Agood way of understanding the struggle in Quebec is to compare it with that of the American Blacks. There is a great deal in common between these two struggles because the two peoples constitute national minorities in North America. Of course, there are also differences because the Quebecois live in a delimited geographical territory with a distinct government elected and theoretically controlled by the people. But the social and economic condition of the Quebecois can be easily compared with that of the American Blacks. While discrimination against Francophones in Canada may not be as overt as against Blacks, it’s now well established sociologically that the Francophones of Quebec stand in a position of marked inferiority compared with the Anglophone Canadians.
The entire history of Quebec explains our present struggle for independence, because French Canadians have never been masters of their own destinies. Since the creation of the colony by the French empire, an autonomous development—for instance, the normal growth of a national bourgeoisie common in the 18th and 19th centuries—has not been possible here. The English conquest interrupted all such developments by imposing England’s colonial domination on the French settlers. And since that time the people of Quebec have remained a minority in North America, a minority which today does not aspire for reunification with France—although this might once have been the dream of certain individuals—but which seeks to exercise the right to self-determination.
That is a hypothetical danger. But Quebec is an integral part of the North American economy: there are no autonomous economic units in North America. There is only large us capital which directly or indirectly controls the economic life of all regions, including Quebec. When Bourassa, the new premier, promises 100,000 new jobs at the same time that us economic advisors foresee increased unemployment in the us, I think Bourassa is in for a lot of trouble. The North American economy is unmistakeably heading for a crisis, one that will accentuate the social crisis crested by the black struggle and the growing
There’s no question about the importance of the Parti Quebecois. In the last few months it has succeeded in crystallizing the sentiment for independence in Quebec, and its massive support indicates with reasonable accuracy the present state of affairs in Quebec. Of course, there’s no doubt that the origins of the pq are petit-bourgeois. The petit-bourgeoisie is frustrated because it can’t control its own government—for instance the provincial budget is controlled less by Quebec City than by Ottawa. They are also frustrated because massive imports from the us and the rest of Canada thwart the expansion of the small businesses and small-scale production of the petit-bourgeoisie. This class therefore wants an independent Quebec where their own interests can grow unimpeded. On the other hand most of the population and certainly the overwhelming majority of the pq voters are either wage-earners or at all events people without a personal stake, without a business to promote, who want an overall change in Quebec for the benefit of everybody. It’s very important in this respect that the main electoral victories of the pq occurred in the workers’ districts. So thus far the pq has served positively in the creation of political consciousness in Quebec.
While the pq has played a positive role, if a revolutionary organization isn’t built now the pq can become a dangerous and reactionary force. That is, it would be possible for the pq to obtain the support of the big us corporations—and the official backing of the us—who would do anything to have ‘peace’ in Quebec. It’s clear that the main task of the North American governments is to ensure the optimal functioning of business with the least possible obstruction from the progressive forces of society. One such progressive force is the movement for an independent Quebec. So they wouldn’t hesitate to buy a party like the pq in order to guarantee the ‘safe’ direction of an independent Quebec. In that event an independent government in Quebec would be even more repressive than the present one towards all leftist movements; and at the same time it could lure the population with the slogan: You have your independence, what more do you want? The people will then
The danger is real, but it comes mainly from English Canada. Important us financiers—Rockefeller for instance—have already said that an independent Quebec wouldn’t bother them. After all, they know how to further their interests in ‘independent’ countries. But in English Canada there is a much more emotional reaction to the idea of an independent Quebec, one much more likely to become violent. Recently, for instance, we’ve seen extreme statements in some papers and the formation of clandestine anti-independence groups. But we’ve expected this: no colonist accepts voluntarily the de-colonization process. One of René Levesque’s illusions is that such a radical change in Canada as an independent Quebec can come about with friendliness and politeness on all sides. This is of course an impossible dream.
The fight for independence will become more radical as greater numbers of Quebecois realize that this is the only way Quebec can survive as a nation. If the left can then provide the leadership and the means of waging the struggle, it can rally those people now engaged in alternative forms of action who have not yet realized that independence can’t come about any other way.