Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist)

Document from CCL(ML)’s second congress

Resolution on the Quebec national question

First Published: October No 2-3, 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Since Canada today is still a country under the imperialist domination of the Canadian bourgeoisie, it’s not surprising that it’s also a “prison of nationalities”. Canada is made up of many nationalities which are oppressed by the bourgeoisie: the Quebec nation, Indians, Inuit, Metis, Acadians, Afro-Canadians, and all the others. The people of all the oppressed nationalities have an interest in overthrowing the bourgeoisie, which is responsible for their oppression, and building socialism. In order to make revolution in Canada, we must build the broadest possible united front, under the leadership of the working class, and including its allies, all working people and all the oppressed nationalities.

The Quebecois nation is a crucial reserve for socialist revolution. The most burning of all the national questions today is the Quebec national question. It is one of the three most important contradictions in Canada. The principal contradiction is between the bourgeoisie and the Canadian proletariat, and the other is between the Canadian people and the two superpowers.

The economic crisis which is hitting Canada also sharpens national oppression. The political crisis which is rocking the country and threatening to divide it and set back the proletarian revolution, is directly linked to Quebec’s national oppression.

A correct position on this national question is therefore essential for the working class’s revolutionary strategy. For all these reasons, we must arm the proletariat with a sharp and clear-cut line on the question. This is the goal of the following resolution.

For over a hundred years, the Quebec nation has been an oppressed nation in Canada. The Quebecois people have suffered all manifestations of national oppression. They have been denied their fundamental right to self-determination, up to an including separation, first by British colonialism and then by the Canadian bourgeoisie.

The political crisis, brought on by the election of the PQ to office in Quebec on November 15, 1976, has aggravated and sharpened the Quebec national question. The oppression of the Quebec people by the Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie is essential for it to rule the country, and its loyal agents, the Liberals in power as well as the Conservatives and the NDP, continue to refuse to recognize Quebec’s right to self-determination.

But the Quebecois people continue to resist this oppression. The proletariat in Quebec is fiercely militant in the struggle against daily exploitation (look for example at the millworkers’ struggle in Montreal, at the Commonwealth Plywood strike, at occupations like at Iron and Titanium). And the people are mobilizing to fight for their national rights.

But the Quebec national movement is now led by the Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie, a fraction of the Canadian bourgeoisie and every bit as reactionary, anti-worker and anti-people as the rest of the bourgeoisie.

The PQ established its hegemony over this movement with the aim of taking power in Quebec by profiting from the crisis and the anger of the Quebec workers’ movement towards the Canadian bourgeoisie, national oppression and the Quebec Liberal Party.

As long as the resistance to Quebec’s national oppression is channelled and manipulated by the nationalist bourgeoisie, it is doomed to failure, and will weaken the proletariat’s cause.

The proletariat and its party must take the leadership of the Quebec national movement against oppression by the Canadian bourgeoisie. The national question can only be definitely solved by overthrowing the bourgeoisie and establishing socialism in Canada.

1. Quebec is an oppressed nation

The monopoly bourgeoisie justifies the oppression of the Quebec nation by denying the very existence of the nation. It prefers to refer to a “language group” and a “province like any other”. But the truth of the matter is that Quebec constitutes a nation and has all the characteristics of a nation.

Canada has been colonized by Europeans settlers since the beginning of the sixteenth century. The French and British colonialists competed to exploit its resources (mainly fur) at the expense of native peoples. Today, they are still subjected to the worst oppression, going so far as to pose a real threat of total extinction.

With the 1760 conquest of New France by the British colonialists, the people of French origin found themselves in a dominated position. With the development of capitalism and the elimination of semi-feudal relations, the English Canadian and Quebecois nations took shape in Canada. The peoples of the two nations waged the struggle against British colonialism.

The Quebec nation’s economic, political and cultural development was impeded by the domination of British colonialism in the beginning, and later on by the Canadian bourgeoisie. The signs of this domination were the unequal relationship, the continued attempts at assimilation and general oppression of the Quebec nation. But this oppression met with strong resistance from the Quebecois nation throughout its history and continues to develop today. As early as the first half of the 19th century [1] Quebec was already “a historically evolved, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” (STALIN, Marxism and the National Question, p. 11)

It was thus a nation. In 1837, the rebellions in Canada (Upper and Lower Canada) were an important landmark in the fight for the independence and bourgeois democracy of the two nations. In Lower Canada, the fight was against a national oppression which hit the Quebecois nation in a harsher and more cruel way than in Upper Canada. Of course, the young bourgeoisie took the leadership of these struggles and used them to serve its own interests.

The Quebec nation was continually subjected to attempts at forced assimilation (like Lord Durham’s report of 1841 which recommended forcibly assimilating French Canadians.

With Confederation in 1867, the Canadian bourgeoisie achieved formal independence. But the Quebec nation was denied its right to self-determination right from the start. It was integrated into the Canadian bourgeois state without consultation. At no time in its history was this fundamental right granted it, and Quebec is not mentioned in the country’s constitution (the British North America Act).

During the imperialist world wars, the Quebec people fiercely opposed conscription, imposed on them by the Canadian bourgeoisie. They condemned the use of the Quebec people as cannon fodder for imperialist purposes [2]. During the 1960’s, they fought for their rights and against all other manifestations of oppression, especially around the language of teaching and other inequalities in the school system. A powerful national movement developed under the auspices of the Quebec petty and middle bourgeoisie.

2. The national question from the proletariat’s point of view

The national question is fundamentally a class question. The national question was born with the development of capitalism. It was at the beginning of capitalism that nations were formed, under the impetus of the rising capitalist class which sought an internal market and a stable community. With the transformation of capitalism into imperialism and the expansion of the monopolies, came the aggression, the subjugation, the annexation and the oppression of some nations by others. Consequently, after the October Revolution, the national question became an integral part of the socialist revolution. Oppressed nations struggling against imperialism become the fundamental allies of the world proletariat.

Stalin summed up in four theses the fundamental role that the national question plays in the era of imperialism:

1) the national and colonial questions are inseparable from the question of emancipation from the rule of capital.

2) imperialism (the highest form of capitalism) cannot exist without the political and economic enslavement of the unequal nations and colonies.

3) the unequal nations and colonies cannot be liberated without overthrowing the rule of capital.

4) the victory of the proletariat cannot be lasting without the liberation of the unequal nations and colonies from the yoke of imperialism. (STALIN, Concerning the Presentation of the National Question)

And he concluded :

Leninism has proved in the imperialist war, and the revolution in Russia has confirmed, that the national question can be solved only in connection with and on the basis of the proletarian revolution... The national question is part of the general question of the proletarian revolution, a part of the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat.(STALIN, The Foundations of Leninism in The Problems of Leninism, p. 76)

Basing himself on this analysis Lenin reformulated Marx’s famous slogan and applied it to the era of imperialism. Lenin called out: “Proletarians of all countries, oppressed peoples and nations unite!”

This slogan is just as correct on a world scale as it is within multinational capitalist states.

In multinational capitalist states, like Canada, which are characterized by the domination of many nationalities by another (more specifically the ruling class of the oppressor nation), the national question cannot be resolved (i.e. complete equality of all nations, and full respect for the rights of the national minorities) without eliminating capitalism. In these states, the bourgeoisie tries in vain to solve the problem while keeping private property and class inequalities intact, i.e. by constraint and forced assimilation. But oppression will only be eliminated with socialism. Socialism allows the emancipation of nations, the full development of nationalities, leading to communism and the complete equality among nationalities and their eventual fusion.

The proletariat must always put the interests of the working class and the people before those of the nation. The national question is subordinate to the class struggle. To do otherwise would mean that the proletariat would abandon its class interests and line up instead behind “its” bourgeoisie. In addition, the resolution of the national question can only be guaranteed under socialism. The objective of the proletariat is class unity in the struggle for socialism, a unity which can only be achieved on the basis of the struggle for the equality of nations.

3. The oppressed Quebecois nation is a reserve of the socialist revolution in Canada

The slogan formulated by Lenin: “workers of all countries, peoples and oppressed nations unite!” clearly points out the working class’s allies in the socialist revolution.

Lenin and Stalin have taught us that during the epoch of imperialism, national movements against oppression constitute a precious reserve of the proletarian revolution.

For in order to free themselves from national oppression, the oppressed nations and nationalities must overthrow the imperialist monopoly bourgeoisie responsible for this oppression, the ones that benefit the most from it.

This is why the proletariat, following Lenin’s slogan must unite with the oppressed nations and gain the leadership of the national movement so that the oppressed nations take their full part as allies of the proletariat.

This question has a great strategic importance for the revolutionary struggle. National oppression, like all forms of oppression, stirs up the resistance of the oppressed. It drives the workers in the oppressed nationalities to fight even harder against capital. Many social strata of the oppressed nation, like elements of the urban petty bourgeoisie, the intelligentsia, merchants, artisans, small peasants and others are drawn into the struggle against capital, the source of class oppression and national oppression. National oppression increases the possibility of winning “the middle strata” to the side of the proletariat, as Stalin said, giving it many allies to face the bourgeoisie. To neglect the reserve made up of the oppressed nations and nationalities is a strategic error that weakens the proletariat and can make the difference beteween defeat and victory for the socialist revolution.

This is why Stalin showed the crucial importance of allying with the oppressed nationalities in order to win deep reserves to the struggle against capital. He said,

The October Revolution went further and tried to rally the oppressed nationalities around the proletariat... Oppressed nationalities are usually oppressed not only as peasants and as urban working people, but also as nationalities, i.e., as the toilers of a definite nationality, language, culture, manner of life, habits and customs. The double oppression cannot help revolutionizing the labouring masses of the oppressed nationalities, cannot help impelling them to fight the principal force of oppression – capital.

He added,

The fight for the emancipation of the oppressed nationalities could not help becoming a fight to win particular reserves of capital, the deepest of them... (STALIN, October Revolution and the Question of the Middle Strata)

The Quebec nation is a nation oppressed by the Canadian monopolist bourgeoisie. Its struggle to be free of national oppression is an integral part of the =socialist revolution. This is a fundamental point because it means that the struggle of the Quebec nation for its rights contains an enormous revolutionary potential. In this sense the oppressed Quebec nation constitutes a reserve of the proletarian revolution in our country.

The Canadian proletariat must play a leading role in the fightback movement against national oppression; it must develop its revolutionary potential and aim it at overthrowing the common enemy, the monopolist Canadian bourgeoisie. Because the nationalist bourgeoisie is giving a reactionary direction to the national movement, and going against the interests of the proletariat and the people, against the revolution in our country, the proletariat must fight to take over the leadership of this movement.

In a capitalist country like Canada, the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation is a reactionary class, a part of the main target of our revolution, the Canadian bourgeoisie.

Nationalist elements in the Quebec bourgeoisie, those we call the Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie, are in control of the Quebec national movement right now. This bourgeoisie is using the people’s resistance to national oppression for its own reactionary ends.

As Stalin said about the bourgeoisies belonging to oppressed nationalities in Russia after they had opposed the October Revolution and collaborated with the imperialists thit attacked the Russian revolutionaries:

The national bourgeoisie was striving not for the liberation of “its own people” from national oppression but for liberty to squeeze profits out of them, for liberty to retain its privileges and capital. (STALIN, The October Revolution and the National Question)

This describes the Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie which wants to develop into a monopoly bourgeoisie, and violently opposes socialism and tries to divert the Quebecois people away from it.

That’s why, within the Quebec nation, it is the oppressed people who make up the Canadian proletariat’s precious ally and not the bourgeoisie. The Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie cannot be considered an ally of the revolution but rather a fierce and dangerous enemy.

That’s why Marxist classics show that, concerning the national question, the proletariat’s deep reserves are made up of the oppressed peoples, the various forces within the oppressed nations the most likely to rally to the fight against capital. In class terms, these forces are made up of proletarians, and certain elements of the petty-bourgeoisie – small producers, intellectuals, etc – in other words elements of the “middle strata” as Stalin calls them.

4. The different classes in the Quebec nation

The Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie includes a good many non-monopoly capitalists (or middle-bourgeoisie) who are trying to become monopolists. A certain number of them are regrouped in the Conseil des Hommes d’Affaires Quebecois (CHAQ – Quebec businessmen’s council), an organization of capitalists whose goal is to “promote the independence of Quebec” and “promote small and medium enterprise.” CHAQ has 600 members, all owners or managers of factories or professionals directly linked with the business world.

The Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie also includes certain monopolist elements like the Mouvement Desjardins in insurance and finance, and Peladeau, owner of the Quebecor newspaper chain.

In this nationalist fraction we also find several top administrators and heads of state monopolies. Today they are running these monopolies in the interests of the PQ (Hydro-Quebec, Societe Generale de Financement, Sidbec-Dosco, etc.).

The Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie is trying to exploit the Quebec people’s national feelings and strong resistance against oppression in order to develop itself and rise to the status of monopoly bourgeoisie. This nationalist bourgeoisie is using the Parti Quebecois as a political instrument to attain its goal.

Although the Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie finds itself in contradiction with the Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie, it is above all reactionary and anti-socialist. The two fractions are in fact fighting to control the exploitation of Quebec’s resources, wealth and markets. The Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie is not an ally of the proletariat nor of the Quebecois people.

Today the struggle between the Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie and the Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie does not constitute a reserve for the socialist revolution. It is a contradiction within our main enemy.

We must point out that some capitalists of Quebec origin share the chauvinist positions of the Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie and oppose the manoeuvres of the nationalist Quebec bourgeoisie. Some of the federalist Quebec capitalists are part of the Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie; others are part of the middle bourgeoisie.

They are mostly regrouped in the Conseil du Patronat du Quebec (a Quebec employers’ group) Its president, Pierre DesMarais II sits on the administrative boards of Air Canada, Canadian National, etc. There are monopoly capitalists like Jean de Grandpre (Bell Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank), Jean-Louis Levesque (chairman of Industrial Life Insurance, vice-chairman of General Trust of Canada) and Lucien Rolland (head of Rolland Paper, vice-chairman of the Bank of Montreal, on the board of directors of Canadian Pacific, Inco, Stelco). We must also mention the big wheels of the bourgeois state like Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Marc Lalonde, Jean Chretien, etc.

As for the Quebec petty bourgeoisie, some elements like small farmers, fishermen, small producers and intellectuals, are opposed to the oppression of the Quebec people by the Canadian bourgeoisie. Consequently, this class is an important ally of the proletariat. Not only are they the victims of the oppression by capital in general like similar elements in the rest of the Canadian petty bourgeoisie, but they are also hit by national oppression and so are all the more opposed to the bourgeoisie. However, narrow nationalism is especially strong within this class. The proletariat must take up the struggle against the petty bourgeoisie’s narrow nationalist ideas in order to win it away from the influence of the nationalist bourgeoisie.

Only the proletariat can give the fightback movement against national oppression a consistent character by making it a part of the fight for socialist revolution in Canada.

The Quebec proletariat must combat the narrow nationalism spread by the bourgeoisie within the ranks of the proletariat. That’s why one of the essential tasks of Marxists-Leninists is to fight all misconceptions that make the working class tail behind the nationalist bourgeoisie.

5. Contradictions within the Quebec national question

The principal contradiction in Canada is between the Canadian bourgeoisie and the Canadian proletariat. The national question must be subordinated to this contradiction because today, the resolution of the national question depends on the resolution of the principal contradiction, in other words, it depends on the victory of socialist revolution.

The Quebec national question in Canada is not made up of only one contradiction between the two nations, as the bourgeois nationalists would have us believe. There are a number of contradictions between the various forces involved in the national question. Good comprehension of the national question requires an analysis of its various contradictions. It is this analysis of opposing forces which will allow us to determine how to resolve the question.

The contradiction which characterizes the Quebec national questionis between the Canadian bourgeoisie and the Quebec people

For well over a hundred years, the Quebec nation has been subjugated, denied its fundamental right to self determination. The Canadian imperialist bourgeoisie has no intention of recognizing Quebec’s right, nor has it any desire to put an end to the many ways in which the Quebec people are oppressed. The Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie cannot allow itself to lose its complete control over the whole country, if it wants to strengthen itself and develop its economic and political power. The bourgeoisie used this oppression to provide itself with a source of cheap labour and to further exploit the proletariat; but it’s also a policy which aims to “divide and rule” by using national sentiment to divide the Canadian working class. This is why the bourgeoisie maintains the national oppression of the Quebec people.

It is the Canadian bourgeoisie, especially the monopolist fraction, which profits from and is the source of the oppression of the Quebec people. This contradition is antagonistic. It gives the national question its antagonistic character. The bourgeoisie is the principal aspect of the national question, which will only be finally resolved by overthrowing the Canadian bourgeoisie. So it is in the interests of the Quebec people to wage the struggle for socialism. The Quebec people are an ally of the Canadian proletariat.

As we have shown, it is the Quebec people that have the most to gain from getting rid of national oppression. The people, under the leadership of the proletariat and its party, will launch a head-on attack on the bourgeoisie, the pillar of the oppression of capital and national oppression.

The working class and certain elements of the petty-bourgeoisie, small producers and intellectuals, that is to say “the middle strata” are the forces of the Quebec people fighting oppression.

And as we have seen, since the Quebec bourgeoisie is a fraction of our main enemy it is not part of the Quebec people. On the contrary, its opposition to the federalist monopoly bourgeoisie has one goal: to give itself the liberty to exploit the Quebec people even more.

This contradiction, although principal in the national question, is not the only contradiction. There is also a contradiction between the Canadian and the Quebecois people, and another between the Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie and the Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie, two fractions of the same class; and there are other contradictions as well. But these contradictions are not determinant. For example, the contradiction between the two peoples is a contradiction among the people. It is non-antagonistic. It is the bourgeoisie and the infuence of its ideology which give rise to chauvinism and narrow nationalism. They must be resolutely combatted. The two peoples have a common enemy : the bourgeoisie which exploits and oppresses them. Their interests lie in a united fight to overthrow their enemy. Under socialism, as long as national differences exist, this contradiction will also continue to exist. But it is non-antagonistic and must be treated as such. As far as contradictions among the various fractions of the bourgeoisie are concerned, it is clear that the working class cannot trust or submit to one fraction in order to fight the other. The Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie doesn’t have the same objectives as the Quebec people. It will never solve the problem of the oppression of the nationalities. Only socialism can eliminate oppression. This fraction of the reactionary capitalist class cannot resolve the Quebec national question.

6. Superpowers are interested in Quebec national question

The Quebec national question doesn’t escape the aggressive intentions of the external enemies of the revolution in Canada. The two superpowers give this question a lot of consideration at a time when they are preparing for a new world war and are speculating on the divisions and weaknesses of other countries.

American imperialism has profited from the oppression of the Quebec people for a long time and continues to do so. It also seeks to take advantage of divisions within the Canadian bourgeoisie in order to reinforce its hold on the country while making sure its flanks and investments are protected.

In exchange for American imperialism’s support, the various fractions of the Canadian bourgeoisie have demonstrated their willingness to grant it a number of concessions and advantages.

Trudeau and the Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie allow American imperialism to plunder Canada’s fishing banks inside the 200 mile limit and have abandoned their positions concerning the sale of energy and other questions. The PQ has promised to safeguard American imperialism’s interests in Quebec, and has assured its participation in NATO and Norad.

Social imperialism will not hesitate to fish in Canadian troubled waters. The division of Canada can only advance social-imperialism’s own hegemonic intentions.

It uses its agent the revisionist “Communist” Party which today talks about self-determination to better penetrate the Quebec national movement. Also certain pro-Cuban, revisionist tendencies are developing within the left-wing of the PQ.

7. Fight for the right to self-determination up to and including the right to separation

The working class, and thus Marxist-Leninists, support the right to self-determination of the oppressed nation up to and including the right to separation. This watchword is the only correct one which will guarantee the unity of the working class and the victory of the socialist revolution because it is faithful to the principle of proletarian internationalism and to the fight against all forms of oppression and coercion against peoples and nations.

The main manifestation of the oppression of the Quebec nation is the denial of its fundamental right to self-determination up to and including the right to separation.

Communist are the most resolute defenders of this basic democratic right and wage the struggle for its recognition.

Lenin always fought all positions which, under one pretext or another, rejected or liquidated in practice the struggle for the recognition of this right. He fought those who claimed it was “unattainable”, that small nations could not free themselves from the burden of oppression. Similarly, in our own country, we will always uphold the Quebec nation’s right to self-determination. This is a matter of basic principle.

This is also an essential question of strategy: unless the proletariat of the English-Canadian nation recognizes this right, the unity of the Canadian working class will not be realized, because this unity can be built only on a basis of equality and never on a basis of oppression.

As with all other democratic rights, we must start fighting now to win the Quebec nation’s right to self-determination.

No to separation

The question of the rights of nations is not an isolated, self-sufficient question; it is part of the general problem of the proletarian revolution, subordinate to the whole, and must be considered from the point of view of the whole. (STALIN, The Foundations of Leninism, p. 74, Peking edition)

It is capitalism that gives birth to national divisions and the oppression of one nation by another. By eliminating capitalism, the proletariat eliminates oppression and creates the conditions for the unity of nations.

All communists oppose the oppression of any nationality. This means that we struggle for the right to self-determination up to and including the right to separate. Although we fight for the right of the Quebec nation to choose whether or not to be part of the Canadian state, we must also take a position on the choice to be made.

This position should be based on the principle that the national question is subordinate to socialist revolution, to the interests of the proletariat and not to those of the bourgeoisie.

In the present context, the proletariat must show why the separation of Quebec from Canada to form an independent state would be a serious step backwards for its struggle.

There are three reasons for this.

First of all the separation of Quebec would weaken the entire Canadian proletariat in its struggle for socialism.

Its forces would be divided and diminished, and in facing the class enemy, its ranks disorganized. It will not be able to react to the bourgeoisie’s attacks with a unified fightback by workers of both nations, whereas it’s exactly that class unity, rising above national barriers, which strikes the capitalists with fear. In addition, the Canadian proletariat would lose a major reserve of the revolution, the oppressed Quebec nation fighting to get rid of their oppression.

Secondly, separation would consolidate bourgeois power in Quebec. An independent Quebec would be dominated by a young and aggressive national bourgeoisie that would demand “social peace” in the name of “national interest”. The PQ has already shown its true face by violently repressing workers’ struggles in Quebec, like at Commonwealth Plywood where a hundred workers have had to face injunctions, police repression and arrests. It has also passed its anti-union Bill 45 and brought down reactionary laws. In an independent Quebec the bourgeoisie would try to takeover the unions by integrating them into the state apparatus. All resistance to exploitation will be branded as “betraying the nation”.

Thirdly, a divided Canada would encourage the two superpowers particularly the U.S.A. , to interfere in our internal affairs and strive for increased domination over our people. With the threat of world war looming larger, Canada is becoming a battleground for the USSR and the USA. The separation of Quebec would serve the interests of these international vultures.

We’ve already seen Levesque make haste to reassure US imperialism that Quebec will participate in its defence system. We can count only on the unity of the working class to defend the independence of our country.

If the working class divides its forces, this can only seriously hold back its victory. But if it remains unified, it will be able to triumph over the bourgeoisie. By strengthening the unity of the entire Canadian proletariat, we prepare the ground for the overthrow of the Canadian bourgeoisie and the establishment of socialism. And the working class in power has no interest in oppressing any nation or nationality.

8.The national question under socialism

Socialism is the dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, and broad democracy for the people. There can be no national oppression under socialism.

The objective of socialism, concerning the national question, is to allow the complete development of the nationalities in order to ensure complete equality, After a long transition period, under communism, when classes have been eliminated, nations will disappear, they’ll merge [3].

The proletariat in power opposes all constraint or assimilation of nationalities.

Under a socialist regime, the proletariat recognizes and therefore includes the right to self-determination, including separation of formerly oppressed nations, in the constitution.

In cases where a nation democratically decides to stay in the same multi-national state, the proletarian state applies the principle of a form of organization that guarantees the rights of nationalities. There are two possible forms of organization: a federation, or a single state with regional autonomy for nations and national minorities. The purpose of these forms is to ensure full development of the nationalities, to gradually eliminate the inequalites inherited from capitalism, and to guarantee the freely consented union of nations.

The multi-national socialist state chooses the form of federation or a single state with regional autonomy for nationalities depending on the concrete case and the concrete situation, the historical, economic, geographical and political context.

A federated socialist state regroups various republics or national states in a central state. The national states have decisional powers at their own territorial level (schools, languages, culture, etc.), participate in decision-making, legislation, etc., at the central level of the federation, and have the right to separate at any time. National minorities for their part, have regional autonomy.

This is the form that the Soviet Union of Lenin and Stalin adopted in order to resolve the national question under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Today, with its practice of “Great Russian” chauvinism, the social-fascist clique in Russia has liquidated all national rights in the USSR, and has wiped them entirely from its Constitution.

A federated socialist state has nothing in common with the bourgeois federalism of Canada, which is founded on the coercion of the Quebec nation and of other oppressed nationalities and the negation of their national rights.

The other form of multi-national socialist state is the single state with regional autonomy for the formerly oppressed nationalities. Under this form, the local territorial state, region, town or village structures of the formerly oppressed nationalities have the power to apply the central laws to local conditions. In this case, it is not independent republics which unite, but one single state inside of which the nationalities have an autonomy in their territory.

For example, this is the case with socialist China. This permits not only the adjustments of laws, directives, etc, to national conditions, but also the possibility of taking special cultural or other kinds of measures to compensate for the national inequalities inherited from capitalism to permit the nationalities that were formerly oppressed to catch up to the former oppressor nation.

What exact form the socialist state adopted by the Canadian proletariat will take depends on the concrete situation and the needs of the oppressed nationalities. In any case, this solution must guarantee the complete development of the nationalities (and not their assimilation as the great-nation chauvinists are preaching now), complete democracy, elimination of privileges for any nation and equal rights for everyone. At the same time, the form the state will take should promote the most efficient continuation and application of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

By establishing its dictatorship, the proletariat inherits the leftover inequalities of national oppression under capitalism. The recognition of equal rights of nations has not yet become full equality, in deed. Socialism fights inequalities until they disappear.

Thus socialism abolishes national oppression and allows the development of real equality of nations because it eliminates exploitation of the majority by the minority, because the proletariat in its struggle to eliminate classes cannot tolerate oppression in any form.

But there are always traces of chauvinism and nationalism under socialism. The dictatorship of the proletariat fights these leftovers of bourgeois ideology by doing education and defending the rights of every nationality. It’s important to remember that, just as the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat continues to exist under socialism, so does the two-line struggle on the national question.

This necessarily implies the abolition of all forms of oppression and the guarantee of all democratic rights for the people. In a socialist country like China, education is guaranteed to all nationalities in a single system, with a common school programme in their language. The single school system allows equality in the quality of education, a proletarian content and unity of the proletariat and the multi-national masses. But this education is given in the language of the region or locality and adjusted to the national particularities with special courses on traditions, history, culture, etc. for the nationalities.

In China, for example, certain minorities, because of their oppression, never developed a written language. Since the establishment of a socialist system, a system of writing their language has been developed and taught. The standard of living of these people and the level of industrialization, which in the past were backward, are now surging forward.

9. Exercising the right to self-determination under capitalism; the referendum question

The slogan of the right to self-determination implies that the oppressed nation exercises its democratic right to choose to separate or to stay. This choice can be made in various ways: in the capitalist system, the decision can be made up by a parliament duly elected by universal sufferage, or by a democratic referendum, or by peoples’ armed struggle. Under socialism, the proletariat will ensure the democratic expression of the right to self-determination. In the capitalist system we must demand that the decision be taken on the basis of widespread discussions, of the freedom of expression of all points of view. In addition, we must demand that the decision be taken by a representative democratic body in the oppressed nation, to the extent that democracy can exist in the capitalist system.

A referendum like the one proposed by the PQ should be proceeded by a period during which everyone can freely put forward his point of view. It should be the expression of the whole oppressed nation in its entirely, and not of the whole country.

In the case of a referendum organized by the bourgeoisie, such as the one put forward by the PQ, Marxist-Leninists should put forward a slogan which corresponds to the situation. Concretely, there are only two possibilities: participate, and call for the rejection of separation (in the case of Quebec)or boycott, if the referendum is not democratic or if it is formulated in a way that confuses the question and doesn’t offer any real solution.

The PQ’s referendum project (Bill 92) already threatens to violate freedom of expression and of participation in the referendum. This undemocratic law calls for the setting up of “umbrella” committes for each referendum option. Everyone who supports one or the other option must work within one of these committees. They would be set up under the leadership of the bourgeois parliamentary parties and would be the only ones authorized to get funding. In addition, the expenses of every participant in the referendum campaign would be strictly controlled (e.g. a maximum of $300 can be spent on a public meeting not organized by the official committees). We are against these reactionary measures. The CCL(ML) will not be associated with either the bourgeois chauvinist forces or the narrow nationalist forces in these umbrella committees. We demand the right for everyone to wage the referendum campaign in complete freedom.

In the case where a referendum would be held democratically, and where the oppressed people expressed their agreement with separation, Marxist-Leninists must fight all attempts of the monopoly bourgeoisie or others to maintain union by force.

In any case, the proletariat will oppose the bourgeoisie’s use of repressive measures against the people. Whatever choice the Quebec people make, we will oppose any armed intervention by the Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie against the Quebecois people.

10. The policy of the bourgeoisie: divide and rule

The bourgeoisie will never accord equality and full democratic rights to nations. Only the working class in power can guarantee them. However, we must demand and fight now for these democratic rights of the Quebec people and other nationalities in Canada. Oppression can only serve the bourgeoisie; it does not in any way serve the interests of the English-Canadian proletariat which has every interest in unity and the elimination of oppression.

Quebec, as an oppressed nation, is denied a whole series of democratic rights. The English-Canadian minority in Quebec, a part of the English-Canadian nation, has many privileges: a superior socio-economic situation, better jobs, a better education system, better hospitals, etc. These privileges, which have been historically created through the domination of the English-Canadian nation, are linked to the fact that the nucleus of the monopoly bourgeoisie is itself English-Canadian, and are in fact a divisive manoeuvre, used by all bourgeoisies to consolidate their power.

It is an old special system of governing, where bourgeois power draws to itself certain nationalities and gives them privileges, while it puts down the other nations, not wanting to include them. Thus, by attracting one nationality, it uses this intermediary to exert pressure on the others (STALIN, “The National Factors in Party Building”, in Marxism and the National and Colonial Question, our translation)

The English-Canadian national minority in Quebec thus constitutes a privilieged minority, dominant in Quebec.

Of course English-Canadian workers, since they are members of the oppressor nation, have advantages that are denied to Quebecois workers on account of national oppression: better wages, full language rights, better chance of a promotion, etc.

But this does not change the fact that English-Canadian workers in Canada, including Quebec, are exploited by capital and have very interest in uniting, and already are, with Quebecois workers to lead the common struggle against the bourgeoisie.

This unity has alreadybeen shown many times: by the support for each others’ struggles (the general strike and the Ontario millworkers who supported the Quebecois millworkers in their struggle against the wage controls), by resolutions passed in their unions against all manifestations of oppression. In fact, all the bourgeoisie’s chauvinist and narrow nationalist propaganda can never stand up to the class unity developing in the struggle against the main enemy, and to the proletariat’s growing class consciousness.

The oppression of the Quebec people weakens the whole working class. Therefore English-Canadian workers in Quebec, as well as those outside Quebec, have every interest in fighting this oppression.

In addition to giving the above-mentioned privileges to the English-Canadian minority, the bourgeoisie is trying to eliminate the Quebec nation through its immigration policy. First of all, this immigration policy provides the bourgeoisie with a mass of cheap labour across the country.

The immigrants are subjected to particularly vicious oppression. These immigrants, some of them from second world countries and others from the third world, who are victims of imperialism, including Canadian imperialism, don’t have the legal rights to defend themselves against bad working conditions, low wages, deportation threats and racism (against third world immigrants), etc.

In addition, in Quebec, the bourgeoisie’s chauvinist policies encourage immigrants seeking better possibilities for advancement to learn English instead of French, and some are assimilated into the English-Canadian minority. Thus the Quebec nation is in danger of becoming a minority in its own territory in the foreseeable future. In addition, the bourgeoisie uses this policy to encourage division, chauvinism and narrow nationalism.

11. Democratic rights

Right now, Marxist-Leninists are fighting for all democratic rights of the Quebec people. They are fighting for Quebec’s right to self-determination and combating all manifestations and effects of national oppression.

Job discrimination

In Quebec, the Quebec working class is a reserve of cheap labour. It’s a fact that workers in Quebec earn lower wages than those doing similar jobs in Ontario, even though these two regions are economically comparable. This is in no way a coincidence, but is a result of national oppression.

What’s worse is that the average income of unilingual anglophones in Quebec, according to 1977 statistics, was 64% higher than that of unilingual francophones. Anglophones, who make up 14% of the Quebec population, occupy 31% of administrative positions. To maintain oppression and division, the bourgeoisie favours the English-Canadian minority in all the better-paid positions.

In the face of this situation, the multinational proletariat must wage the struggle for the right to equal work and equal wages, against all discrimination in hiring, both in Quebec and across the country.

Territorial Rights

The bourgeoisie doesn’t hesitate even to rob the oppressed nation bit by bit of its territory, as it also does with the Indians and the Inuit. The federal government recently decided to annex Hull to the “capital” region without consulting the population of Hull. This is a violation of the territorial integrity of the Quebec nation. This decision was followed by factory shutdowns, layoffs and the demolition of entire neighbourhoods.

To counter these manoeuvres of the federal government or other provinces, we demand the respect of the integrity of the Quebec territory, while at the same time upholding our support for the territorial demands of the native people in Quebec as well as across the country.


Linguistic oppression is an important aspect of the national oppression of the Quebec people. It is based on the Canadian bourgeoisie’s denial of the existence of a Quebec nation. Language is the first distinctive characteristic of the Quebec nation.

This oppression dates from the Conquest, and is part of the attempt to assimilate the Quebecois and to eliminate their language. With the development of capitalism, the French language has become a dominated language in Canada.

On the job, the right to work in French is denied. Management in many workplaces is mainly English-speaking and communicates with the workers in English: plans and directions, etc., given by the companies are often in English. The example of the francophone air traffic controllers whose right to work in their language is denied, is a blatant case of national oppression.

We demand the right for Quebecois to work in their own language. We also demand that Quebec workers have the right to express themselves, be informed and participate in their unions in French.

Translations should be provided for all minorities in all unions in Canada. At the present time, the upper levels of the “international” and Canadian unions work exclusively in English. Great nation chauvinism is an integral part of the collaborationist policies of the sold-out leaders of our unions.

Quebec unions should adopt an overall method of working in French, while at the same time assuring translation for workers of other nationalities, to make sure they participate in the unions. Canadian unions, (in documents and meetings at higher levels) should function and provide written material in both languages.

The proletariat supports the real and complete equality of nations and languages and opposes all national privileges. Therefore, we are opposed to the bourgeois policy of “one official language” or of “two official languages”. This slogan only creates the basis for the oppression of nationalities across the country.

We demand the right for Canada’s nations and the national minorities to speak and be served in their own language by all government administrative institutions across the country, including the courts and health services.

Concretely, this means that in the health services in Quebec, as elsewhere in the country, the double network of hospitals should be eliminated. A single network of hospitals and health institutions with translation services assured for the population served, should be established.

Right now in Quebec, there are more and better health services for the English population than for francophones.

Education and the School System

In Quebec, there is a series of school systems divided on the basis of nationality and religion. This allows the development of higher quality education with better means and resources for anglophones than for the francophone majority. In addition, this division encourages chauvinism and narrow nationalism, and sabotages the unity of the proletariat.

We demand a single secular public school system for Quebec.

In Quebec, this means that the English-Canadian minority, even if it is a dominant minority, cannot be denied its fundamental right of education in its own language. However, this right cannot be used to maintain its present privileges like a separate and superior school system.

The right of all minorities to education in their language in no way implies a separate system or even separate schools. This should depend on the concrete conditions of the given minority.

Marxist-Leninists are against maintaining the existing segregation of the schools in Quebec. The division of anglophones and francophones in separate schools, starting from childhood, only serves to promote division and distrust, which later becomes chauvinism and nationalism.

This is why we say that anglophones should go to the same schools as francophones, while having the opportunity to take their courses in English. Courses should be given in the same schools to break down national divisions in the proletariat, starting from childhood. In each case, the precise application of this measure depends on the concentration of the anglophone population. Children will go to the same school. In addition, the English minority should learn French in school. Since this is essential to eliminate chauvinism, they should take certain courses in French.

Up until now, the bourgeoisie has wanted to use immigrants to divide the proletariat and to gradually destroy the Quebec nation. Immigrant workers are ruthlessly superexploited by the bourgeoisie. A large number of them are encouraged to assimilate into the English-Canadian minority if they want a better chance of improving their lot.

We are against this open blackmail which aims at pulling immigrants into the English school system and assimilating a number of them into the English-Canadian minority.

We are also against the massive integration of immigrants into the anglophone school system. This is simply a bourgeois policy for the destruction of the Quebec nation. It is against the interests of the proletariat. On the contrary, immigrant workers who come to live in Quebec, have every interest in linking up with the Quebec people, to integrate into the society in which they are going to live, work and struggle.

Of course, we do not demand that immigrants already here in Quebec who have decided to assimilate into the English-Canadian minority should be forced to change their decision. It is the bourgeoisie that developed this policy, not them.

But this policy should end. This is why we say that immigrants who come live in Quebec should be educated in French.

Indians and Inuit in Quebec should have the right to education in their language, and in accordance with their traditions and national particularities.

Canadians who move to Quebec, who were educated in English in the provinces and regions outside Quebec, should have the right to education in English. They become part of the English minority in Quebec.

Linguistic Rights

Outside Quebec, the French language in no way enjoys the same status as English, be it in education, government institutions, the courts, public services, etc. The Canadian bourgeoisie’s “bilingualism” policy is nothing but a policy of discrimination against French. It reinforces the privileges of Quebec’s English minority while denying francophone rights across the country.

Nationalities living outside of Quebec, like Franco-Ontarians, Acadians, Indians and Inuit, etc., are denied the right to education in their own language. They are waging hard struggles to gain this right and we support them wholeheartedly.

We demand the right to education in their language for all minorities living outside of Quebec in Canada.

For Franco-Ontarians and Acadians, etc., this means fighting to maintain their hard-won rights concerning schools in their language, or demanding that these rights be granted them everywhere and immediately.

The same applies for Indians and Inuit as well.

We demand public secular education across Canada with the same access to education and the same quality of teaching (resources, technical means, number of teachers, etc.) for all nations and national minorities in their language (Here we’re not talking about the political content of education).

This right applies to the whole country, including Quebec.

Comments on Bill 101

Bill 101 (The French Language Charter), passed by the PQ, is being presented as major democratic legislation which will right the injustices of past centuries. This is not the case. It is nothing but a demagogic, nationalist and undemocratic law.

It maintains the privileges of the English-Canadian minority (separate school system) but does almost nothing about the right of the Quebecois to work in French.

With this law, the PQ establishes French as the official language in Quebec. We are against this because we stand for the equality of languages, and thus against the imposition of one language on minorities.

Bill 101 also denies minorities their right to communicate in their language with government, health and justice services.

It also denies English-Canadians, Indians, and Inuit coming to Quebec from other provinces the right to education in their language.

It also denies Indians and Inuit the right to choose their second language by imposing French in school. Finally, it aims at making French the language of the Indian and Inuit administrative services.


The oppression of the Quebec nation also shows up on the cultural level. Lenin teaches us that all obstacles to the cultural development of the proletariat hold back the development of revolutionary consciousness.

We stand for the complete development of all the progressive aspects of national culture. We oppose the cultural oppression of the Quebecois people by the Canadian bourgeoisie and American imperialism. The rich cultural traditions of the Quebecois people (their dance, music, customs) are now threatened, as is their language. The proletariat is against the extinction of national cultures by the imposition of an imperialist culture. Of course, Quebecois culture has its bourgeois aspects along with its mass aspects. We promote the latter. Every people should be able to express its international spirit, its struggle against exploitation and oppression through its own means and forms.

Right now, this struggle means the promotion of cultural traditions of the Quebec people and the development of a revolutionary people’s culture in Canada and the fight against the brainwashing by the avalanche of imperialist propaganda on TV, in films, records and on the radio.

12. For the unity of the proletariat, against bourgeois ideology

The bourgeoisie examines the national question and takes a position according to its own class viewpoint. The Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie intends to maintain the oppression of the Quebec nation, to serve its interests, while the Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie is trying to consolidate and develop its economic power by preaching separatism.

The proletariat also has its point of view on the national question. It is proletarian internationalism. It is the iron-clad unity of the working class of the two nations of Canada that is indispensable to overthrow the Canadian bourgeoisie and oppose the two superpowers.

This unity can only be forged in the struggle against great-nation chauvinism and narrow nationalism.

Narrow nationalism and great-nation chauvinism are both reflections of bourgeois ideology and only serve the interests of the ruling class.

In the country in general, the main obstacle to this unity is great \nation chauvinism. That’s why, to build this unity, we must firmly fight great nation chauvinism and get the English-Canadian proletariat to defend Quebec’s right to self-determination. This task is the particular responsibility of comrades working in the dominant nation.

The chauvinism spread by the bourgeoisie takes many forms. Take Trudeau’s statements that the Quebec nation and the other nationalities don’t exist, that there are only “linguistic groups” and “cultural diversity”. He’s the same guy who’s threatening to use arms and send in the army against the Quebec people. But there are even more extreme brands of chauvinism, like that of ex-Defense Minister James Richardson who thinks that English should be the only “official language”, or that of career military man, Jock Andrews, who wrote a book complaining about the “domination” of francophones in Canada! (Bilingual today, French tomorrow).

Chauvinist policies have an especially serious effect on the Acadian and French-speaking minorities who have to wage determined struggles to win their right to schools, trials and basic services (like hospital care) in French.

The situation is even worse for the Indian and Inuit peoples. They are victims of deadly oppression throughout the country, including Quebec; they constantly face the threat of extermination. Their standard of living is the lowest in Canada, and their educational, territorial and other rights are completely trampled on.

Without hesitation. we must fight all manifestations of chauvinism and all chauvinist bourgeois policies.

We must also wage a hard struggle against narrow nationalism in Quebec; especially now that Quebec’s nationalist bourgeoisie is on the offensive, firing up the spirit of narrow nationalism among the Quebec masses. This nationalism shows itself in two ways. One consists of a reaction against great nation chauvinism which brings the Quebec working class to reject its English-Canadian class brothers and to hitch itself to the nationalist bourgeoisie’s bandwagon. The other manifestation is chauvinism towards minorities, ethnic groups and immigrants in Quebec, such as the Indians, Inuit, etc. This tendency is just as pernicious and should be fought resolutely. The struggle against narrow nationalism is the particular task of comrades working within the Quebec nation.

13. The national question and the organization of the proletariat

We oppose any national divisions in proletarian organizations within a single state. The working class party should be multi-national, and so should be all mass organizations such as unions. Without this organizational unity it is impossible to destroy the enemy and fight the divisions created in the working class by the bourgeoisie.

In the struggle against the nationalism of the Bund [4] in Russia, Lenin showed the importance of the principle of having a multi-national character in proletarian organizations. The division of the proletariat on the basis of nationality is a violation of the principle that the national question must he subordinated to the class question.

Within these organizations, the proletariat should respect national rights. Workers of different nationalities in the country should be able to express themselves in their own language; there should be no discrimination in the choice of leaders, cadres, etc on this basis. Translation should be provided by the organization. All these rules and measures are followed by the party in order to fight chauvinism,narrow nationalism and divisions.

The Marxist-Leninist party’s agitation and propaganda should address the nations in their own language. Every nation and national minority must have access to communist literature in its own language. This means for example, that the party’s central organ and literature are in French,especially in Quebec, and in English in the English-Canadian nation. Agitation and propaganda will be distributed to all the nationalities in their languages. When a factory or locality is made up of different nationalities, the agitation can be in several languages in order to reach the workers concerned. The party should make an effort to reach immigrant workers who can not read or speak English of French. It should address them in their own language.

Within the party, translation should be provided for all comrades. The central structures should function in the two languages. Meetings and general functioning should be in French in Quebec. There cannot be any discrimination against francophone comrades in the promotion of cadres. On the contrary, we must adopt a policy that discriminates in favour of Quebecois comrades to give them an equal opportunity for development. This is to assure the development of a contingent of cadres from the oppressed nationalities.

It is also party policy that communist cadres must learn the language of the oppressed nationality with whom they work. In Quebec, they must learn French.

These measures, and others as well, aim at reinforcing not only party unity but also its capacity to lead the whole proletariat in its united struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisie.

14. The bourgeois parties and the national question

Only the proletariat and its party can have a correct line on the national question. All the bourgeois parties, without exception, maintain oppression and division of the nationalities. The working class must reject these bourgeois options. The task of Marxist-Leninists is to expose these faithful servants of our enemy. The federalist bourgeois parties use great nation chauvinism from one end of the country to the other to maintain themselves in power.

The Liberals

The Liberal Party running the federal government denies the very existence of the Quebec nation. The Liberals are using any tactic to prevent the Quebec people from exercising their right to self-determination – from the so-called investigation of the Pepin-Robarts Commission, to Trudeau’s threat that he will not hesitate to use guns against Quebec. In the West, they bought off the chauvinist Jack Homer who left the Tories for a cabinet post. The Liberal Party is adopting a policy of increased centralization of power in Ottawa, which favours the monopoly bourgeoisie in the East. It has changed its stand in relation to US imperialism since the PQ’s election, from a position in favour of a certain independence to an attitude made up more and more of compromise and capitulation. The Liberal Party is a faithful agent of the Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie.

The Conservatives

The Conservative Party, which is also a party of the monopoly bourgeoisie, plays a card of the most blatant chauvinism. The Conservatives openly call for the use of coercion to prevent Quebec’s separation.

It tries to use to its advantage the criticisms of centralised federalism coming from the western provinces, especially Alberta. This decentralization position serves the interests of the western bourgeoisie, who are rich in oil and favour American imperialism. But the stand is also intended to “pacify” the just demands of the Quebec people: the Conservatives talk about “cultural decentralization”, which would give Quebec a few crumbs allowing it more say in the field of culture.

The party’s present Chairman, R. Coates, already stated that he was against the use of French when he voted against the “Official Languages Act”.


The social democratic NDP aligns itself with the other bourgeois parties by stirring up great nation chauvinism. Not only has it never defended the right to self-determination, it has gone so far as to show the capitalists that it can defend “national unity” (i.e. the national oppression of Quebec) with even more fervor than the Liberals or the Tories. At the last national convention in Winnipeg, chauvinist leaders like Broadbent and Lewis openly took positions against the rights of Quebec. When they were in power in B.C. and Manitoba, the NDP governments did nothing to alleviate the oppresion of the francophone minorities in their provinces. The NDP presents itself as the workers party. It has the active support of the chauvinist union bureaucrats and is financed by funds from our unions. We must expose these bourgeois agents.

The capitalist class also uses its agents in the workers’ movement – the bureaucrats, like the top brass of the CLC, for example, and the labour aristocracy – to divide the working class by pushing chauvinism. They refuse to support the struggles of workers in Quebec (like at Robin Hood), or to fight for democratic rights (like the demands of the francophone air traffic controllers) and are openly opposed to the Quebec nation’s right to self-determination. The key task of English Canadian workers is to expose these chauvinist traitors and kick them out of the unions.

The Parti Quebecois

The PQ is a bourgeois party: it is the political expression of Quebec’s nationalist bourgeoisie, particularly the middle bourgeoisie. Its goal is to defend the interests of this fraction of the dominant class by taking advantage of the proletariat’s and the people’s just feelings against oppression.

Its economic program is to strengthen the middle bourgeoisie so that it can become a monopoly bourgeoisie by encouraging the development of the public and so-called cooperative sectors, which will lead to powerful state monopoly capitalism.

As stated in its programme, the PQ wants to:

1. – Repatriate the main decision-making centers by depending primarily on public enterprises and cooperatives and give the state more means of action; big financial reserves, tools of intervention in the economy, an economic development plan, regulation of foreign investments and of the financial system. (Programme of the PQ 1978 edition, our translation).

The purchase of Asbestos Corporation shows that the PQ is already applying this policy.

As far as its “bias in favour workers” goes, the PQ programme states: “The Parti Quebecois has never accepted class struggle. And it will never accept a government that practices it.”

To understand the reactionary essence of its policies all we have to do is take a look at what it’s doing in Parliament. Since it was elected, its anti-worker legislation, its policy of cutting back social service budgets, its attitude towards shutdowns, layoffs, and the bad working conditions, and its brutal repression against the millworkers strike and at Santa Cabrini hospital.

All those who still believe that the PQ is a democratic workers party, should just take a look at the results of the last convention where Levesque gave himself the right to rewrite or ignore the party programme and convention decisions (like the one on abortion) according to the desires of his capitalist masters.

Levesque prefers to imitate Duplessis, the reactionary demagogue.

He dishes out nationalist speeches at the same time as he sells the province to American imperialism in New York, just as Duplessis did. (Look at the contract the PQ gave to GM and the declarations Levesque made when he announced that the PQ would support NATO and Norad).

As for the working class organizations, the PQ plans to integrate the unions into the state structures in order to destroy all of the working class’ militancy. It wants to:

9. – Encourage and initiate negotiations by sector (industrial and service) with tripartite participation (union – management – government organizations) in the overall context of a system of economic planning.

10. – Seek the collaboration of authorized representatives of the unions and set up efficient structures of permanent consultation, especially in the framework of sectorial negotiations, to encourage discussions and mutual acceptance to all legislative and administrative measures advocated by the state or by the working world. (Ibid, p. 34)

The economic summit was just the first step in this direction. At the present time, the PQ is preparing its independence referendum by stirring up narrow nationalist sentiments of the Quebecois people and by trying to stifle and divert class struggle.

We entirely reject this bourgeois party and we must struggle to win the masses away from its influence.

We also reject all bourgeois parties which hide behind a progressive or even communist mask.

The “Communist” Party of Canada

The revisionist “C”PC has clearly shown its opportunism and its counter-revolutionary character on the national question. This party, which was previously revolutionary but has now degenerated, sunk into chauvinism and abandoned all principles. For many years, it denied the Quebec nation’s right to self-determination up to separation. Today it recognizes it in words only. But in fact this is only an opportunist attempt to gain the support of the Quebecois proletariat.

While it talks about the rights of the oppressed nation in Quebec, this rotten party sends its leader, Kashtan, to British Columbia to talk about the “right of the English-Canadian nation to self determination,” denying that one nation is oppressed in relation to the other.

The revisionists have always had a great-nation chauvinist line on the national question. Their reformist policies never try to resolve contradictions, only to mitigate them. Since their objective is in no way to overthrow the bourgeoisie, they treat national oppression as a separate phenomenon, apart from class struggle, and are content with making proposals for constitutional changes within the framework of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

The other counter-revolutionary and opportunist tendencies – the “CPCML”, and the Trotskyists – are also trying to use the political crisis to boost their image. The Trotskyists in Quebec, who have always labelled all national movements reactionary, are falling all over themselves calling for separation (the RWL and the GSTQ – Socialist Group of Quebec Workers).

In Struggle

As for In Struggle, this revisionist group has made a classic turn-about. Putting aside its original narrow nationalist pro-independence position, IS has now fallen into the classic opportunist trap: a great-nation chauvinist line.

First of all, in its line as in its practice, IS openly rejects the basic Marxist-Leninist principle that under imperialism, nations are a reserve for the world proletarian revolution. [5]

This principle is a key element of the revolutionary strategy in Canada. If it is not applied, if we do not firmly struggle for equal rights for all nationalities, we will be unable to build the solid unity of the multinational working class in Canada. We will be unable to rally to the socialist revolution the great force represented by the Quebecois people fighting against their oppression.

In reality, IS has nothing but contempt for the revolutionary potential of the struggle against national oppression. It reduces this strategic question to a few demands, as their “Draft Program” shows on page 27.[6]

Here again, IS rejects the teachings of Marxism-Leninism. As Lenin said,

It is necessary that all Communist Parties render direct aid to the revolutionary movements among the dependent and subject nations (for example, Ireland, among the Negros of America, etc.) and in the colonies.

Without the latter condition, which is particularly important, the struggle against the oppression of the dependent nations and colonies, as well as the recognition of their rights to separation are but a mendacious signboard. (LENIN, “Preliminary Draft of. Thesis on the National and Colonial Questions”, On the National and Colonial Questions, Peking Ed., p. 25)

A “mendacious signboard” is what IS’s big talk is all about. While grabbing every opportunity to give pretty speeches about “absolute equality”, it refuses in practice to defend the rights of nationalities oppressed by the bourgeoisie.

Another aspect of the same chauvinist line can be found in issue no. 89 of its paper. IS says that to resolve the national question it is only necessary to ask “and even demand that (a law) be written into the Canadian constitution (...) guaranteeing the equality of languages and the suppression of all national or linguistic privileges”.

And there it is! The national question will be resolved by a law. Certainly, once the proletariat has set up a socialist Canada, such a law will be adopted and applied. Communists always fight consistently to wrench reforms from the bourgeoisie. But to say as In Struggle does that under capitalism the proclamation of such a law would guarantee the equality of nationalities is the worst reformist trickery. The national question can be resolved only under socialism. National oppression will continue as long as capitalism exists. All Marxist-Leninists know this very well.

But then how does IS explain that this law will all by itself resolve the national question under capitalism?

And then (that is to say once this law is adopted, ed.) if the movement of history came to mean the assimilation of one or the other nations or national minorities, that would not correspond in the slightest to a national oppression, but rather to the objective tendency of economic development to dissolve national frontiers by creating a world-wide network of increasingly closer economic, social and cultural relations. (IS, No. 89, p. 7)

This chauvinist position echoes the old Trostkyist garbage that puts the fusion of nations on the agenda immediately. IS tramples on the Leninist principle which states that oppression and inequality must first be fought in order to arrive, after a long historical period in which nations can freely develop, at the eventual fusing of nations in a communist society. The fusion of nations under communism has nothing to do with the policies of forced assimilation of oppressed nations that the bourgeoisie practices.

This is another example of how IS defends the bourgeoisie’s most chauvinist arguments with all its might. And it takes the same position on the question of immigrants in Quebec by putting forward that immigrants should have the “freedom of choice” of the language of instruction. But this “freedom of choice” is nothing more than a policy the bourgeoisie uses to threaten the Quebec nation with eventual assimilation.

At last, the true face of IS. The national question will be resolved by eliminating the oppressed nation!

The bourgeois ideology IS spreads doesn’t only take the form of chauvinism. In the Quebec nation, it conciliates with narrow nationalism. Doesn’t IS constantly criticize the League for hitting the Parti Quebecois too hard, using the excuse that the Canadian bourgeoisie is our main enemy? As if the PQ didn’t represent the particular interests of one fraction of the Canadian bourgeoisie. [7]

We must carry out the most resolute of struggles against this opportunist rabble whose only objective is to sabotage the socialist revolution in our country.

The “theory” of independence and socialism

Finally, there are all sorts of Trotskyists and several “radical” union bureaucrats like at the Montreal Central Council of the CNTU in Quebec who are spreading around the apparently “left-wing” nationalist thesis according to which we must accomplish “independence and socialism” in Quebec at the same time.

This position is all the more dangerous because it appeals to the just reaction of the proletariat to national oppression and against capitalism. Because of this and because the PQ is being progressively exposed as a bourgeois party, the “independence and socialism” thesis aims to pass off as an alternative and can easily gain influence in the working class. This is why it is so important to understand what this thesis is all about – the same old narrow nationalism only more subtly disguised.

The position of those pushing for “independence and socialism” boils down to three arguments. They compare Quebec to a colony that must wage a “national liberation” struggle. They claim that Quebec separation would “weaken” the Canadian bourgeoisie, what the Trotskyists from the “Revolutionary Workers’ League” (RWL) call the “oppressive centralist federal state” (our translation). Finally they repeat non-stop that the workers in the rest of the country are not as “advanced” and are “less militant” than Quebecois workers.

These three assumptions are out and out lies. First of all Quebec is not a colony. It is an integral part of an imperialist country, living under the same bourgeois democratic regime as the rest of the country; its economy is a developed one; it is composed mainly of workers, not peasants. In these conditions, the struggle to eliminate national oppression is an integral part of the socialist revolution in Canada.

Next, the separation of Quebec will not weaken the bourgeoisie. We will not attack bourgeois power by taking apart the federal state, as the Trotskyists claim, but by completely destroying the whole bourgeois state which includes the provincial levels of government, through the armed force of the people. On the contrary, the separation of Quebec would weaken the working class by dividing it and by tying Quebecois workers even more closely to the nationalist bourgeoisie. Moreover, it would weaken the people in the face of the two superpowers, who won’t miss an opportunity to try to build up their interference in our country.

Lastly, all nationalists try to convince Quebecois workers that their class brothers in the rest of Canada don’t struggle. They try to hide the great struggles they waged in the past (the Winnipeg general strike in 1919, the march of the unemployed on Ottawa in the ’30s, to mention only two) and the struggles they are waging today (for example, the October 14, 1976 general strike, the Alcan Kitimat strike, BC Tel workers’ hard fight, the New Brunswick fishersmen’s struggle for union recognition, etc.). In this way the nationalists fool Quebecois workers, divide the working class, and reveal their deep scorn for the proletariat.

So the “radical” image of the “independence and socialism” line is nothing but a charade, a more subtle mask for the same bourgeois nationalism spread by the PQ. The opportunists who put forward this line are also putting the interests of the nation ahead of the interests of the working class. They end up “tactically” supporting the PQ’s independence schemes, allying directly with the Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie, and faithfully serving its interests.

15. Conclusion

Clearly, the national question cannot be resolved except by the struggle for socialism. The Canadian bourgeoisie is responsible for this oppression and it is only its overthrow that will solve the problem once and for all.

This does not at all mean that we shouldn’t fight right now for the right of the Quebec nation to self-determination, and against all forms of oppression.

The Canadian proletariat needs unity to win the socialist victory. This unity is forged in the struggle against oppression, for the democratic rights of the oppressed minorities, and against bourgeois nationalism in all its forms. The proletariat must take up this struggle today, because it is an integral part of the socialist revolution. Marxist-Leninists have the important responsibility of doing education around this question in the working class. We must lead a hard struggle against bourgeois ideology and opportunism so that the revolutionary line on the national question prevails. Armed with this proletarian concept, we are destined to triumph over the bourgeoisie and its agents and build a socialist Canada where all nationalities will live in complete equality.

Workers of all countries, oppressed peoples and nations, unite!

Fight for the right to self-determination of the Quebec nation!

Down with national oppression!

Fight for socialist revolution in Canada!


[1] A more complete history of the Quebec nation remains to be done.

[2] However this resistance during the Second World War has a dual aspect. During the first phase of the war when it was a war among imperialist countries, the resistance was just. But during the second phase of the war following Nazi Germany’s aggression against the USSR at a time when it was the bastion of socialism, and with the creation of the world anti-fascist united front of which Canada was a part, this resistance was incorrect and only served the interests of fascism.

[3] By fusion, Lenin means the elimination of all national differences: culture, language, etc. it will happen inevitably but not through force or through the assimilation of one nation by another. It’s only with the elimination of classes throughout the world, in the era of communism, that this fusion will be possible. It is important to understand in order to counter those, like the Trotskyists, who argue that the assimilation of nations under capitalism, even if it’s forced assimilation, is a progressive thing. Before fusion takes place, nations must be allowed to freely develop and reach genuine equality.

[4] The Bund (The General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia) assembled Jewish artisans and proletarians. During Lenin’s time, it became the upholder of nationalist and separatist tendencies in the workers’ movement.

[5] In Struggle clearly affirms this position in it’s recent brochure For the revolutionary unity of workers of all nations and national minorities.: As IS puts it, “The concept of the nation as a reserve for the revolution has nothing to do with the Canadian proletariat which is struggling to realize the socialist revolution.” (p. 50) (our translation)

[6] It’s the same story in it’s brochure For the revolutionary struggle... In over 56 pages of material IS reduces it’s strategic proposals of struggle against oppression to three vague paragraphs on page 55.

[7] At the Pepin-Robarts Commission in Montreal, Charles Gagnon, leader of this revisionist clique, speaking before a strongly nationalist audience, attacked ONLY chauvinism without saying anything to denounce narrow nationalism. Rather than struggling against this bourgeois solution, he did nothing but encourage it.