First Published: The Forge, Vol. 1, No. 20, October 21, 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Bourassa and the Liberal Party have just announced that a provincial election will be held in Quebec on November 15. Workers and communists must take a stand during this time of heightened political debate and discussion in Quebec.
Although this is a provincial election, it is also an important one for the entire working class throughout the country, because this election also raises the question of the possibility of Quebec’s separation from the rest of Canada. In this sense it is especially important for English Canadian workers in the rest of Canada to understand the stakes involved.
None of the parties running in the election can receive our support in any form whatsoever: they are all bourgeois parties who are only interested in maintaining capitalist domination, while we are struggling to overthrow the system with a socialist revolution.
We gain nothing from changing the government in power, from throwing out one old set of thieves and voting in a new set of bandits. It’s not the government, the Prime Minister or the Cabinet that we must change but the capitalist system itself. This means not overturning one bourgeois party but the whole capitalist state, apparatus by smashing it and establishing a new socialist state which serves the interests of the working people – the dictatorship of the proletariat. The elections are being used by the bourgeoisie to mystify the Quebec people, to cover up the really important political questions and to attempt to impose on us their false solutions.
Look at the Liberal Party’s program. Bourassa called the election around two main themes. The first is the supposedly “new” Canada that will appear when the constitution is brought back from Great Britain. But this constitution will in no way guarantee Quebec’s right to self-determination up to and including separation. Nor can any document of a repressive capitalist state in any way protect the rights of those it oppresses in order to maintain the ruling class’ profits and power.
The second point of the Liberals’ platform is their threat to eliminate the right to strike in the public sector and at least curtail it in the industrial domain. This is a totally reactionary and anti-working class program which must be denounced and fought. In this issue of THE FORGE we will begin to analyse the situation in Quebec and deal with one of the important themes of the election. We will deal with the elections in more detail In our next issue. History shows us that the working class can never come to power through electoral means as the Chilean experience proves. Only armed struggle can allow our cause to triumph. But we must use every question, including the elections, to put forward and explain our road – the socialist road.
On the eve of the provincial elections in Quebec, the question is again being raised about whether or not we should support the independence of Quebec and vote for the Parti Quebecois. Many people ask, “wouldn’t it be a positive step on the road to socialism to gain independence for Quebec?” “Even though we know the Parti Quebecois is not a party for the workers couldn’t we support it in a ’critical’ way and give It our vote? Isn’t the PQ at least more progressive than the Liberal Party?”
As communists we must take a clear stand on these important questions. We must answer the questions being raised in the working class from a Marxist-Leninist perspective.
First of all, we recognize that Quebec is an oppressed nation and that the rights of the Quebec people are being trampled on by the Canadian bourgeoisie. For example the rights to language, culture and to work in French. But most of all the Canadian bourgeoisie denies the fundamental right of self-determination to the Quebec people.
The right of self-determination means that the Quebec nation has the right to decide on its political destiny up to and including the right to found a independent state and to split off from Canada.
This right means not only the right to decide, but the guarantee that the will of the people will be realized and not prevented by force. It also means the right to hold a referendum (a special vote) on this question in the oppressed nation.
As communists we will defend this right of the Quebec people to choose their political future at all times, and, if the Quebec people freely decide to separate from Canada we will defend their right to do so and we will struggle for the socialist revolution inside of an independent Quebec.
But at each step on the revolutionary road communists, while at all times supporting the right to self-determination, must decide in favour of support for independence or not. They must agitate at all times in favour of the Quebec nation’s right to choose, but at the same time they must also give their opinion on which choice is correct; to separate from Canada or to remain in the same country. Which choice will advance the class interests of the proletariat.
The only way communists can judge which choice is right at any particular time is to make their decision in favour of the revolutionary interests of the working class. Does the separation of Quebec promote the best interests of the proletariat in its struggle for socialism? We say that today the answer is no. That to support separation is to support narrow nationalism, a bourgeois solution.
Today the main problem for the working class across all of Canada and in Quebec is not national oppression but capitalist exploitation and oppression. The Canadian working class from both nations has one common and main enemy: the Canadian bourgeoisie.
That is to say the principal contradiction in Canada today opposes the Canadian proletariat to the Canadian bourgeoisie, in Canada the task of the proletariat is to direct its main blows against the Canadian bourgeoisie – to overthrow this reactionary class which holds state power. It is against the whole of the capitalist state apparatus and not one branch of it in Quebec that the working class must struggle.
The masses in Quebec as in the rest of Canada are presently being hit by inflation, unemployment (which is up to 10%), high taxes and particularly by the wage freeze. The bourgeoisie is trying to make working people pay for its crisis.
Workers at Alcan, GM, in the post office and hospital workers in Quebec are meeting the same essential problems of exploitation and oppression as their class brothers and sisters in English Canada.
To struggle for independence would not bring those in Quebec any closer to getting rid of capitalist oppression and exploitation. Instead it would divide the working class in Canada against its main enemy; it would weaken the struggle for socialism all across the land; it would hold back and retard our struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Socialism in Canada would permit us to resolve the Quebec national question by guaranteeing Quebec’s right to self-determination up to and including separation at all times. This would “ be assured by the armed proletariat and by putting an end to national oppression in education, on language rights, rights in the workplace, all cultural rights and other democratic rights.
This iron unity is necessary to make the revolution. First of all it can only be based on the English Canadian proletariat’s recognition and support of the right of the oppressed Quebec nation to self-determination. It can only be based on a resolute struggle against the great-nation chauvinism of the bourgeoisie which is even spread within the working class movement in English Canada. Witness the chauvinist position of the leadership of the Machinists Union in supporting the reactionary stand of the pilots and the air traffic controllers against French in air communications.
And secondly that unity can only be forged by combatting narrow nationalism among Quebec workers which is promoted not only by the PQ but by many of the worst reformist union leaders like Gerin-Lajoie of the Steelworkers.
If supporting independence now weakens our struggle against our main enemy, the Canadian bourgeoisie, it would also weaken our struggle against the other important enemies of the Canadian revolution: the two superpowers, particularly American imperialism.
A divided Canada would be much easier prey for the expansionist ambitions of these vultures. Look at what some of the big spokesmen of American imperialism like David Rockefeller have said on the question. They are not opposed to Quebec’s separation as long as their economic interests are protected. And the PQ itself has made a number of visits to the United States. Levesque recently spoke with businessmen in Chicago in order to make sure that American imperialism would not feel threatened by a capitalist independent Quebec.
As for the other superpower, it has had the same sort of position on the Quebec national question and is attempting to play off both sides against each other. On the one hand its agent, the “Communist” Party of Canada, takes positions against separation while this same party sets up a Quebec branch called the “Communist” Party of Quebec which it bills as an independent party to better infiltrate the nationalist movement. At the same time social-imperialism has used its Cuban connection to infiltrate the now defunct bourgeois nationalist newspaper Le Jour. Le Jour regularly printed extensive reports from Soviet and Cuban sources and upheld tne Soviet intervention in Angola as a positive step!
This is why we say that today independence is not in the best interests of the working class in Quebec.
As for the Parti Quebecois, we say that it is a bourgeois party basically no different from the Liberal Party We cannot give such a party any kind of support whatsoever, critical or uncritical, total or partial.
Its narrow nationalist politics of separation and its social democratic policies of stepped-up class collaboration have never been in the interests of the working class.
The PQ has always defended capitalism. The facts don’t lie: the PQ never opposed the wage freeze, it voted for anti-worker laws like the Bill 253. it betrayed the Common Front struggle in 1972 and again in 1976. It has always maintained its support for American imperialism in Quebec. It even closed down its own newspaper Le Jour because the opinions of this reformist rag were too radical for it to stomach.
In order to get the broadest support from the bourgeoisie, the PQ is ready to step up class collaboration by establishing “co-management” with workers and bosses (their very own form of tripartism) and by integrating the unions in the bourgeoisie state apparatus.
The only correct road to follow in the coming election is to denounce all the bourgeois parties involved in the elections, to give our support to none of their solutions whether it be the “sovereignity” offered by Bourassa or the independence offered by Levesque. The working class has nothing to gain from voting for these bourgeois parties’ solutions which only serve to deceive and to mislead the working class and the people of Quebec. We say: vote no to these parties. We say participate in the struggle to build a real working class party, a Canadian Marxist-Leninist party which will contain the most devoted and the most sincere elements of the proletariat of our two nations. We say that at this time the struggle we must take up is not for independence for Quebec but the struggle for the socialist revolution in Canada to liberate us from the chains of capitalist exploitation. We seek to build a socialist society where the working class holds state power – a society where national oppression will be eliminated, where the right of the Quebec nation to self-determination will be guaranteed by the armed proletariat.