First Published: In Struggle! No. 177, October 23, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The vast majority of Quebec workers do not want either independence or “sovereignty-association”. The PQ strategists know this all too well. Hence all the hemming and hawing about what question should be,asked in the referendum so that the “yes” side has a chance of winning it. Nevertheless, it is still possible that the PQ could get a significant “yes” vote from workers. If it does, it will not be because workers are so thrilled about the prospect of sovereignty-association. Nor would it be because they appreciate what the PQ government has done for, or rather to, them...
The chances the PQ has of winning some support from the workers’ movement hang from one main thread: the work done by a substantial number of labour bosses on their behalf for several years now. The union heavies have put forward all sorts of dubious theses dreamed up by various little bands of quasi-Trotskyists in a patriotic effort to persuade the working class that Quebec independence would mark a step forward towards its own liberation, a step towards socialism.
Nothing could be further from the truth. With the conditions that prevail today in this country, the independence of Quebec would not mean a step forward towards socialism. it would be a step backwards. However, this is not obvious to everyone, and warrants some attention. The people who parade the banner of “independence and socialism” around, to catch the attention of Quebec workers, are hard at work perpetuating a number of falsehoods in every demagogical way.
The PQ referendum is not about independence. lf the PQ side wins, Quebec will not be independent. The Parti Quebecois will not accomplish the first stage of the supposed struggle for “independence and socialism”. The Quebecois capitalists, even the most nationalist among them, abandoned the idea of separating from Canada a long time ago. The reason is quite simple: it goes against their interests. The publicly-stated objective of the PQ communicates this fact better than the dissection of any of their speeches. Sovereignty is the bait to hook those who want to fight against national oppression and who didn’t wait for the Messiahs from the PQ to appear to start that fight. Association means the unity of Capital from sea to shining sea, for the good of all capitalists.
In other words, the PO is a capitalist party. It works on behalf of the capitalists. The difference between the PQ and the other capitalist parties is not that it is calling for a different social system. What’s different is that they are looking for a new sharing of powers. The sharing will just be between groups of capitalists. Keep it in the family.
But that’s not fair, shriek the supporters of “independence and socialism”. We are not calling for sovereignty association. What we want is real independence. What we want is freedom from imperialist domination. Our nationalist-socialist friends should stop playing with words. For starters, they should quit pretending that sovereignty-association would be a step towards independence.
Furthermore, it must be clearly stated (and not covered up in a mountain of rhetoric) that the struggle for a socialist Quebec will still face the same enemies regardless of whether Quebec is federated to the rest.of Canada as at present or “associated” with Canada according to the PQ formula. Those enemies are the Canadian bourgeoisie, including Quebec capitalists, and its imperialists allies, starting with the U.S. All of these fine people will be solidly united in opposition to any attempt by the Quebec people to transform sovereignty-association or the struggle for independence into a revolutionary struggle.
In short, whatever twists and turns lie down the road in the fight for socialism in Canada, one thing is certain: the success of that struggle depends on achieving the greatest possible unity of the working class, it is utterly ridiculous to argue that the working class ought to divide itself into two different countries in order to accomplish this unity. It is completely absurd to justify this with the false argument, disproven many times, that the battle for socialism would be easier if it were led by a more nationally “pure” and homogeneous working class.
Working class unity is a must right now if effective resistance is to be mounted to the crisis measures imposed by the capitalists. Unity is necessary to stand up against all the attacks on our democratic rights. Unity is the key in putting an end to the discrimination suffered by the oppressed nations. The working class faces a powerful and aggressive enemy which is solidly united despite the real contradictions within its ranks. The people’s forces are not going to win by dividing themselves.
Those gentlemen who dress up as socialists in order to push nationalism in the working class are the objective allies of the capitalists who have seized the leadership of the Quebec movement of resistance to national oppression and are busily honing it into a toot of their ambition to join the ranks of monopoly capital. The “left” nationalists would have us believe that the national demands of the Quebec people can only be met through independence. Thus, they claim, the task is to transform bourgeois independence into a socialist independence. In reality, they find themselves in the camp of those promoting division of the working class and reactionary policies.
The “independence and socialism” thesis must be thoroughly demolished in Quebec, in Canada, and in all industrialized countries. Ever since the Second World War, this approach has constituted a major obstacle to the development of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, and especially to the creation of the proletarian party. The “independence and socialism” thesis expresses the ideology of the social strata corrupted by monopoly capital, notably the petty bourgeoisie and labour aristocracy. These strata would like to believe and have others accept that home-grown national monopolies are somehow less exploitative than foreign monopolies and less subject to the impact of the general capitalist crisis. Capitalist enterprises, inevitably move towards becoming monopolies, regardless of the nationality of their owners. And monopolies are precisely the material basis of imperialism.
Supporting Quebec independence in the name of the light for socialism is a monumental hoax. It flows from the same kind of logic that leads others to preach the nationalization of INCO or Pratt and Whitney as the cure for all our ills. It is the same pattern of thinking which leads some to call for strengthening the Canadian army. When yor get right down to it, the nationalists from Canadian Dimension, the Moscow-line CP or Beijing-line WCP, the nationalists in the Quebec unions and their Trotskyist bedfellows all belong to the same family of agents of the bourgeoisie in the workers’ movement. It is up to the working class to show these agents that it will not be duped by their political nonsense and deceitful rhetoric.