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The Revolutionary Dynamic of the
National Struggle in Quebec (1975)

Resolution adopted at the Eleventh Pan-Canadian Convention of the League for Socialist Action/Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière, December 27-30, 1975, in Toronto.

The Revolutionary Dynamic of the
National Struggle in Quebec

Quebec, An Oppressed Nation

Quebec is an oppressed nation within the Canadian state. The Quebecois constitute a nation sharing a common national language, French; a common culture and history that date back to France’s former North American colony; and a common territory, roughly encompassed by the borders of the present province of Quebec. Quebec has its own political life and national institutions. There is a well-defined national consciousness corresponding to this objective reality. This consciousness permeates the political, social, and cultural life of Quebec.

The oppression of the Quebec nation originated in the British conquest of the French colony in 1760 and the defeat of the national revolutionary uprising of 1837, which was an attempt at a bourgeois democratic revolution like that launched by the American colonists more than sixty years earlier. In Quebec, central national tasks of the bourgeois revolution were not accomplished: the overthrow of imperial rule and the achievement of national independence; the formation of a unified Quebec market encompassing a common nationality; and the establishment of French as the recognized national language of all economic, social, and political activities.

The Quebecois suffer the political, cultural, and economic domination of imperialism.

The Quebec nation is deprived of its democratic right to political self-determination. The Canadian constitution nowhere recognizes the right of the Quebecois or any other nationality to decide their own fate, up to and including the right to secede and form their own state if they so desire. On the contrary, the British North America Act, the founding document of the Canadian state, is the juridical and institutional framework for Quebec’s national oppression.

Francophones, more than 80 percent of the population, suffer discrimination against their language that makes them second-class citizens. English, the language of the oppressor nation, is the language of privilege.

French-speaking workers, with an unemployment rate much higher than the English, are a source of cheap labor for the capitalists. The Quebec economy is dominated by big English-Canadian and American corporations. The main instrument of domination is the Canadian imperialist state.

Because Quebec is an oppressed nation, we support its right to self-determination. We support all demands directed against its national oppression.

However, although it is an oppressed nation, Quebec differs in important ways from the countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America that are under imperialist domination. That is, it has features that distinguish it from colonies under direct imperial rule and semicolonies that have achieved formal political independence while remaining subservient to imperialism. Quebec’s economy is that of an advanced capitalist country. It is highly industrialized and monopolized, and has developed a level of productive efficiency that ranks it among the most advanced capitalist countries. In contrast to colonial and semicolonial countries, in Quebec the working class constitutes the great majority of the nation. The poor farmers are only a small minority and there are no landless peasants. Trade union membership is higher in Quebec than in most West European countries and the rest of North America. The workers have a tradition of militant struggles against the American, English-Canadian, and Quebec capitalists. Thus, in contrast to the situation in the colonial countries, the Quebec working class has great social weight. Quebec is highly integrated into the economy and the market of the oppressor English-Canadian nation.

These factors distinguishing Quebec from a colony or semicolony only increase the explosive anticapitalist force of its national struggle. In his theory of the permanent revolution, Trotsky explained that in this historical period, the epoch of the death agony of world imperialism, the unaccomplished national democratic tasks of the oppressed peoples cannot be accomplished by a bourgeois-democratic revolution. Since the First World War, no oppressed nation has won complete liberation from the imperialist yoke within the framework of the capitalist system. The system, dependent on the superprofits that accrue from the oppression of the colonies and semicolonies, stands as a block to their national liberation.

The existence of the national bourgeoisie in Quebec is closely bound up with the maintenance of imperialist domination. Thus the Quebec bourgeoisie cannot lead the national liberation struggle. Only the proletarian revolution can establish the bases for the elimination of national oppression, accomplishing at one and the same time the national democratic tasks and the expropriation of capital. The leadership of the national liberation struggle falls to the working class.

For all these reasons, then, the revolution in Quebec will combine the struggle for workers’ power with the struggle for national liberation. It is not excluded that in the course of their struggles the masses can win some important concessions on the level of national demands. Even the possibility of the formation of an independent Quebec state under a capitalist government cannot be completely dismissed. But all international experience teaches that it will require nothing less than a socialist revolution to overcome the deeply-rooted national oppression of the Quebecois. Moreover, because of the increasing social crisis of the capitalist system, the Canadian bourgeoisie will have less and less room to maneuver by making concessions.

The Canadian capitalist class has every economic and political interest in upholding Confederation, and especially in maintaining the national oppression of the Quebecois.

For the Canadian capitalists Quebec constitutes an important source of raw materials and manufactured goods, and an outlet for investment. Encompassing more than a quarter of Canada’s population, and geographically dividing the country in half, Quebec is a very important part of the Canadian market. Quebec’s self-determination would threaten to rob Canadian capital of all these assets.

Quebec’s French-speaking workers provide a cheap labor force, shouldering the burden of an unemployment rate that is the highest of all regions in Canada outside the Atlantic provinces. The capitalists depend on such sources of cheap labor and reserve armies of labor to push back the wage demands of workers and to increase their profits.

The capitalist class uses national oppression to increase the divisions between the relatively privileged English-Canadian workers and their French-speaking brothers and sisters, just as it promotes the oppression of women and chauvinist discrimination against immigrant workers. Promoting such divisions helps the capitalists protect their system against a potential challenge to its domination from the working class and its allies. These divisions also serve to reinforce the superexploitation of the oppressed, increasing the profits of big business. The ruling class relies on this strategy to an increasing degree in periods of growing social crisis.

It is vitally important for the Canadian bourgeoisie to preserve Confederation, because the federal state is the major instrument for the national oppression of Quebec. The ruling class has doubts as to the viability of the Canadian state if Quebec were to leave Confederation. Even should Ottawa be obliged to concede political independence in order to head off a more dangerous outcome—a socialist revolution—an independent and capitalist Quebec would likely be very unstable, given the strength of the labor movement, the weakness of the national bourgeoisie, and the explosive character of the national and social contradictions in Quebec. This is probably why, up to now, no important sector of the Quebec bourgeoisie (whose interests are closely linked to the fate of the Canadian bourgeoisie) has opted for Quebec independence.

Because of the national question, social struggles in Quebec are generally more explosive than in English Canada. Quebec workers bear the main brunt of national oppression, and this in large measure explains their great militancy in action, which places them in the vanguard of the labor movement in North America. Struggles against national oppression were central in leading the Quebec student movement far beyond the political level of its English-Canadian counterpart. Even indirect expressions of national oppression have strongly influenced the course of social protest movements: the exceptional political weight of the Catholic Church (a product of national oppression) makes the struggle of women for the right to abortion more difficult, but also more explosive.

The tremendous pressure of the nationalist movement, combined with the relative stability of the Canadian economy before 1974, enabled the Quebecois to extract some concessions in the last decade. Laws were introduced that amounted at least in theory to concessions toward increasing the role of French in Quebec. For example, Law 22, declaring French the sole official language in Quebec, tends to legitimize the concept of a French Quebec, although it did little to improve the status of the French language. Moreover, some gains in wages have been made. The wage gap between Ontario and Quebec workers has narrowed considerably, although it still remains quite wide.

But in the present situation of increasingly acute economic crisis, it will be more and more difficult to win even minor concessions of this type.

Nationalism in Quebec

In general terms, nationalism is an identification with the integrity, independence, values, culture, or language of a nation or nationality.

It is the belief that the nation as a whole has common problems, common goals, or common tasks, and that the pursuit of these goals requires a common struggle or a process of common endeavor. The resolution Canada and the Crisis of World Imperialism, adopted at the April 1973 convention of the LSA/LSO, traced the origins of nationalism:

"Nationalism was born in the epoch of rising capitalism. It reflected the need of the new capitalist class to establish large, independent, unified nation states as the basis of the capitalist market. In the imperialist countries, these ‘national tasks’ were accomplished long ago — for the dominant nationalities. For these nations today, nationalist concepts do not correspond to any progressive national tasks.

"On the contrary, in the imperialist countries, nationalism is the ideology of the ruling class, of class collaboration. Here nationalism has served the ruling classes well, lining up the working class behind imperialist exploitation and wars, pitting one section of the oppressed against another. Nationalism is the recruiting drum for imperialist war, calling on the workers to ‘die for their country’ and slaughter their brothers and sisters who live under a different flag. Nationalism is the classic justification for imperialist exploitation of colonial peoples, the ‘lesser breeds without the law.’ In fulfilling this function, it takes the particular form of racism—the ideological justification of the pillage and enslavement of the nonwhite world by the ‘master race.’...

"Matters stand completely differently for nations where the expansion of imperialism has cut off the completion of the bourgeois-democratic revolution and has subjugated, oppressed, and colonized entire peoples. Not only do national tasks of a progressive character remain to be accomplished here, but they can be carried out completely only through the victory of a socialist revolution. In such situations, national consciousness can play a profoundly progressive role, because it stimulates and propels forward the struggle for national liberation. This, for example, is the case in Quebec."

The nationalist movement has deep historical roots in Quebec: the best-known examples are the rebellion of 1837, the defense campaign for Louis Riel, and the movements against conscription during the first and second World Wars. Rapid industrialization and proletarianization during and after the Second World War caused profound social changes, laying the basis for a new nationalist upsurge. The rise of national liberation movements in the colonial countries after 1945, inspired above all by the victory of the Chinese revolution and leading to the Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions, influenced a new generation of Quebec youth. A new upsurge of the Quebec national movement has been under way since the early 1960s.

Despite some contradictory features, this new rise of nationalism has been a profoundly progressive phenomenon. The nationalism of the Quebec masses is based on real oppression, in contrast to the completely reactionary nationalism of English Canadians. The rise of nationalism in Quebec signifies above all a radicalization of working people struggling against their oppression as Quebecois. Moreover, it promotes their struggle against their exploitation as workers.

The progressive impact national consciousness has had on the development of the class struggle was emphasized in the resolution adopted by the 1968 convention of the LSA/LSO, entitled Vive le Quebec Libre:

"A strong national consciousness has arisen from this condition of national oppression: a self-identification as Quebecois, an awareness and resentment of English oppression, and often of the ‘Uncle Tom’ role of French leaders of church, industry and government....

"The independent dynamic of Quebecois nationalism has been more and more clearly seen, as it has broken out of the control of the national bourgeois who have shown their incapacity to defend, let alone extend the national interests of French Canada. Quebecois nationalism today presents a formidable challenge to the rulers of Ottawa and Washington, of Bay and St. James streets and Wall Street....

"National consciousness has given new dimensions to the class struggle which is developing on a wider scale at all levels of Quebec society today.

"The student is made more strongly aware of the limitation of his perspective in Quebec society by the discrimination he must face as a French Canadian in a society dominated by Anglo-American capitalism. The petty-bourgeois can have fewer illusions about his possibilities for advancement. Most of all, the worker’s struggle is heightened by the fact that the boss is English-speaking and that his exploitation is redoubled because of his nationality.

"The Quebec workers share the problems of their English-Canadian brothers — of inflation, unemployment, ‘speed-up,’ insecurity of employment, anti-labor legislation — and struggle against the same enemy, ensconced in both the corporation boardrooms and the state councils. But if the English-speaking worker is held back by illusions as to the nature of the system and his exploitation, the French-speaking worker is more conscious of his exploitation and less inhibited in his reactions. Everywhere he looks there are forces trying to crush his identity as a French Canadian. At work he must speak the boss’s language — English. His children are victims of inferior education, while his culture and language deteriorate under the pressure of English domination. He is doubly oppressed — as a worker and as a Quebecois. The national oppression of Quebec workers gives their struggle a militancy and a revolutionary dynamic which assures that the workers of Quebec will play a vanguard role in the socialist transformation of Canada."

[At the time this was written, the terms "French Canadians" and "Quebecois" were used interchangeably by the oppressed national minority to refer to themselves. Today the term "Quebecois" has found almost universal acceptance among francophone inhabitants of Quebec. In a similar fashion, Black people in the United States moved away from calling themselves "Negroes." Many first adopted the term "Afro-Americans" before settling on "Blacks," the label in common use today.]

Contradictory Aspects

Of course, the nationalism of the oppressed is a contradictory phenomenon. National consciousness promotes the class struggle where it corresponds to tasks faced by the oppressed in the class struggle: the need for liberation from their oppression and the need to unite in struggle against specific aspects of that oppression. This nationalist consciousness of the masses is progressive. But that is not the case with the nationalist ideology promoted by the capitalist class, which holds that all social classes should unite around a common program based on maintaining capitalist rule.

Nationalist consciousness among the oppressed is not in itself sufficient to win national liberation. It is not a developed class consciousness, still less an awareness of the need for socialism. Revolutionary socialists work to develop the progressive national consciousness of the masses into awareness of the need for a socialist transformation of society.

We give unconditional support to all struggles against national oppression. But we are not nationalists. We fight all attempts to limit the struggle to "national" solutions. We support the national struggles of oppressed peoples because we are internationalists — that is, our political outlook is based on the interests of the working class, which are not limited to the framework of any single nation.

Concretely in Quebec, this means that we support and promote the Quebec masses’ consciousness of the existence of their national oppression, in its linguistic, political, economic, and cultural expressions. We encourage the national pride of the Quebecois in the face of English-Canadian chauvinism, which treats French-speaking persons as "inferiors." We also encourage the feeling that the language spoken in Quebec is a language with dignity, against those who would deprecate it. We press the Quebecois to revolt against every form of injustice perpetrated against them by the capitalist system, and to revolt against English-language privileges. All these concepts advance the struggle of the Quebecois against their oppression.

But there are also nationalist concepts that do not correspond to the requirements of the struggle for national liberation and socialism, and that play a reactionary role. For example, while we support every struggle against the privileges of the oppressors, we combat any attempt of the oppressed to obtain privileges for themselves at the cost of other oppressed layers. Thus we reject the reactionary desires of some Quebecois to maintain their domination over the Native people in the James Bay area, or to make immigrants the scapegoats for problems such as the anglicization of Quebec’s school system.

We reject any concept that violates democratic rights — such as freedom of speech, or the rights of women — in the name of "the nation as a whole." For example, we support the right of women to abortion against those who want to force Quebec women to bear children as a "solution" to the falling birth rate among francophones. We reject the ideology of class solidarity within the nation. This ideology tells the workers that they must subordinate their class interests to the supposed "interests of the whole nation." The Parti Quebecois, a bourgeois nationalist party, uses this concept in an attempt to unite Quebec workers with French-speaking bosses around its capitalist program.

Reactionary ideas like these may also fall under the broad heading of "nationalism," but in fact they only impede the movement toward national liberation.

Self-Determination and the Independence of Quebec

The right of oppressed nations to self-determination is a basic right recognized by the revolutionary socialist movement since the time of Lenin. It signifies the democratic right of an oppressed nation to be able to determine freely its relationship with the oppressor nation.

This right, denied by the Canadian ruling class and its state institutions, can be established only through mass struggle.

The Quebecois’ recognition that they have the right to determine their own destiny is a very important development in their national consciousness: it is the first step in the struggle for national liberation. The strivings for national self-determination are concretized in Quebec in a number of precise demands directed against the Canadian state, against Confederation, and against linguistic oppression. When Quebecois become aware that Quebec’s status in Confederation or its national language are questions to be decided by the Quebecois, and by them alone, without the intervention of the federal government or of English Canadians, they have crossed an important threshold.

Strivings for national emancipation take several forms of expression. These include demands for a single secular French-language school system or for French as the language of work, as well as opposition to discrimination against those who speak French on the job.

The desire for national emancipation is also expressed through demands directed against the oppressor state as such-whether for political separation from the oppressor state, for limited national autonomy, for equal rights in a multinational state, or for other options.

This latter category of demands concretizes self-determination politically. It expresses the kind of political relationship that the oppressed wish to have with the oppressor nation. It is particularly important because it challenges the state structures that are responsible for maintaining national oppression.

Revolutionary socialists have no particular preference as to which form the struggle for self-determination should take at the state level. Their primary concern is that the chosen forms promote the general struggle against national oppression. But once the right to self-determination has been formulated by the oppressed masses in a precise demand, such as independence, or federation, or some formula for autonomy, socialists are in the forefront of defending it and struggling to win it. That has been our attitude toward the struggles for a democratic and secular Palestine, for a united Ireland, and for an independent Angola.

Even where the will of the majority of the oppressed nation has not been clearly expressed, as is the case in Quebec, we commit ourselves in advance to support the majority’s decision, up to and including separation.

We support the decision of the majority for the simple reason that it is the right of the oppressed nation to decide its fate — a basic democratic right. We emphasize this side of the question above all in our work among the workers in the oppressor nation, defending the decision of the masses and their right to make such a decision. And we do so without posing any preconditions.

But especially within the oppressed nation, revolutionists do not limit themselves to supporting the will of the majority of the oppressed. Our aim is to give political leadership to the masses in all their struggles. We have a responsibility to play a vanguard role in the struggle for self-determination as in all areas of the class struggle. Socialists do not have to wait until the demand for independence wins majority support before they take a position on it. Situations may arise in which a given concrete form of self-determination, while not yet enjoying the support of a majority, emerges as the demand around which the struggle of an oppressed people is taking shape. In such circumstances, socialists can advocate it, for doing so will advance the overall struggle for national liberation. In Quebec, it is dear that the national liberation struggle is today taking shape around the demand for independence.

In colonies like Algeria or Angola before independence, it was clear from the outset of the national liberation struggle that independence from the imperialist metropolis would be the concrete expression of self-determination. In this kind of situation, the masses demand political independence as soon as they begin developing political consciousness. In such cases, revolutionary socialists have always been in the vanguard of the independence struggle — even at the very beginning, when independence may be supported by only a small minority.

The situation is more complex in oppressed nations or nationalities that have been integrated to a considerable degree into the state structures and economy of the oppressing nation, and where there is a certain tradition of joint struggles between the workers of the two nations. Some varied examples of this kind of situation are Quebec, the Basque country in Spain, and the Black communities in the United States. In such cases, it is by no means foreordained that independence is the road that the masses of the oppressed nation will take. In place of independence, for example, they may put forward such demands as autonomy with the right to separation. We have to examine their struggle closely to ascertain what road the masses are taking to achieve self-determination.

In summary, then, we do not advocate a demand such as national independence on the basis of some inherent preference for this or that national structure. We base ourselves on the requirements of the class struggle. We may adopt a position of support for independence on the basis of our support for the will of the majority of the oppressed nation. Where the majority has not given concrete expression to its desires for self-determination, we may advocate independence if we believe that this demand will advance the struggle for self-determination and thereby the class struggle as a whole.

Evolution of the League’s position

What position should be adopted in the case of Quebec?

In English Canada, revolutionary socialists strive to win English Canadians to defend the right of the Quebecois to decide their own future.

In Quebec, revolutionary socialists not only support the right of the Quebecois to self-determination, but must aim to lead the struggle to victory. Does this mean supporting the demand for independence?

The League for Socialist Action/Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière (LSA/ LSO) has always been an intransigent defender of Quebec’s right to self-determination, participating in the struggles of the nationalist movement. But at the beginning of the nationalist upsurge of the 1960s, it was unclear what form the Quebecois would choose to concretize their desire for self-determination at the level of the state. The independentist current was a small minority in the early 1960s. For this reason, the League did not take up the demand for Quebec independence at that time.

But the situation changed toward the end of the decade, as a direct result of mass struggles against national oppression and for the language rights of the French-speaking population. The demand for political independence won increasing support.

This rise of independentism was indicated in several ways. Public opinion polls showed the change. So did resolutions adopted by student, trade union, and nationalist organizations.

The New Democratic Party’s setback in Quebec in the 1968 federal election was also significant. Despite its weak base in Quebec, the NDP had always been identified with the labor movement. In this period the NDP was growing in English Canada, but in Quebec the party’s setbacks resulted mainly from its failure to defend the right of self-determination and from its rigid adherence to federalism.

A further example of the strength of support for independence was the sudden emergence of a major nationalist party, the Parti Quebecois (PQ), around the demand for political independence. Because of the weight of independentist sentiment among the masses, and particularly among advanced workers, the PQ, with the collaboration of the trade union leadership, was able to head off the possible development of a labor party at that time. (The LSO was one of the few left-wing groups in Quebec to stand up against the pressure to support the PQ)

This decisive evidence that nationalist aspirations had assumed an independentist form led the LSA/LSO to adopt the demand for independence in 1970. Its position was explained in the resolution For an Independent and Socialist Quebec.

Experience since then has underscored the correctness of this demand. The concept of an independent Quebec has received massive support among the workers and the radicalizing masses. No other formula for self-determination has received significant support in the labor movement or the nationalist movement. The demand for independence has become an expression of the Quebecois’ total rejection of Confederation and of their determination to end national oppression in general. Moreover, the Canadian bourgeoisie is fiercely opposed to Quebec’s separation, even within a capitalist framework, as are most Quebec capitalists. The demand for independence helps socialists to win the confidence of the masses in the socialist program, and to mobilize them against their national oppression.

Of course, it is not excluded that the struggle might take a different course at some time in the future. The fight for self-determination could take a different form; if it did, we would reexamine our demands in the light of the new situation.

But this is not happening today. The most recent polls confirm that national consciousness and support for independence have continued to grow despite the absence since 1971 of significant mobilizations around explicitly nationalist goals.

So far, independence is the only expression of self-determination at the state level that has any degree of support in Quebec.

Even if the majority has not yet clearly chosen to support independence, we advocate it because it is the political expression of the Quebecois’ desire for self-determination at this time, helping to promote the class struggle as a whole. It is not a question of replacing the demand for self-determination by something more effective, but rather of finding a tangible means of struggling for self-determination that corresponds to the demand advanced by the masses themselves.

The growth and deepening of independentist sentiment are profoundly revolutionary. This sentiment represents the Quebecois’ desire to free themselves from foreign domination and to take their destiny into their own hands.

Do national demands, such as the demand for French as the language of work in Quebec, or the demand for the independence of Quebec, make it more difficult to achieve unity between Quebecois and English-Canadian workers?

To be sure, it is necessary to gain the support of the English Canadian workers if the struggle for full national freedom for Quebec is to triumph.

Supporters of Quebec liberation must examine what course of action can best promote such an alliance. But it is completely wrong to think that unity with the English-Canadian workers can be achieved by toning down or ignoring the national demands of the Quebecois. A powerful struggle for the liberation of Quebec will inspire the workers and oppressed throughout Canada, and will strike a powerful blow against the common enemy, the pan-Canadian state.

What can constitute a barrier to unity is not the national aspirations of the Quebecois, but the chauvinist prejudices of the English Canadian workers. English-Canadian workers must come to understand that their own emancipation requires them to support unconditionally the right of the Quebecois to self-determination and independence from Confederation. We struggle against anti-Quebecois chauvinism among English-Canadian workers. Such chauvinism fosters national divisions among the workers, thus serving the interests of the capitalist class. These divisions will be overcome only when the relatively privileged workers support the most oppressed and exploited. As Marx said, in speaking of the oppression of Ireland, the English workers will never be able to achieve socialism without ending the oppression of the Irish, a precondition for shattering the English ruling class’s domination of England.

National Struggles and Socialist Revolution

Some nationalists argue that national independence is inherently superior to a multinational federation. They say that equality in a multinational state is impossible and that every nation must have its own state. This argument is false. There is no intrinsic merit in a separate flag, a separate currency, a separate army, and a new frontier with customs houses and border guards.

Linguistic and national discrimination in Quebec will be eradicated only when Quebec is freed from the grip of world imperialism. Political independence will not in itself end imperialist domination. The major industries must be nationalized and placed under workers control in a system of socialist planning. Quebec must have a workers government.

The real independence of Quebec from imperialist domination will be achieved only through socialist revolution.

However, most of those who support independence today view their goal as simply one of political independence—separation from Canada. Some think this means an independentist but capitalist government. Many more are not sure just what independence would mean. A growing number seek to understand the link between independence and socialism. But as yet relatively few understand that the two are inextricably linked.

Revolutionary socialists support Quebec independence without laying down conditions. We do not insist that independentists must become socialists before there can be unity in the struggle for independence. Rather, we are convinced that a militant and united struggle for independence will help convince the masses of the need for socialism.

We are for political independence as an expression of the will of the Quebecois to determine their own fate. In this sense, political separation from Canada will be a step forward even if it does not coincide with the establishment of a workers government.

Even if capitalist rule were to be stabilized for some time, an end to the forced participation of Quebec in the Canadian state would help end illusions that the masses’ conditions depend on the nationality of their capitalist rulers. The real roots of class exploitation and national oppression would be exposed more dearly as lying in the capitalist system itself.

The winning of political independence would strike a blow against the mechanism of imperialist domination. As such, it would encourage the Quebec masses to take further steps toward genuine national liberation.

Socialists, however, strive to ensure that the struggle for independence will produce not this limited outcome, but a workers government and full national liberationreal independence. National liberation will be achieved through socialism or not at all.

Our strategic goal — a socialist revolution that will also achieve national emancipation — is summed up in the slogan for an "independent and socialist Quebec." A vital step toward reaching this goal is the formation of a workers government.

Often struggles occur around particular national demands that fall short of political independence. We support such struggles — for example, for greater powers for Quebec, or against the "Victoria Charter" (a 1971 attempt to rewrite the British North America Act)—to the degree that they express the need for self-determination and they advance the class struggle. We advocate methods of mass action as the most effective way to win these struggles.

We urge the unions, as well as students and other potential allies of the working class, to take the lead in the struggle for national rights. But we support all such struggles, even when they are led by bourgeois forces such as the Parti Quebecois, provided that these struggles are directed against the oppressors of Quebec.

In fact, it is important to press the Parti Quebecois and other bourgeois forces the masses look to for leadership to take action against specific aspects of national oppression in Quebec. Socialists stand ready to work alongside all those willing to act concretely to defend the French language, for example.

While building united fronts for action along these lines, socialists give no political support to the Parti Quebecois or other bourgeois or petty-bourgeois forces. We continue to explain that only a socialist revolution can lead to social and national liberation.

We are convinced that in the course of their struggles, the Quebecois masses will come to understand the total incapacity of the PQ and the national bourgeoisie to defend their national rights. As we explained in 1970:

"Everything about this party indicates its thoroughly bourgeois character, its role as an obstacle in the path of the working class.... Far from being a progressive stage in Quebec’s road to national liberation, a PQ government would be a frankly reactionary government." (For an Independent and Socialist Quebec)

The LSA/ISO’s 1968 resolution Vive le Quebec Libre explained that the socialist revolution in Quebec:

"will remove the root causes of national oppression. It will establish once and for all the sovereignty of the French-Canadian people and their independence from any form of foreign domination.... The Quebec people will then be free to establish the relationships they desire with surrounding peoples, and will undoubtedly seek and establish an association with them in a United Socialist States of North America."

Our long-range goal is the voluntary fusion of nations, which can come about only through the complete elimination of inequality among nations, and through a world socialist federation. Lenin explained this goal as follows:

"The aim of socialism is not only to end the division of mankind into tiny states and the isolation of nations in all its forms, it is not only the rapprochement of nations but also their fusion.... In the same way as mankind can arrive at the abolition of classes only through a transition period of the dictatorship of the oppressed class, so can mankind arrive at the inevitable fusion of nations only through a transition period of the complete emancipation of all oppressed nations, i.e., their freedom to secede." (The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self Determination (Theses))

This "transition period of ... complete emancipation" will be for Quebec a period of expansion and development of the language, culture, and national life. Under a workers government, Quebec will quickly overcome the economic and cultural effects of centuries of imperialist subjugation. The long-range perspective of overcoming national barriers will be approached by building a free Quebec in a socialist world.

The National Question in Quebec Today

While the Quebecois won some concessions as a result of their struggles between 1968 and 1971, the basic nature of national oppression has not changed. Recent opinion polls indicate rising sentiment in support of independence, a reflection of the continued radicalization in Quebec. While there have been no mass actions for national rights since 1971, the national question remains a burning reality. The continuing radicalization, and the increasing inability of the capitalist system to grant major concessions easing national oppression, ensure that there will be a new rise of mass actions directed against specific aspects of national oppression.

The next mobilizations on the national question will confront the labor movement with a new challenge. Because of the central role of the trade unions in the class struggle since 1971, they will be able to transform qualitatively the scope and political importance of actions against national oppression. Above all, the trade-union leadership will be challenged on the objective need for independent political action of the working classthe need to build a mass labor party counterposed to the Parti Quebecois.

The trade-union leadership bears primary responsibility for the absence of mobilizations around the national question. The union leaders have simply left this burning question to the bourgeois parties. They fear discussions on the national question within the unions, especially because launching a struggle against national oppression would confront them with the necessity to take a stand on the need for a working-class political party counterposed to the Parti Quebecois, or to come out openly in support of this bourgeois party.

Revolutionary socialists in Quebec have the duty to challenge the labor movement to take up the national question, to organize actions against national oppression, in favor of independence, for the language rights of the French-speaking population, and for the right of the Quebecois to self-determination.

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