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Socialism, Quebec and the national question

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(By Matthew Brett) Perhaps the central barrier to the formulation of my socialist political ideology is the Quebec national question. I associate far more closely with Quebec than I do with Canada. A first-born Quebecker of British decent, I still don’t know what to make of the national question.

The Waffle Manifesto is a useful beginning, but it reads as if Quebec and Canada are working toward the same national and socialist goals:

“While the essential fact of Canadian history in the past century is the reduction of Canada to a colony of the United States, with a consequent increase in regional inequalities, there is no denying the existence of two nations within Canada, each with its own language, culture, and aspirations. This reality must be incorporated into the strategy of the New Democratic Party,” the manifesto reads. “Quebec’s history and aspirations must be allowed full expression and implementation in the conviction that new ties will emerge from the common perception of ‘two nations, one struggle.’ Socialists in English Canada must ally themselves with socialists in Quebec in this common cause” (my italics).

The notion that “new ties will emerge” in Canada and Quebec’s collective opposition to the United States does not take into account some of the deeper realities here in Quebec. Whereas Canadian socialists view the United States as a colonial empire, Quebecois view Canada as a colonial empire, with all the traces of Great Britain permeating the daily operations of the state. It is quite possible that Quebecois socialists would rather seek “new ties” with the United States over Canada, as some trade policies here in Quebec have unfortunately proven true.

The national question is central to formulating a socialist ideology here in Quebec. I suppose it is more important to think about the desired outcome rather than the means. Is our desired outcome as socialists a unified Canada, or is it socialism? If our answer is a unified Canada, perhaps Canadian socialism is the great enemy to Quebec. If our answer is the later, perhaps exacerbating regional differences is the most viable means to achieving socialism.

These are questions I am just beginning to ask myself - questions I am just beginning to research - but each of us must find an answer to the national question if socialism is ever to prosper.

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