By Yarema Kelebay and William Brooks
On Thursday, May 15, 1980, days before the first Quebec referendum on “sovereignty-association” (separation from Canada) this article was published in the News and Chronicle, Montreal.
Before going to the polls on Tuesday let’s reflect awhile on the nature of the Quebec independence movement.
In March of 1975, Senator Patrick Moynihan former American Ambassador to the United Nations wrote an article for Commentary entitled “The United States in Opposition.” He pointed out that the modern world has witnessed three major ideological revolutions.
The American Revolution gave us the “minimal state” based on republican democracy and private enterprise. The Russian Revolution gave us the “total state” based on communism and a state controlled economy. The British Revolution gave us the “welfare state” based on the redistribution of wealth through parliamentary legislation.
The British Revolution, he said, began in 1947 when socialist Britain granted independence to socialist India. This act began the process of decolonization and the liquidation of the old European empires. Between 1947 and 1975 eighty-seven new nations joined the UN. More than half of these new nations were former British colonies.
Although there were many differences among the new nations, they shared a common ideological base. Their social and political orders were all created from the general corpus of British socialist thought which evolved in the period between 1890 and 1950. The emerging nations were linked to this doctrine and thus came to independence with a coherent and firmly established set of beliefs.
Because this ideology became widespread throughout the colonies it assumed a world-wide significance much like the ideas of the American, French and Russian Revolutions.
Inspired by a post imperial civilizing mission, British bureaucrats carried the doctrine of British socialism to the colonies while native colonial elites reciprocated by sending their sons and daughters to study in London. Sociologist, Edward Shils, noted that: “The London School of Economics was the most important institution of higher learning in Asia and Africa.” And also we might add among Quebec’s new economic policy makers.
What was the nature of the British brand of socialism which seems to have had such a profound influence on Quebec’s present Ministry of Finance?
Essentially it has nine tenets or principles: faith in human “fellowship,” public ownership of wealth, hostility toward the profit motive, the desirability of cooperation over competition, collective control of industry, government planning and administration of the economy and then society, suspicion of economic growth, the redistribution of wealth and a liberal dose of anti-American sentiment.
But the most important concept for the native colonial elites was independence. They were led to conclude that they had been economically exploited and subjected to “ethnic discrimination” w3hich corresponded to “class exploitation.”
Politics of resentment
As a consequence they began to articulate a “politics of reparations” based on the belief that historical wrongs could be righted by legislation. Through parliamentary procedure they began to practice the “politics of resentment” and the “economics of envy.”
Moynihan concluded his thesis with the suggestion that we were witnessing the emergence of a world order arithmetically dominated by countries of the Third World in which North American liberal democracies like the United States and Canada find themselves increasingly in opposition.
Quebec’s new separatist elite has also been seduced by the ideas of post-war British socialism. Liberationist intellectuals and Parti Quebecois politicians have virtually written Quebec into a Third World liberation script.
It is not accidental that the popular revolutionary tract written to Pierre Vallieres in the nineteen sixties was entitled “Negres blanc d’Amerique.” Nor is it an accident that Quebec journalist and Liberal politician, Andre Laurendeau referred to Maurice Duplessis as “Le Negre Roi.” There is no coincidence that Quebec Premier, Rene Levesque likes to characterize Quebec Anglophones as “white Rhodesians.”
Quebec’s colonial legacy made Quebec intellectuals sensitive and to the doctrines of the British left. At the same time, regard for Quebec’s Catholic heritage suffers from the popular notion that the Church “kept the people down.” Since the “Quiet Revolution” of the sixties we have been witnessing a process of secularization or the de-Catholicizing of the Quebec population.
This process has made Quebec particularly vulnerable to another form of leftist ideology; that of continental European Marxism or Euro communism. There is an interesting connection between the Catholic heritage and the process of secularization which often leads “de-Catholicized” countries toward Marxism. The largest and strongest Marxist parties in the world are in Catholic Italy, France, Spain and Portugal.
It may not be an accident that Marxism is relatively popular in Catholic and nor Protestant America. In Latin America, Catholicism be-friended Marxism within the so-called “liberation theology” movement.
In Quebec, many priests and brothers preached the “new sociology” and the “new social science” which spawned the Quebec revolutionaries of the sixties and seventies.
Today, the Quebec independence movement, which finds its formal expression in the Parti Quebecois, is a very interesting and dangerous mixture of British socialism and continental European Marxism. Within Quebec’s new political elite a unique form of leftism has won ascendancy and informs its political goals and strategy.
So far, apart from early incidents of FLQ terrorism, it has been it has been a relatively polite leftism. The question is: What tendencies and disposition will become paramount in the course of future developments?