Sunday, April 16, 2017

Québec solidaire and the regressive left

« Version française de cet article ici »

Our current conceptions of egalitarianism came out of philosophical presuppositions emerging from the Enlightenment. From medieval nominalism came the modern tradition putting forth that objects in the world do not actually possess “natures,” but rather are assigned metaphysical categories and “essences” by a human conceptual framework. Thus, human nature is a tabula rasa. A large part of modernity is built upon the false notion that the source of mankind’s ills are located in differences — race, religion, language, gender, etc.  If these can be obliterated through a revolutionary myth which places all blame on class warfare, hierarchy, gender warfare, etc., then the humanistic gospel can finally create some distant utopia.

Maybe some leftists are realizing that humans do look to leaders and don’t always operate as rational, atomic units. Average folks always clings despairingly to clichés. Take them away and people have to do their own research, their own thinking and deciding. On a deeper level, can one really expect this sort of elitist behavior from ordinary people? Having recently watched a video conference organized by Québec solidaire: “Defeating the Liberals, what role for the anglophone left,” I am left wondering what role indeed does the left have? Having briefly flirted with QS back in 2007-08, I sort of understand their world view. That flirt, however, didn’t last long. Now I tend to see the left digging their own graves for their eventual post-modernist death in nihilism. But maybe Québec solidaire can redeem itself through a convergence with the Parti Québécois?


They begin by giving the usual line about how anglophones use words like “dépanneur” and “terrace,” so we shouldn’t worry if francophones speak franglais, meaning that anglophones using a few gallicisms here and there means that French is in no way threatened and we are living in a pluralistic and exciting “crossroad of culture” and other inane and empty catch-phrase type declarations.

Following the first speaker’s brief introduction, at around the 12:50 mark, the second speaker proclaims that if one is “progressive,” then one of the fundamental starting points is recognizing a people’s right to self-determination (I can only guess she is specifically referring to Amerindian nations). According speaker #2, while most progressives recognize this, those same progressives do not support Québec self-determination and sovereignty.

She says that all peoples have the right to “govern themselves in a traditional way… ” Alright. But I wonder… what does traditional mean for the far left? Who are the nation groups that have Québec solidaire’s seal of approval to govern themselves in a traditional way? Would they condone a traditional Catholic Québec society? From what I have seen and heard, such Catholic groups usually get the label “far right” slapped on them and the public is led to believe that those groups are populated with radical and violent skinheads.

At around 13:30, she says that we want to make sure that primarily Québec women are in the work force. Why primarily women? Furthermore, in supporting the right for traditional societies to self-determine, I can’t help but wonder how they would react if such-and-such traditional society decided that women should not work and stay home to raise the family. Is the speaker here suggesting that we should support that group’s choice for women not being part of the workforce in the name of self-determination?

Around the 18:15 mark, it is stated that Québec solidaire so often ends up defending itself in a right-wing sovereignty framework. The lady doesn’t seem to know her history, for if she did, she would know that Québec sovereignty, as we know it today, has been a predominantly left-wing movement since the Quiet Revolution, following the death of Maurice Duplessis. Only very recently has the PLQ begun framing it as a supposed far-right world view — in the European political party style like the Front national or Sverigedemokraterna. They know that such neurolinguistic programming gets people to associate Québec self-determination and sovereignty with Nazism, xenophobia and mass murder, which works only to the detriment of the sovereignty movement as a whole (and keeps the Québec Liberals in power).

Of course she brought up the supposed rise of right-wing ethnic nationalists in Quebec as one of the most pressing crises that our society faces, dramatized with a few anecdotes regarding one of the supposed right-wing groups carrying banners with Nazi-era symbols in her Quebec City neighborhood. Did she take a picture of the supposed Nazi-era sign? Because after having asked around, I was told that this is a bare faced lie. Seriously, think about it. It would be way too cartoonish and stupid for these groups to display Nazi symbols on their banners. It would be social and political suicide. Does anyone really believe that these people have the luxury of doing something so socially frowned upon and then expect no harm brought to their professional reputations and their ability to earn a living? Don’t the people in these “far right” groups also have lives, families, mortgages and cars to pay for? I swear, it seems that certain “activists” start with a certain belief and then go about looking to confirm their bias instead of dealing with the facts as they are presented. Then when they don’t find anything supporting their bias, they either exaggerate or outright make things up, just to say: “See, I told you! Quebec City is run amok with skinheads.” What can I say to that?

She also curiously said that the aforementioned group were distributing pamphlets calling for a boycott against multinational corporations like Starbucks and to support our local businesses. Isn’t this a good thing? Is this why such people are now being called the “regressive left”? They are now defending multinational corporations to the detriment of mom and pop stores.

Around 19:00, the second speaker closed with more questionable words: “[at Québec solidaire] we will come up with the best arguments and strategies to shut down the haters, [in any way that] we can”. I would like to know how she defines “haters” and “hate” as well as what “shutting down” actually entails. Sounds like shutting down, through slander and character assassination, anyone who doesn’t agree with you. What about defending freedom of speech? That means also defending speech that goes against you ideaology. Maybe they should come up with better arguments instead of “shutting down” people with other opinions.

The third speaker didn’t have much to say worth noting here, aside from stating, at 23:00, that he is a progressive, but not a separatist. So, does  speaker #2 still like him? After all, she did say that being progressive means supporting self-determination/sovereignty of a nation.

At around 31:30, the fourth speaker begins by declaring that “the issue” (I am assuming the anglo-franco divide) is not about language, but about “[social] class.” This leaves me scratching my head. With Montréal becoming more anglicized every day, with huge amounts of newcomers not knowing, needing to know, or wanting to know how to speak French, with the Liberal government doing almost nothing to protect and promote the French language, how is this possible? How can she just brush aside the very thing that speaker #1 said in the introduction regarding linguistic diversity that cited Montréal as “one of the cultural capitals of the world”? French is at the center of this debate, which is something QS has always been lukewarm about. This is a typical red-herring among anglophones, trying to take attention away from the very real problem of the anglicization of Montréal and splitting hairs on typical tired old Marxist class struggle gobbleygook. They would not be sitting there talking about any of this if Québec were just another anglophone province or US state.

At around 34:00, she spouts out the similar misinformation that speaker #2 said, that most of the sovereignty movement has been promoted by nationalist and racist right wing organizations. Again, anyone with an inkling of Québec history would know that the post-Quiet Revolution sovereignty movement has been primarily on the left. How can they keep on affirming such uninformed falsehoods? And what about Québec solidaire? Are they not part of the sovereignty movement? Is this to say that they are on the right?

This speaker also states that she thinks Québec solidaire has the most interesting program out there, but fails to give any examples of the superiority of their program. And she is left pondering why Québec solidaire does not get the immigrant and Amerindian vote. Well, that’s easy. Because people falling into those categories vote overwhelmingly Liberal. This is why QS needs a convergence with the PQ. There is no other way around it. The majority of immigrants and Amerindians do not live in Mile End or the Plateau. They don’t see things the same way QS does. Furthermore, at 35:30, she says that Québec solidaire is too pale, male and stale (and francophone). Apparently white, francophone (older?) men need not apply.

At 36:00, while vaguely addressing a possible PQ-QS convergence and further demonizing the Parti Québécois (which she called, in bad faith, the Parti Québecor), she asks: “why would we ally ourselves with a party that won’t question the economic or democratic political structure that is the very problem we have?” Again, she is talking about class struggle and thinks sovereignty isn’t a good enough base on which the PQ and QS can ally themselves. When are the folks at Québec solidaire going to realize that nothing can be done without sovereignty? None of their grandiose ideas can happen without the self-determination they claim to support. Even Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (QS male spokesperson candidate) recognized that in his campaign launching speech.

While talking about Montréal’s “new anglophones,” she reduces Indians and Pakistanis to being poor wretches who are desperately trying to earn their living, implying that expecting French from them is somehow cruel and cold-hearted. Does she mean that these people have absolutely no social/linguistic responsibility to the society that welcomes them? She puts them in a non-aggressor position by comparing them to the historical wealthy and white anglophone oppressor in Westmount. I know that the left likes to see everything in binaries. Oppressor vs. Oppressed. Man vs. Woman. Bourgeoisie vs. Proletariat. However, life is not a simple as the Oppressor/Oppressed dialectic. The (anglophone) South-Asians she mentioned may not be the historical anglophone that is rich and white, but they too are being used as pawns by the ideology behind multiculturalism. So, in this binary world view, while they are not direct oppressors, they are instruments of this oppression against the French language, because, heartfelt wishes aside, the end result is further anglicization of Montréal, more tension between various ethnic groups and further political divide between English and French.

At around 40:00, she also reiterates the old adage that “Italians were refused entry to French schools,” not seeming to be aware of the St-Léonard crisis that largely led to bill 101. I get that some Italians were, once upon a time, made to feel unwelcome in French-language schools, but how can anyone believe this cartoonish story about all the mean French nuns who were cruel to poor Italians, forcing them into the open arms of the kind English schools? What does she base this on? A few anecdotal stories? Anyway, I already addressed this in my text Allophones who are really anglophones.

One final incongruous thing she said was that the language someone speaks doesn’t define their political views. Has she ever seen an electoral map? The ridings where English is more commonly spoken are always, without exception, Liberal.

Toward the end, at around 45:00, Amir Khadir said that Québec solidaire’s militants have been lazy about not reaching anglophones—which is true. He expresses puzzlement over why their message — so inclusive, so just, so right — didn’t reach the masses they expected from their 2006 beginnings. Well, probably because Québec solidaire refuses to cooperate with other parties that should be their sovereignist allies. Getting back to the topic of the video, what is the (anglophone) left’s role in defeating the Liberals in 2018? It’s clear to me that Québec solidaire’s role in defeating the Liberals is to quit grumbling and proceed with the PQ convergence.

UPDATE: 
Quebec solidaire has rejected the idea of cooperating with the PQ.