We will never be as free and equal as we want but the day the running of society will be in the hands of the workers. By overthrowing the bourgeoisie and by establishing a new society, the revolutionary proletariat will abolish all forms of national discrimination and will wage fierce struggle against all types of racism and chauvinism that will linger within society.
To develop a revolutionary point of view in regard to the national question in Canada, we must distinguish truth from falsehood. It is of the utmost importance to unmask the bourgeois point of view on this question propagated by mainstream newspapers, television and in the parliaments. The bourgeoisie is lying to us. It is seeking to maintain its political domination on us in Québec and in Canada; and the national question is no exception.
There is more than one position on the Québec national question. There is also more than one set of interests to be defended. The Québec bourgeoisie defends its interests; the different parts of the Canadian bourgeoisie are also doing so. What we commonly hear about the Québec national question concerns these interests. This is what is at stake and explains the nature of the contention with this matter for more than 30 years.
The existence of a Québec bourgeoisie ruling its political and economical development with its own tools—which includes a “strong” state—clearly shows that as a nation, Québec is no longer subjected to any form of oppression that would prevent its own development and would then justify—as some people still want us to believe—a national liberation struggle including all the classes in this province in order to achieve political independence.
In the rest of Canada, chauvinism and nationalism pushed forward by the big Canadian bourgeoisie only served to create divisions within the Canadian proletariat and between us and the proletarians abroad. There is an absence of a proletarian watchword on the national question. Whether it is the trade-unions leaders of the CLC, the NDP or the Québec trade-unions, they all rely on a bourgeois point of view. This point of view means that in issues of national matters, the interests of the nation always supersede that of the proletariat.
As proletarians, we do not have to make a choice between small or big capitalists. Neither one will try to put an end to our exploitation. On the contrary, the capitalists, and different parts of the bourgeoisie among them, will use nationalism and chauvinism to their profit. They use us to make their own outlooks prevail. In one case or another, it is always for their own benefit and our cost.
Communists throughout Canada have as their main objective to detach the proletariat from any bourgeois “national programme.” We must put forth our own programme that speaks out clearly against all types of national division and oppression and strives for the unity of the proletariat throughout the country.
Canada, a prison for the First Nations
Canada, as the other states born of European colonialism in America, was built on violence, exploitation and oppression towards the First Nations. Before the arrival of the white man in Canada, more than a million Natives lived on these lands. The arrival of the French and the English, who brought war and disease, took its toll on the Native populations killing most of them. In some cases, 80%, 90% and even 95% of some Native communities perished. The Natives needed many centuries (up until now in fact) to rebuild their populations back to their original size.
Nowadays, their situation is still very precarious. Their living conditions leave them with poverty and misery. Their life expectancy is eight years lower than that of the average Canadian. Twice as many children die, as compared to the rest of the Canadian population. Their youth are seven times more likely to commit suicide. In most regions, their level of unemployment is three, even four times higher than the Canadian average.
The living conditions on the reserves are harsh. The governments in Canada have clearly demonstrated that they are unable to solve this problem. The development of the Native struggles and their radicalization, as well as the constitutional stalemate and the dead end in negotiations around their territorial rights, have reached an explosive point.
Today in Canada, there are more and more Native struggles and Native movements putting forth their claims. This is a very important component of the current political situation. Despite the policies of assimilation and of genocide towards the Native people that have permitted Canada to become a powerful capitalist country, they have never ceased in waging struggle. Their fierce resistance, the struggle of the Mohawks in 1990, of the Ipperwash in Ontario, of Gustafsen Lake in British Columbia, the various constitutional crises in Canada, reminds us of this reality. In the last 12 years particularly, new forces have arisen amongst them and are becoming stronger and stronger. Because of those currents, their movements tend to be more radical and directed against the bourgeoisie and its state. We support and defend those currents. The revolutionary proletariat must forge an alliance with the First Nations and unite with them in a great movement of struggle against the Canadian imperialist bourgeoisie.
Today, the Québec state is an imperialist oppressor that we must fight!
To defend communist principles on the national issue means to analyze concretely the situation that exists today. Concerning the national question in Québec, we must reject commonplaces and clichés that the reformist Left and the opportunists propagate. To claim that Québec has played the part of an oppressed nation historically within Canada is one thing. To voluntarily blind oneself to its current reality and in the face of changes that have taken place after almost 40 years of domination—if not of hegemony—by the national movement in Québec: this is a big mistake, that has been made at the cost of the proletariat.
Let’s conclude about that evolution:
- Québec is not under colonial or semi-colonial rule, nor under the domination of an imperialist country. All political rights given within any bourgeois democracy are fully granted to Québec. In the last 20 years this province was able to hold three referendums on the constitutional issue. Quebecers were able to express themselves as freely as possible under bourgeois democracy (which is obviously relative), in order to exercise their right to self-determination.
- The Québec national movement of the last 30 to 40 years that has rallied around the sovereignist and separatist outlook has for the most part harboured ideas contrary to the interests of the proletariat. This question not only acted as a brake in developing the struggle of the proletariat, but it also served to build a strong state in the service of the bourgeoisie.
- The Québec state and its bourgeoisie are integrated in the worldwide imperialist system. It is not on the side of the dominated countries, but on the side of the dominating countries. The Québec state, its “national” institutions, its financial network, its big ideological apparatus, the capitalists in the middle-size firms, shares the attributes, the characteristics and the aspirations of imperialism. This is clearly demonstrated in its relationship with the First Nations. From a status of oppressed nation, Québec is now an oppressor nation.
For 30 years, the Québec bourgeoisie has completely dominated all talks about Québec’s national question. Their propaganda also succeeded in reaching the very heart of the workers movement. For the proletariat, this resulted in a disaster. After 40 years of squabbles subtly entertained between various fractions of the bourgeoisie, the trade union and grass roots movements in Québec have been won over to a “consensus” created by the bourgeoisie in the province, which is embodied by the P.Q. Taking full advantage of this “consensus,” it succeeds in attacking a disarmed proletariat. Enough is enough! We must rid ourselves of the yoke of nationalism. The proletariat throughout this country, of any nationality, must take the tools that will help us to unite!
A programme to unify the proletariat in Canada
In Canada, aside from the Québec and Canadian nations, there are about 50 Native Nations. The growing assertiveness and developing struggles of the First Nations and Métis are troublesome for the federal government. There are more than one million Natives in Canada. In the Maritimes, there are more than 300,000 Acadians, mainly to be found in New Brunswick. They also comprise important minority groups in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. In Ontario, there are nearly 500,000 Franco-Ontarians. In Western Canada, there are also many French minority groups. There are more than 160,000 of them. In certain cases they are practically devoid of all rights. They are sometimes left unprotected by the law in this regard, being deprived of access to education in the language of their choice. These issues of different nationalities have lingered since the foundation of Canada. They result from the process of conquest and the development of capitalism in North America. The conditions of these different nations are closely linked to the reality of capitalism in Canada. Capitalism in Canada has grown out of the oppression of the First Nations, of the Québec nation, of the French living outside of Québec and of other national minorities.
The only way to heal once and for all the historic wounds that French Québec has sustained is by waging the general struggle for absolute equality of all languages and nations. This includes also the rights of the French people outside of Québec. A struggle on any other basis only plays into the hands of bourgeois nationalism and consequently loses its democratic character.
• For the absolute equality of all languages and nations!
We have to fight for the equality of all languages and nations. We shall oppose ourselves to any forms of privilege and national exclusivism, such as unilinguism. The struggles targeting the bourgeoisie and its state apparatus, in order to fight national oppression and for equality, are part and parcel of a general resisting movement against capitalism. This reinforces the revolutionary camp.
Otherwise, nationalism and chauvinism reinforce class collaboration, weakens the proletariat and turns us away from revolution. This reinforces the bourgeoisie, both in Québec and in Canada.
By struggling for the equality of all languages and nations, we are not only fighting for the rights of the workers in Québec, but also of those throughout Canada so they can live, work and be educated in their language. Capitalist society cannot satisfy these demands. To satisfy them would mean a greater investment in time and in money for the ruling class. The issue at hand is indeed complex, but a lot can be expected if we are able to move from a profit making to a classless society, in which production is aimed at satisfying everyone’s needs!
• Struggle against national oppression and for the right to self-determination for oppressed nations!
We uphold the right of self-determination for the oppressed nations. This means their political right to separate. This right is denied to the First Nations. They have never been able to exercise it. Their aspirations for emancipation have always been suppressed with violence by the bourgeois state apparatus, in Québec as in Canada. Wherever the Natives are oppressed, we must fight with them; we must seek to weaken the bourgeoisie who oppresses them!
• The Québec sovereignist movement: a 100% bourgeois project!
The Québec nationalist movement is a ploy to create a fallacious unity between the ruling class and the proletariat. It serves the purpose of reinforcing class collaboration and for maintaining social peace. After more than 30 years of national struggle in Québec, the support of the organized workers’ movement to the sovereignist project has only served the interests of the upper class. The exploitation of the proletariat has in no way been solved. The reason is because this exploitation is no longer based on national oppression, but stems from the nature of capitalism itself.
Nothing, absolutely nothing in the sovereignist project of Québec will lead to the emancipation of the working class. The upper class and the workers movement blinded by nationalism will not admit this. However, we, of the working class, herald this truth loud and clear!
• To win over nationalism and chauvinism, we must vanquish capitalism!
Currently, even if certain realities of national oppression still exist, it is because the bourgeoisie and its various components have always been against thoroughly democratic and fair solutions. It is by struggling against the bourgeoisie that the working class will be able to lead an uncompromising struggle against national oppression wherever it may occur. The proletariat has no interest in perpetrating or entertaining any form of national oppression. For this reality only serves the interest of the ruling class. It derives super profits from this state of affairs and maintains its domination on the workers through the divisions it creates. Also we must be against any form of privilege one nation may have over another—whether it takes the form of unilinguism, in Québec or in any other province.
The Canadian proletariat must lead an uncompromising struggle against nationalism and chauvinism. They divide the working class throughout the country. Our struggle must take on the form of a struggle for the consolidation of the unity of our class and all of the most exploited classes on a “national” basis which encompasses Natives, but also other minorities stemming from immigration, and refugees.
• Against division, we must unite!
Generally speaking, our claims and slogans, in regard to all our struggles, to every political question should be formulated in the following way: What divides us? What unites us? The proletarian immigrants, the refugees share the same interests we do over the question of exploitation. We must wage struggle with them throughout Canada in order to free ourselves from the chains of division, of racism. We must unite with them to build a revolutionary force. In Québec, also we must break away from class collaboration and compromises that nationalism leads us into.