First Published: The Worker, Vol 10, No 15, June 14, 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Reprinted below is an editorial from Challenge U.S. Progressive Labor Party weekly newspaper. It outlines PLP’s views on the impending crisis in Canada over the question of Quebec. PLP is a fraternal Party of the Canadian Party of Labor. Since the editorial approaches the question somewhat differently than does our Party we know our readers will be interested in their views, therefore we are reprinting it in full. We will follow it with some comments of our own, and of course, we invite our readers to have their say, in the form of letters, as well.
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In this period, when the flames of war are flaring up all over the globe, the spectre of war between capitalists is an imminent danger in Canada. A major move towards independence by the national French-speaking ruling class of Quebec province and the refusal of the Trudeau-led English-speaking bosses of the rest of Canada to allow it is sparking this danger of war. The French-speaking bosses of Quebec are allied with sections of imperialists in the U.S. and France.
The move to independence by Quebec French-speaking bosses is a high-risk action. The province’s rich economy, especially its vast production of energy, is a big plum for the energy-poor bosses of the U.S. and France. These imperialists and their stooges in Quebec, led by Rene Levesque, are ready to slaughter hundreds of thousands of English- and French-speaking workers in their quests for profits. Sections of U.S. bosses led by the Rockefellers (with whom Levesque has had many meetings) are more than willing to go to war in Canada in order to secure U.S. energy sources needed in their desperate global competition with Soviet bosses.
U.S. and French imperialists, and their puppets in Quebec, are trying to use the revolutionary consciousness, and anti-racist actions and attitudes, of Quebec’s French-speaking workers. These bosses would love to harness the burning feelings of these workers to their capitalist goals. As the Canadian Party of Labor said in an editorial on this matter in their newspaper The Worker (reprinted in C-D, in 1977), “...This has caused the bourgeoisie to set up a progressive nationalist, Rene Levesque, to act as a road-block to revolution. As they set up Levesque to siphon off class war in Quebec, Trudeau works the other side of the street in English Canada by stirring up the most dangerous brew of all – anti-French racism.”
More to the point, U.S. imperialism and the French imperialists are creating sharp contradictions in Canada to secure their own interests. Trudeau and Levesque merely represent different groups of imperialists, and different sections of the Canadian national ruling class. An article by Henry Ginger in the New York Times (May 15) describes the alliance between U.S. and bosses in Quebec, indicating the frenetic pace of this development, and thus the quickening movement toward war between the various bosses:
What one Canadian publication calls “the year of Quebec’s diplomatic offensive in the United States” is placing special emphasis on attracting new capital to Quebec and broadening the market for Quebec products.
Bernard Landry, the 41-year-old Minister for Economic Development, who has just returned from an extensive swing around the United States, said in an interview that a modernized Quebec economy would leave much room for foreign investment, particularly in industries using high technology. Mr. Landry said that in his talks with business groups, he had pointed to Quebec’s abundant supplies of hydroelectric energy and minerals as well as to the increasingly sophisticated manpower being produced by Quebec schools.
A Continental Outlook
“It is inevitable,” Mr. Landry said, “that Quebec’s relations with the United States will be intensified. We Quebecers have always had a continental outlook. In addition, the trend is toward a reduction of tariff barriers in the industrial world and this will be especially true on the North American continent.”
Mr. Landry said that Quebec-American trade was currently balanced at about $4 billion annually each way. “If we sell more electricity to New York,” he said, “New York is going to want to sell more to us.”
This report speaks for itself. However, Levesque & co. are out for big bucks. Levesque intends to use France’s bosses in his maneuverings with U.S. rulers. Exploiting the French origins of Quebec workers, he used the pious call for a separate capitalist nation of Quebec made by the late Charles De Gaulle, then President of France in a visit to the province a few years ago. Recently Levesque went to Paris to curry favor with the French capitalists. French bosses greeted and feted Levesque as if he was already head of state. The Worker, in an article reprinted in CHALLENGE ( 9/15/77 ), made these observations about Levesque’s trip:
Rene Levesque seemed a little overwhelmed by the pompous reception laid on for him by the French bosses during his recent Paris visit. He’s hoping that people in Quebec will be every bit as overwhelmed – most of all the working class.
The whole affair has handed the French imperialists a rare opportunity to fish in troubled waters and to turn the confusion in the very backyard of U.S. imperialism to its advantage.
France’s aggressive attitude, far and away the most significant aspect of Levesque’s Paris jaunt, points up the current tensions among Eurpoean and North American capitalists. The current capitalist crisis is intensifying: over-production has led everywhere to massive unemployment. Competition for new markets and for the redivision of old ones becomes more and more acute. French maneuvers must be seen in the context of the economic war which they wish to carry on against their North American rivals, using Quebec as a potential foothold.
... Worried about the real possibility of armed intervention in Quebec by Trudeau’s “national unity” gangsters, Levesque has decided to stake his future on the creation of a national consciousness which will be called upon to rush to the rescue of the fatherland in time of danger, and make sure that class struggle is banished from all political debate in Quebec.
Levesque’s pilgrimage to the boudoirs of U.S. and French bosses are so transparent that even other sections of the Quebec national movement fear he is giving the game away. The Times’ Giniger article reported:
Radical Sectors Angry
The courting of American opinion by Quebec is angering radical sectors of the nationalist movement here that say that multinational companies, particularly American ones, already dominate the Canadian economy and will prevent Quebec from being truly independent.
But undeterred by the obvious betrayal of the interests of Quebec’s workers, the same Mr. Landry, minister of Economics in the present Quebec government and a stooge for Levesque, again states (New York Times, May 15), the aim of building an independent capitalist Quebec:
Mr Landry said Quebec wished to recover ownership and control of its economy but he said this would be done by developing home-growing businesses not by excluding foreign investment.
What can the working class of French- and English-speaking Canada do in this crossfire between various contending local and outside bosses. A clue to this can be found in the CPL statement printed in The Worker and in C-D:
The CPL and all class conscious fighters have to see the revolutionary opportunity in these circumstances. We must establish the tightest unity of French and English workers to enable our class to overthrow the capitalists from sea to shining sea.
... Workers in English Canada will have the task of showing immediate solidarity through every form of resistance from strikes to stopping troop movements to organizing soldiers to turn on their officers. The red forces would have one common cause: the overthrow of capitalism.
The invading Army should be turned out of Quebec by revolutionary workers that would make no common cause with any bourgeois elements. And when that armed struggle succeeds we would find that the true content of the slogan for self-determination is a proletarian dictatorship, without which the term would be vacuous.
Meanwhile, conditions for the working class are plumetting in Canada. Unemployment, well over a million in a country with barely one-tenth the population of the U.S., is approaching depression proportions. Layoffs, speed-up and inflation are rampant. In fact, Trudeau used these conditions as the excuse to call off elections, fearing he and his gang would be thrown out of office. Whenever the bosses’ economic crisis intensifies, they always use racism and nationalism to keep workers divided. Just as bosses in the U.S. try to tell white workers that the blame for unemployment rests on minority or immigrant workers [and vice-versa], so too do the Canadian bosses try to mask the real cause of economic crisis – capitalism – by stirring up racism among English-speaking workers against French-speaking workers while fanning the flames of the bosses’ nationalism among French-speaking workers against English-speaking workers. All this steers the entire working class of Canada, and especially workers in Quebec, away from the REAL solution-working – class seizure of state power – and get them to fight a war on behalf of two groups of capitalists.
As this war becomes more imminent, as the consciousness of the French-Canadian workers becomes more revolutionary; it would be suicidal to look for nationalist-capitalist solutions. This sharpening class struggle between the French-speaking workers and the English-speaking bosses calls for developing socialist consciousness even more! It dictates that the need is vital for the French-speaking workers to take up arms against all sections of the ruling class. If the French-speaking workers are conned into taking up guns against English-speaking workers in order to fight for capitalism, it would be another demonstration of the futility and suicidal consequences for the working class to seek nationalist solutions.
Nor can we allow the English-speaking workers to be swept up in tidal waves of racism against French-speaking workers. This racism is being whipped up by the English-speaking bosses in Canada and their pals in the U.S. They would love nothing better than to see the English-speaking workers organized behind the bosses’ banners to defend their interests in Canada.
Canadian workers must be united against racism and for socialism. If the French- and English-speaking workers of Quebec can raise the Red Flags of Socialism over that province sooner than the English-speaking workers in the rest of Canada, it would give a huge boost to the revolutionary and anti-racist battles in all of Canada and around the world. This would be a profound lesson to all workers of the road to be taken. Revolution-not-reform must become not only the strategy of the revolutionary forces, but also of the entire working class. The fight for reforms are important, and can be used to heighten revolutionary consciousness. But reform struggles, barren of revolutionary strategy, are self-defeating. The fight against racism and class exploitation can only be satisfied with socialist revolution. This is THE answer that workers seek.
As the various rulers whip up jingoism and racism to save their collapsing profit system, workers should not be fooled by sugar-coated bullets of nationalism or patriotism used by the bosses to pull their chestnuts out of the fire. Workers should never turn away from the advocacy of, and fight for, socialism. To step back in a sharp situation is like someone trying to cross a busy intersection getting half way across, and then turning back because it seems too dangerous. Half-way actions incur more casualties, not less.
Similarly, the best way U.S. workers can help our Canadian brothers and sisters, as well as serve OUR OWN best class interests, is to challenge the U.S. imperialist rulers head-on and fight for socialism here. Not only will this divert the U.S. bosses’ machination against Canadian workers; it will spread revolution throughout the U.S. and make one united revolutionary front against capitalism-imperialism across this boss-created border.
When capitalist and imperialist war comes to Canada, workers must turn imperialist war into civil war. This war must be for socialism and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. This strategy, outlined by Lenin years ago, is valid today. English- and French-speaking workers must turn their guns around. They should unite for the goal of workers all over the world – for Socialism!