The PI: The Right in Québec Gets Even More Crowded

with 35 comments

Ghislain Lebel and Pauline Marois

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.”

Twice in his declaration (or google’s approximation of English) Lebel made references to the Rassemblement pour l’Indépendance Nationale and it’s historical leader Pierre Bourgault.

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.

Written by angryfrenchguy

May 9, 2008 at 12:48 pm

35 Responses

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  1. I for one did not call VLB a racist or anything else, and for that matter neither did the Haitian-Québécois who were quoted in the article in La Presse. But VLB is someone whose command of English–not to mention French–is good enough for him to parse James Joyce, who uses some of the most complicated language I have ever seen used by any writer in English. I have a hard time believing that someone with that much of a feel for language generally could not have guessed that at least some people would interpret what he wrote literally, rather than as political propaganda meant to shock. And I can’t imagine that he couldn’t have found another way of calling the Governor General a “stooge” if he had so desired.

    It is true that Malcolm X used similar language to describe people whom he believed were selling out to the whites, but I suggest that people’s perceptions about such terms change drastically when the person using them is a Caucasian; things would be very different if a souverainiste Haitian-Québécois had written what VLB wrote.


    May 28, 2008 at 6:02 am

  2. It’s not the black community that was offended by the reine-nègre comment, it was Fo Niemi of the Centre de recherche-action sur les relations raciales, the same man who condemned André Boisclair for his “slanted-eyes” comment even though, as he later admitted, he had only heard about it trough translations and out of context.

    That pretty much seems to be Mr. Niemi’s function in Québec society: to dutifully provide an offended quote to reporters whenever they’re trying to turn a mildly controversial comment into something shocking.


    May 28, 2008 at 6:50 am

  3. I could almost buy the “we should attack the symbol, not the person”, or “some other expression should have been used” arguments were it not for the fact that as usual, the victims of the mass media end up discussing the details, the form, rather than the substance.

    VLB writes a good article, whose normal result should have been to get a lot of people reconsidering what Canada is, realizing once more the form of government it really has, the actions the government takes day to day in our name, the laws and regulations being adopted and being funded by our tax money. In other words, get people to do what citizens are supposed to do.

    When did we vote for an increased military budget?

    When did we vote to the instrumentalisation of the GG by the PM for yet more neo-con propaganda?

    But this is too much to ask. It would appear too many of us are used to being entertained by the details all the time. Rather than feeling insulted by the lack of respect for our intelligence, we fall right in the trap set by political commentors paid to make a diversion.

    I think Pratte deserves a raise for this one.

    Of course, VLB is going to be a polemicist as he has always been. Of course he is going to try to attract popular attention to himself and his party. But is it possible to dismiss him AFTER reading his text and disagreeing over its substance?

  4. Vivan Barbot, who was quoted in the two stories I read in La Presse on the subject, seemed to me to believe that the substance of VLB’s article was overshadowed by the form in which it was delivered.

    If that accurately sums up Ms. Barbot’s assessment, I agree with it.


    May 28, 2008 at 7:04 pm

  5. More fan mail for VLB in Wednesday’s La Presse, this time from PLQ MNA Emmanuel Dubourg, who was reported to have called VLB’s article “an appeal to hatred and violence.”


    May 30, 2008 at 6:02 am

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