Québec solidaire: communist threat!

Québec solidaire: communist threat!

CHRONICLE – It comes back to each election campaign like a rise of acne before menstruation: this idea that Quebec Solidaire embodies a communist drift. Whether it is a matter of recalling the Marxist-Leninist past of Françoise David, of evoking a “politburo” with Soviet overtones responsible for pulling the strings of the party, or of associating each of the electoral promises made by Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois with a creeping Stalinism, QS's detractors miss no opportunity to brandish the threat of the gulag. Of course, when we requisition the Maoist aesthetic as QS does in its current campaign, we run after trouble.

Québec solidaire: communist threat!

Still, this nasty habit of associating the social-democratic ideas of Québec solidaire with the communist threat has something dusty about it. What year are we in? From beyond, Joe McCarthy phoned to say he died in 1957 just like the moral panic he fueled with his famous witch hunt. If only we tackled the deleterious aspects of communism, like, I don't know, me, totalitarianism, dictatorship, forced labor (which practically exists, under our pragmatic government… talk to the nurses). But in general, we rather attack the principles of equality, sharing of wealth, solidarity. Wipe part of the dental costs of the population? What a heretical communist idea! Well, we collectively pay all the health costs since 1969, but teeth, that's definitely the taste of communism that would break the camel's back.

And that's the thing. When we associate each social-democratic idea with the communist threat, it is as if we forget our history a little. Whenever there has been talk of pooling our efforts, in the history of Quebec, we have brandished the communist threat. Nationalize electricity? René Lévesque had the best arguments for doing so: we were going to be masters at home, generate profits for the state, ensure stable and equal service for all Quebecers, develop the economy of the regions. But it was too good to be true. Surely it must have been communism. Offer a universal and free healthcare system? Communism. Social housing? Hide this communist idea that cannot be seen. Unifying workers for better conditions? What a bunch of communists.

Brandishing the communist threat was almost as powerful a tool for the Duplessis National Union as the separatist threat was for years for the Liberal Party. With the national question running out of steam and the repositioning of the stakes on the left-right chessboard, it is as if it has become relevant again to scare us with ideas that may seem too good to be achievable.

However, the major social projects that constituted communist threats at the time they were debated are part of our collective wealth. Hydro-Québec, the Régie d'assurance maladie, automobile insurance… no one – well, almost – looks to the past and says to themselves “what monumental blunders have we made! ” These pillars – perfectible, that is – are rather part of our national pride, even of our Quebec identity. This is perhaps, along with the French language, one of the aspects that most distinguishes us from the rest of North America. It is so consensual in Quebec that even one of the parties that is most to the right of socio-economic issues, the CAQ, claims these values. The CAQ government is also one of those that has invested the most in social services in recent years. Yet no one is accusing François Legault of being a cursed commie.

The most ironic thing is that Québec solidaire was accused this week of being too right-wing when the party proposed a suspension of the QST on certain products deemed essential. We can argue about the items that QS wants to exempt from sales tax – clothing, for example – but reducing consumption taxes generally benefits the poor. It is a progressive measure. You have to believe that even when you embody the worst communist threat, you can't escape criticism from the left either! I imagine that if we are putting so much effort into demonizing Québec solidaire, it is because the party actually constitutes an increasingly real threat to the old parties.

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