The following was originally penned by myself, Eaemaehkiw Thupaq Kesīqnaeh, and appeared on a persynal blog i used to run known as The Speed of Dreams. It first appeared in May 2011 under the original title Some Thoughts on the Québec Sovereigntist Movement. It is appears below more or less in its original form with only some minor edits and updates.
The Québec Sovereigntist Movement (QSM) and québécois nationalism in general have always stuck in my mind as odd during my years of interactions with so-called revolutionary forces in kanada, though until relatively recently i was unable to put my thoughts together on the issue in a coherent fashion. For my readers outside of kanada, or at least very unfamiliar with internal settler politics in kanada, the Québéc Sovereigntist Movement is exactly what it sounds like: it is a movement that seeks to establish a separate Republic of Québec on all or most of the current territory of the kanadian province of québec. It is rooted in the contradictions between the two dominant groups of settlers in kanada, the Francophones, concentrated mostly in québec, and Anglophones, who are dominant in the rest of kanada.
While i have in the past attempted to put my thoughts on the QSM down on paper (or rather to blog), two things have recently put it back at the forefront of my thoughts.
The first was about three weeks ago when a representative of a group called Réseau de Résistance du Québécois (a left-wing québécois nationalist organization) popped up on another site i involved in, asking for onkwehón:we support for the Québec Sovereigntist Movement. The second, more recent, event was near total the obliteration of the Bloc Québécois in Monday’s federal kanadian elections.
Both of these events have lead me into recent discussions with other revolutionary minded anti-colonialists about the nature of the québec question in kanada. Now i find myself trying to coalesce my thoughts into one place. To that end i have broken my thoughts down into the three main areas that follow.
Québécois Nationalism & the Kanadian White “Left”
When i initially arrived on the scene in kanada one of the first things that struck me was how widely accepted it is by forces claiming to be revolutionary that québécois settlers form an oppressed nation in the same way that nominal amerikan communist tend to think of the captive Afrikan, Xikano and Borincano colonies*. For myself as an onkwehón:we revolutionary this immediately hit as bizarre. To me it seemed obvious that Québécois nationalism was a settler-colonial ideology. In my analysis Québec was functionally – historically and currently – little different than Anglo-Canada, however acceptance of the idea of Québec as an oppressed nation has the complete support of almost all of the alphabet soup of organizations that make up kanada’s White “left.”
The Trotskyite organization i first (and very briefly) was a member of, the NDP Socialist Caucus, is one such example – as is the next organization i time being a part of: the New Socialist Group. Both of them take up this line without question. The rest of the Trotskyite “left” follows suit; one only has to look at the programs or manifestos of the International Marxist Tendency’s Canadian-section (Fightback), the Socialist Project, Socialist Voice, the International Socialists etc to see this fact quite clearly. In fact during my involvement in Trotskyite organization my views on québec and wider-kanada as settler-colonies almost saw me as something of an internal exile. In fact i was denounced more than once as a “Pabloist” for my “anti-colonial deviations”.
However, while Trotskyites are often the most bold faced White “leftists” and First Worldists, the situation isn’t much better among those organizations claiming some variant of Marxism-Leninism. The ancient, long-time settleristic Communist Party of Canada promotes this idea. The ex-Hoxhist-come-Castroist Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), better known by its electorally enforced name the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada, is not better. Both recognize an oppressed québécois nation with the right to self-determination.
It goes without saying that most of the nominal “left” unique to québec itself (such as Réseau de Résistance du Québécois or the defunct Front de libération du Québec) see the québécois nation as oppressed and in need of a national liberation struggle.
While i certainly had kanadian settler leftist comrades who for this or that reason on an individual level did not buy into the whole québec-as-oppressed-nation complex, including at least one Trotskyite, they were few and far between and definitely exceptions to the general trend. It was not until i began interacting with kanadian Maoists that i encountered a settler left-wing movement that took as its line that québec is not an oppressed nation.
However, it quickly became apparent that while we might come to similar conclusions about the Québéc Sovereigntist Movement as it exists today, the Maoists and i have sharply different reasons for reaching it. For these kanadian Maoists the québécois national-settler project is not supported because it is a dead one. The Revolutionary Communist Party, the largest settler Maoist organization, says on québéc that “as a nation, Quebec is no longer subjected to any form of oppression that would prevent its own development and would then justify––as some people still want us to believe––a national liberation struggle,” and that québéc “is not on the side of the dominated countries, but on the side of the dominating countries.”
So for the Maoists it’s a question of québéc only relatively recently becoming integrated within Kanadian and general quadrilateral imperialism. This is a process that they would most likely say began with the so-called Quiet Revolution, which saw the increase of québécois control over the province’s economy, which had previously been dominated by anglo-kanada. Prior to this the Maoists are willing to accept that québec was historically an oppressed nation.
Disagreeing on this point may seem benal to some, as we reach the same conclusion about the place of québec today, but for myself it is a matter of a correct materialist understanding of history. I disagree with their analysis of québécois history in particular because i take issue with the idea that québec was historically an oppressed nation. As materialists we must understand québec, like the rest of kanada, in relation to imperialism, White power, settler colonialism and development of the parasitic capitalist world economy. We must dissect the clearly parasitic, oppressive relations that the québécois nation has with onkwehón:we. Only then can we come to a true understanding of the origin and meaning of the Québéc Sovereigntist Movement.
(My lack of discussing the perspectives of the kanadian anarchist movement is due in large part to my general lack of familiarity of the line of this or that anarchist organization in kanada on the “québéc question”)
Québécois Nationalism is not the Revolutionary Nationalism of an Oppressed Nation, It is the White Nationalism of Losing Colonizers
As i’ve said many times before, the principal contradiction within north amerika is the contradiction between oppressor and oppressed nations. Specifically this contradiction is between the settler north amerikan nation (which comprises at the very least the so-called United States & Canada) and the various onkwehón:we nations, as well as Aztlán, Borikén and the captive Afrikan nation.
This of course means that the principal struggle on the continent is the revolutionary anti-colonial struggles of colonized peoples against the colonial power. This is also a struggle that should be understood as a detachment of the wider global struggle against the current parasitic capitalist world system which is rooted in the contradictions between the exploiter core nations and the exploited peripheral and semi-peripheral nations.
On the contrary though the majority of the nominal settler “left” in kanada, as discussed above, would have you believe that québec is in fact part of the colonized, if not the prime colonized nation within the boundaries so-called “Canada.” This is primarily demonstrated through the recognition of onkwehón:we as nationally oppressed, but not possessing a right to self-determination up to and including separation from the settler entity. When self-determination for onkwehón:we nations is discussed it generally in the vaguest of terms – this is a problem with pretty much the entirety of the kanadian “left”. This however a right that is then granted to nominally oppressed québécois settler nation.
As was also mentioned already, i don’t think this is the case.
This is not to say that contradictions do not exist between anglo-kanadian and québécois settler populations, because contradictions do in fact exist between the two of them. However, the contradictions between anglo-kanada and the québécois are not the same as the ones that exist between colonizer and colonized. The contradictions are also not antagonistic, try as the FLQ might have in the ’70s to make them antagonistic. In fact, as the native québécois bourgeoisie has grown significantly since the 1970s, the contradictions between the two sectors of the White nation in Kanada have become less and less apparent as the anglo-kanadian bourgeoisie has made significant concessions to québec.
These contradictions that do exist are born of historic Anglophone chauvinism that dominated kanada for much of its history. This particular chauvinism is itself is rooted in the victory of the english settlers over their french counter-parts in the mid-1700s. However, Anglophone chauvinism does not make the québécois an oppressed nation in the same way that onkwehón:we, Xikanos, Borincanos or Afrikans are. The québécois settler population is, and always was, a junior partner in the project of building settler-colonialism in north amerika the development of the parasitic capitalist world-system.
Québécois nationalism is not revolutionary nationalism then, but reactionary White nationalism. It is a White nationalism that attempts mask itself in the revolutionary rhetoric of the oppressed nations. The particular White nationalism of the Québéc Sovereigntist Movement can best be understood as the ideology of a losing colonialism. The québécois did not arrive on this continent kidnapped and enslaved like Afrikans, nor were their lands stolen and people exterminated like what onkwehón:we, Xikanos and Borincanos experienced. The québécois, just like their hated rival, anglo-kanada, came to Anówarakowa Kawennote with one goal in mind: to settle the land in the name of france, and expropriate the resources of the indigenous people in the pursuit of the french colonialist-imperialist project. The québécois settler project was established on this continent as parasitic and at the expense of the indigenous people from day one.
The contradictions that exist between anglo-kanada and the québécois are essentially the same contradiction that exists between all competing imperialist and colonial powers, though in this case they are located within the border of as single imperialist-colonialist state rather than between separate ones. All imperialist core nations compete amongst themselves to divide up the resources – both humyn and natural – and land of the oppressed among themselves. The struggle between anglo-kanada and the québécois is a precisely the struggle for control of land and resources that do not belong to either, and never will because they were stolen from onkwehón:we, who, despite the best efforts of both groups of settlers, are still here.
The truth is that the real revolutionary anti-colonial struggle in kanada is the struggle waged by onkwehón:we against imperialism, settler-colonialism and parasitic capitalism as well as the very existence of the anglo-kanadian and québécois states. Again, québécois nationalism is White nationalism, an ideology that is the product of a losing colonial project.
Returning to the earlier mentioned position of the majority of the nominal kanadian settler “left,” The fact that the settler “left” in Canada cannot, or refuses, to see that point shows where they truly lay in the alignment of forces on this occupied continent. It is tantamount to a direct admission of recalcitrant White nationalism on their part.
The Need to Dismantle Myth of a Historically Oppressed Québec
Finally, i would like to briefly discuss the need to refute the historical myth of québec as an oppressed nation, which is something i have already alluded to above. While i think it is quite easy to demonstrate that modern québec is an imperialist partner, in my experience, the idea that québec is an oppressed nation is not only a pugnacious one, but one that is based in a mythological reading of kanadian and québecois history, and the struggle against it is a key ideological struggle between those who are genuine anti-colonial revolutionaries and those who would propose settler-colonialism under another guise.
An example of this actually occurred quite recently. Recently, on another site edited by myself someone left a comment on the first article i had ever posted there, which was about the Oka Revolt. They were from the group Réseau de Résistance du Québécois, a “radical” and militant spin-off of the pro-québécois sovereignty magazine Le Québécois.
While i admit that my french is pretty poor i was able to understand that they were asking if “we” (onkwehón:we) would support the québécois national-settler project, or at least their vision of it. They said they respected our “warrior spirit” and that we would make a great addition to their cause.
In order to try and convince “us” of their case for an alliance between onkwehón:we and the québécois national-settler project they posted part of their program, specifically the part titled Aboriginal Affairs. To say the very least it painted a very rosy image of onkwehón:we-québécois relations, especially vis-à-vis the anglo settlers. If you were to believe the version of kanadian and québecois history put forth by groups like Réseau de Résistance du Québécois, then you would think that the québécois settlers and onkwehón:we lived in complete harmony – a french and Indian utopia broken up only by the machinations of anglo-kanada.
I told this person pretty bluntly that there version of history of was based on a lot of bullshit. It was made all the more interesting by the fact that they posted it on my 20th anniversary article about Oka, which spends its first portion outlining the fact that the québécois and onkwehón:we did not live in peace and harmony, and that the project of the québécois was only to displace and replace and onkwehón:we.
The fact is that groups like Réseau de Résistance du Québécois invent this fanciful version of history because it is propaganda for their cause. To recognize the real history of the québécois settler project with regards to onkwehón:we would be highly inconvenient for their efforts to portray themselves as an oppressed nation.
To me this demonstrated that while it is important and possible to demonstrate that québec in the world TODAY is fully integrated into kanadian and quadrilateral imperialism, the myth of québec-the-oppressed-nation is rooted in a mythologized reading of history, and that must also be drug out into the light. It becomes harder for a contemporary myth to be supported when the pedestal on which it is based it kicked out from underneath it.
Just as J. Sakai did for the amerikan working class in his underground classic Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat, or Zak Cope did more recently for the general relations between core nation workers and imperialism in his magnificent Divided World, Divided Class, i believe it is necessary to expose the actual history and present trajectory of the québécois settler nation and the mythology-as-history that the québécois national-settler project and many sections of the anglo-kanadian settler “left” push. Unfortunately i am no historian and so i would leave it up to other comrades to take up this torch.
*It goes without saying that onkwehón:we rarely actually the enter the minds of either nominal amerikan or kanadian communists, even if they may provide lip service to our struggles.