First Published: The Forge, Vol. 4, No. 2, January 19, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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In the past month. four FLQ terrorists have returned to Canada from exile abroad to face criminal charges. The latest to arrive was Pierre Charette who is wanted in Canada in connection with two FLQ bombings in 1968. He is also wanted in the US for hijacking a plane to Cuba in 1969.
The other three returned “felquistes”, Jacques Lantôt and Jacques and Louise Cossette-Trudel, were members of the FLQ cell that abducted British Trade Commissioner James Cross touching off the October Crisis of 1970. There are now reports that the remaining two members of the cell, Marc Carbonneau and Yves Langlols, may be returning shortly.
The return of the felquistes has given rise to a big media blitz across the country. Many old questions are on the floor once more. Did the FLQ stand for a just cease despite their tactics? Why did the federal government send the army into Quebec?
In this article we will answer some of these questions and show that the “heroics” of the FLQ succeeded only in bringing a wave of repression down on the Quebec people.
On Oct 16, 1970, eleven days after James Cross was kidnapped by the FLQ, the federal government declared the Was Measures Act and sent the army into Quebec.
There followed a wave of raids, searches, arrests and detentions without charge, and high-pressure interrogations, as army trucks and soldiers in full battle gear patrolled the streets of Montreal.
The final tally showed 2000 raids and 500 arrests and detentions in the space of a few short weeks. Not a single charge was laid. And who was hit by these repressive measures? FLQ terrorists? Hardly. There were only a small handful of them in existence.
No, the repression was aimed at union activists, journalists,popular Quebecois singers and writers, community organizations, and many ordinary working people.
The truth is that the FLQ kidnappings were used as a pretext to put the lid on a fast-growing nationalist movement in Quebec.The Canadian bourgeoisie was out to show the Quebec people who was boss and to warn them not to “complain” too much, because the army was waiting in the wings.
Above all, the Canadian bourgeoisie wanted to make it clear that the Quebec nation’s right to self-determination, to freely choose its own political future, would not be respected and that attempts to exercise this right could meet with naked armed force.
The FLQ was a small gang of terrorists totally isolated from the masses of working people. Like all terrorists, FLQ members had a contempt for the masses and instead saw themselves as “heroes” who could change society all by themselves. Some of their actions, like putting bombs in mailboxes, endangered the lives of ordinary working people, the very people the FLQ claimed to be fighting for.
Terrorists have nothing in common with true communists who know that it is the masses who make history. Communists don’t isolate themselves from the masses, they are part of the masses, taking part in their daily struggles, educating them on the true causes of their hardships, and preparing the ground for socialist revolution.
Yes, the people will have to take up arms when the time is right, because the capitalists don’t plan to sit back, twiddling their thumbs, and watch their privileges and power threatened. On the contrary, the capitalists will strike out with all the repressive forces at their disposal – the police, army, courts and prisons.
But there is a big difference between the armed struggle of the masses of people, led by their communist party, and the wild antics of a few adventurists. The FLQ succeeded only in bringing down a wave of repression on the Quebecois people. And the work of some community organizations and other progressive groups that was beginning to develop in Quebec was seriously set beck by this repression.
As Lenin explained, terrorism “disorganizes the forces, not of the government, but of the revolutlon.” (Where to Begin? Collected Works, Vol. 5, p.19)
The FLQ was not only wrong in its use of a terrorist strategy, it also pushed the dead-end solution of Quebec separation as the answer to national oppression and exploitation. The FLQ never made any distinction between the English-Canadian capitalists and the working people of English Canada.
Instead of promoting the unity of all Canadian working people against the entire capitalist class – English and Quebecois alike – the FLQ played right into the hands of the Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie by pushing narrow nationalism, the idea that all Quebecois should join forces against all English Canadians. Instead of working towards class unity, they pushed the collaboration of Quebecois workers with “their” capitalists, exactly the pitch now used by the PQ to get support for its independence referendum.
But the FLQ did have the sympathy of some honest, militant people who genuinely wanted to fight exploitation and national oppression.
We must remember that during the late sixties and early seventies, there was no organized force in the country that could unite and give political guidance to the working class. The Marxist-Leninist movement was just beginning to take shape in the early seventies and to develop a class analysis of Quebec’s national oppression.
So it is not surprising that some well-meaning people were drawn to the FLQ. After all, terrorjsm is a reaction to the frustration and hardships created by the capitalists. It is their rotten system of oppression and exploitation that drives people to commit acts of desperation, especially when they see no alternative.
Today the situation is totally different. The League is that organized force that is uniting struggles across the country and winning over English-Canadian workers to the cause of the oppressed Quebec nation. For example, we were active in getting a resolution supporting Quebec’s right to self-determination passed by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.
Within Quebec itself we fight all manifestations of national oppression. In workplaces where League comrades are active, we struggle for the right of Quebecois to work in French. We also fight for better hospital care and education, two areas that are hard hit by national oppression.
At the same time we expose the hypocrisy of the PQ and show Quebecois workers that their real friends are their class brothers in English Canada and not Quebecois capitalists who are after more political power just to get richer off the backs of the working class.
Through our work and through The Forge, we are showing working people of both nations that the only way to end oppression and exploitation in Canada once and for all is to unite in the fight for socialism.