Fusion QS-ON: fighting right-wing nationalism

In early July, 2013, more than 30 members of Quebec Solidaire and Option Nationale met in my living room. The hope was for members of both parties to share their political priorities, outside of the heat of a general election. Though we didn’t know it, the 2014 election was closer than the 2012 election had been, and the meeting gave us the chance to see where our parties converged and where they didn’t.

I remember a few things from that night very clearly: the July heat was brutal. The ON members present seemed to all be, broadly speaking, progressive. There was agreement on most of the policies. In fact, There wasn’t one policy that stuck with me that showed how the two parties were different. With, perhaps, one big exception: woman participated more from QS far more than they did from ON. It’s worth noting that ON’s star candidate, Catherine Dorion, wasn’t there.

After that meeting, I was more confused than I had been about why we existed as two separate parties.

But my confusion went back earlier than that. During the 2012 election, we were in direct battle with ON. Here was a party with a platform that was effectively the same as QS’ and a candidate in downtown Quebec City, Dorion, who seemed cool enough.

The difference between the parties back then was the emphasis placed on sovereignty, and how sovereignty debates were plagued by the adage ni de droit, ni de gauche. Nothing is “not right, not left” and it was good enough for me that the parties were separated on this point alone.

A few weeks after the election, there was a forum held on higher education and public funding. It was the first time I heard ON and QS representatives share the stage and talk about not sovereignty. Far from the hyper centrism espoused by some on sovereignty, there was not much distance between the panelists. I always thought that if ON members moved away from ni de droit, ni de gauche foolishness, there’d be no reason to not support us joining forces.

The QS-ON fusion debate comes at a critical, scary, fascinating and wonderful political moment. There is a right-wing convergence that is changing the balance of our political landscape, while at the same time, the left-right axis that emerged with the collapse of the Bloc in favour of the NDP in 2011, remains more or less in tact. For many progressives, the need to defend the Canadian federation is less and less important and the protection of our social programs, or fighting austerity (or more directly, the Liberals) is more important.

In that cesspool of hard to soft right-wing politics, we have Atalante advocating physical violence, La Meute advocating white nationalism, trash radio attacking everything about Quebec that makes it livable, and three political parties chasing votes from people who are to varying degrees, influenced by these forces. The Liberals are starting to crumble. The PQ cant seem to get its shit together. We’re about to become the Air Transat of Canada, through certainly with fewer bailouts from Ottawa to save our industry.

At the same time, we have Montreal that went left. The ground work laid by housing activists, CPE activists, people fighting against les paradis fiscaux, the Indigenous women who won an inquiry into violence against them, Muslims speaking out and organizing against hate, inspiring strikes and worker action, the front commun and, of course, the student movement, is bearing fruit. It’s bearing all kinds of different fruit and it might be enough to sustain us as we stare down or confront the attacks from the right.

It’s in this political moment that we must view the QS-ON fusion.

The days of ni de droit, ni de gauche are over. Sovereignty has always been either a right-wing or a left-wing project, but we can see a way past this rhetorical impasse that has confused the previous recent elections. Consolidating forces on the Left is fundamental to building our projet de société and of course, this requires independence forces to come together.

If we can’t see the opportunity now to build this, I am deeply afraid about our capacity to actually run Quebec if ever we form government. Electoral politics requires a lot of compromise and building a party that’s strong enough to not compromise on our core values is fundamental to our work. But we don’t have core values that are different than ON. We have strategic differences that will continue to be debated in all of our instances. We have a deficit of democracy that we need to fix. We have a giant hole in our analysis about religion and the state that requires our immediate attention. But with ON? The answer is easy.

There will be onistes who disagree with QS’ political line. They probably wont join. But to change the political points on our map by merging the two parties together strengthens progressive political force. It pushes out anyone who disagrees with the progressive vision of QS while welcoming everyone who should have been among us from the beginning. Bref, it’s critical to the growth of our party. Far from a betrayal of our values, it’s a strategic compromise where we win far more than we lose. In fact, it’s a rare political moment where no one loses.

Except, of course, maybe the PQ and the Liberals, whose fear for 2018 you can already smell.

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