Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

In Struggle!

The national question in Canada can only be solved through the proletarian revolution

First Published: In Struggle No. 85, March 31, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The socialist proletarian revolution in Canada is not and will not be a “one sole action”, to use Lenin’s expression. It is a series of conflicts and battles on all fronts on an unlimited number of questions. Among them the national question occupies a special place. And, as in the case of all questions that influence the revolutionary process, the Canadian proletariat must see that its point of view triumphs.

To do this, it needs not only a solid grounding and understanding in Marxist-Leninist principles on the matter but also a concrete analysis of the historical development of this question in our country [1]. In this regard Stalin teaches us that the process of men constituting themselves into nations is a specific historical process, that of the liquidation of feudalism and the development of capitalism.[2] However, we must remember that the historical origins of the national question in our country are to be found in the very beginnings of the presence of British and French colonialists on Canadian territory. Their activities here intervened in and led to the liquidation of the socio-economic bases of the lives of the Native people, as well as the development of capitalism.

The abolition of the colonial regime and the definitive taking of State power by the Canadian bourgeoisie in 1867 did not put an end to the national question in Canada. On the contrary, the development of capitalism continued, and in fact widened, the national oppression that had been practiced under the French and British colonialists. This has been all the more true since capitalism in our country reached its imperialist stage in the first decades of the century: national oppression thus developed and became a generalized phenomenon as the Canadian bourgeoisie became a thoroughly and absolutely reactionary bourgeoisie.

This means that the proletariat must break with the narrow vision of things which reduces the national question in Canada to the question of the oppression of the nation of Quebec alone. Although this oppression has been the principal and dominant characteristic of the national question in Canada, it is very important not to lose sight of the fact that the development of capitalism in Canada and the national oppression practiced by the Canadian bourgeoisie also leads to a continuing and denial of the national rights of the Native people as well as those of the francophone minorities outside Quebec, especially the Acadians. The historical importance of the national question to the revolution in Canada resides principally in the fact that it has always been an important (if not the most important) factor of division within the Canadian working class movement. However, if we approach this question correctly, the national oppression which, for the Canadian proletariat, is today a burden, will become a powerful factor of revolt and unification of the strengths of the Canadian working class movement and all the other strata of oppressed and exploited people that are subject to the national oppression of the Canadian bourgeoisie.

> What does it mean to approach the national question correctly?

It means essentially, to adopt the proletarian view point on the national question. And the way to distinguish the true Marxist position from the phoney ones, on the national question, the way to distinguish that which truly represents the cause of the revolutionary proletariat is to recognize the class character of this question, and to struggle resolutely against any attempt even the most subtle, to separate the national question from the class question.

In our country, where capitalism has reached its advanced stage and where all forms of national oppression are inseparably linked to the domination of the Canadian bourgeoisie on the social fabric of the country as a whole, what distinguishes true Marxism from the phoney brand on the national question in general is the recognition that this question can only be solved in a revolutionary way within the context of the proletarian revolution.

And to be successful, the proletarian revolution needs the highest possible unity of the Canadian proletariat as a whole. That is why Canadian Marxist-Leninists must make the moving closer together of proletarians of all the nations and peoples in Canada the essential basis of their program on the national question. This is bow Lenin puts it:

At the root of all the policies of the Communist International on the national and colonial questions, we must place the drawing together of the proletarians and labouring masses of all nations and of all countries for the common revolutionary struggle with the aim of overthrowing the landowners and the ruling class. For only this drawing together guarantees the victory over capitalism without which the supression of the national yoke and inequality of rights is impossible.[3]

It is only in this way, and not in trying to be more nationalist than the PQ, or “inventing” a Native national liberation struggle, that Marxist-Leninists will end up by solidly opposing all forms and all attempts at national oppression.

But the bringing together of proletarians, although essential, faces a very real and very big obstacle, one that is the objective base of all national division in Canada: this obstacle is national oppression. As a result, Marxist-Leninists resolutely oppose all attacks against the national rights of oppressed nations and oppressed national minorities; in addition, they include in their program the principle of the equality of nations and languages and that of opposition to any privileges whatsoever in this regard.

Here in Canada, that means the Marxist-Leninists must be involved in the practical struggle for the recognition of the right of the nation of Quebec to self-determination, up to and including separation, as well as the guarantee of the national rights of the native populations.

Under no circumstances can we drop this point in our program for dropping it would be dropping Marxism. In fact, Marxism teaches that the liberation of the working class in any country whatsoever cannot be achieved if the nation which the workers belong to oppresses another nation. This clearly shows the inseparable link between the necessity of bringing proletarians closer together and the necessity of struggling for the recognition of national rights, and in particular the right of self-determination.

Generally speaking, we can say until the contrary proves true, that a solid unity of views exists within the Canadian communist movement on the national question. The election of the PQ government in Quebec, however, is going to put this unity of views of communists on the national question to the test. For we are increasingly going to have to translate our positions of principle into concrete demands and it is at that point that differences could surface. These differences, like all others, will be settled through struggle. This struggle will not be fruitful unless it is raised to the level of the struggle around the program of Marxist-Leninists on the national question where we win truly be able to measure the breadth and depth of our unity. The second conference of Marxist-Leninists win enable all those who have at heart the interests of the proletariat to do this, and people should get involved in preparing for it!


[1] “There can be no question of the Marxists of any country drawing up their national program without taking into account all these general historical and concrete State conditions.*#8221; V.I. Lenin C.W. Vol. 20, Progress Publishers, Moscow, p. 401.

[2] J.V. Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, C.W., Vol 2, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow.

[3] Id. (1)