The PI: The Right in Québec Gets Even More Crowded
Former Bloc québécois MP and fringe candidate for the leadership of the Parti québécois, Ghislain Lebel, announced this week that he would be a candidate for the new Parti Indépendandiste in the next provincial election.
Disgusted by what he considers the PQ’s resignation on the issue of Québec independence, Lebel compared the PI’s youthful energy to the independence movement’s first modern political party, the Rassemblement pour l’Indépendance Nationale.
He is the second not-totally-unknown personality to publicly declare his support for the PI after playwright Victor Lévy Beaulieu who also said he would be a candidate in the next election.
The PI (say it in French, it’s slightly witty) is a new political party founded by frustrated and impatient sovereignists who don’t approve of Pauline Marois’ decision to take the obligation to hold a referendum out of the PQ’s platform.
The emergence of a new party was to be expected. Many feel – including the editorial board at AngryFrenchMedia Entreprises – that without a firm commitment to independence and some form of plan to achieve that goal, the Parti québécois loses it’s thing, it’s mojo, the very reason people actually care.
The new party is proposing a platform of classic “pur et dur” demands that have traditionally (until recently) been rejected by the PQ leadership: stronger language legislation, mandatory French Cegep and the referendum election. These ideas did have their defenders in the PQ brass, though, so the soul of the PI, the organizations identity and what values the party would represent beyond specific issues, was still to be determined.
Now we know, and it’s not pretty.
Victor Lévy Beaulieu is a hothead who recently called Pauline Marois a traitor for suggesting that Québec schools do a better job of teaching English as a second language and who also threatened to burn all his books in support of independence. I don’t know of many intellectuals in the world who are as comfortable as he is manipulating the symbols of ignorance and censure.
Ghislain Lebel quit the Bloc québécois for what he called it’s failure to defend “traditional nationalism”. “They cleared out our history”, he said. “In order to win over cultural communities it’s ethnicity zero, religion zero.”
When he declared his candidacy, Lebel made it abundantly clear that ethnicity and identity were his driving force. “Prisoners in this concept of civic nationalism, a thing that never crossed even Machiavelli’s mind, a theory of thought, crafted by patently mercenary thinkers, there is nothing better to cajole minorities than to clear out all belonging to an identity for which French-Canadians (sic) will necessarily pay the price.”
Well… Considering how the RIN’s left-wing ideas and internationalist perspective used to turn off “traditional nationalists”, that might not have been the best possible comparison. In fact, traditionalist nationalists long resisted joining the RIN and even tried to have their own right-wing party called the Parti Républicain du Québec. It is only reluctantly that they joined the RIN and later the PQ.
As for Pierre Bourgault, the RIN’s most charismatic leader was what his biographer Jean-François Nadeau called the independence movement’s least nationalist spokesperson. As Bourgault himself said: “It is not by their origin that the Québécois define themselves, but by their collective aspirations.”
The new Parti Indépendantiste is not a new RIN. It is a new Parti Républicain, perhaps an Alliance Laurentienne. It can’t claim “social-democracy” and modernity and then and associate themselves with people who represent everything the RIN and Pierre Bourgault stood against.
With candidates like Lebel and Beaulieu, the PI now flows from the same traditionalist, reactionary and nationalist source that already feeds the Action démocratique du Québec and the Québec wing of the Conservative party of Canada.
Sadly, that’s already a very crowded place in Québec, today.