Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Charles Gagnon

For the Proletarian Party

Chapter 2: The objective conditions for proletarian ideology

One makes a serious error – and at the same time shows contempt for the working class – in claiming that the lack of development of class consciousness among Quebec workers is symptomatic of some mysterious heredity, for all practical purposes insurmountable. But this is the viewpoint of the petty-bourgeois opportunists who, like Gerin-Lajoie, bluntly reject the class struggle, or who like Vallieres, put it off until later since the workers aren’t ready! The same view is implicit in the position that the workers’ struggle must, in the final analysis, be organised from above by those who are most conscious and can therefore command the masses! Denying the decisive importance of ideological struggle among the masses at the present time amounts in practice to supporting this defeatist and opportunist position. It means wanting to lead the working class into a fight whose exact nature it has no way of knowing.

The low level of proletarian class consciousness in Quebec is neither the result of chance nor a racial characteristic. It is the effect of concrete historical conditions: the development – harmonious until now – of capitalism in North America, the very same conditions which make the struggles for independence and socialism two aspects of a single fight.

Proletarian class consciousness and revolutionary ideology are necessarily based on science. In no case should they be enveloped in some ”left-wing humanism” which, in Quebec in any case, has developed within the union movement, the CNTU in particular. Its demands have never gone beyond a reformism very near to the status quo.

However, the scientific and theoretical basis for the development of proletarian ideology has hardly begun to exist in Quebec. The Marxism of the majority of Quebec militants is still very bookish. Next to no one uses it as a tool for “concrete analysis of our concrete situation”. It is only beginning to be this indispensable instrument of political class struggle. The Marxism of the Quebec militants is usually reduced to the general theory of capitalism. This is undoubtedly a major advance, but one which we must quickly transcend in order to get to concrete analysis – class analysis, analysis of the present situation in Quebec, Canada and internationally – in short, analysis of the numerous contradictions whose resolution is demanded in the short or long term by revolution.

How does it happen that we are no further along at this moment? The development of proletarian ideology and its dissemination as class consciousness rests on the struggles and organisation of the workers, i.e. on the very development of the workers’ movement. However, the workers’ movement in Quebec, as in Canada and the U.S. has never found itself in the objective situation necessary for its qualitative transformation into a revolutionary movement, although on numerous occasions it has waged very hard and courageous struggles against capitalist exploitation.

In fact, North America is the continent where capitalism has developed most smoothly, due to favourable historical and geographical conditions: open spaces, natural resources, communications, etc. Another reason is the internal and international situations, such as European inter-imperialist rivalries, which the North American bourgeoisie has always been able to take advantage of.

Thus from the advent of “Anglo-Saxon” rule over the whole continent (at the end of the 18th century, if we put aside Louisiana and the French and Spanish southwest states), North America has known only two major crises to speak of: the American Civil War between the North and the South, and the economic crisis in the 1930s, which struck the whole of the Western world. Thus, particularly in the 20th century, Europe and the colonies have been where the crisis provoked by the development of capitalism have been absorbed, temporarily at least, and the peoples of these regions have been the main if not the only bearers of the brunt.

Still today, while the capitalist economy is integrated like never before on the scale of the non-socialist world and America thus depends to such a degree on other regions and peoples, we find a standard of living in North America which allows the construction of interplanetary rockets at a cost of billions while elsewhere millions of people starve! Up until now we certainly couldn’t say that the contradictions of capitalist development have been the sharpest on our continent.

However, things are beginning to change, under pressure from liberation movements of the oppressed peoples. The effects of this movement have been felt even at the level of international trade and the International Monetary Fund. Economic relations between capitalist powers are undergoing difficulties; the monetary crisis is taking on a permanent character. Inflation and unemployment are settling in the developed countries. In short, North America is no longer sheltered from the effects of the contradictions of capitalist development. We are seeing the end of the era where the burden of these contradictions could be almost entirely passed on to other peoples.

North America, and therefore Quebec, is entering the period of the struggle for socialism. Such a development of objective conditions favourable to the workers’ struggles necessitates that the Quebec vanguard militants devote themselves wholeheartedly to their present task of promoting the development of the subjective conditions, without which revolution remains impossible.