Political Report of the February 10th and 11th Central Committee meeting of the Communist Party of Canada
The International Situation
We are meeting just past the one-year mark since the Trump administration’s arrival in office, and what a year it has been. According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists we are now closer to “the end of humanity” than at any time since 1953 and the US test of its first thermonuclear device. The Doomsday Clock, the countdown to “The End of It All” moved 30 seconds closer to midnight January 25th. “As of today it is 2 minutes to midnight”, the scientists state.
“(U)nchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals… pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity”, the scientists state, noting “Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president the United States, his words matter.”
The whole world is now very familiar with the war-mongering threats and actions of the US administration, though major efforts have been made in the bourgeois media to cast him as a lone wolf in the White House. Though vicious and volatile, the US President is far from alone. He is supported by the energy and resource monopolies, by many Wall Street banks, insurance companies and hedge-funds, by the military and the NRA, and by fascist and racist movements across the United States. Trump represents these forces: the most reactionary, most chauvinist, and most imperial elements of finance capital.
Trump is well-known for his attacks on organizations campaigning for action on climate change. His decision to withdraw the US from international agreements on reducing climate change made him a global pariah. The past year has seen the great fire storms of 2017, the massive floods, the hurricanes, and now the deep cold of the 2018 winter, but Trump’s denial of the role of human economic activity in climate change has been matched by his leaving the victims of these catastrophic events to fend for themselves, as is the case with Puerto Ricans now in their fourth month without electricity.
A year of attacks and threats of attacks on peoples and states around the globe, including Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen, Palestine, Venezuela, Colombia, and Cuba was capped with the threats made by Trump at the UN in September to “totally destroy” the DPRK militarily, and more recently (as public opinion began to shift) to deliver a “bloody nose” to DPRK – with a tactical nuclear or conventional strike. The intent? To force the DPRK to bow to US demands that it stop development of its nuclear weapons and ICBM programs. The government of DPRK refuses to comply with these demands, because it fears US invasion and ‘regime change’ is certain if it unilaterally disarms.
Canada has made the situation worse by hosting a January meeting in Vancouver of all US allies in the 1953 Korean War, plus Japan and other US allies, for the purpose of jacking up the pressure on DPRK with more harsh sanctions aimed at starving the population, and threats of illegal maritime interdiction of ships in international waters delivering goods to DPRK. This is what the Israeli government did when its soldiers boarded the “Freedom Flotilla” ships on their way to Gaza, killing several passengers on board. The illegal blocking and boarding of ships in international waters with Canada’s involvement could be the spark that leads to a big war. This must be stopped now.
The only solution to this made-in-the-USA crisis is political and diplomatic. The US and all foreign troops must immediately withdraw from the Korean Peninsula and the “practice” attacks on DPRK by the US, Japanese, and South Korean troops must stop. Sanctions must be ended, and talks opened up to achieve reunification of the Korean Peninsula, demilitarization and peace in the region. Comprehensive and global nuclear disarmament, based on mutual security and involving all nuclear states, is the only way to achieve nuclear disarmament. But it will require mass action and organized pressure from the world’s peoples to secure it.
In fact, DPRK leader Kim Jong-un has already made successful overtures to the government of South Korea to field a joint team at the Olympics in South Korea this month. South Koreans also know that there is no military solution, but there is great danger of a war by accident or design, nuclear or conventional, that would involve both North and South, and could quickly spread to engulf the whole world.
We stand with the DPRK in its struggle for sovereignty and independence, against aggressive US imperialism, and for a political solution leading to peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula.
Canada’s role in US imperialism’s gang-up on DPRK is a clear example of how far to the right Canada’s foreign policy has shifted under Harper and now Trudeau, and how our foreign policy has tracked the ongoing US drive to escalating threats and aggression. Canada is now completely submerged in the US/NATO war machine and a leading participant in US/NATO military strategy and actions.
The financial and political cost of this foreign policy shift is likely to be in the spring budget due next month. The huge expenses to NATO and to Canadian troops deployed around the world need to be challenged, and a campaign developed to divert military to civilian spending.
The US threats to Iran, made at the UN, also threaten to engulf the world in war. While Trump waived sanctions against Iran for 120 days, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 14 Iranian entities and people. This is a prelude to another showdown by the US three months from now. In the meantime the US is trying to take advantage of the mass internal protests against the Iranian government. We stand with the Tudeh Party and the people of Iran who have no interest in swapping a theocratic regime for an imperialist one. We demand that the Iranian government and police stop the arrests, torture and murder of hundreds of protestors, release them immediately, and respond to the just demands of the Iranian people that sparked these protests.
The US is also responsible for continuing drone strikes on Syria which are responsible for the assassination of hundreds of Syrians including civilians, while refusing to withdraw its troops – an effort to reignite the war against the Syrian government. The US has suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Syria and Russia. This includes the recent admission by US Defense Secretary Mattis that there is no evidence of a sarin gas attack by Russia, despite US claims to the contrary last year. We call for the immediate withdrawal of US, Turkish and all foreign troops not in Syria by invitation of the Syrian government. We stand with the Syrian people, Syrian Communists, and the legitimate government of Bashar al-Assad, who are fighting for their sovereignty, independence and their right to national self-determination and peace to develop their country free of imperialist interference and war.
In Afghanistan, the US war has resumed with the indefinite stationing of more US troops and the dropping of ‘the mother of all bombs’ last fall. This on-going war and occupation is part of the US strategy to dominate in the Middle East and Asia.
The US is also behind Saudi efforts to destroy Yemen through the continuing war and bombing of Yemen, and the economic blockade put in place to starve and bomb the country into submission. We stand with the people of Yemen, and demand an immediate end to the blockade and the bombing and reiterate our demand that the Canadian government permanently cancel arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Germany’s announcement last month that it will suspend arms exports to the Saudis should send a strong signal to the Trudeau government that its multi-year $15 billion contract with the Saudis should be cancelled now before Canada is further involved in Saudi crimes against humanity in Yemen. This is backed up with video evidence of Canadian produced weapons being used in Yemen.
In Sudan, the Sudanese Communist Party leadership has been arrested by the government in Khartoum for organizing mass protests against an austerity budget that will deregulate prices on food basics like bread, causing mass starvation. We reiterate our call to release the arrested SCP leaders, many of whom were beaten and injured by police, and all those arrested and detained. The budget is a product of the IMF, and, like the Sudanese government, is supported by US imperialism.
Likewise, Canada’s partnering role with the US in attacking the Bolivarian revolution and the Venezuelan government is another leap towards direct involvement in US dirty wars in Latin America. The unwarranted expulsion of the Venezuelan Ambassador and some of his staff, combined with Canada’s imposition of sanctions on Venezuela, and Canada’s participation in the Lima Group, is a message to Latin America that there is no difference between Canada and the US on foreign policy today. Canada is playing a leading role in imperialism’s campaign to overthrow the Bolivarian revolution, and to roll-back progressive governments and movements all over Latin America.
Similarly, Canada’s decision to abstain in the UN vote criticizing the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move its Embassy there later this year, is confirmation that Canada is supporting the dangerous and provocative actions of the US administration to scuttle UN resolutions for negotiations leading to the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital, and guaranteeing the right of return to Palestinians living in exile. The General Assembly vote of 128 in favour of the motion of censure, and 9 opposed, puts Canada firmly in the US camp, supporting aggression and a new war in the Middle East.
Canada continues to play a major role supporting the fascist government in Ukraine, which banned the Communist Party in 2015, embraced fascist history, and is now naming streets after fascist collaborators. The Ukrainian government has also instituted a ‘land reform’ that has put large sections of land for sale on global markets. The IMF is withholding funds because privatization is not proceeding as quickly as demanded by the IMF. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who has become Canada’s war-monger in chief and an apologist for her grandfather’s history as a fascist collaborator, is working closely with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) to tighten the Liberal government’s support for the fascist government in Ukraine. The UCC is also the main force pressing the Canadian and US governments to launch an attack on Russia over the Donbas.
Canada has also stationed permanent troops in Latvia on the border with Russia, contributing to the imperialist encirclement of Russia that is now well underway.
The only area where there is any substantive difference between the US and Canada is on Cuba, where Canada retains diplomatic and economic relations while Trump is rolling back the small gains made under the Obama administration. The repatriation of US Embassy staff, due to ‘sonic attacks’ (since found to be malfunctioning surveillance equipment), is part of the White House campaign to refreeze US Cuba relations, and turn up the cold war rhetoric. So was the June 2017 decision to increase travel restrictions on US citizens visiting Cuba. The difficult economic situation in Cuba caused by the US blockade also continues, aggravated by the right-ward swing of some Latin American governments, and the disastrous 2017 hurricane season which caused massive destruction across the Caribbean. Cuba was prepared for these catastrophic climate events, and did not suffer the same damage as Puerto Rico, where many remain without electricity four months after the event. Cuba friendship and solidarity work is as important now as it has ever been. Keeping the pressure on the Canadian government to maintain its current independent policy towards Cuba is also vital.
Early in January, Trump told his Cabinet – and the world – that El Salvador, Haiti and Africa were “shithole countries” (sic), whose citizens and migrants were not wanted in the US. (White) people from Norway were the desirable immigrants, he said, exposing once more the deeply racist core of this administration and of US imperialism per se. While the African Union and the African National Congress led countries around the world in condemning the racist statements, and protesting in the strongest terms, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau demurred: “I’m not going to opine on what the president may or may not have said”, adding “I will simply repeat that Canada is a country of openness, of respect, and we will continue to be there to support friends around the world and to welcome people who will contribute to building a stronger country.” Except of course, where Big Business is concerned, and a trade deal is in the balance.
Since the last plenum, Canada has followed the US down a dangerous path to regional and global, and quite possibly nuclear war. The speed with which this has happened also relates to the steep decline of peace coalitions and activities in Canada since the period of 2001-2008, and the lack of a critical response from forces which had been associated with anti-war positions at that time: the labour movement, academics and students, political parties such as the NDP, the Greens, BQ and PQ – and from the public generally. Public opinion has been silenced by a new cold war in which imperialism has unleashed a comprehensive ideological campaign including the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) that, with very few exceptions, has paralyzed opposition voices and mass anti-war action.
As well, the cold war rhetoric in the press and media aimed at Russia and China, Cuba, Venezuela, DPRK has been stepped up, focusing on the made-in-Washington “threat” they pose to Canada in the areas of trade, investment, jobs, national security, national interests, democracy, civil rights, etc. In fact, this cold war campaign is the real threat to peace, security, democracy, development, and jobs.
According to monopoly controlled media, there is no benefit and only danger involved in establishing and improving Canada’s relations with these countries and their peoples. Part of this campaign aims to stoke xenophobia, racism and anti-communism in Canada, and part is aimed to justify the huge expenditures on war and the continuing shift to the right in Canada’s foreign policy and international relations. Efforts to block the Chinese-owned Aecon construction company from being able to bid on Canada’s $185 billion infrastructure projects are being quarterbacked by three Canadian competitors and by national security agencies here and in the US who claim Aecon is a spy agency.
Further, the news channel Russia Today (RT News) has been targeted by Tory MPs Erin O’Toole and Peter Van Loan as a “propaganda machine” for Russia and a security threat for Canada. They are asking Parliament’s National Security and Intelligence Committee to “devote some time” to this, and are also pressing the CRTC to vet cable providers who include RT in their cable packages.
This is part and parcel of creating a climate for war.
So is security state Bill C-59, which is back in Parliament for further debate. Bill C-59 provides dangerous new powers to the Canadian Security Establishment (CSE) – to “normalize state-sponsored hacking and disinformation campaigns”, including mass dissemination of false information impersonation, leaking of foreign documents in order to influence political and legal outcomes, disabling account or network access, large-scale denial of service attacks, and interference with the electricity grid.
This is creating the conditions for the Security State to wage war at home against dissent, as well as on states, political movements, and individuals abroad. This Bill still needs to be defeated.
A frightening wake-up call occurred in mid January when an Emergency Operations Centre in Hawaii sent out an emergency warning reading: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” It took 38 minutes to retract the message, during which time the population was terrorized, convinced that the end of the world was at hand. Whether the message was sent out deliberately or by mistake, the fall-out was to condition the population of Hawaii and the world to the possibility of nuclear war.
This incident was followed by a second false alarm days later in Japan, once again demonstrating how close to “the end of it all” humanity actually is – whether by accident or design.
These events show that there is no time to lose in breaking the silence and resurrecting the broad peace movement as an active material force against war, and for peace and nuclear disarmament. As agreed at our last Plenum, a key part of this must be the re-establishment of Peace Councils in major cities across the country. While some progress has been made in 2017, mainly a result of Comrade Miguel Figueroa’s tour across the country, it’s not enough in the current situation. The Councils need to get up and running, and carry through their important responsibilities in the broader peace movement. This is urgent, and requires some discussion this weekend.
Once again the US is raising the issue of Canadian participation in its Missile Defense Shield. This is a key part of US-Canada preparations for war and aggression against other countries. The US Missile Defense Shield has nothing to do with defense though it is part and parcel of imperialism’s increased development and proliferation of nuclear weapons.
For those who think Canada can be protected from retaliation by the countries it attacks, it should be noted that even the bourgeois press reports that the Missile Shield is anything but fool-proof, with only a 60% rate of success in shooting down in-coming missiles during tests. It will ratchet up global concerns about Canada’s increasing involvement in US wars and aggression. It will also cost Canada $10 billion.
In fact, the only defense against a missile attack on Canada is to prevent it, with an independent foreign policy of peace and disarmament.
The Drive to the Far-Right
Far right and fascist parties have made gains in 2017 European elections. In Germany, the fascist parties increased their share of the vote by reducing the plurality of the conservative and social democratic parties. In France, Marine Le Pen was defeated for President by the right populist Macron, but her fascist party grew in votes and influence. In Austria, Hungary, and Poland far right parties, including fascist parties, hold a majority of parliamentary seats, and Italian elections slated for this year appear set to see a further shift to the far right Northern League. Capitalist austerity and globalization has cleared the path for these parties and movements to thrive.
In the US, Trump retains the core support of an estimated 30 to 40% of voters who have a right-wing populist and racist view of the world. While the White House is a whirlwind of changing faces and personalities, the corporate forces behind Trump are solidly in place.
The racist, misogynist, homophobic, and anti-democratic forces and the gun lobby are well represented in the US government, and they continue to support the anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-women, anti-labour and anti-people policies of the pro-war Trump administration.
What is new is the growth of organized and broad based opposition to these policies and administration, particularly among women who came out in their millions across the US (and the world) January 21st. This is the most powerful resistance force to Trump’s attacks on equality and democracy yet seen in the US.
In Canada, white supremacists and fascists are also on the offensive, encouraged by white nationalism and fascism in the US and Europe, and Canadian “values” and Quebec “values” espoused by the Tories and the CAQ. There is also growing popular opposition to these groups – many of which have connections to the Canadian military. We will return to the important discussion on building the democratic and anti-racist, anti-fascist movement in Canada, further on in this report.
Catalonia and the National Question
Spain is a multi-national country like Canada, whose governments also refuse to recognize that reality. Catalans have for many decades agitated for recognition of their national rights, including their right to self-determination and to secession. After years of repression by the Franco government, and more years of austerity under right-wing conservative governments federally and in Catalonia, a separatist government was elected in Catalonia. Last fall, the Catalan government called a snap referendum on secession which the Spanish government declared illegal. Troops were sent into Catalonia and many people were arrested, beaten and jailed for attempting to vote in the referendum. The Catalan government was dissolved and its leaders jailed or in exile.
Public support for secession grew stronger when the Spanish government sent in troops. Of the votes counted in the aborted referendum, a majority supported separation, but a significant minority did not. In fact the vote became a referendum on the federal government’s violent response to any expression of the Catalan people’s will and right to self-determination, as much as a referendum on secession.
Our Party and many other Communist Parties condemned the Spanish government for its attacks on the Catalan people during the referendum, and in subsequent protests against police and state violence. It is the right of the Catalan people to determine their own political and economic future free of threats and violence from the Spanish government and state.
While the option of independence was endorsed by a majority of Catalans who voted in the aborted referendum, it is clear that the government’s use of force has poisoned future discussions and created conditions that could lead to civil war if the Spanish government does not step back and allow the Catalan people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination up to and including the right to secede.
The Trudeau government’s response to the Catalan crisis was to support the Spanish government and implicitly its repressive actions. The Liberals’ response angered and further alienated working people in Quebec whose conviction that a democratic solution to the national question in Canada was impossible, was compounded. The Liberals’ message to the people of Quebec and to Indigenous Peoples was that this government, like its predecessors, and like the Spanish government, will use force to prevent exercise of the right of national self-determination, including the right to secession.
The absence of an outcry across the country against this injustice has served to widen the gap between working people in English-speaking Canada and Quebec, and between English speaking Canada and Indigenous Peoples. It has made the fight for unity of the working class of all of nations within Canada, based on a democratic solution to the national question, more difficult. It has made the possibility of a democratic solution more distant to those oppressed nations and peoples in Canada.
These events also stand as a warning for the Canadian government and for English speaking Canadians who think force is the way to settle the national questions. The use of force makes the country a prison house for those forced to remain against their will, setting the stage for rebellion and civil war. Ireland is a case in point.
Only a democratic solution, that recognizes the right of nations to self-determination up to and including the right to secession, can lead to a just and peaceful solution.
Political Situation in Canada
In the last year, the Trudeau Liberals have blown their cover as reformers and progressives, having abandoned their promises to Indigenous Peoples for a new nation to nation relationship, including a veto on pipeline approvals and resource development. The Liberals have delivered little of the funding promised for health and education, housing, clean water and jobs, for the botched Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and have failed to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In fact, the Liberals are carrying through many of the Harper government’s pro-war policies. This is evident in PM’s announcement that the government will raise military spending by 70%, and increase financial support for NATO. It’s evident in Canada’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy.
The Liberals have abandoned electoral reform, failed to restore door to door mail delivery, re-introduced the security state legislation Bill C-59, and in late January signed the revamped TPP agreement cooked up in secret. They are bending over backwards to save NAFTA – the hemispheric capitalist constitution dressed up as a trade deal that has done such damage to Canadian sovereignty and independence, jobs, wages, living standards and public services, and that has profoundly undermined democratic, civil, social and labour rights in Canada and across the continent. Both agreements, plus CETA, are capitalist globalization aimed to supersede the national interests and sovereignty of the countries involved to the benefit of the transnational corporations and the supra-national institutions which represent and impose corporate interests.
While the final outcome of the NAFTA negotiations are still up in the air, it appears that the US is most likely to pull out of NAFTA to satisfy Trump election promises and to pile on new taxes and tariffs on Canadian exports to the US, as it has already been done on softwood lumber (at a cost of $1.3 billion), on aerospace (Bombardier), and on Canadian newsprint; to impose new country of origin content rules on automobiles and trucks assembled in Canada and on parts made in Canada, and exported to the US market; to push hard for US access and exports to the Canadian dairy market which would overturn Canada’s supply management system; and to pursue procurement policies that would further undermine Canadian sovereignty, jobs, and public services through other supra-national bodies like the WTO, which struck down the Auto Pact in 2001 with devastating consequences for workers in Canada.
The Trudeau government has prepared for the possibility of a NAFTA collapse, by pushing ahead with the TPP which contains many of the same global corporate rules and benefits. Trudeau has also upped the ante in the NAFTA negotiations by launching a comprehensive challenge to US trade rules with the WTO. It is a show of muscle intended to force the US to negotiate a new NAFTA deal.
Trudeau and the transnational corporations he represents want the NAFTA deal, and in Montreal last month, Canadian negotiators indicated their willingness to make significant concessions, including on Chapter 11, the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) which allows corporations to sue governments for future lost profits – a section that has already cost Canada $314 million in penalties and legal fees since 1993. These costs were incurred defending Canadian government laws and policies concerning the public interest, involving the environment, public services, and Indigenous rights.
Canadian negotiators also indicated concessions were possible on US demands to eliminate the independent dispute resolution panels in Chapter 19, which have ruled in Canada’s favour on softwood lumber 5 times in 5 separate cases. Other concessions on the table included changing North American content rules on auto assembly and parts from 62.5% North American content to 50% US content. This means auto jobs and plants will leave Canada, Canadian workers will suffer, and the Canadian economy which is heavily dependent on the auto industry, will suffer a setback.
Negotiators have also indicated that government procurement rules would also likely be on the table.
What were initially called “deal-breakers” are now likely to become part of any new NAFTA agreement.
Our Party has conducted a sustained campaign against CETA, the TPP, and NAFTA over the past three years with public meetings, demonstrations, leaflets, an open letter and lobby of Parliament, and numerous press releases and articles in our press and on our website, in both English and French. We have helped stimulate the struggle against these corporate constitutions (dressed up as trade deals) from coast to coast. And we have fought for an alternative trade policy that is multi-lateral and mutually beneficial to Canada and Canadians, and to all of Canada’s trading partners.
We have also fought for Canadian sovereignty and independence which are profoundly threatened by these agreements that give transnational corporations enormous control over trade, social and economic policy, foreign policy, immigration policy, labour and Indigenous rights, civil and democratic rights – in short over the future of our country and all those who live here.
We have fought hard for recognition of the sovereignty and independence of all countries, nations and peoples, and against imperialist and neo-colonial domination and subjugation of states, nations and peoples. The CPC has, and will always fight for the rights of each and all to self-determination, to an anti-capitalist and/or socialist path of development, and to national and social liberation. Capitalist globalization is a major obstacle to sovereignty and independence, to national liberation and to peace, and must be defeated for working people to move forward to socialism.
We can be proud of our role in this fight – as we get ready for the next chapter.
The fight to block and repeal these deals is not over. As the full impacts of these agreements settle in and become visible, resistance will grow. This is the experience in Europe, and it is also our own historical experience. The challenge will be to build up a people’s movement that is strong and broad enough to roll back these corporate deals.
Clearly, the greatest problem with the fight against NAFTA this time was the initial position of conditional support adopted by the anti-NAFTA forces, to which the labour movement contributed with the CLC and Unifor’s whole-hearted endorsement and support of a renegotiated NAFTA that protected Canadian jobs in the auto sector. This was short-sighted, and underlines once again the dangers of tri-partite partnerships involving labour, government and business.
Last month the Bank of Canada announced that it will embark on a series of interest increases because the economy is doing well, profits are rising, and unemployment has reached the lowest level in 40 years at 5.7%. This was a big surprise for working people. Polls after the announcement showed 40% of those surveyed feared they would lose their homes with any rise in interest rates, while millions of tenants can’t afford sky-rocketing rents, and house prices are bubbling through the roof in major cities.
A close look at the employment – and unemployment – figures is illuminating. In fact, the participation rate in the labour force has fallen a further 2.4% – to just 60.2% over the last 10 years. Only 6 out 10 people are actually working, or “officially” looking for work. The real story here is that 40% of the labour force is not working, many having just given up the search for jobs that don’t exist. Few of the new part-time jobs created in 2017 were in the productive sector, most were in the service sector including finance, insurance, real estate, and rental and leasing. Some were in educational services and in transportation.
The real story is that full-time jobs have been replaced by multiples of part-time, casual, temporary, and precarious work – which is also low-paid, minimum wage work without benefits, without a union, and without access to severance or EI benefits. The decline in full-time work parallels the loss of more than half a million manufacturing jobs over the last 15 years thanks to NAFTA and its predecessors, and the new wave of automation and robotics that is eliminating jobs and increasing fat profits for corporations. This is the time when we need to dust off our demands for a 32 hour work week with 40 hours take-home pay.
The real story is that real wages, incomes and purchasing power have fallen precipitously with the rise of part-time precarious work, resulting in massive levels of household and credit card debt which will only rise higher with the Bank of Canada’s plan to further escalate interest rates. Canada has the highest rate of household debt of any G7 country. The MNP quarterly Consumer Debt Index shows that one in three people can’t afford to pay their monthly bills and debt payments, an increase of 8% since September. Interest rate increases have negatively affected not only mortgage debt, but household and credit card debt.
Further the average hourly wage in Canada last year was $26, just 1.7% higher than in 2016, and just $5 more than the basic livable wage in the city of Toronto. For workers earning the much lower median wage, the struggle to pay the rent and feed the kids is unachievable. A small rise in wages of 2.2% in December is not enough to change the situation of low paid workers, and is likely to fall.
The inadequate Canada Pension Plan, which millions of pensioners depend on to live, and which the government declined to raise in its 2017 review, has forced 1.1 million pensioners to work in part-time, entry-level jobs usually reserved for youth. Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz says he can’t sleep worrying about unemployed youth – and so he should. Amongst youth without a post-secondary education, the official unemployment rate is 13%, and the real figure is probably twice that much. Europe, where youth unemployment is even higher, has become a recruitment site for neo-nazi and fascist movements, and the same could happen here. The corporate explanation that youth are not concerned with high youth unemployment because they’re all enrolled in post-secondary schools and don’t want to work, is fantasy and fake news aimed to damp down growing public concern.
In Canada, minimum wage workers, including youth, immigrants and many older workers, are involved in the Fight for $15 movement, supported by organized labour. Big and small business have responded to this campaign with threats to lay-off workers, cut hours, and eliminate breaks and benefits. This is the face of the corporate campaign to drive down wages and living standards. The response of minimum wage workers is to fight, including mobilizing public support and new efforts at organizing unorganized workplaces.
Bank of Canada reports that the economy is going flat out is a rearview mirror analysis, buoyed by massive corporate tax cuts and deregulation in the US. The bank’s projections are for a sharp decline in the growth rate from an estimated 3% in 2017, to 2.2% in 2018 and 1.6% in 2020. If the US slaps more tariffs and duties on Canada, and investors and corporations move operations south to avoid them; if oil prices fall, if auto sales in Canada decline, the drop could be even greater.
Meanwhile plants continue to close and well-paid, permanent, unionized jobs continue to disappear, or demand handouts from governments to stay in Canada. Bombardier, which has already received hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal and Ontario governments, is musing over the proposed sale of its Downsview site in Toronto. More than 3,500 jobs are at stake. The British P-3 giant Carillion has just filed for bankruptcy and liquidation, leaving 6,000 workers in Canada’s energy, hospital and transportation sectors unemployed and staring at a pension deficit of £587 million. Auto parts giant Linamar just announced it will ‘maintain’ its current workforce of 8,000 and add 1,500 new jobs after a $99 million bailout by federal and provincial governments. Meanwhile GM refused to negotiate a deal with striking Cami workers that would guarantee ‘lead plant’ status for production of the Equinox, which is a jobs guarantee for 2,400 assembly workers in Ingersoll during the production life of the Equinox. Like other auto assembly plants in Canada, it could close at any time.
Jobs in retail are disappearing at a great rate, starting with the loss of 18,000 Canadian jobs when Target pulled out of Canada two years ago. Safeway Stores in BC recently announced the closure of 10 stores and the layoffs of 1,000 workers, following a take-over by Sobey’s which has also announced layoffs of 800 workers in Canada. Loblaws has announced cuts of 500 employees, and closure of some stores.
Before Sears Canada announced its final closure in December, leaving 12,000 employees with a pension plan under-funded to the tune of $266.8 million, no severance pay, no benefits, and a loss of 20% of their pensions, the company paid out $611 million in ‘special dividends’ to shareholders from the proceeds of asset sales, $9.2 million in ‘retention bonuses’, and $53 million in legal and professional fees.
These workers have been robbed of their pensions – their deferred wages – just as Stelco/US Steel workers in Hamilton, Nortel Network employees, Carillion workers, and others in bankruptcy proceedings, were robbed of their pensions by corporations protected by the federal Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), which ensures corporate creditors trump workers’ pension funds in the division of the assets.
These non-unionized workers – many of whom worked their entire lives for Sears – are mad as hell about the company, and the laws, that robbed them of their retirement funds, despite their continuous efforts since 2009 to compel Sears to fund the pension plan. They, along with the Steelworkers’ Union in Hamilton, and the former employees of Nortel Networks, are demanding the government act to protect them, and future victims of corporate greed and the CCAA.
We stand with the workers and demand the government repeal the CCAA and order the Sears workers’ pensions be paid out as a priority in the wind-up of Sears Canada Inc. The US parent company should also be held responsible to fund the pension fund of Sears Canada. Those individuals who deliberately underfunded the pension plan, who paid out the $611 million in ‘special dividends’ and $9.2 million in ‘retention bonuses’ should also be held legally accountable for theft of their employees’ deferred wages.
We must also popularize our demand for plant closure legislation to stop corporations from putting their plants on skids and sending them to US right-to-work states and other jurisdictions where labour is cheap, taxes are low or non-existent, and unions are weak or non-existent. Plant closure legislation here would make it illegal for corporations to move their operations without providing just cause at a public tribunal. The tribunal would have the authority of a court to approve or disapprove a move, to levy fines, and to order jail time. This is “the teeth” we mean when we say plant closure legislation with teeth.
Public ownership under democratic control is also an important demand to stop key sectors of the economy – such as manufacturing, steel, and transportation – from being shipped south. These operations are vital for the Canadian economy and create the wealth that, in public hands, would be used for investments in social programs, job creation, and environmental protections.
Banks, insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry should also be put under public ownership and democratic control. A publicly owned pharmaceutical industry will be important to a universal, single-payer pharmacare program for Canada.
This also raises the importance of expanded trade relations and partners for Canada. Because 80% of Canada’s trade is currently with the US, Canada is extremely vulnerable to US demands and pressure.
Developing new trading relationships with China and other countries around the world will make Canada less vulnerable, and more able to develop trade, jobs and development in the public interest. We support a mutually beneficial trade agreement with China. By making Canada less dependent on the US, multi-lateral trade with the world also puts the issue of an expansion of public services and social programs back on the public agenda, along with public ownership of energy and natural resources, and development of a value-added manufacturing and industrial strategy for Canada.
Across the board, corporate profits and corporate bonuses and perquisites are breaking new records. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, after tax corporate profits have increased by 50% since the mid 2000s. According to a Toronto Star investigation, Canada’s 102 biggest corporations collectively avoided $62.9 billion in income taxes over the last six years. This is enough to provide 10 years of free post-secondary education for students across Canada.
These corporate tax evaders include the big banks which are Canada’s most profitable corporations. These profits were significantly boosted by tax avoidance of $5.5 billion in 2016 alone. They also enjoy the lowest tax rate of the G7 countries. These profits were significantly increased when the Big Six (allegedly) conspired with three other global banking giants to rig a Canadian interest-rate benchmark to boost profits. All nine banks are now facing charges in a New York court.
Loblaws and Weston’s also did very well, though their profits were significantly boosted by the price-fixing on bread sales over a 14 year period. Because they admitted their price fixing scheme to Revenue Canada and gave up the names of other companies involved in the conspiracy, including Sobeys and Metro, and because they are now giving customers $25 Loblaws gift cards, they won’t be charged and prosecuted, to the dismay of thousands of customers who were defrauded a lot more than $25.
All of this has sparked an on-line petition calling on federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau to raise corporate taxes, shut down loopholes and impose a special levy on banks. The petition collected 12,000 signatures in a matter of days.
Tax cuts and deregulation in the US will make it harder to stop this kind of corruption in Canada. The Panama and Paradise papers show that tax evasion through tax havens, tax loopholes, and money laundering is rife in Canada. Globally, tax evasion is estimated to top $7.6 trillion – funds that Oxfam International proposes should be captured and invested in health, education and jobs. “The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system”, says Oxfam, adding, governments need to “get back into the driving seat” and challenge big corporations and billionaires. We agree. Can we build something here?
Further, the reduction of the US corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% is putting pressure on the Liberals to further reduce corporate tax rates in Canada, which combined with provincial taxes now averages 22%. Canada’s much lower corporate rate was one of the incentives to invest in Canada, over the US. The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters organization is already proposing a reduction of the combined corporate tax rate from 22% to 20%.
But tax cuts mean cuts to social programs, to health and education, job creation, housing, public investment, etc. They mean bigger profits, not more investment. How big? In 2013 foregone revenue from federal tax cuts amounted to $45 billion annually, or 1/3 more than the cost of Old Age Security in Canada. This is a real threat.
Further, there may well be increasing pressure on Canada to waive taxes, provide tax credits or rebates, or make public investments in corporations like GM, Bombardier and Linamar to keep jobs in Canada.
This means we must popularize our call for progressive taxation based on ability to pay. We need a progressive tax system that puts the load on the corporations and the rich, and takes it off the working class, the unemployed and those on fixed incomes. It means a graduated system of income taxes that cut deep into the pockets of the wealthy, and provides relief to working people who are overtaxed relative to the taxes on corporations and wealth. It means an end to regressive sales and value added taxes like the HST, and a big increase in capital taxes, the capital gains tax, and taxes on mining and machinery and equipment.
It was not so long ago (1952 was the last year) that corporations and individuals each paid 50 cents on each tax dollar raised in Canada. Thanks to the corporate breaks provided by the Liberals in the 1990s and then by the Harper Tories, the share of the tax dollar paid by individuals today is now 78 cents vs 22 cents paid by the corporations. In other words, individuals now pay more than 3 ½ times the share paid by corporations.
In some US states there is no corporate tax at all. For the Conservative Party, this is the territory they’re aiming for here, though admitting it publicly would be a poison pill. Instead they consistently support corporate and small business demands for more tax cuts. It’s another way to get to the same place.
The anger at corporate tax evasion and corruption is accompanied by specific demands for tax reform, including raising corporate taxes, closing loopholes, and going after the banks. These are demands we can easily support. This is a good time to agitate for progressive tax reform and taxation based on ability to pay, to get at the root of the issue of tax fairness, in a way that can be easily grasped.
In fact the economy is not stronger, but much more fragile, as the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the workers and youth watch their jobs and security blow away.
In this situation, capitalists here and abroad are starting to mutter about another global crisis, and the signs that are appearing in the global economy and politics.
For Communists this is not a question of if, but when, how deep and how long. Crisis is endemic to capitalism, it cannot be prevented. But in the current stage, the working class could pay a very high price, including war and fascism.
New Political Leaders – Old Policies
In the past year both the Tories and the NDP have elected new federal leaders. The Tory leadership campaign included 13 candidates, only one of whom rejected the far right policies advanced by all of the others. In the end Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer was elected, the second choice of many in a ranked ballot.
Scheer made his mark in Parliament with his opposition to M-103, the motion naming Islamophobia as a form of racism; and in his opposition to the request from the National Council of Canadian Muslims to make January 29 a national day of action against Islamophobia. January 29 marks the first anniversary of the murder of 6 men and attempted murder of 19 others in a Ste Foy mosque by a white supremacist in 2017.
Scheer and his Tory caucus join the far right CAQ and the PQ in opposing the proposal because of their links to far-right organizations and movements, and their courtship of xenophobic and racist movements through their Quebec ‘values’ Charter and the Canadian ‘values’ tests proposed by Kellie Leitch. This coming together of far right political forces is deeply concerning.
The fascist organizations operating in Canada include Pegida, Soldiers of Odin, Golden Dawn, Aryan Nation, III% (Three Percenters), Proud Boys, Your Ward News and the New Constitution Party, Nationalist Party of Canada, and the KKK, among others. La Meute is another significant fascist organization, located in Quebec, and created by military personnel. Many of these groups were either formed by or have close connections with the military. They are closely connected with other fascist, criminal and paramilitary organizations across Canada, using social media to recruit and spread their hate. They have all targeted the Muslim community, as well as the Jewish community, women’s movement, LGBTQ community, and the Communist Party.
Though the Tory Party has no visible or direct connections to these organizations, that doesn’t mean that there are not ties through individual MPs and supporters of the Tory Party, including through intermediary organizations such as Rebel News, and individuals like Ezra Levant. These are the same kind of connectors that linked the White House to Steve Bannon, Breitbart News, David Duke, and all the others.
Clearly the Tory Party is the most dangerous political party for working people at the federal level today, the most reactionary, and the most anti-democratic, and the most pro-war party in the country. The Tory leadership campaign publicly exposed just how how far to the extreme right the Tory Party has shifted, and is prepared to shift further, under the ‘right’ circumstances. Half open, half hidden, this shift needs to be further exposed.
At the same time, the Liberal Party is carrying through many of the Harper government’s pro-war policies. This is evident in PM’s announcement that the government will raise military spending by 70%, and increase financial support for NATO.
The NDP’s election of Jagmeet Singh signifies that the NDP will continue on its current political road, with no shift to the left. Singh’s election was connected to that party’s aim to make inroads in the GTA and in the South Asian community which traditionally votes Liberal. The NDP’s policies support the Liberal government’s attacks on the Venezuelan government, the troop deployments in Latvia, their support for a renegotiated NAFTA, etc. The NDP’s continuing efforts to replace the Liberals as the alternative to the Tories is short-sighted and a non-starter with voters, with labour, and with many of their own members. With an election in 2019, the NDP will continue to be a distant third unless it changes course. Current divisions in the labour movement will not help the situation, with both Liberals and NDP looking for money and campaign workers, and neither meeting many of the labour movement’s policy benchmarks.
Pressure on the NDP, the Liberals and Greens to fight for and implement labour’s policies on a range of important issues is the way to gain concessions in the lead-up to 2019, along with a stronger fightback in negotiations and on the streets. The Fight for $15 should be near the top of the agenda in this regard.
Polls show that the Liberals at 38% are losing some support to the Tories at 34%, while the NDP is stuck at 17%, the Greens at 6%, and the BQ at 3%.
Clearly, working people don’t see the NDP as a party to turn to, though there is significant support for the Tories who are mining racism across the country and casting themselves as populists, and the Liberals as the elite. The Tory playbook is the Trump campaign of 2017.
Provincial and Municipal Elections
Last May, an important provincial election in British Columbia saw the defeat of the right-wing Liberals. Six Communists were on the ballot, and our combined vote total increased, an indication that more working people are looking for radical alternatives. The Liberals were replaced by a de facto coalition of the NDP and Greens, who have an agreement on a referendum for proportional representation, and on a shift away from the previous government’s anti-labour austerity policies. Not surprisingly, NDP Premier John Horgan’s government has already watered down some of its progressive promises, and dismayed many NDP and Green supporters by approving the Site C dam over objections of First Nations and environmentalists. The upcoming 2018-19 BC budget will be an important measure of the extent to which the NDP will yield to corporate pressures on other key issues.
This year, provincial elections are scheduled in Ontario, New Brunswick, and in the National Assembly in Quebec, with province-wide municipal elections in Ontario and BC.
These will be important theatres of political struggle for the labour and peoples movements and for the Party as we fight to block the election of Tory governments in English speaking Canada, and the far-right CAQ in Quebec, while winning support for Communist Party policies and candidates everywhere we can.
In local elections, Communists can and should run to be elected, continuing our long history of winning seats and working with other progressives to achieve progressive majorities on School Boards and Councils. Campaigns and committees need to be organized well in advance however to win election.
We look forward to hearing more about the Party’s plans for this busy election year at the Plenum.
The most important development on the left in Quebec is the merger of Quebec Solidaire with Option Nationale, and the decision of the newly merged party to make Quebec independence its main goal.
While QS has been in favor of independence for some time, it has also sought unity around its progressive agenda. However its main aim now is to unify the separatists rather than the leftist forces. This is an important qualitative change. It opens the door to an alliance between Quebec Solidaire and the Parti Quebecois.
As a result, PCQ members will have to discuss this issue at their forthcoming convention. The possibility of withdrawing from membership in QS and recovering a legal existence as the PCQ while continuing to work with the many progressive groups and individuals who remain in QS will be part of that discussion.
Comrade Pierre Fontaine will speak about this further in the Plenum.
In the last year, the Fight for $15 has made a big impact on the public, and on NDP and Liberal governments in Alberta, and Ontario who have committed to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2019. In BC, the NDP will raise the minimum to $15 as well, but not until 2021.
In Quebec, the Couillard Liberals will raise the minimum wage to $12 on May 1, and increase it to not more than 50% of the average hourly provincial wage by 2020. This convoluted proposition will raise the minimum by 75 cents an hour to make it the third highest in Canada in 2018, while ensuring it will not increase to $15 by 2020, or any time close to it. By invoking the average provincial hourly wage, the Liberals are trying to recruit higher paid workers to support suppression of the minimum wage.
The QFL and the CSN have both committed to include the demand for $15 minimum wage in their 2018 bargaining, and to lend their political and other support to the campaign in Quebec. This is an important development that should be picked up across the country.
The Big Business campaign against the $15 minimum wage includes threats of 60,000 job losses if the increase in enacted, and the bankrupting of small businesses across Canada. Tim Horton’s decision to strip paid breaks for its employees and cut some paid benefits has resulted in a firestorm of anger in communities across the country who recognize corporate greed when they see it.
Now Big Business is campaigning for a long phase-in period, that would delay the $15 minimum wage for four years or more.
But the same sense of fairness and outrage that fuelled the stinging public rebuke to Tim Hortons franchisees, is showing itself in this fight to get legislation passed. Furthermore, provincial governments seen to be resisting the unpopular corporate campaign, have draped themselves in Robin Hood’s cloak, taking from the rich to give to the poor. That’s a winning election platform anywhere in Canada.
Victory here is not a foregone conclusion however, and the active counter-offensive by the Fight for $15 Campaign, backed by the labour and people’s movements, is necessary to secure the increase.
The future of the fight to raise the minimum wage everywhere is bright, as the cost of living continues to rise and wages continue to stagnate and decline. By the final phase-in, $15 will be seen to be too small, just as the $10 and $14 an hour wage was too small. Already the basic living income in Toronto is 35% higher. What’s important is the growing struggle to raise the minimum wage to a livable level, and to raise the general wage as well. This is where the victory is.
Part of the importance of this movement is that many youth, immigrants, and older workers with no connections to the labour movement, have a connection through this campaign. This is an important moment for labour to extend its influence and support to low-paid, non-union workers, who need a union as much as they need a higher minimum wage.
The Women’s March in Canada January 21 involved 38 cities and was estimated by organizers to involve several more cities than the 2017 Women’s March. Motivated by the Trump attacks on the equality rights of women and the LGBTQ community, the #MeToo exposure of widespread sexual assault and harassment of women and girls also motivated women to take part, to express their anger, solidarity and determination to force real change. Many of those demonstrating had never attended a protest before, other than the 2017 Women’s March.
The placards and speakers called for unity and solidarity among women fighting for respect and to be free from violence and harassment, but also included calls for pay and employment equity, affordable childcare, affordable housing, reproductive choice and access to abortion, and equality rights in the law and all aspects of social, economic and political life. Trump and his ultra-right government were vilified as a threat to women, immigrants, Muslims, racialized people, the LGBTQ community, as well as to peace, democracy, and equality.
This is a broad-based, cross-class uprising of women who are demanding action to achieve real change and real progress for women in Canada, and globally. With Trump, a big line has been crossed and women are rising to demand respect and dignity and to claim their equality rights. This is a very important development.
For many years we have projected the need to build a broad democratic women’s organization and a Canada-wide coalition of women’s organizations to fight for women’s equality rights. In the past, the Congress of Canadian Women, La Ligue des Femmes in Quebec, and the WIDF played that role, along with NAC at the all-Canada level until it collapsed several years after being hit with huge funding cuts by the Chretien Liberals. The cost to women is in the low wages and big wage gap suffered by many, by the large number of women in precarious employment, by growing inaccessibility to abortion and birth control, by the high cost of childcare, and by the growth of violence against women and girls, and against racialized and Muslim women.
Working with the Women’s Commission, we should use our capacity to convene a cross-country electronic meeting of women comrades to discuss what is needed and what can be done in the current situation. What’s the best way to organize women today, and what’s the best way to build a progressive women’s organization and a progressive women’s movement in Canada? What’s the Party’s role here? And how can we build the Party among women?
The Women’s March is also a sign that mass democratic resistance is returning as a powerful force for change, for progress, and against reaction in Canada.
Black Lives Matter have led militant struggles against police carding and killings of Black men in Toronto, supported Haitian immigrants crossing into Canada from the US after Trump’s deportation announcements. Sit-ins, occupations of city roads and highways, and militant anti-racist actions have focused needed attention on racism in Canada, and generating support for anti-racist struggles led by BLM and Black leaders in Toronto.
Idle No More and Indigenous activists across Canada have organized militant actions against the proposed and approved pipelines, and against developments like the Site C dam in BC and Muskrat Falls in Labrador. In a case launched in 2007 by the Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, under the leadership of Cindy Blackstock, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled four times that the federal government must provide equitable funding for the education, health and social needs of Indigenous children. Indigenous people are also raising hell about the unacceptable delays and problems with the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and they are mobilizing to demand federal government funding and action to stop the suicide crisis among indigenous youth in isolated northern communities.
The environmental movement has become more politically active in response to the threat of climate change and the absence of climate justice. Pressure is growing to make the polluter pay a high price for the damage created. As the Liberals’ carbon tax takes hold, it will be increasingly evident that the carbon tax is not an obstacle to polluters, but just a (relatively small) tax on emissions, pollution and climate change. This will be important in the 2019 election campaign.
Unionized workers are also fighting, as the five-week long strike of Ontario College faculty showed in October, over demands for an end to part-time and precarious work for 70% of college teaching staff, pay equity, and adequate funding for Ontario’s community colleges. It was only the third strike in the 50 year history of OPSEU’s 12,000 college teachers, but it was the most militant and political strike, and the longest. On November 19th the provincial Legislature ordered them back to work. They went back – angry and undefeated.
There is a stirring generally that suggests the tide is turning from passive resistance, to organized and directed resistance against the onslaught of the right and the corporations. These are hopeful signs indeed.
The student movement on the other hand is in poor health, with very little in the way of mass action by students on sky-rocketing tuition fees which are making universities inaccessible to many working class youth. The Canadian Federation of Students which led students out on mass demonstrations in years past had opted instead for government lobbying and a defensive, inward looking strategy to try and fight attacks from right-wing student and university administrations.
Right-wing efforts to destroy the CFS through a campaign of disaffiliation have led to more conservative student leadership on many campuses. Nevertheless, pockets of student action remain across the country, including fighting for a $15/hr minimum wage, support for striking campus workers, fighting the emerging ultra-right on campuses, fighting for BDS against Israeli Apartheid and for schools to divest from fossil fuels. However, these cannot replace the call for free education – the demand that has the potential to build the most united and the strongest student fightback.
In Québec, the student movement is in a phase of re-composition. New student organisations are emerging as a result of ASSE’s inactivity and of the influence of ultra-leftist groups on the student movement in general, which, instead of promoting the unity of the student movement, are dividing it. This is partly a result of the failure of the 2015 anti-austerity strike which was soon isolated, weakening the student fightback.
The YCL is involved in trying to restart the organized fightback on campuses where it has clubs. The Party must do more on this front as well. The Party’s Youth and Campus Commission needs to give this some attention and work with the CEC to develop a plan of action to coordinate work on campuses.
Split in the House of Labour
With all of the above in mind, the deep new split in the trade union movement involving Unifor and the CLC is a serious setback.
Unifor’s January 17th announcement that is was disaffiliating from the Canadian Labour Congress effective immediately, is a division that will seriously weaken the labour movement, and benefit right-wing governments and corporations who will take every advantage of the split to drive down wages, destroy pensions, decertify unions and prevent organizing, break strikes and bust unions.
The move was justified according to Unifor, by the CLC’s inability to resolve the problems in Article 4 of the CLC Constitution. This is the Article which deals with Disputes and more specifically the rules governing the movement of a group of workers who leave one CLC affiliate to join another CLC affiliate.
While the grievances concerning Article 4 are justified, they do not add up to justification for a division of the labour movement at a dangerous time for the working class and for labour in Canada.
Further, the union locals and workers referenced by Unifor as the latest victims of Article 4, did not see it that way in early February, with workers at four hotels voting to join Unifor and two voting for decertification, while workers at seventeen hotels voted to remain in UNITE HERE. The results were not surprising, given the increasingly right-ward political drift of the top union leadership, many of whom now openly embrace the Liberal Party. Clearly the majority of hotel workers regarded Unifor’s actions as a raid, and the reference to Article 4 as a cover for a raid. Yet it would be a mistake to regard the vote as an endorsement of international unions or business unionism, or a rejection of the struggle for Canadian autonomy and democracy and class-struggle oriented unionism.
In January, the Party’s Central Trade Union Commission called on both Unifor and the CLC to work out a resolution to the real problems in Article 4, and avoid a split. We also call for an end to raiding by Unifor and all trade union organizations in Canada. Building the labour movement involves cooperation to organize the unorganized and precarious workers into a fighting force for workers’ rights and standards, for peace and progress, for social advance.
The Struggle for Unity
One of the problems in Article 4 was elaborated by the Umpire in his decision over the CAW/CLC/SEIU split in the 1990s. The problem is that CLC affiliates are the national and international unions which are affiliated to the CLC; not the Local Unions of these affiliates. If one or more union locals decide they want to leave their union to join another union, they must first get permission from their parent union to do so, in order to be ‘legal’ under Article 4.
In reality, this almost always results in the imposition of trusteeship over the local union and a change of leadership. The affiliates invariably decide that the Local Union is being raided, and the local union leadership is involved. The result is usually trusteeship of the local, and removal of the elected leadership.
The exceptions were the Communist led unions, like UE, which negotiated a fraternal separation at the border including union assets and memberships, in recognition of the rights of each to equality, sovereignty and democracy that are essential features of progressive unionism, and decisive features for labour unity.
While a majority (70%) of unionized workers in Canada are members of national unions today, including almost half a million workers who are members of Quebec’s CNTU (CSN) and other public sector unions, the Canadian Labour Congress, with affiliates in both English-speaking Canada and Quebec, has 33 international affiliates and 32 national affiliates. The international unions, representing mainly private sector workers, are actually US unions headquartered in the US, with Canadian members living and working in both English-speaking Canada and Quebec.
During the Cold War, many of the international unions became conduits for the US State Department and its anti-communist witch-hunts. The USWA was notorious for its raids on Mine-Mill and Smelter Workers, including physical and political attacks on Mine Mill, its halls, and its members. The USWA and other international unions in Canada participated in the expulsion of Mine-Mill, Fish, UE, CSU from what is now the CLC, and introduced the red clause into union constitutions, barring Communists from leadership and then membership in those unions.
In the 1980s and 90s, the international unions opted for tri-partism and concessions, while their Canadian affiliates opted to fight tri-partism and concessions. This came to a head in the UAW when the international union tried to force a poor contract on Canadian autoworkers. The Canadians broke away from the international and instead formed the CAW in 1985, carrying forward their militant labour history, traditions and class oriented brand of trade unionism.
Now more than half of trade union members in Canada belong to Canadian unions, most of them public sector unions formed in the 1960s and 70s, many of whose members are women.
For a Sovereign, Independent and United Trade Union Movement
Our policy over many years has been to build a sovereign, independent and united trade union movement which is able to represent and fight for the class interests of its members, separate and together with those of the trade union movement and the working class as whole.
A sovereign trade union movement means Canadian workers have complete sovereignty and control over their unions and are not subject to diktat or interference from unions in another country. Their relationships with unions outside of Canada, as well as inside Canada, are fraternal and equal.
An independent trade union movement means a class struggle oriented trade union movement, one that opposes class collaboration and advocates independent labour political action. This includes social unionism, and the idea that the working class has important social and political allies outside the labour movement. It also rejects raiding as a knife in the heart of the labour movement.
A united trade union movement means a trade union movement united in action and in common cause for the advancement of the interests of the working class as a whole as well as each of its parts. A united labour movement will not be dominated by right-wing class-collaborationist leadership and policies, but by a strong left-wing leadership, oriented on class struggle policies and on mass action. It will fight to expand the trade union movement by organizing the unorganized and unemployed; it will mobilize workers, their communities and allies in defense of workers’ interests, and to expand workers’ rights and interests in the workplace, and in the country.
This is the lens that Communists use to determine whether the interests of the working class will be advanced or set back with this or that policy, or course of action.
With this in mind, we make the following observations about the current crisis in the trade union movement:
- Article 4 must be amended to allow workers to separate from international unions which do not recognize in practice their rights to autonomy and democracy
- The absence of a resolution to Article 4 does not justify splitting the labour movement at this perilous moment for workers and for labour in Canada
- Raiding is never justified, under any circumstances. Raiding is a cancer in the labour movement that has been engaged in frequently by many CLC affiliates including all involved in the current dispute
- Changes in work and in the workplace due to the STR have changed the way the working class and the labour movement is organized, creating overlap and tending towards conglomerate unions
- The employer assault and US control over sections of the Canadian economy, including the auto sector, has contributed to the loss of union density, and union members in many industrial unions, creating the basis for competition between unions for members and dues. It has also created the conditions for the formation of conglomerate unions, business unionism and class collaboration, and for raiding, over the hard but essential work of organizing the unorganized and the unemployed
- This provides employers with the opportunity to exploit the situation for profit, by setting union against union in a race to the bottom that will also destroy the unions
- All workers – organized and unorganized, employed and unemployed and precariously employed lose in this situation
- Instead of competing with one another, Unifor and the CLC, (and class oriented unions generally) need to fight for a united front of struggle against the employers, in the interests of their members and the working class as a whole
Labour Councils and unions across the country are deeply dismayed by news of the split, which will reach down into communities from coast to coast to coast. In many places the local Labour Councils are the face of the labour movement and the hub of community resistance to plant closures, lay-offs, lock-outs, cuts to social programs, anti-worker laws, security state legislation, violence against women, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, and almost everything else that matters.
A split will carry a very high price.
Communists in the trade union movement are urging Unifor and the CLC to go to work and resolve the important issues that are involved in the current dispute. They will fight for unity and against a split in the Labour Councils, and for a speedy and a principled resolution to the problems at issue.
Communists in the labour movement are also fighting to build and rebuild the left in the trade union movement, which have been weakened by layoffs, retirements of veterans, and the general weakening of the labour movement by corporations and right-wing governments, and by the vise-like control of the leadership of the trade union movement by right-wing social democrats who have sharply curtailed democratic debate at conventions, and the ability of the membership to address policy, stand for leadership, and take ownership of their unions in convention.
Building a strong left voice, and strong left caucuses in the trade union movement, will strengthen the movement, and help develop new voices and new methods of militant struggle in the labour movement.
Communists in the labour movement will also fight for strong and effective Labour Councils to lead the struggles in cities and communities, for unity of the labour and people’s movements at all levels, for independent labour political action in the streets and in the communities.
Building an Anti-Fascist, Anti-Racist, Democratic Movement
In response to the activities of various racist and fascist organizations who are recruiting across the country, spontaneous counter-protests and organization have appeared in a number of cities, mostly involving young people. In Toronto, the Parkdale Club of the Party organized an anti-fascist, anti-racist group whose goal was to counter fascist demonstrations held at City Hall and elsewhere, and drive them off with superior numbers, speakers and bullhorns, etc.
The work was very successful, but before long many activists were exhausted by attempting to respond to every reported fascist demo, many of which didn’t materialize, or involved only a handful of fascists. It was not possible to keep up the pace. At the same time, other groups had formed across the country, and were facing the same challenges. OCAI (Organizing Committee Against Islamophobia) is the name of the organization born out of those experiences in Toronto, which later became SAFE (Solidarity Against Fascism Everywhere), which is where our members continue to concentrate their efforts. There are other organizations across the country which are older or newer, but active in the anti-fascist, anti-racist movement.
For the ultra-left, anti-fascist and anti-racist organizing is only about face to face confrontations with fascist groups.
This is not the kind of organizing that can do the job, however. While some of those involved might be well-intentioned, this is not the way to win this struggle.
Defeating fascist and racist ideas and organizations means organizing and mobilizing for mass action by working people. It means reaching out to the labour movement; the women’s movement; the churches, mosques and other religious organizations; the students and academics; indigenous organizations; racialized community organizations; migrant and immigrant groups; civil rights’ organizations and the democratic movements; and those whose common interest is democracy and opposition to racist, white supremacist and fascist organization and advocacy. Its strength is in its breadth and its mass activity in support of a program of demands and action, most of which will be political and aimed at the government.
Our aim is to build a powerful people’s movement against racism and fascism, one that can take to the streets and make itself seen and heard in Ottawa, in the provincial capitals and city halls, in the school boards, and on Bay Street and Main Street. The strength of the people’s movement, of its organization, and determination to struggle and to win, is the guarantee of success. Success is the isolation and rejection of fascist ideas and organization by working people, by youth, by communities.
The movement we seek to build is a popular, democratic and anti-fascist, anti-racist movement which is militant without being sectarian. It can have an informational and educational function without being liberal, and be agitational while organizing actions in support of its demands. It must be a movement that is active and that is connected to the larger fight for democracy, against war and against racism and fascism. It must be able to attract others to the fight for democracy and equality.
Central Committee, Communist Party of Canada, February 11th, 2018