First Published: The Forge Vol 7, No 40, November 19, 1982
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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On Nov. 11 some 60 members of the Workers Communist Party attended a meeting to debate the party’s errors on the Quebec national question. Two Forge journalists, Marjolaine Cote and Martine Trudel, were on hand and prepared this report.
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The evening began with a brief presentation prepared by Alain Saulnier and other WCP members. To help clarify the debate we are also outlining the main points of a text prepared by Saulnier on the Quebec national question.
With regard to great-nation chauvinism, Saulnier first of all criticized a mechanical definition of principal and secondary contradictions in Canada. The Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) and the Workers Communist Party had correctly determined that the principal contradiction opposed the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. But they pushed to a very distant second place another one of the contradictions, the Quebec national question.
“Thus, in the name of subordinating the national question to the class question, we neglected the struggle against the chauvinist ruling class, which repeatedly attacked Quebec, spending our time attacking the “separatists” of all shades, who threatened to delay the revolution.”
Saulnier gave severale xamples of the political errors resulting from great-nation chauvinism: the refusal to demand political rights for Quebec, which amounts to sweeping aside the struggle for reforms under the present capitalist system; the watchword to spoil the ballot in the referendum when a “critical yes” would have been more appropriate, given that the Quebec people were beginning for the first time in their history to exercise their right to self-determination.
He also denounced the WCP’s passivity toward Trudeau’s constitutional coup de force last year.
Saulnier considers that a “critical yes” in the referendum would not have contradicted the party’s strategy for revolution in Carada. He is now convinced that Quebec independence is a desirable reform under the present system.
Great-nation chauvinism, he stressed, is not the only source of party errors on this question. He cited the inadequacies of Marxism, which has produced few developemnts on the question, especially as concerns national struggles in an industrialized country like ours.
Saulnier harshly criticized the WCP’s sectarianism toward the independent left and Quebecois favouring independence.
“Though over the last period we stopped labelling progressive forces supporting independence as “counter-revolutionaries”, in practice we were incapable of uniting with them to struggle against great-nation chauvinism and bourgeois nationalism,”
In his presentation Saulnier also identified serious examples of chauvinism within the party. He talked about a veritable “trusteeship” over Quebec and the Quebecois, because anglophones had taken control of key leadership positions, not only in the Central Committee but also’ within the organizational structures in Quebec.
He recalled that the party’s constitutional program had been drawn up by an anglophone without previous consultation with Quebecois militants. Nor was any internal education done on the history of the Quebec people’s struggles, and The Forge limited itself to recalling the struggle of the Patriotes in 1837 and the demonstrations to make McGill a French-language university.
Great-nation chauvinism was reflected in several areas of the party’s work in Quebec, including its anti-imperialist work. The WCP favoured struggles that traditionally receive widespread support from anglophones (ex. South Africa) while long neglecting the Quebec people’s support for the Latin American and Irish peoples, for example.
The Forge for years contributed to fueling this chauvinism in English Canada by producing the same articles for both nations, articles which mainly attacked the Parti Quebecois and narrow nationalism.
In his text, Saulnier puts forward the establishment of a separate newspaper for Quebec, while assuring the fight against great nation chauvinism is taken up in a newspaper for the rest of Canada.