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(en) North America, NEFAC has NOT taken a position in favor of Quebec Independance

Date Sun, 11 Dec 2005 18:13:20 +0200

Dear comrades,
It appears that a brief communique on our 12th conference has been
badly misunderstood by a few international comrades. A rumor is
circulating saying that NEFAC decided to take a position in favor of
Quebec Indepedance. We are surprised to learn this! If we indeed
adopted a discussion paper on the issue of the Quebec National Question,
we did not take a position in favorof independance. We are as
anti-nationalists as ever. In order to put the record straight we
are distributing the text that was adopted at our recent conference.
In solidarity ----- The NEFAC International Secretary

* * *

Notes on the Québec national question

[Adopted for discussion at the 12th NEFAC conference.
A more indepth position will be developped by the
Quebec Regional Union with this as a basis and
submitted to a future NEFAC conference.]

For nearly 50 years, the national question has been at
the heart of debates among the left in Québec. If
there are (and there will probably always be)
anti-authoritarians who choose to take a position in
favor of Québec's independance, other
anti-authoritarians will take positions which do not
necessarily support the survival of the Canadian
state. We choose to oppose both Québécois and Canadian
nationalism without denying the reality of national

Canada as we know it was formed with the specific goal of
assimilating its francophone population, which doesn't share the same
history as other communities of European descent on this continent,
into a political ensemble that is, by majority, Anglophone.
Francophones, whose social standing after the British conquest of
Nouvelle France (1759-1763) was changed from colonizer to
colonized, were historically denied the status of a nation and were kept
in a position of social-economic inferiority by a "colonial democracy"
ready to use any means at its disposal to maintain its "territorial
integrity." With the national oppression of Francophones a clear
reality, Canada indeed became a "prison of peoples." And, just in case
we need something to refresh our memories about the past, we can
recall The Sponsorship Scandal, with which the Canadian government
illegally spent billions to “sell Canada to Quebec” after the
narrow “no” victory at the 1995 referendum. If we need
another reminder, there is The Clarity Bill, with which the Canadian
government was empowered to overrule the Quebec government to
dictate what kind of question and what kind of majority would be
necessary for a referendum on sovereignty. Francophone survival and
existence in Québec today is a direct result of our active resistance
to the British project of assimilation.

And there are other pieces to Canada's history. This country was built,
from coast to coast, on the "pacification" (with the use of force, it goes
without saying) of entire populations, not just of the indigenous and
the french speaking métis in the prairies but also of the working
class, regardless of whether it was francophone, anglophone or
allophone. The nationalist version of Québec's history almost
exclusively deals with francophone resistance to the will of central
power (for example, in the opposition to the draft) but there is no
mention that, elsewhere in this country, people generally took part in
many of the same oppositional social struggles. This complicit silence
is the product of nationalism. It goes hand-in-hand with an analysis
that gives individuals the same interests based on linguistic, racial or
territorial characteristics while denying the reality of class oppression.

There have been moments where social and national issues have
merged in one progressive and liberatory struggle. The insurrection of
Les Patriotes in 1837-38, which fought for an independent liberal
republic is one example. The independence movement of the 60's and
70's, which fought on both national and class fronts, is another. But
these moments have been rare. Nationalist ideology has mostly
allowed French-Canadian (and Québécois) elites to create a
balance of power against the monopolistic fraction of the mostly
anglophone Canadian ruling class. First reactionary in its religious
form, then "progressive" when it cotailed popular movements, and
finaly simply neoliberal after a few years in power, nationalist ideology
has been able to adapt its discourse to stay "fresh" during changing
times. Sadly, the left hasn't managed itself in the same way.


The idea that the national question was the key to social change in
Québec, that national liberation and social liberation should come
together as part of the same movement, dates back to the 1960's. At
that time, proof was abundant that francophones were systematically
in a position of social-economic inferiority at home and compared to
the anglophones of the rest of Canada. A simple walk from west-end
Montreal to east-end Montreal was enough to make one notice how
evident the oppression was. It was the independent leftist magazine
Parti Pris, in an international context of decolonization that
popularized the analisis of Québec as a colony to liberate. Their
political program rested on 3 pillars: the secularization of society,
independence and socialism. Parti Pris thought that the national
question and the social question could be dealt with in one
anti-colonialist socialist revolution. From this foundation, numerous
writings were developed to analyse Québec in the context of
national oppression. "Stage-ism" was then introduced -- independence
first, socialism second -- as was the transitional program, a series of
"just" demands that were meant to raise conscisnous and lead to a
break with capitalism.

In the last 30 years, the joint action of the labor movement and a
sovereignist party in power corrected the most outrageous forms of
national oppression. For example, there is no longer a wage difference
between workers from Québec and Ontario employed by the same
corporation. Francophones are now present in every economic area
and at all levels, from foreman to CEO. Despite some failures, French
is now respected as the common language in Québec. Progress has
been made in every social area where Québec used to be behind the
rest of Canada (to the point of producing envy amongst
Anglo-Canadian progressives).

What remains is the question of political independence. An honest
analysis of the national liberation movements of the 60s which
provided inspiration for the strategy of progressive independence
should show that they all failed. Despite seizing power, despite formal
independence, decolonization failed and there was no true national
liberation or social liberation. Neocolonialism dominates everywhere,
as colonialism once did. Countries which for a while escaped the
imperialist orbit return to it under the imperatives of globalization.
Those on the left who believe that a sovereign Québec could follow
a different path than the one traced by neoliberalism are greatly
mistaken. If countries like Brazil, South Africa and France have failed
to break free, how would a small state whose main economic partners
are party to NAFTA show any better success?


One of the central aspects of the revolutionary critique of nationalism
is that it's an essentially bourgeois ideology whose goal is to unite two
classes with antagonistic interests in a competition against other
nations, all the while giving the leadership of the political struggle to a
section of the ruling class. This is exactly what happened and what
continues to happen in front of our eyes in Québec. It is only in
countries without a national ruling class and without a professional
political class that revolutionaries have been able to take control of
nationalist movements. But thanks to the defectors of the Québec
Liberal Party who founded le Mouvement souveraineté-association
and then the Parti Québécois (P.Q.), we now have both in
Québec. For 30 years revolutionaries have tried to take control of
the "Québec national movement" and to give it a progressive
orientation -- but the left remains marginal. Maybe this is because it is
impossible to break away from the P.Q. without breaking away from
nationalism. There will always be some activists who will argue that
one must support the P.Q. if one supports Quebec independance
because, in the last analysis, the P.Q. is the only party that is able to
realize it. And they are right!

* * *

Brought into this movement by their unions and religious and political
"elites", many working people have devoted their lives to defend the
only possible solution to solve this identity crisis "once and for all": the
sovereignty of Quebec. But this is a false solution to a real problem.
Social, political and economical inequality is the result of the
domination of a parasitic class over all others, not the result of national
oppression. We must recognize that it was mainly the politicians and
business owners that first benefited from Quebec nationalism, not the
working and popular classes. (Between 1960 and 1990, with the help
of the provincial state, the francophone ownership of business in the
province rose from 15% to 65%. This new 'Quebec Inc.', as it is
sometimes called, is far from being limited to small business as some
have reach the status of world-class corporations, like Bombardier and
Quebecor World.)

Why continue to talk about the national question in 2004? Because on
the left, independence, coupled with a strong and responsible state, is
often seen as a sine qua non condition of social progress. Because in
the hand of the ruling class, nationalism is a poison that breeds
xenophobia and racism, that creates divisions and forges false
alliances between the elite and the rest of the population. The
"historical" project of the working and popular classes is not
nationalism, it is internationalist socialism. The answer to inequality
will never come from a state but from a re-appropriation of the
collective wealth by those producing it. Quebec's sovreignty is trapped
in a bourgeois deadlock. The nationalist movement is no longer
progressive. Social struggle has been conveniently postponed by most
nationalist politicians (that is when they dont actively suppress it when
in power).

Any revolutionary involvement worthy of the name find its roots in a
revolt against all forms of injustice, oppression and exploitation. From
there, it is easy to understand why almost a whole generation of
revolutionaries gave their support to the struggle for the independance
of Quebec. From there, it's also easy to understand, for those who
choose to open their eyes, why more and more revolutionaries,
including us, are no longer thinking of independance as a central
strategic axis. We'll concentrate on the class war. Along the way,
down the path of social revolution, libertarian communism, with its
emphasis on federalism and democracy, will offer an opportunity to
address the whole range of national questions existing in Canada --
the Quebecois, what's left of the french canadians, the Indigenious
and others.

We are admittedly in favor of the complete destruction of the Canadian
federal state, which is only a political fiction after all, and for the
self-determination of all the peoples that are imprisoned in it. But why
stop there? We are also for the complete destruction, in the same
movement, of all the other states of the region, starting with the
American state. Though traces of national oppression remain, in
particular in the economic structure of Quebec (why the hell did we
end up with textile while Ontario got auto?), there's no politically
justifiable reason to make this issue a key organizing point. On the
other hand, the social question remains in full. What is the right to
self-determination worth without social and economical equality?
You'll forgive us if we focus on this.

Based on a text from Rupture no 4, summer 2004.to be anything more
than a distraction (and a theatrical wan at that) from real struggles.
Collectif anarchiste La Nuit (NEFAC-Québec)
a/s Groupe Émile-Henry
C.P. 55051, 138 St-Vallier Ouest
Québec (Qc), G1K 1J0


"Collectif La Nuit (NEFAC)" <nefacquebec-A-yahoo.ca>
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