First Published: Canadian Worker, Vol 5, No 9, August 10, 1973
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Even granting the idea of the “party-as-strategy”, what kind of party is it to be? En Lutte leaves no doubt about the national aspect of such a party. What it does not define for its readers is its international outlook. Articles on Chile, Vietnam and China indicate an overwhelming desire to sweep fact under the rug. We read that Chilean president Allende fights imperialism and that Chilean workers fight for socialism – but the Chilean “communist” party is nowhere mentioned, much less anti-imperialist Allende’s deals with US and other imperialisms. An article on China deals with the Mao-Chou gang as if there had never been a cultural revolution, as if the massive political movement that swept China and almost toppled the Chinese red bourgeoisie never existed. On Vietnam, we read an entire “analysis” which doesn’t mention the Tho-Kissinger Paris accords, much less the facts of Soviet and Chinese aid and pressure in getting the Vietnamese to sign this “best ever” deal.
The conclusions are unpleasant. Despite Gagnon’s desire to “analyse the international context”, he begs the question. This opportunism, already in full swing on the question of the state of the world communist movement, will lead Gagnon and his friends even deeper into opportunism at home, as working peoples’ strikings for class solidarity come into sharper and sharper contradiction with the bourgeois concept of nationalism.
At home, the En Lutte position, stripped of its feathers, is the same cold boiled chicken. The issue of Quebec independence, in the long run, is the principle contradiction. The provincial government, says Gagnon, is a puppet show run by US imperialism and Canadian Colonialism, and our local Quebec bosses are a handful of compradors, national traitors. The most important political struggles, he says, of the last decade have been centered on the national question. Well, it all depends on what you think is important. This discredited maoist garbage was driven out of the revolutionary movement years ago, and yet Gagnon has now resurrected and revised this “scientific” concept.
At issue is a fundamental question for Marxists. With more than 100 years of world-wide struggle behind us, with the agony and the efforts of millions of workers, nationalism in every aspect is being exposed as reactionary – the expression of bosses’ ideas in our ranks. Whether in progressive costume, or served plain, it’s the same rot.
The Canadian ruling class through its state apparatus the Canadian Confederation, oppresses working people from one ocean to the other, not to mention its imperialist ventures overseas. To conceal or understate this fact creates the worst sort of delusion. First, workers in Quebec are robbed of vital organizational ties with their brothers and sisters across the entire continent (since most Quebec industry is owned by the giant imperialist corporations that massacre workers in South-East Asia, set up shop in Taiwan or South Korea, break strikes in Boston or Texas, and close plants in Quebec or BC; in short, by international bosses); second, workers in Quebec are robbed of the leading role they can assume within the continent-wide working-class movement, robbed of the organizational ties that transcend national borders, robbed of the chance to dump national oppression and racism through militant solidarity with workers in the rest of Canada and the USA. The “national liberation” struggle forces revolutionaries and militant workers into precisely this dead-end.
Most deceptive of all is Gagnon’s pretence that his politics represent a new development. Way back in Autumn, 1965, the magazine Parti Pris published the political manifesto of Le Mouvement de Liberation populaire, a nationalist grouping which Vallieres and Gagnon used as a recruiting ground for FLQ hit-men. This manifesto is clearly Gagnon’s model. For example: “we say that this situation (the national oppression of Quebec – ed.) is that of a country subjugated by colonialism and imperialism.”
The MLP adds that “the revolution which must crown the struggles of Quebec workers will be national in many ways. First, it must carry out decolonization, one of its essential aspects, and that makes it a national liberation struggle.” And later: “The revolution will not be won until... Quebec is run by Quebec workers.”
Gagnon’s thesis on the strategic necessity of a revolutionary (or proletarian) party was much more clearly stated by the MLP, which wrote: “The workers’ forces must be organized, structured, unified; they must have an instrument stronger than the old state apparatus. The power of replacement (of bourgeois state power, – ed.) is the revolutionary party.” But the MLP of 1965 was far more daring than today’s mild Gagnon. En Lutte restricts itself to discussing the abstract need for a proletarian party, although it never stops to specify what kind. The MLP, more the daredevil, openly stated that its aim was to form the vanguard of such a party, and specified this as its most pressing, most immediate task.
The MLP flopped a few years later, most of its leaders dropped away into oblivion while Vallieres and Gagnon went on to bigger things. But MLP politics are still alive (though more modest) in En Lutte. With ideological forerunners like the MLP and the FLQ (both of whom, if we’re to believe En Lutte, never existed) Charles Gagnon and his friends will be hardpressed to explain what makes their politics different in its essentials from the failures of the last 10 years of nationalist ranting.
The outlook of national liberation, no matter how colorfully disguised by “socialist” verbiage, can only drive revolutionaries and militants in Quebec still deeper into opportunism. En Lutte – which calls for a proletarian party of an unspecified type, and for socialism without breaking with the national-socialist terrorist politics of the last decade, gives us an ugly preview of how this trend will develop.
What’s bad at home becomes total disaster in the international arena. Class-conscious workers know that national boundaries are a bourgeois invention; they know that no revolutionary movement can survive a nationalist strategy. Every decision of Quebec revolutionaries implies acceptance or rejection of several of the main trends in world class-struggle today. Quebec is no vacuum, no sterile test-tube environment where revolutionary theorists can fool around with new refinements of the same old debased product. Each nationalist trend is fostered and supported by one or more imperialist or social-imperialist powers. Unless revolutionaries draw clear lines of demarcation between themselves on the one hand, and the politics of class-betrayal of the Russian or Chinese red bosses, on the other, they will end up objectively allying themselves with these reactionaries. Militant workers will then conclude that, far from operating on the basis of a “rigorous class line”, our local national socialists are in fact serving the interests of one or more of the rapacious imperialist or social-imperialist powers now fighting over the collapsing US imperialist empire.
The opportunism of En Lutte on the international front will likewise be felt here in Quebec. Since its politics are nothing but a retread of the old, failed line of the MLP (with a dose of well-concealed maoism for good measure), militant workers will come to see that pleas of socialist intent are nothing but left cover for another ploy to drag Quebec workers into a struggle directly opposed to their class interests.
Hand-in-hand with this opportunism comes liberalism. Gagnon hands out paternalistic pats on the head to unnamed organizations, makes graceful curtsies to the life-and-death struggles of workers around the world, and conceals the murderous sell-outs who set these struggles back. It’s all too nice, too comfortable, too perfect, too proprietary. What kind of proletarian party would have the gall to be built on these principles?
Gagnon and his friends can’t have it both ways. Socialism and nationalism are the two main opposing currents in world class struggle today. The fight for socialism is being built and led by revolutionary communist parties and organizations who grasp proletarian internationalism as the key issue, and the rebuilding of an international communist movement as a key task for revolutionaries everywhere. For these communists the question of a party is not one of abstract “strategy” – but is settled by the formation of such a party on the basis of Marxism-Leninism. Nationalism, along with its twin racism is the most powerful divisive weapon in the bourgeoisie’s arsenal, and cannot be reconciled – above all in the context of a capitalist Quebec in the Canadian federation – with internationalism.
A divided working class within the Canadian bourgeois state cannot smash the Canadian Confederation and the pan-Canadian ruling class. The organizational answer for workers in Canada is the consolidation of an all-Canada revolutionary communist party, committed to crushing the Canadian ruling class and the racism-nationalism which is its main ideological prop. A divided international working class, split by national organizations and shackled to the retrograde maoist-revisionist line of national liberation, can never rebuild its strength to challenge the bourgeoisie world-wide, and finally crush the entire capitalist system of exploitation, racism and war once and for all.