GRASSROOTS ACTIVISM—LIKE HOPE—SPRINGS ETERNAL. Particularly in Québec.
Pour une dignité politique (For Political Dignity) is a brand new grouping of Québec activists looking to provide a “left alternative” ready and able to directly confront colonialism, racism, and capitalism. Something it says the established left in Québec will not do.
May Chiu is one of the activists who launched Pour une dignité politique in March. She is a Montreal lawyer whose activism stretches from the anti-apartheid struggle to include two attempts to win election to the Québec legislature as a candidate for the social democratic party Québec solidare (QS).
May spent weeks during the September election in Québec working at the side of a QS candidate—a Muslim women and the only candidate who wore a hijab. May says the experience revealed how unprepared and unwilling the mainstream left was to deal with the fundamentals of racism.
“Watching how QS treated their own candidate, they really tried to minimize her presence. I found that so unacceptable.”
Pour une dignité politique says there is a basic reluctance by much of the white-dominated left in the province to prioritize the issues of racialized people beyond the level of rhetoric.
May says in the battle over the law banning display of religious symbols the white left missed the real issue: namely, the “bread and butter” concerns of racial, religious an indigenious minorities.
“As racialized minorities we felt like: ‘You’re the left movement, shouldn’t it be normal for you to be against discrimination?’ And it wasn’t,” says May.
‘Charity of the white left’ rejected
The manifesto of Pour une dignité politique illustrates a desire to break free of all “politics-as-usual” practices. One passage states:
“We do not want the charity of the white left or its “fraternalism”. We refuse to have the political agenda be dictated to us, as has always been attempted—mostly in vain—but relentlessly. We affirm our commitment to social and economic justice in the service of as many as possible.”
Political parties are just too disconnected from the grassroots, says May.
“Real power remains outside of political parties in the grassroots, in solidarity movements, where there is no fear about what should we say, is that going too far, is that going to anger the majority. That’s why I choose, right now, to be in alternative organizations.”
“You need to continue to tell the truth,” says May, “and to advocate for what is genuine and not what is supposedly more politically feasible or more acceptable.
“For me you might as well not start organizing ifyou’re going to do that.”
It is still early days for Pour une dignité politique. Much of their work at the moment remains internal. They are, for instance, using reading groups as a tool for political self-education and to work out “meaningful definitions and approaches to anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism and anti-racism.”
Their first public event was a screening of a film about psychiatrist, writer, and anti-colonial revolutionary Franz Fanon.
Their overall approach is to turn away from the European tradition for inspiration and guidance and to look, instead, to successful popular uprisings on our side of the Atlantic, in places like Cuba and Bolivia.
The group is also working to connect with current indigenous political currents in France.
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