First Published: In Struggle No. 155, April 24, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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“IN STRUGGLE! is calling upon all workers across the country to sign the Declaration for the Absolute Equality of Languages and Nations. We are doing so to show Quebec workers that workers in English Canada don’t all think like Richardson, Clark and Trudeau. Many English Canadian workers recognize that GM workers in Ste-Therese, Quebec, have the right to work in French just like the GM workers in Ontario have the right to work in English. IN STRUGGLE! also wants to show workers in English Canada that Quebec workers are not separatist-terrorists who want to throw the ’maudits anglais’ into the sea.”
That is how IN STRUGGLE!’s Secretary-General, Charles Gagnon, explained the campaign to sign the Declaration for the Absolute Equality of Languages and Nations at a Montreal press conference April 19 (see Declaration text).
The campaign is meant to be a real organizing drive, as explained in the last issue of this paper. It is aimed at mobilizing a counter-trend that can actively resist the increasingly hysterical patriotism which has already reached the point of calling for a strengthened Canadian army and increased powers for the RCMP to keep Quebec in Confederation. That is exactly what the “One Canada or No Canada Petition” demands.
Another factor which makes the situation all the more urgent is the way the crudest racist prejudices are being put forward as scientific “truths”. McMaster University professor Harish Jain for example did a survey among workers in two hospitals, one in Ontario and one in Quebec. His “scientific” conclusion? English-speaking workers have a more highly developed work ethic and personal achievement through work is much more important to them than to French-speaking workers. “Studies” like that serve only to breed mistrust and contempt between workers. They fan the flames of national hatred in order to cover up the class interests which are really at stake.
IN STRUGGLE! is calling on all workers to uphold the equality of languages and nations. It is doing so because it believes that unity is impossible without that equality, without the struggle to eliminate all forms of discrimination against people just because they belong to one or another nation or national minority. That struggle includes the fight for recognition of the right of the Quebec nation to freely decide on its own political future without any outside interference.
The unity of workers throughout the country might well seem like a Utopian dream to nationalists of all types. They will argue that English-Canadian workers are simply too “backward”.
Isn’t it a lot more practical to work with the Parti Quebecois even if it just means getting exploited in French instead of English? But there is already a real trend towards the countrywide unity of workers. Many workers – like those in the CUPW, Canadian Union of Public Employees, United Steelworkers and the Saskatchewan and British Columbia Federations of Labour – have already explicitly recognized the right of the Quebec nation to self-determination.
Something practical can be done to build up the strength of this unity trend. Collect signatures for the Declaration at election rallies and union conventions, during the June 24 and July 1st celebrations. Make the point of view of the working class on the national question known. Get actively involved in. the campaign. Don’t give the capitalists any more “time for action” (Trudeau’s slogan) or “time to build our future together” (Pepin-Robarts rhetoric). Workers have nothing to gain from the divisions that presently exist along national lines. Workers get nothing from the continued existence of inequality, discrimination and oppression.
Get your fellow workers, your friends and family to sign the declaration. We must gather thousands of signatures between now and the first of July. The results of the campaign will be published regularly in the newspaper. They will be presented to the workers throughout the country at union conventions, especially the ones where workers are being asked to take a stand on the solution to national oppression.
We, the undersigned, recognize fully and wholeheartedly that the French-speaking people of Quebec, the Quebecois, constitute a nation which historically has been kept in a situation of inferiority in relation to the English-Canadian nation and subjected to various forms of discrimination.
We affirm that the absolute equality of languages and nations must be recognized in this country. We call upon all workers in Canada to unite in the struggle to do away with all forms of oppression and discrimination against nations or national minorities.
More particularly, we call upon workers in Canada to unite in the struggle for the recognition of the Quebec nation’s inalienable right to decide its political future, including the right to form a separate State if the majority so choose.
This total equality is essential for building the unity needed to ensure victory for the working people of all nations and national minorities in Canada in the defence of their common interests.