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14th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties (IMCWP)
“Strengthen the struggles against escalating imperialist aggressiveness, for satisfying peoples’socio-economic-democratic rights and aspirations, for socialism”.
, 22 to 25 November 2012
Contribution from the Communist Party of Canada, presented by Kimball Cariou, member of the Central Executive Committee, CPC
Let me begin by expressing thanks to our hosts. This gathering is eloquent proof that the Lebanese Communist Party plays an important role in today’s working class struggles against global capital, for defence of the peoples against imperialism and Zionism, and for advances towards socialism.
The theme of our meeting reflects the urgent necessity to lift the struggles for peace and social progress to a higher level. The systemic crisis of capitalism continues to unfold, despite the efforts of ruling circles to reverse its downward spiral.
In Canada today over 1.4 million workers are officially unemployed, and nearly a million rely on food banks to survive. The Aboriginal peoples and the Quebec nation within the Canadian state are still denied national equality. Immigrant workers are brutally exploited and denied many labour and democratic rights, while the Conservative government fans racism to divide the working class. Women’s equality rights are under severe pressure. Gains achieved by working people through decades of bitter struggles being rolled back by domestic and foreign capital, and by right-wing and even social democratic governments which accept the dogmas of neoliberalism.
Under the Conservatives, Canada is a fierce opponent of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. PM Harper is a determined advocate of the free movement of capital and “investor rights”, such as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the European Union and Canada (CETA), which poses new and serious threats to the working class and people’s sovereignty.
But our party does not take a narrow nationalist position, in contrast to some who wrongly portray the Canada-China foreign investment agreement (FIPA) as the most dangerous economic deal in our history. In reality, Canada has long been dominated economically and culturally by U.S. imperialism – the most reactionary enemy of the peoples of the world. We believe the struggle for sovereignty must be grounded in demands for public ownership, and in policies which unite working people against big capital, rather than pitting workers of different countries against each other.
Canada has become a key partner in U.S. imperialism’s global military operations, joining aggressions from the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 to last year’s overthrow of the government of Libya. Canada was a key player in the NATO occupation of Afghanistan, and is establishing new military bases abroad, to allow more rapid deployments in further imperialist aggressions. The longstanding policy of friendly relations with socialist Cuba is in danger of being replaced by hostility and cooperation with the illegal US blockade.
The integration of Canada into the global imperialist drive for redivision of markets, resources, and labour power has been accelerated. The Canadian ruling class benefits enormously from this process, for example through the dramatic increase in overseas operations and investments by Canadian-based mining companies.
As our most recent Central Committee meeting stated, Canada’s domestic economy has remained (so far) relatively buoyant, due primarily to high world commodity prices for oil, gold and minerals. Corporate profits are higher than before the 2008 crisis, sovereign debt levels are manageable, and unemployment is below the U.S. and most European countries.
Yet the capitalist offensive is almost as intense as in other imperialist states. The ruling class aims to cripple the trade unions, which still represent about 30% of the total workforce; and also to further shift government spending, away from “redistributive” functions such as social assistance, universal health care and education, towards the repressive features of the capitalist state – the military, the police, and the prison system.
What explains the intensity of this attack? Our CC pointed to two main factors: the extreme-right agenda of the federal Conservatives and many provincial governments; and the failure of the trade union leadership, especially at the level of the Canadian Labour Congress, to mobilize around a concerted fightback strategy.
Despite occasional anti-capitalist rhetoric, the labour movement’s top leadership remains firmly tied to class collaborationist concepts. Their aim is to convince the neoliberal governments to adopt a more Keynesian policy, such as improved universal pensions. This strategy is based partly on an assumption that the right-wing social democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) may be elected in 2015, and therefore workers should simply try to hold the line for a few years rather than organize a mass, broad, united militant fightback.
The Communist Party of Canada, which was the main force involved in building the militant sections of the trade union movement starting in the 1920s, is not yet in a position to change this trajectory. But we continue to strengthen our positions in the working class movement, building alliances and links with trade union activists and others who are committed to a more powerful fightback strategy.
Numerous popular struggles have already taken place. Most notable was the mass strike of the Quebec students against higher tuition fees, which began last February and lasted for several months, involving hundreds of thousands of students. This struggle also condemned other neoliberal policies, bringing huge numbers of working people into the streets in solidarity. In response, the Quebec Liberal government brought in draconian anti-democratic legislation, even attempting to ban mass demonstrations. This episode came to a temporary end with the electoral victory of the reformist, petty-bourgeois nationalist Parti Quebecois, which has only a minority in the National Assembly. The PQ has retreated from its pro-people election promises, and another provincial election lies ahead. There are growing pressures in Quebec for labour and its social allies to lead a general strike against neoliberal policies, although it remains to be seen whether the trade union leadership will move in such a militant direction.
In Canada’s largest province, Ontario, the government/corporate attack against free collective bargaining, public education, and other social programs, and democratic rights and freedoms, has become particularly sharp. The left-leaning leadership of the Ontario Federation of Labour has taken the initiative to form a Common Front against the employers and governments. As in Quebec, there is increasing support for a more militant fightback strategy, and a critical election is widely expected next spring. An election will also take place next May in the third largest province, British Columbia, which has seen many resistance struggles against a right-wing government.
A powerful movement has emerged to reverse the corporate drive to increase dependence on resource exports, in particular unprocessed bitumen from the Alberta tar sands. Sparked by the destructive environmental impact of tar sands extraction, this movement is challenging the anti-sovereignty policies of the Canadian ruling class. Our party calls for public ownership of energy and other resources, as the material basis for an economy based on prioritizing the needs of working people and the environment over the greed of the transnational corporations. As the looming environmental crisis and the global economic difficulties of capitalism become more apparent, our proposals for a “People’s Alternative” are gaining new interest. Recent months have seen an upward trend in people seeking information and joining our Party.
The mood of working people is increasingly one of anger and rejection of the neoliberal economic model. As in other countries, millions of Canadians are searching for alternatives to the bleak future of unchecked global capitalism and the threat of fascist corporate domination.
And as elsewhere, some have turned to reformist options which make apparent criticisms of big capital. In reality, as seen by their record in Parliament and in power in several provinces, the NDP rejects any discussion of public ownership, or shifting the tax burden onto the corporations, or cutting military spending, let alone fundamental anti-capitalist strategies. The NDP refuses to criticize the Conservative policy of support for Israel’s apartheid-style occupation of Palestine, and backs warmongering calls for western intervention against Syria and Iran.
In this situation, there are new opportunities to win more Canadians to our goal of a socialist Canada, based on genuine people’s democratic participation, full social and human equality, a foreign policy of peace and universal disarmament, and an end to capitalist exploitation.
There will be many complex challenges as we build a much larger and more influential Communist Party and Young Communist League, and as we help create a genuine People’s Coalition, bringing together the movements of the working class, Aboriginal peoples, farmers, women, seniors, youth, racialized and immigrant communities, environmentalists, the LGBT movements, social justice coalitions, and others. Such a Coalition would elevate the fightback from a defensive posture into a powerful campaign for a fundamentally new Canada.
Our Party remains based on the principles of Marxism-Leninism, the ideology which guides the working class struggles for a socialist future. Our efforts to build wider unity in the daily battles around immediate demands are combined with a sharp critique of the dead-end trap of reformism and opportunism presented by social democracy, and of the phony rhetoric coming from forces which criticize capitalism but reject the historical role of the working class in the revolutionary transformation of society.
As we have from the beginning of these annual meetings, the Communist Party of Canada urges steps to increase the theoretical unity and practical cooperation of our parties, to make the communist movement a force capable of rolling back the imperialist agenda on a global scale. In our view, such cooperation should include a concrete and unified response to condemn the threats of imperialist aggression against Syria and Iran.
We salute the fraternal parties taking part in the 14
International Meeting being held in Beirut, and we look forward to productive and useful discussions and decisions during our time here together.