people to massive actions like the “die-in” during the Lesbian and Gay Pride Day march in the early 90s when Yonge Street was filled—from Bloor to Dundas—with the bodies of thousands of people lying down to represent those who had died or were living with HIV/AIDS; from its beginning as a mostly LGBT-identified movement to the formation of groups such as Voices of Positive Women and broadening the scope of AIDS activism to include other at-risk communities like injection drug users; from recounting past struggles around funding for research and access to treatment to anticipating future struggles around increasing criminalization of HIV-positive people.

While there seemed to be a consensus that everyone should get involved in AIDS Action Now!, AIDS activism, or activism in general, only one panelist made an explicit appeal for more people to become activists. However, her focus on direct action suggested that it was the only way for people to get involved. But two other panelists shared experiences that showed how ordinary people radicalize in the course of struggle and, as a result, become effective activists for a better world. These examples offered rich lessons and inspiration for activists today.

One was a man who identified himself at the time of his partner’s infection with HIV many years ago as a “middle-class, educated, bourgeois, gay, white male.” He admitted that it wasn’t until his partner was ill and needed treatment but wasn’t able to get the kind of care they were used to that he realized our “universal” healthcare system doesn’t work equally for all people, something most women, immigrants, racialized, disabled, poor and indigenous people know all too well. It was his personal experience which brought him to AIDS activism, showing that not only does consciousness change but that it changes rapidly during times of struggle.

Another was a woman who identified as HIV-positive. She talked about how AAN became well known for its “demos and documents.” They held actions that were critical of the inherent inequities within existing social structures and that were effective in drawing attention to issues relating to AIDS and HIV-positive people, paving the way for others to get involved. They produced materials that were respected for being more useful and better researched than many of those from health or legal “professionals.” These shining examples of creativity and self-activity allowed AAN to intervene more effectively in the AIDS crisis and present workable solutions.

It is with these lessons in mind that we as activists—whether around issues of HIV/AIDS or otherwise—can take heart. The answers to the most challenging problems lie within ourselves but will only be realized through the united struggle of our class—the working class—which includes people of all races, genders, sexualities, ages and abilities fighting for the common goal of ridding our world of the capitalist system which exploits us in order to build a new and better world, one in which we are all valued and contributing members, allowed dignity, treated with respect, nurtured and cared for—a world that is in the interest of us all.
For a brief history of AIDS activism in Canada, read AIDS Action Now co-founder Tim McCaskell’s recent article here.


Haiti: Sandy’s forgotten victims

Haiti-Sandyby John Bell

While North American eyes were fixed on the damage done to New York City by hurricane Sandy, the already devastated nation of Haiti suffered far worse.

At least 54 people died from the immediate effects of the storm. That number will be dwarfed by hunger and disease in Sandy’s aftermath. This wasn’t the only weather related disaster to hit Haiti this year. A drought and tropical storm Isaac also hit Haiti’s agricultural sector. The UN World Food Program estimates that more than half of Haiti’s rural population faces “severe food insecurity.”

Hunger and poverty breed disease. In the wake of floods caused by Sandy, overwhelming Haiti’s already inadequate sewage treatment facilities, cholera is running rampant. Medical officials admit that UN “peacekeepers” occupying the country likely introduced the cholera to Haiti.

Even before Sandy, hundreds of thousands of Haitians were still living in makeshift shelters and tents due to the 2010 earthquake that devastated the impoverished country. The hurricane wiped out thousands more buildings and homes.

The earthquakes and hurricanes are “natural disasters”, but the disproportionately high death toll in Haiti is a result of poverty and corporate greed. Building codes are lax and corruption rampant, so buildings collapse and become death traps. And most of the relief money spent in Haiti since 2010 has gone to restore infrastructure for corporate investment and industry, rather than to help Haiti’s poor workers. Agriculture focuses on cash crops for export, leaving Haitians hungry.

Global warming will exacerbate Haiti’s woes. The hypocrisy of the developed industrial powers, expressing concern but refusing to take serious action, will come as no surprise to Haitians. Fighting global warming also requires challenging Western neoliberal policies and UN occupations that worsen capitalist climate disasters.

How workers can win

J26By Carolyn Egan

We have recently witnessed mass strikes across Europe protesting the austerity agenda having a devastating effect on workers and the poor. People rose up in country after country letting their rulers know that it will not be so easy to make them pay for the excesses of the wealthy and the corporations.

I have heard so many in Canada lamenting the fact that we have not had that same type of worker fight-back. We have seen defeats at Caterpillar in London, Ontario. CUPE 416 and 79, representing municipal workers in Toronto, accepted concession contracts. OECTA, the Catholic teachers in Ontario, did the same. The Canadian Auto Workers did not put up a fight against the big three automakers in recent negotiations.

We know that with the Occupy movement and the magnificent student strike in Quebec that sections of society are taking up the gauntlet, fighting back and winning gains. Quebec student organizers worked hard mobilizing their members through mass assemblies, face-to-face contact in departments and broad mobilizations. The Charest government fell and the tuition fee increases were rolled back.

If we examine some of the recent workplace struggles where workers have made gains in North America there is a similar method of organizing.

The library workers in Toronto did not win a total victory but pushed back the worst of the concessions. They had been actively involved with those who use their services for a significant time before their strike. Major literary figures such as Margaret Atwood came on board. Workplace organizing was taking place at every work site. The membership was actively involved at every level and after a two-and-a-half-week strike they got a decent collective agreement.

In Alma, Quebec, Rio Tinto locked out almost eight hundred workers. These Steelworkers demanded that there union take up the fight. The entire community in rural Quebec was organized to fight the company. Members joined with the Quebec students, did a march to Quebec City, celebrated International Women’s Day. Solidarity buses drove all the way from Toronto and Hamilton. An international campaign was developed “off the podium” to protest the use of Rio Tinto materials in the Olympic medals. The rank-and-file ran the lockout, and they won—not everything, but they pushed back massive concessions.

In the recent Chicago teachers strike the same method proved to be successful. A group of rank-and-file activists began organizing in their workplaces and with the community in 2008 against school closures and won the leadership of the local in 2010. When the membership struck against the imposition of merit pay, other concessions and privatization, the rank-and-file was out in force because they had been building for years. Contract Action Committees were set up in each school a year before the contract expired. The students and community strongly supported their teachers because of their work together to stop school closures and this collective strength beat back the attempts by the city to discredit the teachers and force so-called “reforms” down their throats. It was a model of rank-and-file organizing.

If you look for the common element in these wins it is the mobilization and leadership of the rank-and-file. In these hard times this can make the difference between victory and defeat. Workers cannot depend on their leaders but must use the collective strength that is their own. The more experience they gain in struggle the more their confidence will grow to fight back and win.

The Ontario Federation of Labour has called a mass demonstration against the austerity agenda and attacks on unions by the McGuinty government for January 26. Demand that our leaders organize to get members out in their thousands. Where we can, committees should be set up in our workplaces organizing our fellow workers to come out and join in the struggle. This is our opportunity to show that workers in Ontario are not prepared to accept these attacks.

Getting Egypt’s second revolution

Sameh Naguib, a leading member of Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialists, discusses strategy and tactics of the next phase of the revolution. Reposted from Socialist Worker (UK).

Great revolutions in the modern era take years to ebb and flow. They usually begin with temporary and superficial unity between all the opponents of the old regime. But as soon as that regime falls, these forces become divided according to the interests they represent. New and diverse forces enter the stage and the elements at the heart of the old regime begin to organise their ranks for counter-revolution.

There’s a close relationship between the institutions of the state and the social classes whose interests it serves. The state has never expressed the interests of “the people”. Rather, it protects and expresses the interests of that small part of the people who control wealth and therefore real power.

The army does not protect the people, but rather the interests of big businessmen and corporations. Exchanging this general for that general will change nothing about the institution itself. The police and security agencies are not in the service of the people but in the service of private property. Their fundamental role is to repress all those who dare to challenge its owners.

It is the same story with the administrative machinery—it represents the same corruption, the same interests, the same state. Parliament is the only institution whose members are elected with a degree of democracy. But it still lacks power in the face of the real owners of the country.

The Egyptian Revolution allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to come to power and to change the heads of the old regime. But the Brotherhood does not want to complete the revolution. It does not want to touch the heart of the old regime or its state.

The Brotherhood returned the police to the Egyptian streets, not to direct traffic, but to break up strikes and sit-ins, arrest their leaders and to bring back torture, killing and terror. Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi began his rule not by visiting Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab revolutions, but by visiting Saudi Arabia, the repressive monarchy which is the centre of counter-revolution in our region. And he began his economic “renaissance project” not by announcing state intervention to improve wages but by agreeing a loan with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF has since the 1990s imposed policies that impoverish, marginalise and starve the majority of Egyptians.

The Brotherhood continually laments the torment and siege of Gaza. But Mursi ordered the destruction of all the tunnels that its heroic people depend upon to bring in food and the necessities of daily life. He did not offer to completely open the Rafah crossing. The Camp David accord with the US was the cornerstone of former dictator Mubarak’s foreign policy, and the basis of his subservience to US interests. Mursi did not waste a single day before declaring his complete acceptance of it. There is a committee drafting a new constitution. It is not directly elected by the people and sets a farcical precedent in the history of how constitutions are written during or after revolutions.

But the struggle to expose its failings will not take place in legal chambers but in the fields, factories and poor neighbourhoods.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists are conservative populists who opposed and appeased the old regime. There are deep contradictions within and between the various Islamist currents—between their bourgeois leadership, their petty bourgeois rank and file, and their large constituencies in the working class and the poor neighbourhoods. These contradictions were always contained by ambiguous religious slogans. Despite the Islamists’ repeated accommodation to the regime, in the absence of an alternative, sections of the masses looked towards them as the only serious opposition.

It was natural that a large section of the masses would elect Islamists after the revolution. The masses do not leap to an integrated revolutionary consciousness all of a sudden. But the election of the Brotherhood and the more hard-line Salafists is not the end of the story. It is a transitional phase.

The Russian Revolution did not bring Lenin and the Bolsheviks to power, but rather representatives of the reformist opposition. They did not achieve any of the goals of the revolution until the Bolsheviks won a majority in the councils of workers, peasants and soldiers and overthrew the remnants of the old regime in the Great October Revolution.

It requires an intense and patient struggle to win the majority to our revolutionary project and to the necessity of a second Egyptian revolution.

We need to win wide sections of the Islamists’ audience and exploit the contradictions in their class base. This process is assisted by the policies of their leaders. So we will participate in all the electoral battles, but not because we believe that is where real change happens. We will do it because we must use every space we can to expose not only the Brotherhood and the Salafists, but also the remnants of the old regime and the liberals.

In the beginning of the revolution there were large numbers of individual workers on the demonstrations, clashes and sit-ins in the squares. But then the organised working class played a decisive role in the removal of Mubarak through a series of strikes. Since then we have seen wave after wave of workers’ strikes increasing in depth, breadth and consciousness.

We must always remember that the Egyptian revolution did not begin in January 2011. It had important antecedents in the workers’ strikes that began in Mahalla in 2006 and then spread through the country like wildfire. This came after a previous wave of political demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinian intifada and against the war on Iraq. This revolution was, and continues to be, a political and social revolution, aspiring to deeper and more serious changes than mere democratic reforms. The current wave of strikes and sit-ins is the biggest since the first months of the revolution. There have been around 1,000 strikes during the past two months.

But nevertheless there remains a long road to travel before this can become the spearhead of the second Egyptian revolution. The strike wave is still sporadic and fragmented between different industries, sectors and geographical areas. It still represents only a minority of the Egyptian working class. Despite attempts to link its different parts and create independent unions, it remains confined within the limits of syndicalism. This separates the demands of “bread and butter” economic struggles from revolutionary political demands.

But Mursi’s plan to use austerity and neoliberal policies to combat Egypt’s economic crisis means these confrontations will intensify. Successive waves of workers’ strikes and sit-ins will continue, as will escalating repression by the police. The successive transformations of the different revolutionary forces make for a complex political landscape.

One dangerous development is that many alliances are built on the basis of the divide between secular and Islamist forces, rather than on the continuation of the revolution or the social programme of the different parties. So we find an alliance between the remnants of the old regime and some of the liberals under the leadership of Amr Moussa and Ayman Nour under the name of the Alliance of the Egyptian Nation.

There is also the Popular Current which Nasserist politician Hamdeen Sabahi founded on the basis of his presidential campaign, the Constitution Party of former UN figure Mohamed ElBaradei and many others that have not yet decided which of the alliances they will join.

On the left there is the Revolutionary Democratic Alliance which includes a number of forces including the Tagammu Party. Facing them we have the Brotherhood’s ruling Freedom and Justice Party and its allies in the Salafist forces. We cannot isolate ourselves from the political and electoral battles which are coming. They are an opportunity to raise concrete and general political demands.

Our entry into any front or alliance is governed by the strategy of the united front. We work together on a temporary basis around specific and limited goals, without compromising our independence. The coming elections will see the return of elements of the old regime or those who represent them, under the banner of “civil forces” and in alliance with right wing liberals. So there is a battle with the ruling party and its allies from the right and a battle from the left. We must never get mixed up with those who want to promote the old regime on the pretext of strengthening the secular camp, rallying all the secular forces from the far right to the far left.

The change wrought by the Egyptian revolution until now is a change in political power. The symbols of the old regime have changed, but the state and military institutions themselves have not been compromised. Egypt’s biggest billionaires still own the same wealth, looted from the blood of the people.

We will need to win the working masses to the revolutionary project of dismantling this state and building a workers’ and peasants’ state. Today many are still influenced by right wing, moderate and reformist forces. We must win workers’ and peasants’ leaders, the activists in the poor neighbourhoods and the oppressed sections of society to our long term revolutionary vision.

Our tradition of revolutionary organisation is one of our most important weapons. It’s vital that we grow quickly. But the entry of a wide variety of elements who are not familiar with this revolutionary tradition requires the greatest efforts to absorb, educate and offer practical training, combined with great toughness in relation to agents and saboteurs. We must launch a relentless ideological war against right-wing ideas, whether they are those of the liberals or the Islamists.

Capitalism across the globe and in Egypt is in a state of collapse, and the Egyptian working class is in a semi-permanent state of rebellion. Historic conjunctures like this don’t occur often. Either we must go forward to a second Egyptian revolution or our fate will be the victory of counter-revolution.

Radical Independence Conference: another Scotland is possible

riclogoBy Benoit Renaud

On November 24, in Glasgow, 800 progressive activists from across Scotland came together under the slogan « Another Scotland is possible » in order to lay the foundations of a joint Yes campaign leading up to the referendum on Scotland’s independence to take place at the end of 2014. The Radical Independence Conference (RIC) was attended by delegates from a wide range of organisations, from the Green Party to Labour for Independence, from the Scottish Socialist Party to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In short, the whole Scottish Left was there.

The referendum will be taking place 15 years after the election of the first democratic Scottish Parliament, following devolution in 1999. Since then, Scottish governments, both from the Labour party and the Scottish National Party (SNP) have been distinguishing themselves by resisting many of the neoliberal policies championed by British governments in Westminster, giving strong credit to the notion that an independent Scotland would be more socially progressive.

The latest wave of austerity measures implemented by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government, following the financial crisis, was the last straw which gave the SNP a majority government last year and the mandate to go ahead with that consultation. But the SNP government itself, although to the left of New Labour on several issues, remains at best a social liberal government. And their campaign, much like the Parti québécois campaign of 1995, is almost devoid of social and environmental content and is not generating much enthusiasm. The SNP even recently changed its position on NATO, stating it would remain within the Alliance after Independence, which led to the departure of MSP Jean Urquart, who spoke at the RIC’s opening panel.

I had the honor of representing Québec solidaire at this remarkable event. My message to the attendees was quite simple: Don’t let your nationalist party lead you into a defeat! The British State and ruling class will not let Scotland go without a fight, and they will play dirty. The only way to win is to mobilize working people behind a program of social justice, peace and ecology and making the referendum about rejecting austerity and imperialism. Another Scotland will be possible if the Scottish people fight for it and get organized. Hopefully, the Radical Independence Conference was only a first step in that direction.

Chicago teachers and Quebec Students: winning strikes and union renewal

By Pam Johnson

In the midst of mounting austerity attacks in North America, the Quebec students and Chicago teachers strike victories contradict the notion that workers and students are complacent and show that it is possible to use trade union structures to successfully fight the austerity agenda.

Quebec students won a “complete victory.” They won their demand to stop a tuition hike. In the process they also brought a government down and ended a draconian law intended to stop them.

Chicago teachers won a significant but not complete victory. They stopped a merit pay scheme and reduced the impact of teacher evaluations tied to student tests scores. Notably they achieved this facing a bipartisan assault on public education spearheaded by powerful Democratic mayor and former Obama Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel.

Both strikes were successful and remarkable because of mass rank-and-file involvement. What was particularly notable was the identical methods used by the Quebec students and the Chicago teachers to build and organize. In both cases it was a very specific process of face-to-face, member-by-member and member-to-community engagement that was the key to creating the groundswell of support by union members and got the support of the broader community.

This “back-to-basics” approach seems so obvious and is regularly touted as the antidote to top down, business unionism that is being criticized in all quarters. Yet in practice, criticizing the leadership instead of organizing members seems to be the default approach of most activists. What these strikes showed is that it is not what is directed at the leadership but what is directed at the membership that will shape the struggle and determine the outcome.

The ‘Practical Struggle’

Former CLASSE spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois referred to the process of building the Quebec student strike as the “practical struggle.”  In a recent talk he said, “thousands of student activists woke up early every morning for two years before the strike to distribute monstrous amounts of leaflets and newspapers.” He called this “culture of work” the key for building the mass democratic structures of the strike. Further he said that without the “culture of work,” general assemblies could have been called, but they would have been empty.

Similarly in Chicago, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE)—who first won the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) then won the strike—employed the same face-to-face method. Beginning in 2010, CORE organized members, students, parents and the community to fight school closures and charter school “flips.” They repeated this method in the lead up to the strike, organizing action committees in every school tied to the teachers’ representative body, called the “House of Delegates.” The strike vote garnered a phenomenal 90 per cent turnout from teachers. The strike itself had massive popular support from both teachers and public on the picket lines and at mass rallies.

Political Strategy

In both cases the strikes were organized around clear and concrete issues and demands that allowed for the broadest layer of support.

The Quebec students organized around one simple demand, “stop the tuition hike”—a 75 per cent increase over three years. This concrete demand allowed for a broad layer of student support. It also kept the three participating student unions with different politics united despite intense pressure and attempts by the government to divide them.

For Chicago teachers the key was challenging the barrage of anti-teacher and anti-union rhetoric blaming teachers for poor student performance. Mayor Emmanuel used this rationale to attacks teachers and promote the bipartisan supported “education reform” agenda—code for a privatization and corporatization scheme. To counter the rhetoric the new leadership of the CTU commissioned the Schools Chicago Students Deserve report that clearly tied together teacher’s working conditions with students learning conditions . Moving toward the contract deadline, the new CTU leadership worked with contract action committees and local school delegates to raise the main points of the report and campaign for teacher support based on increasing the quality of public education not destroying. This strategy garnered a huge hearing for teachers’ demands and got broad support.

At critical points, mass rallies gave the strikes a profile on the street and tested the mood of the public. Historic demonstrations of hundreds of thousands in Quebec, particularly following the passing of draconian Bill 78, put huge pressure back on the Charest government.  Thousands came onto the streets of Chicago at Grade-Ins and mass rallies creating huge blowback against Mayor Emmanuel exposing his bully tactics.

Structure and Leadership

Nadeau-Dubois credited the success, size and tenacity of the Quebec struggle to the structure of the strike and its relation to democratic decision-making. He referred to the strike structure as the mechanism for giving individual voices the “power of decision”—when people see the decisions articulated by the leadership reflecting their will.

Critically, Nadeau-Dubois identified the need for a centralized structure to make the power of decision effective on the mass scale of the Quebec strike. The coordination would not have been possible, he said, with an autonomous structure.

This democratic centralist model also requires that the leadership be extremely disciplined to carry the decisions of their members forward without second guessing or bowing to other pressures.

This was crucial at critical moments in both strikes. The question of the continuation of the Quebec strike over many months was firmly in the hands of the students through their assemblies. When a majority of students decided to stop the strike as a strategic retreat during the Quebec election campaign, the leadership complied.

In Chicago, union democracy and leadership discipline was preserved throughout the process of the strike even with huge pressure coming from Mayor Emmanuel. When the bargaining team got a tentative deal, Emmanuel threatened an injunction of picketing if teachers did not stop immediately. The leadership refused to end the strike until the House of Delegates—teachers’ local representatives—had a chance to review the deal and signal their approval.

Union Renewal and Broader Political Struggle

The ferocity of the austerity attacks and tepid response of the labour movement leadership has created frustration and exasperation among activists watching workers get hammered. The result has mostly been a see-saw between desperate appeals and harsh criticism of the leadership. But this is being addressed to a leadership entrenched in a consumerist union model and immune from the attacks faced by the workers they are supposed to represent. Their role now, and historically, has been to lower workers expectations in times of economic crisis or run to the front of rising struggles to dissipate them.

The recent CAW-CEP merger strategy indicates that pressure from members on the leadership is having some effect. The merger document and messages from the leaders about boosting rank-and-file activity and increasing resources for organizing sound great. Sadly, mere weeks after the merger was announced, the CAW leadership offered concessions without a fight—despite having 90 percentile strike votes in hand.

Constant criticism addressed to the leadership entrenches the notion that it must be the leadership that initiate action. The success of the Chicago teachers and Quebec students shows that rank-and-file members can lead this struggle. This approach has been successfully used this past year by both Toronto library workers and Alma steel workers.

Furthermore, the size of the Quebec and Chicago strikes propelled them past the initial demands to a broader political struggle. In both cases, this escalation pushed back significantly on the government attempts to keep the upper hand. In Quebec, it led to the collapse of the Charest government. In Chicago, Democratic support for “education reform” and the attack on teachers backfired when weeks before the last election, Republicans were praising Democratic mayor Emmanuel. Teachers’ demands were met in less than one week.

The back-to-basics approach takes time and tenacity. More fundamentally it requires an investment in the members and trust that they will act in their our interest supported by solid strategy and organization. It is not new but as these strikes show, it is effective.

Quebec budget: very-very-slightly-lesser-evil-ism

By Jessica Squires

Pauline Marois’ PQ government, only a few months old, has already exposed its allegiance to neoliberalism in its budget, released in mid-November.

The budget is essentially a carbon copy of the Liberal economic plan. The only differences are to establish a graded scale for the new “health tax,” supposedly rendering it progressive; and to index hydro price increases to inflation, thus slowing down the rate at which the rates will increase.

Everything else – including balancing the budget and eliminating the deficit by 2014 – is still on the table. Following news that Marois’ government will encourage Plan Nord to continue, foster oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and explore the reversal of an oil pipeline to import oil from the tar sands, it’s hard to see how anyone can still be under the illusion that the vote for Marois to get rid of the Liberals was in any way “strategic.”

That said, some PQ defenders are arguing that the budget is actually a result of the fact they only got a minority – blaming it on the left, and Québec solidaire.

This is nonsense. The opposition Liberals, who hold the balance of power, publicly stated they would not oppose a Marois budget. They are in disarray and searching for a new leader.

The PQ has brought in a budget that suits their values: neoliberal. Faced with the evil of three lessers (PQ, Liberals, CAQ), the real way to be strategic is to the build the movements and their best electoral expression – Québec solidaire.