The role of the NDP in the railway strike was to “pretend” in words to support the rights of the workers but to oppose them in actual practice. One of the primary questions that came up in the course of the struggle was the ’Right to Strike’. The right to strike is a fundamental right of working class which has been fought for and defended with their blood for the last 100 years. This fundamental right is a tool in the hands of the workers to oppose the attempts of the capitalist class to encroach upon their wages, standard of living, working conditions and job security. Did the NDP ever once stand with the railway workers in defence of this right? The answer is an emphatic no!! As David Lewis said in parliament on August 30: “I agree there should be a law sending these people (the railway workers) back to work and resuming railway operations, but that law should be ’just’ with regard to the workers...” (Hansard, August 30,1973). Mr. Lewis is piously bleating to the capitalists to be “just strikebreakers”. The NDP in fact gave public support to the Liberal government and promised not to obstruct them even before parliament was called to session. David Lewis took the initiative during the election campaigning last fall to prepare public opinion for the Liberal Party by doing propaganda that the strike, as a form of economic warfare, must be ended if it endangered the “welfare of the community”. What is this “welfare of the community” of which Lewis talks? In Canadian society, there exists two very definite and separate communities; i.e., the community of workers and the community of capitalists. Hiding behind empty rhetoric, Mr. Lewis is shamelessly trying to trick the workers into thinking that “what is good for the slave-master, is good for the slave”. The working class knows from its own experience that without the right to strike, it is completely at the mercy of the monopoly capitalists. When parliament was called to session, the so-called “friend of the workers” voted in favour of the openly anti-labour bill on the first and second readings. Their opposition to the legislation came up on the third reading when they were confident that it would pass. Further they still refused to oppose it on the basis that it is the fundamental right of workers to strike, but rather on the basis of a few extra pennies. How does this make them different from the Conservatives or Social Credit who also were hollering “Not enough”? The NDP can pretend that it is the friend of the workers because it asks for more money than any other capitalist party. That is how they worm their way into the workers movement to disrupt it from within. Another fundamental right of workers is their right to sell their labour power at a price agreeable to themselves. Did the NDP ever support the just demands of the railway workers? Again no! They thought it was just fine for the capitalist class to decide this forthe workers. When the railway workers held a militant demonstration on Parliament Hill to back their just demands, Lewis again tried to liquidate their struggle by arrogantly telling them, “Just shut up a moment, you are not helping your cause by bursting your way in here and breaking windows”. He was vigorously booed and jeered and finally shouted down by the slogan We Won’t Co Back!
The history of the NDP is that of class collaboration and capitulation. It is a history of giving sham support to the working class in order to liquidate their struggles and compromise their fundamental interests. Social-democracy, the theoretical foundations of the NDP, is a cousin of open fascism. It is a political and economic philosophy used by the monopoly capitalists to solve their problems, not to solve the problems of the working class. It was the social-democrats in Germany in the30’swho handed over the state to the fascists. The present day adherents to social-democracy are Harold Wilson, leader of the notoriously anti-labour Labor Party in England, Indira Gandhi who carries out openly fascist repression of millions of Indian working people and peasants daily, and Golda Meir, nazi collaborator and head of the Zionist state of Israel.
In Canada, the NDP have the same basic outlook as all the other capitalist parties. That is, that this country can only develop by further selling out the land, labour and resources to the foreign imperialists; that the Canadian people themselves are not capable of developing the country consistent with their needs and aspirations.
The only difference the NDP has with other capitalist parties is that they would like to sell-out the country more and tighten the grasp of foreign (mainly U.S.) imperialism on the Canadian people. The actual practice of the NDP testifies to these facts.
In Saskatchewan, where the CCF/NDP has held power for the last 20 years, the entire economy of the province has been sold out. The result of this is that 20,000 working people and farmers yearly are forced to leave the province in search of work and new means of livelihood. In Manitoba and BC the NDP governments are heading down the same track.
The NDP has the same sell-out policy with regard to the struggles of the working class. In 1966 the NDP supported the strike-breaking legislation against the railway workers. In 1972, Lewis voted in favour of Bill C-231 to smash the strike of the BC longshoremen.
In BC, since the NDP came to power, their government has been “leading” the country with respect to repressive labour legislation. Instead of repealing the “Mediations Commissions Act” as they promised to during their election campaign, the NDP has introduced Bill 11 which is even more repressive and anti-labour than its predecessor. Some of the provisions of this bill are: exclusion of domestic, agricultural workers and fishermen from union protection, imposition of “rational agreements” which force workers in BC to work at wages and conditions set in the east, opening of the closed shop which 78.3% of BC’s workers belong to, opening of certifications in a manner conducive to inter-union raiding, compulsory arbitration, interference in strikes by mediators, restriction of picketing. The list goes on and on.
Actual investigation of the practice of the NDP shows that they have nothing to offer the working class but increased exploitation and plunder. History has shown that when the time comes to make a stand, social-democrats (the NDP) stand not with the working class but with the monopoly capitalist class. It is our view that the rail strike showed that one section of the workers were forced to fight the entire capitalist class; and that to fight and win in the long run, the workers must also unite as an entire class to fight wage slavery and capitalist exploitation. It is the contention of the authors of this article that the only political party which represents the genuine interests of the working class and is capable of uniting the entire class is the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist).
We do not intend to impose our views on our fellow workers, but rather hold that the question of “who the workers should give political support to” be decided by the workers themselves through discussion and actual investigation.
(This article first appeared in Newsletter of Local 99 of the CBRT&GW, Edmonton, Alberta. This article subsequently was reprinted in People’s Canada Daily News, Vol. 3 No. 353, January 24, 1974.)