These days, Jacks runs around Quebec with a big smile on his face. He goes all over the place with the ex Charest Minister, Thomas Mulcair, who was also the director of the anti-nationalist lobby of the Anglophone minority, Alliance-Québec, and who was elected in a by election in Outremont last year. He thinks he can zip in Mulcair again and maybe another MP with disaffected Liberal voters like in Westmount where the NPD candidate is a popular radio show host called Dawson-Lagacé. And on the overall he hopes to augment his share of the vote nibbling on the edge of the Bloc Québecois' vote, because too many people are angry with the Nationalists. I like Jack personally, but I think this is lousy politics.
The «Quebec problem» of the NPD has long roots, starting with the early years of social democracy when the issue of nationhood was not even known, let alone said. In the late 1960, the NPD left led by the Waffles challenged arguing that Quebecois were a nation and had the right to self-determination, but they were badly defeated by the leadership. In the 1980s and the 1990s, the issue came back and forth. But fundamentally, the NPD was shut down from the popular aspirations of the francophone majority. Provincial NPD administrations were mobilized by Trudeau to isolate the PQ and repatriate the constitution without Quebec's consent. Twice during the referendums of 1980 and 1995, the NPD lost 90% of its membership in Quebec because of that. Later it went down even further with the NPD in the Souse of Commons supported Stephane Dion's threats and legislative menaces against the so called «Nationalist danger».
When Jack came into the picture, there was a moment when I had the impression that was going to change. With his Montrealer backgrounder and inspired by Pro-Quebec activists like Judy Rebick, he seemed to listen to other voices than his right-of-center provincial-based entourage (where the NPD is often the Liberal Party with another name). During a meeting we had with Judy Rebick shortly after his arrival, he was saying that the idea of a «new dialogue» between progressive forces in Quebec and Canada was necessary. But then, all of this was shoved out rapidly.
The reasons are multiple, in addition to the ideologically conservatism of social democracy. The popular bases of the NPD in Ontario and the West are not spontaneously sympathetic to Quebec social forces. They are mostly ignorant, believing the rightwing propaganda, (many activists read the National Post and watch CTV!) that Quebec is a nest of quasi Nazis, anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, anti-aboriginal. They also believe that Canada needs a «strong central» (read federal) state and that any idea of «national» or «provincial» autonomy is bad for the working people. There are many exceptions of course, but that is the major trend.
At the basis, there is a denial that Canada was and still is a colonial construct, based on the subjugation of the Quebecois and the Aboriginals. Of course, this is not Palestine nor South Africa, nonetheless, the structures of power have been in place to subjugate, not to include, notwithstanding the usual comprador. For sure, there have been in Quebec intelligent and left-oriented federalists, who do not want a separate state, but when they were honest, they had to side with the struggle for national emancipation even if they were hoping, at the end, that there could be a genuine reconciliation of the different nations (perhaps a sort of «reinvention of a new Canada).
Today, the NPD is way out of this debate, thinking, like the Canadian bourgeoisie, that the nationalists are on the run and that the «threat» of separation is out of the picture. It's a big mistake on two counts. First, it is not going to disappear. Second and more importantly, what is the project of a left party if not to challenge, and eventually to replace the structures of domination?
On October 14, if Jack succeeds and many voters go over to his party, he will be happy of course. His real success is that he will have succeeded in helping the Conservatives squeeze in different areas (the anti Harper vote being divided by 2 or 3 parties). As for some sort of a popular turn towards the NPD, forget that.
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