Australasian Spartacist No. 232
Quebec Trotskyists Launch Newspaper
For Independence and Socialism!
The following article is translated from République ouvrière (No. 1, Autumn-Winter 2017-2018), newspaper of our comrades of the Trotskyist League in Quebec and Canada.
We are proud to introduce the first issue of République ouvrière, French-language newspaper of the Trotskyist League in Quebec and Canada, section of the International Communist League. République ouvrière will be the organ of Leninist intervention in Quebec, based on the ICL’s proletarian, revolutionary and internationalist program. This is a historic first. Never before in Quebec has a group proclaiming itself Marxist fought to make the struggle against national oppression an integral part of the fight to overthrow capitalism. In fact, whole generations of militants have wasted their energies in groups like the Communist Party of Canada and the Maoist organisations that defended the oppressive federal status quo, or in organisations like Parti pris and the Ligue socialiste ouvrière, which claimed that the venal and reactionary Québécois bourgeoisie can be a “progressive” ally.
We are in favour of Quebec independence, without preconditions. But République ouvrière fights above all to give national and social struggles a proletarian, revolutionary leadership. We call for workers councils to power, for expropriation of the bourgeoisie, for a planned economy, for a workers republic of Quebec! With our comrades in English Canada, as well as those of the Spartacist League/U.S. and of the ICL across the world, we fight to build a vanguard party that can lead the world socialist revolution, which is the only hope for humanity’s future in the face of imperialist barbarism and the spectre of nuclear annihilation.
The fight for national independence can and must serve as a motor force for social revolution. This was demonstrated in Quebec by the postwar [World War II] workers’ struggles. The second-class status (or worse) of French-speaking working men and women opened up a period of sharp class struggle against national oppression and against the bosses, whether those bosses were American or English Canadians or even Québécois. These struggles culminated in the May 1972 general strike, which took on semi-insurrectionary proportions.
But in the absence of a party of their own, the workers were sold the idea that the Parti Québécois [PQ] is the only choice to lead to their liberation. The result was that in power the PQ, as a bourgeois party, went to work to stabilise Quebec for the benefit of the bosses, to attain “social peace” and to bring the trade unions into line with the help of the sellout union leaders who politically supported the PQ. What is more, the PQ has increasingly pushed a racist “identity” agenda that cuts against the interests of the working class by trying to divide the class along ethnic and religious lines. With all of this, the PQ has only managed to reduce popular support for independence.
Ultimately, the PQ will never be able to achieve the real national liberation of Quebec because it will always be in the pay of the banks, the credit bureaus, Wall Street, etc. And as [another RO] article explains [see information at left to order], Québec solidaire, which is similar to the PQ in its early years, has nothing better to offer than warmed-over left nationalism. République ouvrière will dedicate itself to exposing all these political dead ends.
It is high time for our tendency to launch a paper that addresses Quebec workers in their own language. République ouvrière is the product of hard debates within our organisation that allowed us to break with our anti-Leninist positions on the national question. Our Canadian organisation, the Trotskyist League, founded in 1975, was in effect hostile to the national liberation of Quebec and promoted a program of forced assimilation—like most of the Anglo-Canadian left. For example, we opposed independence and the language laws such as Law 101 [which makes French the official language of Quebec], while supporting the “bilingual” policies of Pierre Trudeau [prime minister from 1968-79 and 1980-84].
In the pages of Spartacist Canada (the English-language paper of the TLC), we denounced the call for independence and socialism raised by some leftist organisations, such as the Groupe marxiste révolutionnaire and its slogan, “For a Quebec workers republic.” But even though such groups were capitulating to petty-bourgeois nationalism (and not only in Quebec), we were simply and wrongly opposed to the Quebec workers forming a separate state, whether under capitalism or socialism.
“Unlike the left nationalists, we put no stock in the reactionary-utopian strategy of fighting for a ‘Quebec workers republic’ or an ‘independent socialist Quebec.’ The achievement of a ‘Quebec workers republic’ is no more conceivable than a ‘California workers republic’.”
—Spartacist Canada No. 12, January 1977
On the contrary, the Quebec workers republic could in fact spark revolutions on the scale of the American continent and the world.
After an internal struggle in our party in 1995, we formally called for independence. But this change remained within a centrist framework that still considered the fight against national oppression an obstacle to revolution. Thus, it took the recent internal struggle—which started in the Canadian section in 2016 and culminated in the Seventh International Conference of the ICL this spring—for us to break from this false program on the national question. The document of this conference, which deals in depth with this struggle and its programmatic conclusions, has been published in French Spartacist No. 43 [English No. 65] (Summer 2017), “The Fight for Leninism on the National Question” [see ad on page 7].
Our aim in Quebec and in Canada is the creation of two parties in two separate states. Even after the socialist revolution, the right of Quebec workers to form their own separate state must be defended. As the revolutionary leader V.I. Lenin stated:
“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, it can arrive at the inevitable integration 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” (1916)
The International Conference also corrected our organisation’s position on language laws like Law 101. In the absence of national sovereignty, we support such laws because they represent defensive measures with respect to the very existence of the oppressed nation and a partial expression of self-determination.
In its articles, République ouvrière will draw the fundamental class line between the working class and the bourgeoisie on all political and social questions, exposing the capitalists’ hypocrisy and lies. It is also through direct polemical intervention against pseudo-Marxist and “left” organisations, frankly putting forward our political differences, that we can provide the programmatic clarity necessary for the building of a vanguard party. Finally, our paper is committed to having a strong international content, in contrast to the parochial spirit of the dominant media in Quebec. It is crucial for revolutionaries to assimilate the historic lessons of the workers movement here and in all countries in order to be educated in a spirit of proletarian internationalism.
The fight for a Leninist position on the national question has allowed us to reaffirm the Trotskyist revolutionary continuity of the ICL, going back directly to the Russian Revolution of 1917. For example, we were the only organisation in the world that fought against the capitalist counterrevolution in East Europe and the Soviet Union in 1989-92, while also fighting for proletarian political revolutions against the bankrupt Stalinist bureaucracies. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the victorious seizure of power by the Russian working class, the work of the Bolsheviks remains our model for new October Revolutions throughout the world.
République ouvrière will strive to rise to its historic tasks. What Lenin wrote in 1902 in What Is To Be Done? is still the burning question for the tasks of a revolutionary press today:
“This newspaper would become part of an enormous pair of smith’s bellows that would fan every spark of the class struggle and of popular indignation into a general conflagration. Around what is in itself still a very innocuous and very small, but regular and common, effort, in the full sense of the word, a regular army of tried fighters would systematically gather and receive their training.”