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Canada/Quebec

Strategic crisis in the nationalist movement

Monday 7 July 1997, by Bernard Rioux

Support for the Bloc Quebecois fell from 49 to 38%, half a million less than last time. As a result, pro-federal parties won a majority of votes in 64 of Quebec’s 75 constituencies This decline is the direct result of the anti-social policies of the Parti Quebecois government. Pursuit of the zero deficit, and massive cuts in education, health, public services and local government by a pro-sovereignty government has discredited not just the Provincial government, but the pro-soverignty option.

On the national question too, Prime Minister Bouchard has made a series of concessions. He withdrew his pledge to call a snap election if the federal government challenged the constitutional legality of any future referendum on sovereignty. He promised that there would be no new referendum for three years, at least. He has retreated on the defence of the position of the French language in Quebec.

The Parti Quebecois administration is even participating in the Team Canada commercial mission! In short, the hegemonisation of the pro-sovereignty movement by the neo-liberal current which is in favour of free trade with the USA has seriously undermined the coherence of and popular support for the referendum struggle for sovereignty and independence. The main factor preventing the disintegration of the pro-sovereignty bloc was, paradoxically, the intransigence of the federal government and its determination to refuse Quebec the right of self-determination...

The crisis is so deep that a debate on the strategy of the pro-sovereignty movement cannot be avoided. The left-wing of the independence movement is trying to link the struggle for independence to the struggle against neo-liberalism. This strategy places the struggle for independence in the perspective of the creation of an egalitarian society, an alliance with the indigenous peoples, and the working and oppressed classes across the Canadian state. Such a strategy implies a total rupture with the Parti Quebecois, and the construction of a pro-independence workers party.