Letters to a Quebecois Friend

Resnick, Philip, with a reply by Daniel LaTouche
Publisher:  McGill-Queen's University Press, Canada
Year Published:  1990  
Pages:  125pp   Price:  $9.95   ISBN:  0-7735-0777-9
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX3956

Philip Resnick, a political scientist and long-time radical, formerly from Quebec, but now teaching at the University of British Columbia, wrote the "letters" in this volume to an imaginary Quebecois friend in the aftermath of the 1988 Free Trade election, when Quebec's votes gave the Mulroney government a majority of seats in the House of Commons even though a strong majority of Canadians voted against Free Trade and against the Conservatives.

Abstract:  Philip Resnick, a political scientist and long-time radical, formerly from Quebec, but now teaching at the University of British Columbia, wrote the "letters" in this volume to an imaginary Quebecois friend in the aftermath of the 1988 Free Trade election, when Quebec's votes gave the Mulroney government a majority of seats in the House of Commons even though a strong majority of Canadians voted against Free Trade and against the Conservatives.

Resnick writes as someone who has long supported Quebec's national aspirations, who now feels betrayed by Quebec's failure to return the support it received over the years from English Canadian progressives. Resnick complains that the nationalist movement in Quebec seems to have given up its progressive tendencies, its solidarity, and instead become a selfish and, in effect, strongly pro-capitalist, social force.
"Why should this bother me?", Resnick asks. "Because, a trifle foolishly no doubt, I have remained faithful to the ideals of twenty years ago, to an egalitarianism that can be read back from twentieth-century social democracy to nineteenth-century Marxism... it is a matter of not forgetting the losers in our casino capitalism, the victims in both our own societies and around the globe. It is a matter of advancing a vision in which the privileged group in our society, our ruling economic elite, no longer exercizes the type of power over politics, the economy or information that it does today." Resnick says that he does not believe in a society where "private economic gain" is the principal value, but he sees this value as predominating both in current-day Quebec and in an English Canada "which free trade will drive ever closer to the American `free enterprise' model." "There are collective values -- national self-realization, social justice, environmental preservation, and public liberties -- that also count."

To Resnick, shared concerns for these values should bind English-Canadian and Quebecois progressives together, and he is disappointed that the Quebecois side is not more responsive to such a partnership: "If we are to survive as viable communities, it will only be if each of us is prepared to balance off self-interest with due respect for the legitimate interests of the other. You have been less good at doing this in recent years than we have."

It is not clear why the publisher decided to tack the reply from Daniel Latouche onto Resnick's book, unless it was to suggest that the type of mutual respect suggested by Resnick is not possible. Latouche dismisses Resnick's line of thought, saying that "The Sixties are over", the left is "getting incredibly old", and selfishness is the order of the day: "Every time we pass `Go' we will collect our collective $200. The game is only starting. And please, do not tell us this tit-for-tat attitude does not contribute to the dialogue between our two communities. What dialogue?"

[Abstract by Ulli Diemer]


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