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
The Quebecois suffer the political, cultural, and economic domination
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
liberation — real 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
"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
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
"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
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
the need to build a mass labor party counterposed to the
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
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