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Socialists and the October Crisis, Part 1

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On October 15, 1970, following the kidnapping of British Trade Minister James Cross and Québec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte by groups claiming to be part of the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) the federal government headed by Pierre Trudeau declared that an "apprehended insurrection" existed in Québec, and invoked the War Measures Act.

Civil liberties were suspended, troops were sent into Montreal, and hundreds of people were arrested and held without charges or access to legal counsel.

(For a chronology of the October Crisis and its aftermath, see http://www2.marianopolis.edu/quebechistory/chronos/october.htm)

The article below was the first public response of the revolutionary socialist movement in English Canada to the October Crisis. It appeared on the front page of Labor Challenge. The issue was dated October 19, 1970, but it was in fact published before the War Measures Act was invoked.

Why Québécois Support FLQ Demands

"The real responsibility for the kidnappings of James Cross and Pierre Laporte lies not with those who committed them, but with the monopolists, the exploiters who are repressing the Québec nationalist movement," says Manon Léger, socialist candidate for mayor of Montreal, in statements issued on behalf of the Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière, the Québec Trotskyist movement.

Explaining that the LSO does not support terrorist actions and regards them as a blow to the cause of socialism, Léger has sharply attacked the FLQ’s methods.

The LSO leader slammed the repressive measures being invoked on a wide scale against the entire Québec left by the authorities in the wake of the kidnappings. Hundreds of persons have been arrested and held without charges for hours, even days.

The offices of FRAP, the trade union-supported political party that is running for office in the civic elections, have been raided repeatedly—as much as three times in one day. Robert Lemieux, the lawyer who has defended many of Québec’s political prisoners, was held incommunicado for over a day without charges and his confidential files have been seized by the police.

Prime Minister Trudeau, trying to defend the unprecedented mobilization of the army in both Québec and Ottawa, sounds curiously like a Canadian version of Spiro Agnew. "It’s only weak-kneed bleeding hearts who aren’t prepared to take these methods," he insisted. "It’s more important to keep law and order in society, than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don’t like the looks of an army."

The capitalist politicians and their hirelings in the mass media treat the problem as one of "law and order."

But the roots of the current crisis lie in the national oppression of the Québécois people —the violence that is visited upon them every day, every hour by capitalist system in the form of unemployment, poverty, the constant violation, of their most elementary rights, including the right to work in one’s own language.

Only when control over the factories, the resources, the schools has been given back to the Québécois will there be an end to violence in Québec.

"The real initiators of violence in this system," says Manon Léger, are revealed in "the criminal conduct of the ruling class in their support of the genocide of the Vietnamese people, and in their no less hidden support for the recent bombings of the Palestinian refugee camps."

The present rulers of Québec are guilty of mass violence in their opposition to the entirely legitimate movement for national rights of the Québécois.

"When thousands of Québécois demonstrated in support of their legitimate national rights, what was the response of the governing circles?" the LSO asks. "After McGill Français, after Bill 63, haven’t Bourassa and Co. shown their violence?"

"They are trying to use the kidnappings as a pretext to blame their own violence on the FLQers," Léger charged. Only three months ago, the Québec National Assembly passed a bill, ostensibly to control dynamite, that allows police to raid any premises without a warrant.

Last, year, the Drapeau administration rammed through a bylaw giving the city’s executive committee the power to ban any and all demonstrations in advance—later ruled unconstitutional by the courts. How can these capitalist politicians pose as defenders of democracy?

Invoking the kidnappings, Drapeau has cancelled all his election appearances, and has suggested that all who support revolutionary change in Québec should be suppressed. "Is Drapeau putting in question the very legitimacy of the socialist mayoralty campaign?" Léger asks. "My candidature speaks to the needs of the mass of the Montreal population. What I propose is the overthrow of the present bourgeois administration by a democratic administration responsive to the working masses. Does this mean that Mr. Drapeau will send his police on illegal searches at my place, as he has permitted among so many Québécois whom he ‘suspects of being revolutionary’?"

"The terrorist acts of the FLQ flow from the impatience, the frustration and the despair provoked by actions of Drapeau and Co.

"Although I do not believe in the methods of the FLQ, we must recognize that the violence of this society gives rise to such terrorist acts...

"To overthrow the system, it is not a question of kidnapping someone or threatening him with death; the ruling class can always find another man … It will only be done through the intervention of the Québec masses, conscious of the necessity to do away with capitalism.

"We of the Ligue des Jeunes Socialistes and the LSO are using the civic elections in that sense as a means to acquaint the mass of the population with the socialist program.



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