The Use of Nationalism to Promote the Stereotype of a Divided People

– Normand Chouinard –

The particular aspect of a second Legault government is the illusion that it represents the new Quebec nationalism. When he was first elected, the nationalism of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) was used by the ruling circles to present the stereotype of a people divided on an ethnic and linguistic basis and on the basis of "good" values of "peace" and of "civilized behaviour" of people who "don't like to quarrel," against "foreign," uncivilized values of violence and extremism, etc. According to this stereotype, the polity has to choose between a nationalism that is consistent with true Quebec values and a liberalism that advocates multiculturalism and is said to be against the French language, etc.

The Legault government did everything it could to present itself as the champion of the ruling class when the Liberal Party had lost all credibility in the eyes of Quebec workers because of its anti-social offensive. The elites needed a new political force to champion the rich. 

Workers quickly realized that the CAQ represented the new liberal party with a veneer of nationalism, openly advocating racist positions, and its dictate against the people in the name of so-called "true profound Quebec values." It was obvious from the start that this nationalism was a fraud. It was an illusion to prevent the resolution of the economic crisis through the affirmation of the rights of all, and the constitutional crisis through the adoption of the program of democratic renewal and the affirmation of Quebec's national rights.

The question now, in light of a likely CAQ majority victory on October 3, is how the new government will use its nationalism to block the path for workers to defend their rights. Quebec workers are already familiar with the anti-social notions of successive governments. We need only think of Lucien Bouchard's "social consensus" in the late 1990s or Jean Charest's "reengineering of the state." These political concepts were aimed at preventing organizing for a different direction among the people from emerging. The new nationalism à la François Legault won't work either. Workers will see through it as they have in the past.

But we must be vigilant because the situation in the world is perilous and, as the PMLQ statement says, Quebec is caught up in this maelstrom, this global state of confused movement and violent agitation. We will have to discuss at length in the coming weeks and months, even years, the concrete conditions in which we find ourselves. What to do with the governments of police powers? What to do about the nationalist illusions of the CAQ? What to do with the ridiculous notions that inflation is caused by workers' claims on the value they add to the economy?

Many other questions will arise, but the important thing, as our statement says, is to continue our work to organize discussions that allow workers to make sense of what is happening.

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 23 - October 2, 2022

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