Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The Magician’s Apprentice: Raoul Roy’s Luc Potvin (1998)

The following sidebar to The Past Is Our Master!?! was written in 1998; it is being uploaded here in the hoped of being of some interest

In the late eighties a number of committed nationalists worked with Indépendance, a magazine published by Marc Severson, François Robichaud and Mario Gagné (formerly of the Groupe d’Études et d’Action and a subsequent contributor to the Cahiers de Jeune Nation). Indépendance distinguished between French Canadians and Québecois, and, building on the arguments already elaborated by Raoul Roy, defined the nationalist struggle as being primarily cultural. While retaining anti-imperialist and progressive trappings, these positions led the magazine’s contributors to oppose both multiculturalism and immigration.

One of the harshest critics of ethnic diversity to write in Indépendance was Luc Potvin. Like many other contributors, Potvin was an associate of Raoul Roy, writing in the latter’s Revue indépendantiste and eventually becoming vice-president of the CRI’s SOS Genocide. His articles had a certain insipid logic to them: noting that political systems have a cultural dimension, he argued that it is as ridiculous for a State to tolerate different cultures as would be for it to be governed by multiple legal or political rules. “Who would dare to suggest that an absolute monarchy and liberal democracy could coexist within the same State? Or Islamic law with Western law?”[1]

Both Indépendance and Revue Indépendantiste ceased publication in 1989. The next year Potvin began publishing his own journal, Espoir. Here Potvin was explicit and unambiguous: “The nation being the highest form of society [… and i]n the spirit of the anti-colonial socialism that Raoul Roy has promoted for over thirty years, we reject class struggle, preferring class unity.”[2]

Explaining why this “anti-colonial socialism” could not apply to Canada’s First Nations, Potvin quoted Ces indigènes susdits sauvages[3], accusing Indigenous people of cannibalism and concluding from this diet that they had no authentic culture or civilization at the time of Conquest, instead existing in a state of “prehistory”. Colonialism, it was explained, was a relationship that could only exist between cultural and civilized collectivities[4].

This was not the first time that Potvin alluded to people living “without culture”, a ridiculous affirmation as he defines culture as that which separates humankind from other animals. Yet all language, all art, all social relations take place within and in turn generate human culture – a fact clearly ignored by Potvin. Take, for instance, this quote from an article he penned back in 1987: “Naturally an animal, the individual only becomes a man by acquiring the culture of his own people. It is in defending his homeland that he can aspire to greatness, for in this way he is defending exactly that which makes he and his compatriots men, that which raises them above the level of domesticated animals that are mass produced by rootless cosmopolitan liberalism.”[5]

Despite these views, Potvin enjoys pretending to be on the Left. When an anti-racist activist exposed his affiliations with racist groups like SOS Genocide and the MIREF[6], Potvin answered that “SOS Genocide has no ties to the extreme right in Quebec,” and implied that neither he nor Roy had ever had any connection to the MIREF[7].

Yet the MIREF’s leader Yves Ménard was also the leader of the Rassemblement pour un Pays Canadien-Français, a group officially affiliated with the CRI in which both Roy and Potvin were very active! Furthermore, Pierre Saint-Ours, a spokesperson for the MIREF and member of the Cercle Jeune Nation, contributed to both Indépendance and to Espoir. Indeed, both Saint-Ours and Ménard were often introduced as “supporters” of Espoir, and were invited to take part in roundtable discussions that were subsequently published in the journal.

Potvin may maintain that he is a “leftist”, but as in the case of his mentor Raoul Roy, this term must be properly understood. Like Roy, Potvin’s “leftism” resembles nothing more than the “left-fascism” of the European neo-socialists sixty years ago. The reasons for this charade are in fact spelled out in an exchange published in Espoir. Potvin, who excels at the game of redefining the Left to mean nothing more than national self-assertion, explained to Pierre Trépanier that “no matter how you define it, we feel that claiming to be on the Right would ruin any chance we had of ‘putting our ideas into effect’.”[8]



[1] “Le multiculturalisme, une imposture!” by Luc Potvin, Indépendance hiver 1988, #4-5.

[2] Espoir hiver 1993 #5 p. 3.

[3] Roy, Raoul – Ces indigènes susdits sauvages; Ed. Franc Canada 1991

[4] Espoir #2 automne 1991.

[5] “Pour une coalition populaire antilibérale,” by Luc Potvin, Indépendance hiver 1987 #1-2.

[6] “Xenophobie à pleines pages”, letter to the editor by André Querry, La Presse 18/1/94.

[7] “Mensonges à Plein Lettre,” letter to the editor by Luc Potvin, La Presse 3/2/94.

[8] “Une petite mise au point,” exchange between Pierre Trépanier and Luc Potvin, Espoir #4 aut. 1992, p. 61.

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