First Published:The Forge Vol. 5, No. 17, May 2, 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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For the last six weeks the Canadian Tribune, official organ of the “Communist” Party of Canada (CP), has managed not to mention a word about the Quebec referendum. No other newspaper of any kind in the country has had such nerve.
At the Vancouver and District Labour Council meeting in mid-April, CP spokesman George Hewison helped table and thereby effectively block a resolution endorsing a May Day message of support for Quebec’s rights.
In practice, the revisionist CP has always abandoned the struggle for Quebec’s rights, especially the fundamental right to self-determination.
Even when the CP does give Quebec verbal mention, it does so in a thoroughly chauvinist way. The CP program calls only for “a new Canadian constitution” which recognizes “the right of self-determination of both nations (Quebec and English Canada) in our country.” (Tribune, Feb. 19, 1979)
This is a dandy way to drown out Quebec’s oppression. English Canada is not forcibly retained within the Canadian state and exercised its right to self-determination back in 1867. Talk about rights for “both nations” is just an attempt to make Quebec’s demands seem more palatable. While many democratic-minded people in English Canada who are not communists are not afraid to campaign actively for Quebec’s right to self-determination, up to and Including secession, the CP quivers and openly capitulates to the bourgeoisie’s chauvinism.
Lenin has harsh words for such “hypocrisy of the reformists and the Kautskyites who defend self-determination but remain silent about the nations oppressed by ’their own’ nation and kept in ’their own’ state by force.” (The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination, Theses)
The CP’s liquidation of the Quebec question within its “new constitutional deal” sometimes reaches ridiculous heights: in the last federal election, the Quebec people’s rights merited one line in the party’s full-page election platform. And it was lumped in a constitutional package that gave equal importance to “a new deal for municipalities”! (Tribune, Jan. 7, 1980)
Worse still, the CP pretends Quebec’s national oppression can be “solved” by reforms alone. Replacing the BNA Act with a new “made-in-Canada constitution” would end “the crisis of Confederation,” says CP leader William Kashtan.
The CP would have the working class take up the struggle against national oppression through purely reformist channels. Kashtan is cutting the revolutionary heart out of the national movement by never stressing that socialism is the only way to end national oppression. In addition, the CP is silent on the struggles and demonstrations the Quebec people have used to fight for their national rights.
Spreading bourgeois chauvinism – this is how the CP revises the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism.
Such positions should come as no surprise, though, from a party that answers only to its Kremlin masters. A party which pretends the USSR is not a prisonhouse of nationalities and hails Soviet tanks in Afghanistan as …a national liberation” can hardly be expected to be a great defender of Quebec’s rights.
Inside Quebec, meanwhile, the CP is busy tailing after the bourgeois nationalists. Early last month the CP ran newspaper ads telling workers “we can’t vote yes” in the upcoming referendum because the PQ only wants to build “monopolies at the expense of the people.” But on April 25, the CP had changed its mind and announced it was endorsing the “yes” side as “the lesser of two evils.” Evidently, the CP had decided the PQ had shed its pro-business colours in the space of two weeks.
Such opportunism is nothing new for the CP. In the early sixties, the revisionists decided to set up the Parti Communiste du Quebec – separate in name only from the Canada-wide party because they said a Quebec name would be more appealing.
The CP is trying to latch onto the rising nationalist bourgeoisie in Quebec, flirting with the PQ’s left-wing. PQ MNA Guy Bisaillon is active in the Quebec Peace Congress, a pro-Soviet CP front group.
Just like In Struggle, the CP capitulates to chauvinism in English Canada and cozies up to narrow nationalism in Quebec. Whatever form bourgeois nationalism takes, the revisionists are always there to help spread those ideas among working people.