Extending radical space? A historical comparative analysis of sub-state violent contention in Quebec and Corsica
Melanson, Megan Fabienne
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This thesis offers a comparative historical analysis of sub-state violent contention in Quebec and Corsica. It focuses specifically on the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) and the Fronte di Liberazione Naziunale Corsu (FLNC), in 1963 to 1971 and 1976 to 1990, respectively. The thesis argues that the FLQ and the FLNC sought to extend radical ideological space to promote independence in order to achieve revolutionary social and economic change through campaigns of violence and kidnappings. Theoretically, the thesis draws on the contentious politics and social movements literatures, which it notably combines with Radical Flank Effect (RFE). RFEs are interactive processes that aim to map the beneficial and/or detrimental impact of radical group action on moderate groups. Whilst commonly used to understand the political outcomes of social movements, RFE is used in this thesis in conjunction with social movement literature to compare the relationship between these violent movements and their more moderate opponents. To understand the internal dynamics of these movements, I have identified four key elements of contrast: membership, ideology, network structure and strategy. I draw on, for example, McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly’s (2001) mobilization method, which aids an understanding of membership and ideology by framing the interaction amongst challengers, their opponents and the media. This thesis seeks to understand FLQ and FLNC mobilization in light of the aim to shape and develop radical ideological space in the sub-states of Quebec and Corsica. It draws on an extensive study of archival data that includes police reports that have only recently been made available in Canada, transcripts of court cases, newspapers, and an interview with a former member of the FLNC, as well as secondary sources. The central orienting question is: what explains the contrasting patterns of sub-state violent contention in Quebec and Corsica? More specifically, why did the FLQ dissolve in 1971, yet the FLNC continued its violent trajectory, albeit less political and nationalist, until 2014? The FLQ and the FLNC differently subscribed to Marxism and postcolonialism. The FLQ was committed to a Marxist program of revolutionary change, and this commitment was shared by the FLNC until the collapse of communism in central and Eastern Europe in 1989. FLQ members considered themselves ‘urban revolutionaries’ and employed Marxism to understand the economic disparity in industrial Montreal. Early Corsican violent contention, in contrast, included Maoist influences, in particular, through their demand for agrarian reform. The two groups viewed the relationship between their sub-states (Quebec and Corsica) and central states (Canada and France) through a colonial lens, and understood their mobilization against these states and elite minorities (the Anglophone elite in Quebec and the pieds noirs in Corsica) in this light. Both violent movements targeted this colonial relationship. Both the FLQ and FLNC manifestos were economically and politically focused, land and culture were additionally highlighted by the FLNC. This thesis found that sub-state violent contention in the very different contexts of Quebec and Corsica shared an overall pattern, an arc of violent mobilization. The initial mobilization developed from a frustration with moderate political groups; radicalization grew and new tactics were embraced; until turning points that included the assassination of Pierre Laporte by the FLQ and the division of the FLNC into competitive factions, and then a decline of activity, mobilization and recruitment. Although the FLQ and the FLNC contrasted greatly in terms of membership, ideology, organization and strategy, both groups attempted to extend radical space through the use of violent contention in these two very different nations. Ultimately, however, while the FLQ and the FLNC were able to extend or maintain radical space at times, yet they failed to sustain the extension of ideological radical space on the basis on their revolutionary manifestos.