Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Charles Gagnon

For the Proletarian Party

Chapter 1: The nationalist dead-end

Together with the social-democrats the petty-bourgeois nationalists at present comprise the most dangerous ideological trend inside the workers’ movement. As active members or sympathisers of the nationalist organizations (above all the Parti Quebecois), the nationalists try to infiltrate everywhere, preferably in leadership positions, from the unions to the least developed popular associations. Their political credo can be summed up as: first political independence, everything else after! “Everything else” is precisely class struggle, revolution, socialism.

In place of revolutionary strategy, the position defended by those commonly called the “PQ left” is that the workers movement, presently without a party, should unite with the Parti Quebecois. The need or not of a workers’ party is thus nimbly removed for quite circumstancial reasons without long-term political significance. The solution is given without the question being posed; it is the PQ which at any rate is the only party that can bring about independence, which will benefit the working people who will then be able to start taking up the class struggle and socialism. One sees hew absurd this position is once reduced to its basic elements: for lack of a workers’ party we should be content with a bourgeois party! Under the fallacious pretext that political independence would constitute a step which is not only necessary but revolutionary in and of itself.

We must first recall that nothing ever happens by itself in politics – history is full of examples which prove it. How many African peoples are now paying a heavy price – that of neocolonialism – for having put their faith in the pretensions of their bourgeois nationalist leaders? Bourgeois nationalist leaders who, oftentimes supported by the very imperialist powers from which they claimed to be liberating the “entire nation”, objectively were only playing the game of the imperialists, who had decided to put an end to the social turmoil in the colonies while preparing the way for the development of state monopoly capitalism in the regions where they ruled and wished to continue ruling.

So in spite of their “formal independence” many African countries are still governed according to the rules of capitalist exploitation and foreign domination. Thus, for example, are the peoples of Senegal and Chad, which are presently ’managed’ by Senghor and Tobalbaye, agents of the international French-speaking community (i.e., French imperialism), closer to socialist revolution than the people of Guinea-Bissau which adopted the path of the revolutionary front led by Amilcar Cabral? Certainly not! The Guineans, like the Vietnamese, are less concerned about the proclamation of formal independence than about the anti-imperialist struggle, than about national liberation. They know what history teaches those who are willing to learn from it: that in politics nothing just happens by itself, especially not revolution.

The German people also payed dearly to learn this had fact. More particularly, the thousands of social-democrats who in belonging to Hitler’s national-socialist party thought they had joined the ranks of a formation dedicated to the interests of the whole people, since it claimed to be regaining the nation’s honour and ... providing work for all, The rest is well known, but not well enough it seems, for nationalist demagogery is still with us, here and elsewhere, to deceive important sections of the workers.

It’s correct to say that the workers’ party doesn’t exist. But to conclude from this that the working class should line up behind nationalist positions and forget its class interests, is demagogery and opportunism. Can we take the position of the main spokesmen of the nationalist movement, and the PQ in particular, such as Pierre Vallieres and Jean Gerin-Lajoie, as anything else when they claim that the working class and working people in general could find no better way of serving their interests than by individually joining the ranks of a party whose leadership, orientation and practice are obviously those of a bourgeois party?[9]

One of the main obstacles at present to the development of the workers’ organization and the creation of the workers party is precisely the action of these very opportunists and their like, who would like us to believe that a party led by people like Claude Morin can be revolutionary, and who, to this end, don’t hesitate in using the lowest and most deceitful demagogery. They thus try to nip in the bud the progress of the workers’ movement and destroy the credibility of militants of the workers’ vanguards.

The Quebec people – that is, all classes exploited and oppressed by the local and foreign bourgeoisies – has enough experience to know that it can no longer place any confidence in the capitalists, even if they are rabid nationalists. These latter are the most dangerous: being less powerful they have to be more repressive. Maurice Duplessis, for example, a big nationalist like his predecessors Papineau, Mercier and so many others, taught us things which we mustn’t forget. At Murdochville, Asbestos, Louiseville, Valleyfield, elsewhere and always, he defended the “nation” against Ottawa and against the workers, his two main enemies, all the while, and especially at election time, comfortably supported by his best friend, American imperialism. In return, he was obliged to fork over a great part of the North of Quebec and other “crumbs” – mines and forests!

Maurice Duplessis had been elected on the basis of a programme – the Catechism of the Electors – which in many respects went further than the When we will truly be masters in our own house of his spiritual sons Levesque and Parizeau. He, like them, had succeeded in dragging behind him a good number of progressive elements which he quickly ditched once he was in power.

In short, our history has already taught us that the “nation of the nationalists” is a very deceptive notion. The “nation” – in the programmes of the nationalist parties and at election time, expecially when victory seems possible – designates everyone without exception: firemen, workers, politicians, police, judges, industrialists, housewives and unemployed – but not the Jews and the English! But once the nationalists are victorious, at the first important conflict we see the “national” police clubbing the “national” workers by order of the “national” state whose legality is maintained at all costs by the “national” judges: the “national” housewives and their children go without basic necessities, the “national” industrialists, including the Jews and English, maintain their profit level and the “national” finance companies do a great business.

When Rene Levesque of the PQ denounces the “antics” of the unions in speaking of the events in Sept-Iles in May 1972, when Claude Morin announces that leftists, anarchists and Marxists shouldn’t expect favourable treatment in an “independent” Quebec – it’s clear who and what he’s talking about. When they speak this way Levesque and Morin cancel out all of Vallieres’ remarks on “national unity” in his “Choose! ... the nationalist dead-end”.

From all indications, the PQ leadership, in its blind ambition to end the hegemony of the Toronto financial capitalists on Quebec soil, is ready for every concession to the Americans. These latter would like nothing better; everywhere in the world where they had counted on recruiting vassals they have only met adversaries if not enemies: in Europe, Japan and even Latin America. Henceforth their good relations with the USSR appear to interest the Yankees as much if not more than the development of the Common Market, due to the West German recovery and the impending reunification with East Germany. West Germany is thus a force to be neutralised, which among other things the Soviets can help in.

Likewise, the development of the Organization of American States (OAS) is becoming visibly less pressing in the eyes of the American capitalists than development of ties with the Brazilian bourgeoisie. Japan, for its part, appears every day as an ever-more-powerful competitor in the Pacific, Southeast Asia and even on the west coast of Canada.

Canadian nationalism, in these conditions, would not have to reach the proportions of organised resistance to a greater growth of Yankee imperialism over the very territory of the North American continent, where U.S. imperialism finds resources like water, energy and oil – which will soon be indispensible – in abundance and close at hand. The Americans would quickly look rather sympathetically on the plunder (already underway through the efforts of imperialism, according to Kari Levitt[10] of this immense country, largely unexploited and which is already manifesting inclinations towards independence and sovereignty – not only political but also economic.

In the international situation which is shaping up, dominated by a serious crisis of imperialism, the most perceptible and tenacious symptoms of which are the monetary crisis, inflation and unemployment ... with the continuing genocide of the Vietnamese people ... the rise of Quebec nationalism, basically anti-Canadian and anti-workers movement (due to the “harmful agitation” of this movement) runs a strong risk of going on with the benevolent sympathy of the masters of imperialism.

In this respect it would be presumptuous to take for granted that the interests of the American and Canadian capitalists are too integrated to allow the development of antagonisms and serious conflicts between the two. To take an extreme example, the two world wars of this century saw the confrontation of bourgeoisies which otherwise shared many economic interests: the English, for instance, refused until the very last moment in 1939 to believe that the Germans were going to unleash the war.

To sum up: the Quebec nationalist movement which, like the African and Latin American nationalist movements, is part of a vast national liberation movement which has been shaking the world for some years now, is destined, as long as it remains under reactionary bourgeois leadership, to play into the hands of the imperialists. That is just what happened, each in its own way, to the nationalisms of Maurice Duplessis, Jean Lesage, etc. during the last thirty years, like that of Leopold Senghor in Senegal, and of other blind “francomaniacs”.

In the era of the overthrow of capitalism and imperialism and the building of socialism, leadership of the struggle cannot be left to the petty- or middle-bourgeois, even less when their nationalism puts them in the position of having to throw their lot in with the imperialists.


[9] See in particular P. Vallieres, Choose! Toronto, New Press, 1972 and Gerin-Lajoie, ”Le syndicalisme quebecois a la recherche d’une orientation”, Le Metallo, Vol. 8, no. 4, Montreal, August, 1972.

[10] See her book entitled Silent Surrender, Toronto, MacMillan, 1970.