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Collection « Les sciences sociales contemporaines »

The decolonization of Quebec: an analysis of left-wing nationalism (1973)

Une édition électronique réalisée à partir du livre de Henry Milner and Sheilagh Hodgins Milner, The decolonization of Quebec: an analysis of left-wing nationalism. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1973, 257 pages. Collection: Carleton Contemporaries. Une édition numérique réalisée par Marcelle Bergeron, bénévole, professeure retraitée de l'École polyvalente Dominique-Racine de Chicoutimi. [Autorisation accordée par l'auteur le 28 mai 2006.]


The original focus of this study was to investigate what seemed to be a unique phenomenon in North America. While trade unionism on this continent has, over the years, been increasingly characterized by conservatism, in Quebec the Confederation of National Trade Unions has led an apparent move by the labour movement toward radicalism in recent years. The progressively more socialist and militant position of organized labour in Quebec, however, proved impossible to study without consideration of the context in which this movement was taking place. A major change in the CNTU suggested that Quebec itself was undergoing a significant transformation. 

The conventional wisdom of political science suggests that, in terms of the "left-right" spectrum, nationalism is reactionary or "rightist" while internationalism is progressive or "leftist". Yet the CNTU, among other progressive elements has shared Quebec's growing indépendantiste spirit. On the whole, it became clear to us during the course of our investigations that the contemporary transformations in Quebec were the result of a particular interweaving of class and nation, colonialism and capitalism. A historical analysis of the structure of Quebec society was required. 

In approaching such analysis, we were not neutral, "objective" and detached. Our socialist leanings lead us to favour greater power for the workers of Quebec as elsewhere. Nor were we passive in our appraisal of the colonized status of Les Québécois; on the contrary we sympathize with and share the growing determination of the people of Quebec to liberate themselves from external domination. 

Our purpose in writing, then, is to make social analysis meaningful and – in this period or growing realization in English Canada of the fact that French Canada is awakening, and of English "backlash" against such awakening – to elicit at least greater awareness if not solidarity among English-speaking Canadians for Quebec's struggle for decolonization. 

Events in Quebec have been moving so rapidly that is it now clear we are witnessing not merely a change in the thinking of a few union leaders, but a major transformation in Quebec society, one with implications far wider than any provincial boundaries. Because of the press of time, we have perhaps left out much which needs to be said; yet we have attempted to integrate and to make sense of many seemingly unrelated facts and events. Elaboration can come later. It seems to us that some sympathetic interpretation of the entire question of Quebec's objective condition, present orientation and future possibilities must be made available to English-speaking Canadians – and right now. Whether our understandings, as English-speaking residents of Quebec, are accurate must be left to you, the reader's, judgment. 

Along the way, the authors received a great deal of help. It would be impossible to acknowledge all those whose suggestions proved in one way or another way useful. We can just mention a few who have been particularly helpful in the process or the development of this book. 

First of all, we extend our thanks to John Porter of Carleton University. As thesis advisor, he was instrumental in getting the basic work off the ground and into manuscript shape. We are indebted, also, to Stanley Ryerson, Jon Alexander, Marcel Rioux, David Brooks, Pauline Jewett and Hubert Guindon for their advice and assistance. The manuscript was prepared for press in its various stages by Maggie Waller and Linda Alexander whom we gratefully acknowledge. Finally, we must add an apology to our infant son Paul and to Debbie Hodgins who looked after him those last few rather hectic and trying months. 

The various people who helped the work along might be very surprised at the final form it has taken; though we hope they won't be disappointed. Nevertheless, none of them are, of course, in any way responsible for the errors, omissions, etc. in this text – rather they are laid firmly at the foot of each author by the other.

Retour au texte de l'auteur: Jean-Marc Fontan, sociologue, UQAM Dernière mise à jour de cette page le lundi 12 mars 2007 15:19
Par Jean-Marie Tremblay, sociologue
professeur au Cégep de Chicoutimi.

Saguenay - Lac-Saint-Jean, Québec
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