The following is a translation of an article from République Ouvrière No. 5 (Autumn 2023), newspaper of the Ligue trotskyste au Québec et au Canada.
While the Israeli army continues its genocidal massacre in Gaza, a virulent racist campaign against supporters of the Palestinian cause is sweeping across Quebec and Canada. From prime minister Trudeau to Quebec premier Legault, university administrations and the corporate media, support for the Palestinians’ just cause of national liberation is associated with “terrorism” and militant Islamism. The Québécois masses, who have very extensive experience of national oppression, feel deep revulsion in the face of the massacres in Gaza. But they are also manipulated by the demagogues of the nationalist right, the rags of Quebecor and others to recruit them to the racist campaign, seeking to associate the Palestinian cause with the hypocritical “multiculturalism” of English Canada, anti-Semitism and hatred of women. A loud and clear program linking defense of the Palestinians to the cause of Quebec’s national liberation is thus more urgent than ever.
But the response from the left and the organizers of pro-Palestinian demonstrations is only a web of impotent liberalism or, in some cases, an apology for the reactionary jihadists of Hamas (or both at the same time). Demonstrating in English on the streets of Montreal to ask Trudeau to apply the great “Canadian values” on the international scene is a very effective repellent for oppressed Québécois who associate the name of Trudeau with the brutal oppression of Quebec (as in the October Crisis). Furthermore, the declaration of our international organ Spartacist explains (see page 1) these strategies only lead to defeat for the Palestinian people!
In any case, as in every past war waged by the Zionist state against the Palestinians, the big imperialist powers (and little ones like Canada) and the UN have made it very clear that they have no concern for the national rights and lives of the Palestinians. We must face reality squarely: the strategy of trying to convince these imperialist leaders to act in the interest of the Palestinians leads nowhere and can only produce more defeat and demoralization. It is necessary to change course.
Organize the Anti-Imperialist Struggle
In Quebec and Canada, the only concrete way to help the Palestinians and oppose Zionism is by attacking Canadian imperialism and its big brother, the U.S. In Canada, a major arms exporter, it would, for example, be easy enough for the unions to stop all arms shipments to the Zionist state—Canada exports millions of dollars in weapons to Israel. It is Québécois workers and their brothers and sisters in English Canada who manufacture and transport these weapons. They have the power to stop these arms deliveries intended to continue the massacre and national oppression of the Palestinians. This would be a concrete way to fight for the liberation of the Palestinians and also for the liberation of Quebec, because it would also be an attack against the interests of the Canadian bourgeoisie and its bosses in Washington.
But even such elementary actions come up against the pro-capitalist leadership of the labor movement. Several unions have denounced the sending of weapons to Israel by Canada…but are not lifting a finger to mobilize their members in concrete boycott actions. The reason for this is that the opposition of these bureaucrats to the Gaza war is entirely within the scope of what may be “acceptable” to Trudeau and the other imperialists. The trade-union federation CSN, for example, was content to support a declaration begging the Liberal government for “an end to the arms trade with Israel.” Without concrete actions, this liberal whining toward the oppressive Canadian state is worse than doing nothing. But it illustrates the need to build an anti-imperialist pole opposed to these labor traitors, one that fights to link concrete actions in defense of the Palestinians—in arms production factories and international transport such as at the port of Montreal and Dorval-Trudeau airport, for example—to a battle for the national and social liberation of Quebec from the Canadian state and its lackeys among the elites and the nationalist Québécois union leaders!
Even though Canada is a second-tier imperialist power (to be charitable), it is part of the U.S.-dominated global imperialist order. Today the world is more unstable than it has been since the fall of the Soviet Union, and the conflict in the Middle East is only causing more headaches for the American imperialists. The U.S. and its allies need to restore stability to the region at any cost, especially a region abundant in oil. The Zionist state as well as the reactionary and hated Arab regimes are necessary for this stability.
The interests of the international working class are diametrically opposed. The imperialist global order is the enemy of billions of people suffering from national, economic and social oppression around the world. It is in the interest of the international labor movement to bring down the Zionist state, to liberate not only the Palestinians but also the Israeli working class. In the imperialist centers, the same leaders who support the massacre in Gaza are launching massive austerity attacks against workers who find it increasingly difficult to find housing and food. Actions like strikes in support of the Palestinians would be real attacks on Canadian imperialism. Weakening the enemy in this way, workers in Quebec and Canada could at the same time turn the tide and improve their situation at the expense of the Quebec and Canadian establishments.
Imperialism: Enemy of Palestinians and Québécois
Organizing an anti-imperialist struggle in Quebec in support of the Palestinian cause is not a call for cheap liberal solidarity: the Quebec working class has an interest in the fight for the national rights of the Palestinians because it is also a victim of the imperialist world order. The Palestinian and Québécois people share common enemies. Both were oppressed by the British Empire, which savagely suppressed the democratic Patriote revolution of 1837-38 and the Great Arab Revolt of 1936-39 a hundred years later. These two defeats led to the construction of the modern Canadian state and the formation of the Zionist state, respectively. Today, the U.S. unwaveringly supports a “united Canada” against the Québécois people as well as Israel against the Palestinian people. Given their common enemy, imperialism, every blow delivered by the Quebec labor movement will help the Palestinian cause even if only a little bit. Every step that Québécois workers take toward Quebec independence will be a modest, but real blow against imperialism in North America!
For an Anti-Imperialist Leadership in the Unions!
A revolutionary perspective, in Palestine/Israel as in Quebec, is therefore more urgent than ever. But the two peoples have suffered only defeats and humiliations for decades. In Quebec, what remains of the achievements of the Quiet Revolution for workers is more and more flushed down the drain, while the Palestinians continue to suffer Zionist massacres. But the responsibility for these defeats falls on the nationalist leaderships of these movements, which never offered any prospect of victory. In Quebec, the union bureaucracies have always subordinated the national liberation struggle and workers struggle to Quebec’s nationalist elites, like the Parti Québécois, who have curbed the momentum of the Quebec masses for their liberation at every turn. In Palestine, the population continues to pay much more for the strategy of its nationalist leaders, such as the Palestine Liberation Organization, who have tried futilely to convince the U.S. and UN to let them form a Palestinian state. In Quebec and Palestine, bourgeois nationalism will not lead to national liberation because it does not attack the world imperialist system.
Today’s Québécois union leaders, like the “left” nationalists of Québec Solidaire and the so-called progressive wing of the Parti Québécois, in fact accept the imperialist world order to the extent that they support the aims of the “Quebec state” and Quebec bosses who seek to derive their small profits from it. When François Legault, the embodiment of the cheap and backward Quebec boss, described the October 8 pro-Palestine demonstration in Montreal as “unacceptable,” no union leader defended the demonstrators or denounced the crimes of the Zionist state. In the aftermath of the criminal and counterproductive attacks by Hamas against Israeli and foreign civilians, the Quebec and Canadian bourgeoisies firmly sided with Netanyahu and tried to discredit any opposition to the Zionist state. It is at times like this that the Palestinian people need support, not just in words but in action. Even a strike lasting a few hours would have sent a strong signal to Legault and his imperialist bosses that Quebec workers are defending the national rights of the Palestinians!
But the union leaders are not going to spoil the pro-Israel consensus. Only when the number of Palestinian children massacred by Israeli bombs exceeded several thousand and moral outrage invaded social networks did the union federations FTQ and the CSN deign to issue impotent communiqués demanding an “immediate ceasefire.” But even the more liberal wing of the Liberal Party of Canada demands as much! (A wing of the Canadian liberal bourgeoisie actually believes a posture for “peace” gives Canada a moral advantage in international imperialist wheeling and dealing.) But don’t be fooled: imperialist governments will only stop arming the Zionist state when they are forced to. And who can force them? Workers like those of the CSN and the FTQ! But the worldview of the union bureaucrats, where domination by the U.S. and its allies is an unshakable fact of life, leads to an impasse in the national liberation struggle of Palestine, of Quebec, and in union struggles in general!
The task of workers and youth who want to defend the Palestinians is to fight to build an anti-imperialist movement and forge a new leadership in the labor movement that will take this anti-imperialist struggle forward. It will take political battles to expose and condemn the servility of the union bureaucrats to Canadian imperialism. But these are necessary battles, so that anger over the Zionist massacre can be channeled not into useless demands on imperialist governments, but toward the destruction of the global imperialist system. These are precisely the battles that the so-called socialist left in Quebec and Canada does not wage, contenting itself, like the union bureaucrats, with demanding a more “humanitarian” policy from Canada and/or in certain cases acting as cheerleaders for the reactionary Hamas.
Mobilize Workers for the Liberation of Palestine and Quebec!
Without a revolutionary and internationalist perspective, national liberation struggles run into a dead end and nationalism can only create more divisions among the oppressed. In Quebec, the right-wing Coalition avenir Québec, which fiercely rejects Quebec independence, channels the national aspirations of Quebec workers toward its conservative and reactionary “survival” nationalism. To give the appearance that he is defending Quebec, Legault launches racist attacks against minorities and especially against Muslims who “refuse to integrate.” Manipulating legitimate sentiment for secularism stemming from the battles against the Catholic church during the Quiet Revolution, Legault’s attacks like Bill 21 [which bans the wearing of religious symbols by certain state employees] divide and weaken the multiethnic Quebec working class. The result is not only more attacks by the bosses on divided workers, but also little or no support for the liberation of Quebec by immigrant workers.
We must certainly fight the “multicultural” policies of Ottawa, which have long sought to weaken the Québécois nation or even make it disappear. But attacking minorities is counterproductive because it leads them to see the Canadian state as their protector. The only way to defend yourself from the federal government is by fighting for Quebec independence. To achieve this, “old-stock” Québécois need the greatest number of possible allies in Quebec and English Canada. They will find no better allies than the immigrant workers who left their country of origin because of the wars and misery created by the global imperialist system, of which Canada is a part. It is therefore vital for the Quebec working class to fight the anti-Muslim attacks pushed by its elites and their media, not simply because it is the moral thing to do, but because it is necessary to liberate Quebec!
Against Impotence and Despair, We Need an Anti-Imperialist Pole!
Anger over the Zionist massacre has created a wave of pro-Palestine activism on campuses in Montreal, particularly at McGill and Concordia, which has been met with repression from administrations and the police. It is the duty of the Quebec working class to come out in defense of these pro-Palestine students who are victims of repression.
But most of the leaders of these movements support Hamas’s strategy or tolerate no criticism of Hamas, while sowing illusions that Trudeau’s policies can be changed through moral pressure. These young people, most of them of immigrant origin and English-speaking, are demonized and isolated from Quebec society. Most of them live in the closed bubbles of these English-speaking institutions which maintain contempt toward the Québécois. At the same time, as in Israel/Palestine, the growing despair of the Palestinian people is increasingly being channeled into Islamist reaction, while Jews are pushed deeper into the arms of Zionism. This whole situation has clearly led unhinged individuals to attack people or institutions, even schools, in Montreal simply because they are Jewish. These criminal acts are then singled out by all the anti-Muslim reactionaries in Quebec to further smear the Palestinian cause. This cycle must be broken, and only an anti-imperialist pole that links the national liberation struggle of the Palestinians and Québécois can do this.
To achieve unity between the Palestinian people and the workers of Quebec and other countries in the face of imperialism, it is necessary to reject Islamism, which does not recognize the democratic right of the Jewish Israeli people to live as a nation in Israel/Palestine. But also, Arab nationalism and Islamism lead the Palestinians from defeat to defeat, and breaking their hold is essential for the Palestinian cause! This makes it all the more important that there be an anti-imperialist pole on the left in Quebec that can channel the energy of these young multiethnic student activists toward a perspective of victory over the Zionist state and American and Canadian imperialism.
True peace will come to the Middle East only when the Palestinians are free. And they will only be free when the Zionist state is destroyed. The only solution is for the Jewish working class in Israel to take up the cause of Palestinian liberation against Zionism and imperialism, of which they themselves are also the victims. The people of Gaza have no need for moral sympathy: they need real liberation. They need concrete actions against imperialism in Canada and elsewhere. By striking against imperialism here in Quebec, the Québécois working class will not only help its brothers and sisters in Palestine, but will also advance toward its own liberation: the workers republic of Quebec.
Down with the Zionist massacre in Gaza! Defend pro-Palestinian activists in Quebec and Canada! Down with American and Canadian imperialism! National liberation for the Palestinian and Québécois people!