Red Flag Express №15

At Least the PQ Shows Its True Colours!

With her proposed Québécois Identity Bill, the new Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois has shown that there is no limit to how low she will stoop to get back in power—even hunting for support on the ADQ’s terrain and leaping into racist and xenophobic manure. After several days of debate in which she did her best to defend her infamous Bill, the Lady of Île Bizard1 once again tried to justify herself during the November 4 PQ commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the death of its former leader René Lévesque.

Sharing the stage with a follower of the Church of Scientology (the pop singer France D’Amour), Pauline Marois first denounced her Liberal and ADQist adversaries “who are using a populist and demagogic approach but have no concrete proposals” as to how to affirm Québécois identity. “Well I do!” she added proudly It is true that on top of joining the others in adopting a populist and demagogic approach, the new deputy from Charlevoix had done them one better, shamelessly proposing that certain civil rights be withdrawn from immigrants who, having already obtained Canadian citizenship, fail to show an “appropriate knowledge” of the French language.

It is obvious that this initiative from the PQ’s leader is simply politics, as she is sure to have known that her Bill had no chance of being adopted, and even if it was passed it would have likely been struck down by the courts. Ever since the last elections, the Parti Québécois has been worried that the conservative section of its traditional supporters might leave it permanently for the ADQ. So, under the influence of political strategist Jean-Francois Lisée (the king of all gimmicks, who has himself just written a pamphlet in defence of cultural nationalism2), Pauline Marois decided to outflank Mario Dumont on his right and do her part in feeding the climate of fear and xenophobia which has polluted public debate in Québec for over a year now, all in the hopes of leading her troops back into the fold.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if her Bill becomes a dead letter: public opinion will remember that Marois wants to put “the others” in their place (the others being all those who are not like us) and oblige them to conform to the dominant bourgeois ideology in Québec. The PQ is betting that this rhetoric will pay off in terms of votes. And what does it matter if the verbal attacks, mainly against the Arab and Muslim communities, end up also leading to physical attacks: this would just be “collateral damage” in this PQist march back to power.

When she delivered her first speech to the National Assembly on October 16, Pauline Marois devoted most of it to defending cultural nationalism and stigmatizing the “foreigners,” going so far as to beseech Québécois, “don’t give up your place to others.” She joined the chorus insisting that everyone must submit to the famous “common values” imposed by the Québécois ruling class, which boil down to speaking French, complete secularism and that famous “equality between men and women,” which apparently constitutes one of the most important elements of Québec society. Need we remind Pauline Marois that Québec was the last Canadian province to grant women the right to vote in 1940? That it was only in 1980 (quite a bit less than a century ago!) that women in Québec won the right to sign a mortgage? That not so long ago the dominant model was still the woman in the home, submissive to her husband, whose main role was to bear children and perpetuate the “French Canadian race” (remember Lionel Groulx?).

The PQ leader—and all those others who are condemning, in the name of gender equality, the fact that Muslim women “dare” to wear the Islamic headscarf— would do better to worry about the fact that the song of the year which was crowned at the last ADISQ3 gala (a demagogic hymn entitled Dégéneration, from the reactionary group Mes Aïeux4) sings the praises of “the good old times when our grand mothers had fourteen children,” and when, of course, we did not have that awful right to an abortion… we think that things like that are much more worrisome than the purely hypothetical possibility that one day a woman wearing a niqab might ask to vote without showing her face.

The silence emanating from the “PQ left” regarding this racism and xenophobia is deplorable, but not at all surprising. The leaders of SPQ Libre5, Marc Laviolette and Pierre Dubuc (or as we have called them, the Laurel and Hardy of left nationalism), narrowly avoided the new leader’s cutting block, as Marois apparently wanted to dismantle their “political club.” Marois finally agreed to leave them their toy, but not before she grilled them and seems to have received the promise that they would stay in their place and not criticize her in any way. In any case, these two representatives of the alleged “left” of the PQ are 100% in agreement with the turn towards identity being carried out by Marois, as they were already attacking the “civic nationalism” promoted by her predecessor, André Boisclair.

The only criticism from within the ranks of the PQ has come from the Groupe d’action politique des Québécois et Québécoises issus de l’immigration, which is the body responsible for questions of immigration within the party. In an open letter published on October 18 in the newspaper Le Devoir, the group’s spokesperson Kerlande Mibel protested against the emergence of a “populist cultural nationalism” within the PQ, “which demands that everyone share the same values and way of life.” “If tomorrow everyone must share the same values as white francophone Catholics, that isn’t progress,” notes Mibel, adding that every Quebecker should have “the same rights and responsibilities”—a position which is clearly not in step with the rest of the PQ!

One is forced to admit that Pauline Marois is at least consistent: her right turn on questions of identity is perfectly in step with her social and economic positions. Remember that when she was crowned in June, Pauline Number One came with certain conditions, “take it or leave it”: amongst these was the “rejuvenation” of the PQ’s social-democratic rhetoric, in the style of Tony Blair’s British Labour Party.

Under her leadership the PQ will adopt the line of the “lucides6 (which is not at all surprising when you note that the “lucides” included many well known PQists). From now on the emphasis will be on “creating wealth before we redistribute it.” Amongst other things, Pauline Marois has come out in favour of the university tuition hikes proposed by the Charest government. Loyal members of the Lady’s Praetorian Guard that they are, over the past few weeks the young PQists within the student movement carefully manoeuvred to sabotage the campaign for a general student strike which had been initiated by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ), and which as we know ended in failure.

The fact that the PQ is a reactionary bourgeois party is nothing new to Québec workers, who have been subjected to its policies for 17 of the past 30 years. That the party is finally getting rid of its “progressive” window-dressing may have some noteworthy consequences. The PQ seems to be trying to compete with the ADQ to claim the political space traditionally held by the bleus7 (i.e. the conservative right) in Québec. As to the army of “followers” and civil servants which the party has generated within the civil society organizations, the question is how far are they willing to go down this path? There is a question which it is still too early to answer.

As workers, perhaps we should take advantage of this “political recomposition” within the Québécois bourgeoisie to get rid of this scum once and for all; without a doubt, that would be the best result we could hope for.

Serge Gélinas Le Drapeau Rouge, No, 69, Nov.-Dec. 2007

Translated by Kersplebedeb ( All footnotes by the translator

1 Marois, who was elected to represent the riding of Charlevoix, actually resides in a three million dollar mansion on a 41 acre estate in the suburb of Île Bizard. 2 I have translated the term “nationalisme identitaire” (literally, “nationalism having to do with identity”) as “cultural nationalism.” Whereas the terms may not be a perfect fit, it strikes me as a more accurate translation than “ethnic nationalism.” 3 Association québécoise de l’industrie du disque, du spectacle et de la vidéo : the Québec Association of the Recording, Festival and Video Industry. 4 My Ancestors. 5 A social democratic ginger group within the PQ.

e p D T F s