First Published: In Struggle! No. 76 (Vol. 4, No. 7) November 24, 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Oppression in Quebec dates back to the colonial period when the British Empire completely controlled and dominated its colonies, especially in America. Indeed this colonial domination is not specific to Quebec (Lower Canada) for it also applied to Ontario (Upper Canada). However colonial oppression was especially important in Quebec as it was an old French colony that went through the hardships of a conquest. With the conquest, the Quebec nation was placed in a position of inferiority. Rights as legitimate as the expression in ones own language were denied. If Confederation almost put an end to England’s domination over its colonies in Canada, it did not, however, change the situation of the inferiority of the Quebec nation. But, when Canada became a politically independent country of bourgeois democracy, the national oppression of Quebec which had been until then a colonial question, became one that directly linked to the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie.
Quebec is not a colony of Canada but a province the capitalists, who created the Canadian capitalist State, set up to be “just like the others”, in contempt of its legitimate national rights denied by the British Empire.
If today the Quebec francophones still encounter national oppression, it is because it works in the favor of the ruling class, the capitalists, whose interests are to divide the people, to maintain racism, to deny the cultural, linguistic, political and economic rights of the Quebec nation.
Quebec suffers oppression as a nation. Its right to self-determination and to secession is not recognized. The francophone’s linguistic rights are denied. Quite frequently, they must work in a foreign language, as is the case for the workers of General Motors or Bell Canada, as is also the case for the Quebec air-traffic workers. The standard of living of Quebec francophones compared to that of other ethnic groups is one of the lowest. We could also mention the racism of many English-speaking fanatics who systematically refuse to respect the legitimate rights of the francophone majority of Quebec.
But why? Why are Blacks in the United States treated as inferior individuals? Why are the Native people and Inuits in Canada reduced to social welfare and humiliation, why are they stripped of their territorial rights? Because capitalism is a regime of exploitation and oppression. Because the bourgeoisie that exploits the workers also oppresses the nations and national minorities in order to create strata of “cheap labor”, to divide the people, and to hide the fundamental contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie by arousing racism and chauvinism among the different strata of the people.
The interest of the proletariat is to fight against all forms of national oppression. The interest of the Canadian workers, francophone or anglophone, is to unite in order to attack the fundamental cause of their oppression, capitalism. The Canadian proletariat must recognize the Quebec nation’s right to self-determination, including the right to secession. Consequently, it must support the holding of a referendum if it is correctly worded, so that the Quebec nation can express its opinion for or against secession. Canadian workers, all Canadian workers must oppose all the bold manoeuvres of the bourgeoisie aimed at preventing the separation of Quebec, if such is the choice expressed by the majority of the Quebec people.
However, in the current circumstances, the independence proposed by the PQ is contrary to the fundamental and immediate interests of the Quebec working class and people. And we must firmly defend this point of view in order to prove it. First, it is important to understand that if national oppression flows from the very existence of capitalist exploitation, the PQ, far from being opposed to capitalism, aims at reinforcing it to the profit of a nationalist segment of the Quebec bourgeoisie. Lead by members of the ruling class, supported by business circles, the PQ, whose independence project would break the organizational links between the Quebec proletariat and that of the rest of Canada, aims in other respects at working out a new agreement with the Canadian State. Thus, Quebec, allegedly independent, wouldn’t even control its money and its customs duties In short, it would mean unity for the bourgeois and division for the people.
The capitalist independence put forward by the PQ is a strange sort of sovereignty that would allow American imperialism to dominate Canada and particularly Quebec, even more. It is clear, indeed, that the Quebec capitalists, even if they are supported by the bourgeois State, will never be strong enough to control the economy of Quebec by themselves. They will have to depend on foreign capital and accept the conditions required by capitalists of other countries, mainly by the American imperialists who will grab their chance to super-exploit the workers. What an interesting independence!
The separation of Quebec means the division of the Canadian proletariat’s forces against capitalism and against the bourgeois State. It is an open door to the still greater interference of American imperialism. In other words, the separation of Quebec, far from attacking the inferiority and dependent position of the working people of Quebec, is, on the contrary, an obstacle to its emancipation, a barrier to a united struggle against the Canadian bourgeoisie and American imperialism. For, if national oppression and chauvinism are an important barrier to our unity in the struggle for socialism, a barrier we must overcome, on the other hand, the separation of Quebec would weaken us just as much by isolating our struggles as by reinforcing the hold of American imperialism on Canada. In short, the separation of Quebec would only be a way to settle the national question in accordance with the interests of the bourgeoisie.
Finally, only the workers can really put an end to national oppression in the interests of the people and in favor of our struggle for socialism. Comrades, we must be fully aware of this. In struggling against capitalism and for socialism, our duty is also to liberate the people from all forms of oppression. And we must immediately hold high the banner of democratic struggle, particularly that of the struggle against national oppression, we must carry it from one end of the country to the other.
Defend the national interests of the Quebec people!
Oppose the capitalist independence of the PQ!