Quebec Studies

The Legacy of Refus global: A round table discussion held at the Biennial meeting of the American Council for Quebec Studies, Charleston SC, November 1998

Quebec Studies (1999), 27, (1), 93–104.

Abstract

Round table 93 The Legacy of Refus global: A round table discussion held at the Biennial meeting of the American Council for Quebec Studies, Charleston SC, November 1998 Robbie Schwartzwald (RSS): Today three very distinguished people will help us consider the legacy of Refus global. I want to begin by picking up on something that the four of us discussed earlier this morning: as the 50th anniversary approached, all of you reread the manifesto. I want to ask each of our participants which of its elements precisely struck them as new, and which jogged their memory about aspects that they hadn't really thought about for a while. Patricia Smart (PS): I read the manifesto again this summer as part of the process of writing a lecture I'd been asked to give and that ended up being a study of how Refus global became a myth over the last fifty years. What I studied is the way Québec intellectuals perceived the manifesto, starting in 1948 and over the years up until the present. Then I read the manifesto again and there were a couple of things that struck me. One was the ecological dimension. But I think maybe before we talk about what would be a contemporary reading, I want to make the point that the durability of the manifesto, the reason it's had such a huge impact on so many different groups of readers over the years, is because it's a very political document, but it actually escapes all ideologies. For instance, it's very critical of capitalism and technology and is obviously a left-wing, progressive document, but it's also critical of communism—don't forget we're talking 1948 here—of communism and the idea that a change of class will mean a change of society. It actually escapes any ideological straitjacket you might want to put it into. We can discuss that, I'm not sure if everybody agrees, but what I noticed when I read it again this summer was...it's ecological. There's an ecological concern in this document that is quite striking, as in these lines: Le progrès technologique permet de passer la camisole de force à nos rivières tumultueuses en attendant la désintégration à volonté de la planète. Nos instruments scientifiques nous donnent d'extraordinaires moyens d'investigation, de contrôle des trop petits, trop rapides, trop vibrants, trop lents, ou trop grands pour nous. I was struck by the fact that long before poststructuralism, feminism, or the critique of the grands récits that we are so familiar with, post-1960s, this document is doing precisely that. It is critiquing la maîtrise. And I have one other quote and I'll end my comment there. The document says: Donnez la suprématie à qui vous voudrez, le complet contrôle de la terre à qui il vous plaira et vous aurez les mêmes résultats fonciers. Québec Studies, Volume 27, Spring/Summer 1999

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