Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist)

The Anglo-Canadian state and the “two nations” theory

First Published: People’s Canada Daily News, Vol 7, No. 160, July 6, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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On June 8,1977, we printed the Five-Point Programme for Unity in Action Against the Main Enemy, in order to arm the readers of PCDN on the line of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) on the questions of the Canadian state and revolution.

Beginning in PCDN,Volume 7, No. 153, rlated June 28, 1977, we printed the first in a series of reference articles on the Five-Point Programme. Part two of this reference material was printed in PCDN Volume 7, No. 155, dated June 30; we are now printing part three. Parts two and three outline the history of the development of the Anglo-Canadian oppressor state and expose the reactionary myth of “two nations’’.

Point one of the Five-Point Programme states:

Canadian Unity Means Defeat of Both the federalism Fraud of Trudeau and the ’Independence’ Fraud of Rene Levesque It Means the Overthrow of U.S. Imperialism and the Rule of the Reactionary Bourgeoisie It Means Genuine Independence, Democracy and Socialism for Canada

In the whole campaign of propaganda of the reactionary bourgeoisie on “national unity”, one of the most persistent themes of propaganda has been the fraud of “two nations”. The reactionary bourgeoisie issues propaganda that the establishment of the Anglo-Canadian colonial state was the union of “two nations” – an English speaking nation and a French speaking nation and that this is the essence of “Canadian unity”. This “two nations” theory has also been widely promoted by the revisionists and opportunists of all hues: they talk a lot about the “two nations” which make up Canada, and they produce a lot of propaganda for national and social chauvinism calling for a reformed “made-in-Canada Constitution” for a “binational confederal state” or calling for “absolute equality of nations” or by speaking of the “workers of both nations”.

Part II of the reference material showed that from the Conquest of “New France” until the time of the establishment of the Anglo-Canadian state in York in the 1790’s, there is no basis for asserting that an “English Canadian nation” existed. The reactionary bourgeoisie ascribed the term “nation” to Anglo-Canadian colonialism in order to implicate the masses of the people with the oppressor state established by the British colonialists. The form of British colonialism in Canada, Anglo-Canadian colonialism, was established as an extension of the rule of the British bourgeoisie in Canada. The Anglo-Canadian colonialists, made up of the ruling circles of Upper Canada and Lower Canada, were the exploiters and oppressors of the Canadian people on behalf of the British colonialists. They kept the Quebec people in bondage through the feudal seigneurial system, disinherited the Native people and brought the people under their yoke wherever Anglo-Canadian colonialism expanded.

These ruling circles of Upper and Lower Canada became known as the Family Compact and the Chateau clique respectively. In Upper Canada they were the state officials (judges, councillors, high clergy, governors), and the officers of the British Army who controlled the Legislative and Executive Councils and acquired vast tracts of land for speculation. Moreover, they were all-powerful in the existing chartered banks, middlemen for the financing and trading of British goods in Canada. In Lower Canada, the British merchants, officials, the traitorous clergy and seigneurs also controlled both councils and engaged in vast speculation on Crown Lands. In both of the provinces, British land companies (the British American Land Co. in Lower Canada and the Canada Land Co. in Upper Canada) acquired vast tracts of land from these ruling circles who through their quasi-monopoly on the land created “scarcity” amidst abundance. For example in 1825, land was not granted freely anymore in Upper Canada. This was the form that Anglo-Canadian colonialism, the form of British colonialism, took in Canada.

If we look at the situation in Quebec during the period leading to the Rebellion of 1837-38 and the Act of Union, it is clear that the rule of the English bourgeoisie and Anglo-Canadian colonialism over Quebec is in no way the rule of an “English speaking Canadian nation” over the French speaking nation of Quebec. The Anglo-Canadian colonial rule, as the form of British colonial rule in Canada, is not an “English Canadian nation” like the revisionists and the opportunists siding with the reactionary bourgeoisie would have us to believe. The Anglo-Canadian colonial state was established on the basis of the suppression and subjugation of the nation of Quebec. The suppression and subjugation of the nation of Quebec through violence was vital for the consolidation of the settler state established in York.

The period from the establishment of the Anglo-Canadian state in the 1790’s to the Act of Union in 1840 and its politics of assimilation to deal with the Quebec people saw the policy of suppression of the Quebec people carried out on every front. The Anglo-Canadian colonialists tried once more to enlist the Quebec peasants in the Anglo-American war in 1812-1814 but with no more success than in 1775 during the Independence War of the American colonies.

The British colonialists perpetuated and intensified the feudal oppression of the seigneurial system. The Quebec peasants were more and more burdened with “corvees”, forced labour and dues. They were heavily indebted to the seigneurs and the merchants. Because of the “scarcity” of land created through speculation by the British colonialists, the peasants had to divide up their land to the point where a plot could hardly feed a family. The land was exhausted so that Quebec which had previously exported grain on the British market, had to import it: 150,000 quarters in 1833, 130,000 in 1834. and more in the later years. The crops were repeatedly afflicted with diseases. Thus the peasants starved and many of them were forced to emigrate to the United States. The agricultural crisis was coupled with a crisis in the timber industry. As a means of earning supplementary income the peasants worked as wage-slaves, in the forests during the winter for small “entrepreneurs”, or for British merchants. When the demand for timber was reduced because of successive economic crisis in England in 1825-1832, and 1835-37, the peasants were seriously affected and further impoverished. A vivid testimony of the conditions under which the peasants were forced to live was given by a British capitalist in an “assessment” of the capacities of the Quebec peasants to work for the construction of the railways. He said that “they (the peasants) are small men, and they are a class who are not well fed. They live on vegetable food, and they scarcely ever taste meat.” The policy of the British colonialists was thus to physically decimate the Quebec people in order to consolidate the Anglo-Canadian colonial state and the rule of the British colonialists in Canada.

The Act of Union: Consolidation of Anglo-Canadian Colonial Rule over Quebec

After the Rebellion of 1837-38 was violently and bloodily suppressed by the British Army, this rule was consolidated. Reporting on how to handle the situation, Lord Durham proposed in 1839 that the question of Quebec be dealt with through assimilation and “responsible government”. Lord Durham explained his proposals as follows:

The explanation of this amalgamation (Upper and Lower Canada - ed.) is obvious. The French of Louisiana, when they were formed into a state, in which they were a majority, were incorporated into a great nation, of which they constituted an extremely small part...

It is only by the same means – by a popular government. in which an English majority shall permanently predominate – that Lower Canada, if a remedy for its disorders be not long delayed, can be tranquilly found.

This measure was implemented by the Act of Union voted by British Parliament in 1840 and implemented in 1841. A Governor-General headed the Anglo-Canadian colonial rule, and appointed the members of the Executive Council. The Act of Union also served to place on the people of Quebec the heavy burden of the debt which the Canadian state at York had been running up with canal building, etc. The debt – 1,200,000 pounds in Upper Canada and 95,000 pounds in Lower Canada was to be shared “equally” between the two provinces. As well, right after the Union, the Governor General was secretly authorized to guarantee a loan of 1,500,000 pounds from the British bankers in order to pay for the debts and to continue to build roads and canals.

This dearly shows that the state of Anglo-Canadian colonial rule cannot be described as being an English-Canadian nation, as the reactionary bourgeoisie promotes through its “two nations” theory. On the contrary, even if we accept the thesis presented by the revisionists and the opportunists that the uprising of 1837 in Upper Canada is to be characterized as reflecting the aspirations for nationhood, then the Anglo-Canadian rule, the rule of the foreign oppressors and their domestic agents was continued through the crushing of these aspirations, as they have done with the national aspirations of the people of Quebec, down to the present day. If one looks at the uprising in Upper Canada in 1837 as the English Canadian nation coming into being, as the opportunists and revisionists would have us believe, it was crushed by the same state which today proclaims itself the representative and spokesman of the English-Canadian nation. This shows that the Act of Union, far from realizing the birth of an “English Canadian nation” which established its rule over Quebec, in fact was an Act of the Anglo-Canadian colonial state, as the extension of the state of the English bourgeoisie in Canada.

Anglo-Canadian Colonial Rule and Foreign Domination is the Cause of Canadian Disunity

The Canadian state today is the state of Anglo-Canadian colonial rule, established first as an extension of the rule of the English bourgeoisie in Canada over the people of Quebec, over the Native people, over the entire working class and toiling masses in Canada. From the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, this state has been dominated by U.S. imperialism. What the reactionary bourgeoisie and their various agents and spokesmen are raising as an issue of “two nations”, and a fight for “equality” of the “two nations” is a fraud. This is the federalism fraud of Trudeau, who speaks of unity of two nations; and of Rene Levesque who pushes, the “independence” fraud, that the issue is between an English-speaking Canada and a French-speaking Quebec. The fact is that the enemy of the Quebec people and of the Canadian people is the same enemy: the state of the reactionary bourgeoisie and U.S. imperialist domination of Canada. It is the Anglo-Canadian colonial state, not the “two nations” which is at the heart of the question of national unity.

It is the reactionary Canadian state, established as the colonial and oppressor state of the English bourgeoisie, and today dominated by U.S. imperialism, which is splitting the ranks of the people, dividing the proletariat on the basis of French-speaking and English-speaking, which denies the Native people their hereditary rights, which organizes social and racial discrimination against the immigrants, which attacks the working class as ’’responsible” for the current crisis. It is this state of the reactionary bourgeoisie and U.S. imperialism which is the source of all the disunity in Canada today.

All the opportunists and revisionists are joining the reactionary bourgeoisie in the chorus about “national unity” and the “two nations”. They are calling for “genuine equality of nations”, for a new, reformed, made-in-Canada Constitution, to reconcile the “two nations”. These are all theories to disunite the people on the basis of language, and on the basis of national and social chauvinism. In fact, there is no unity for the people to be found in the present Canadian state. This state is the state of the reactionary bourgeoisie and of the foreign exploiters.

The unity of the people in Canada must develop in the struggle against the main enemy: against the reactionary bourgeoisie and U.S. imperialism. In the pamphlet Today’s Struggle – Tomorrow’s Bright Red Future, we pointed out: “PCDN holds that only the Canadian proletariat can build genuine unity, as the basic interest of the proletariat is to have a genuinely independent, democratic and socialist Canada. Only a genuinely independent, democratic and socialist Canada can provide genuine national liberation for Quebec and restore the hereditary rights for the Native people.” (p. 17)

The genuine unity of the Canadian people against the main enemy – against the reactionary bourgeoisie and the U.S. imperialists – is being built in the course of struggle. When the people of Quebec fight for national liberation, when the Native people fight for the restoration of their hereditary rights, when the immigrants fight against social and racial discrimination this is also the struggle of the Canadian working class. The national liberation of Quebec, the restoration of the rights of the Native people and the elimination of social and racial discrimination is not just the task of the people of Quebec, the Native people and the immigrants. It is the historic task of the entire Canadian people led by the proletariat. The proletariat leads the Canadian people in their historic struggle against the reactionary bourgeoisie and U.S. imperialism. The just struggles of the people of Quebec for national liberation, of the Native people for the restoration of their hereditary rights and of the immigrants against social and racial discrimination, are part and parcel of the struggle for genuine independence, democracy and socialism. Let all the people unite against the main enemy! Only then will genuine national unity come into being!