First Published: The Forge, Vol. 3, No. 8, April 14, 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Marxist-Leninists in Canada firmly defend the Quebec nation’s right to self-determination, up to and including separation. This means it is up to the Quebec nation alone to decide whether or not it wants to remain in Canada. But we are against separation at this time because it goes against the interests of the Quebec people and the working class in their struggle for socialism.
The biggest champion of separation, the PQ, has lost credibility with many workers. But certain elements in the Quebec labour movement are pushing separation in a more subtle form. They call for “independence and socialism”, cloak their position in “marxist” garb and pose as fierce opponents to the PQ. They say that the struggle for independence is the principal class struggle Quebec workers must lead, claiming this will bring them to socialism.
The “independence and socialism” option is nothing but a dead-end road. It doesn’t bring us closer to socialism, only farther away from it. It maintains and reinforces the divisions within the Canadian working class – a real boon for the different sectors of the bourgeoisie which do their best to keep us divided. Furthermore, it pushes narrow nationalism and in so doing, strengthens the PQ.
And one thing is sure, we’re not going to get any closer to socialism by building up the PQ, a party that represents the bourgeoisie, and the interests of Quebec capitalists in particular.
Whether they like it or not, the people who are pushing this option only end up supporting the PQ and the Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie. They fall right into class collaboration.
A document defending this option, released by the Montreal Central Council of the CNTU, and entitled “The Workers’ movement and the question of Quebec independence”,proves this. The authors state: “the labour movement could never give its unconditional support to the PQ.” (p. 49) In other words, we’ll give the PQ conditional and tactical support. These people criticize the PQ, of course. But they do it gently, and in fact end up supporting the party. They say for example, that the PQ “is not a party of the status quo” (p. 23) and that we will “just have to see whether all these positive aspects of its program will be carried out, when and how...” (p. 42)
These so-called “criticisms” are voiced only to cover up the authors’ narrow nationalism, and so they can pose as combative “left-wingers”.
These people claim that the Quebec nation is the main force opposing the bourgeoisie in Canada, because it has always been the bourgeoisie’s main victim. “Oppression of the Quebec nation by the English-Canadian bourgeoisie is the principal form through which capitalist exploitation has been exercised,” states the document.
But in reality, it’s through the exploitation of all workers in Canada that the bourgeoisie grew into an imperialist class. Moreover, it bred off the national oppression of not only the Quebec nation, but also of Indian people, whose land it expropriated, and of Acadians, Inuit, Afro-Canadians, and all the other oppressed nationalities in Canada.
The working class throughout Canada is the main force opposing the bourgeoisie. Quebec is not a colony separate from Canada, as these people would have us believe. It is an oppressed nation within an industrialized country. And the main class struggle here is between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The different strata of the people, along with all the oppressed nationalities, are important allies of the working class in the struggle for socialism.
By isolating Quebec in a separate struggle against the bourgeoisie these opportunists split the revolutionary forces in our country before their common enemy.
These people say that the main enemy of Quebec workers inside the country is the English-Canadian ruling class. According to this thesis, Quebec workers have little to fear from Quebec capitalists, because they’re not part of the main enemy.But the truth of the matter is that Quebec capitalists have been an integral part of the Canadian bourgeoisie ever since Confederation, when the French-Canadian ruling class sold out the rights of the Quebec people to benefit from the markets created with the setting up of an independent Canadian state.
Capitalists who are members of the Quebec nation, be they big or small, are not any less a part of the Canadian bourgeoisie than English-Canadian capitalists. It would be foolish to say that people like Trudeau, Bell Canada president de Grandpré, Caisses Populaires Desjardins president Alfred Rouleau, or Peladeau, the president of the media monopoly Quebecor, are puppets of the ruling class. They’re part of it.
This capitalist class maintains its dictatorship through the Canadian state, which consists not only in the federal government, as our “radicals” claim, but of all levels of government, including the provincial governments and the entire repressive state apparatus.
The PQ happens to reflect the aspiration of the middle bourgeoisie in Quebec to grow into full-fledged monopolists, by using a separate Quebec state as a lever to boost them up. This is what the present campaign for separation is all about.Separation is no stepping stone to socialism, despite what these phony “Marxist” theoreticians may say. It can only chain workers to the nationalist bourgeoisie and hold hack the struggle for socialism. With full control of a separate Quebec state, the Quebecois detachment of our worst enemy sill have added instruments to force Quebec workers to “tighten their belts in the interests of the nation.”
To further confuse Quebec workers about who their main enemy is, the document claims that Quebec is also dominated by American imperialism. “Our economic development is controlled by American capital,” it states.
This is the old argument that denies that the Canadian bourgeoisie is a fully constitued imperialist class that has economic and political control in Canada. However huge Canadian transnationals like Noranda Mines, Alcan, Consolidated Bathurst etc, are not penny-ante enterprises. They are part of the imperialist bourgeoisie of Canada. This is the enemy class facing all workers in Canada.
The American superpower does have a strong economic presence in our country. But its exploitation and interference is not limited to Quebec. It is felt by all of the Canadian people. All have an equal interest in fighting it.
Typically enough, these bureaucrats don’t breathe a word about the Soviet superpower’s interference in Canada, although its aggression against Canadian people has been exposed more than ever lately.
The separation of Quebec would make both English Canada and Quebec easier prey to these two greatest enemies of the world’s people.
The Central Council document claims that unity with workers of English Canada is impossible because they are “lacking in consciousness.”
This show of contempt for English-Canadian workers completely negates their militant history of class struggle. It hides the fact that battles, like the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919, or the Trek to Ottawa by unemployed workers during the Great Depression are highlights in the history of the Canadian working class.
The document claims that separation would not “divide the Canadian proletariat, since the working class of Quebec and Canada have never been united.” Wasn’t the country-wide General Strike on October 14, 1976 when workers of Quebec and English Canada protested the bourgeoisie’s wage freeze one of the greatest shows of unity and strength ever?
Doesn’t the vote by some of the most important labour federations of English Canada like CUPE, or the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour to support the Quebec nation’s right to self-determination show that deep-rooted class ties do exist between workers of the two nations? It is in the bourgeoise’s interests only, to break these ties.
These people’s fine talk about “capitalist exploitation” amounts to nothing but hollow words. Their attacks against the PQ are only for show. But their performance can’t hide what’s at the bottom of their position – it’s collaboration, critical support for the PQ.
By refusing to subordinate the national struggle to the class struggle for socialism, their option helps keep capitalism alive and national oppression along with it. This option leads right to defeat. And it boils down to the same rotten position pushed by counter-revolutionaries like the Trotskyists of the Revolutionary Workers’ League, the GSTQ (Socialist group of Quebec workers) and their offshoots in the RMS (union activists group).
“Independence and socialism” is a deadly option because:
– it divides the working class before its common enemy, the Canadian bourgeoisie
– it chains Quebec workers to the interests of “their” bourgeoisie
– it opens the door to penetration and interference of the two superpowers, particularly American imperialism.
The Quebec peoples struggle against national oppression can be a powerful revolutionary force. It is the duty of the proletariat to take the leadership in this struggle and to thrust aside all the opportunists and traitors who would leave it in the hands of the bourgeoisie.
Only socialism can guarantee an end to national oppression. And to reach it, the working class of Canada will lead a mighty united front of all strata of the Canadian people, like small farmers and fishermen, as well as all oppressed nationalities to smash the bourgeoisie. And to lead this struggle to victory we need a multinational communist party and not some reformist and nationalist workers party.
Stalin showed how division of workers according to nationality fences them off from each other. He stressed the need for “union of workers locally in a single organization which would include workers of all nationalities.” (Marxism and the National Question).
This is the organization, the multi-national communist party we must build. And the task must be taken up by Quebecois and English-Canadian workers, as well as workers of all nationalities across Canada. Only such a party can lead us to destroy the capitalist system, the root cause of national oppression, and guarantee equal rights for all nationalities in a socialist Canada.