Since 1974 Canada has been plunged into a serious economic crisis. The double plague of inflation and unemployment hounds Canadian workers mercilessly. Despite the bourgeois economists’ repeated predictions of economic recovery, the crisis persists. Periods of lull are followed by periods of sharper crisis, while prices rise continually, real wages decrease, layoffs and job cuts go on unabated.
This crisis is taking on a chronic character more and more, with no apparent solution in sight. The myth that capitalism can assure everyone a prosperous life, that everyone will get rich, is going up in smoke in the face of the hard reality of the capitalist crisis.
Although all the capitalist countries are in the throes of essentially the same crisis – this is a world-wide economic crisis – in Canada it has some particularities. We have, for example, a very high level of unemployment: 8.4% in 1978, while in the US it was 6%, in France 6%, and Germany 4%. The Canadian dollar is unstable and has taken some sharp dives, and the external debt has risen enormously, reaching $118 billion, making Canada the most heavily indebted country in the world.
These particularities arise from two characteristics of the Canadian economy. First, it is primarily oriented towards the export of raw materials and semi-processed goods; the manufacturing sector is relatively underdeveloped and therefore extremely vulnerable to depressed world markets during a period of crisis. Second, American imperialism, which has enormous interests in Canada, transfers much of the impact of the crisis to us by closing its factories here and cutting back production on this side of the border. These factors contribute to the aggravation of the crisis in Canada.
For the working people, the aggravation of the crisis means a continual deterioration of living and working conditions. All the working people suffer: from factory workers and office workers to small farmers and shopkeepers. And even harder hit are those who also suffer specific forms of oppression, like the oppressed nationalities, women, young people and immigrants.
The crisis also increases regional disparities. In some of the less developed areas of Canada the crisis has had devastating effects.
The bourgeoisie’s basic means to escape the crisis and protect its profits is to lay the burden of the crisis on the people. It is using a series of economic and political measures to do this. First, it is attempting to impose controls on wage increases, to keep them below the increase in the cost of living. Next it is manipulating government budgets as it likes in order to make drastic cuts in the money going to public services and social programs. This money is being redirected into grants and tax relief for the monopolies. It is taking advantage of the crisis to rationalize production at the expense of the workers, with speed-ups, layoffs and the closing of less productive enterprises. All of these measures result in constant deterioration in living and working conditions, and the reforms workers won in struggle, like unemployment insurance or medicare, are being threatened.
To ensure that its measures are accepted the bourgeoisie is stepping up repression and attacks on fundamental democratic rights. It is attacking the right to strike, in the public sector in particular, and is constantly limiting it in the private sector. It is limiting the right to organize, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. It is attacking workers’ and progressive organizations with police spying.
In times of crisis democratic rights are regularly ignored and are in greater danger than in “normal” periods.
The bourgeoisie is using the crisis to impose important economic setbacks on Canada’s working people as well as to attack their democratic rights.
Canadian workers must refuse to pay for the capitalist crisis. The working class must oppose any deterioration in its standard of living and resist all attacks on its basic democratic rights.
The proletariat has to fight the bourgeoisie’s crisis measures. The capitalists and their reformist and revisionist agents try to convince workers that the solution to the crisis lies in collaboration between workers and bosses, in everyone tightening their belts and making sacrifices for the “common good.”
But there are no common interests between the working class and the bourgeoisie. Only through class against class struggle, only by mobilizing and uniting all workers against the bourgeoisie, can we win victories in the workers’ daily struggles. This tactic enables the working class to strengthen itself and to rally the masses of the people to oppose the capitalists and move forward in the struggle for socialism. This tactic means:
The working class strengthens itself through rank-and-file unity in action. It builds unity through education and democratic debates. And it wins victories through direct action like demonstrations, slowdowns, strikes and other forms of struggle that unite workers against the capitalists.
Negotiations alone cannot win victories for the working class. All that the working class has won in the past from the capitalists has been the result of hard struggle. Struggle help us build our forces so we can win our demands.
Our Party is fighting to unite and coordinate the struggles of the whole working class against the crisis. To defeat the enemy we need unity in our ranks.
The working class must build a political struggle, independent of all bourgeois parties, against the capitalist crisis.
We must do more than struggle against one boss after another over particular economic questions. The working class must unite its struggles and aim its attack at all the capitalists and their state. It must wage a political struggle against the bourgeoisie. This struggle must be a mass struggle, a direct confrontation with the bourgeoisie and not closed-door bartering in Parliament conference rooms or electoral support for a reformist party.
We must also work to unite the struggles waged by all working people and by everyone who is hit by the capitalist crisis. Small producers’ battles against the monopolies, city employees’ struggles, the fight of oppressed nationalities, of immigrant workers against discrimination, working women defending their rights, students fighting cutbacks – all of these battles can be shaped into a united offensive led by the proletariat. And this unity is a valuable weapon in the fight against the capitalist crisis.
All of these are measures that should; be taken by Canadian workers.
But at the same time as our Party wages the struggle to defend and improve the living and working conditions of the working class, it also educates each worker, raises his class consciousness and prepares him for the revolutionary struggle. This has nothing in common with the reformist parties which try to get the working class to accept capitalist exploitation.
We must show that immediate struggles, even when they are victorious, cannot bring long-lasting improvement as long the capitalist system remains. The final solution to exploitation and oppression, to crisis and poverty, can only be the elimination of the root of the problem, the elimination of the capitalist system itself.
Unlike any of the bourgeois parties, our Party has a program to lead Canadian workers in the fightback against the crisis. We fight all of the bourgeoisie’s crisis measures. We call on Canadian workers to strike hard at the capitalist class and its state.
Our Party fights to defend and improve the working people’s standard of living and to defend their democratic rights. We struggle for better wages and working conditions, better housing, health care, education and recreational facilities for working people. We refuse to bear the burden of the capitalist crisis. Our main demands are:
One of the most important ways the capitalists try to make the working class bear the burden of the crisis is by limiting or freezing wages. In the past the capitalists tried to lower wages directly, but because of the resistance and organization of unionized workers, this method was dropped. The present method is more subtle, but just as effective – to keep wage increases below the increase in the cost of living, thereby reducing their real value.
The bourgeoisie’s pretense of fighting inflation is merely a screen for imposing limits on wage increases by means of laws and through other measures Meanwhile, the cost of living, especially the cost of daily necessities like food, continues to rise. Inflation, and the phoney fight against inflation are simply means by which the capitalists can exploit workers to the hilt and make more and more profit.
Between 1975 and 1978 the Trudeau government maintained a wage freeze through legislation. After 1978 the bourgeoisie used various measures to maintain a wage ceiling even though the opposition of workers had forced it to withdraw its wage-freeze legislation.
Workers have to defend their standard of living and their wages.
Our Party demands:
• abolition of all wage freezes or ceilings;
• cost-of-living allowances on all workers’ wages rolled into the base wage;
• an increase in the minimum wage and indexation to the cost of living;
• a shorter work week with no loss in pay.
Undoubtedly one of the most devastating effects of the crisis is unemployment. At least one million Canadians are without work, and factory shutdowns, layoffs and job cuts go on unabated. To protect their profits, capitalists take advantage of the crisis to close inefficient plants, to rationalize and to modernize production, all at the expense of the workers. At the same time restrictions in state budgets give rise to cuts in the number of employees in the public sector, driving unemployment even higher. One of the bourgeoisie’s objectives during crisis periods is to decrease, and even get rid of unemployment insurance. Using pseudo-scientific studies claiming that unemployment insurance promotes “laziness” to bolster its campaign against UIC “cheaters,” it is trying to prepare public opinion for radical cutbacks in this area.
Unemployment is a curse of capitalism. During crises it reaches catastrophic proportions. It is one of the bourgeoisie’s favourite weapons for controlling and lowering wages. The right to a job is trampled underfoot and completely denied under capitalism. Only socialism will set the conditions for the definitive solution to the plague of unemployment.
Meanwhile, the working class must fight unemployment, and to do so it must mobilize the broad masses of the people. The capitalists and their state must be the ones to pay the costs of unemployment. We have to take up battles to force them either to create jobs or to guarantee an income to the unemployed.
Our Party demands:
• an immediate end to layoffs and shutdowns;
• job creation by the government by means of public works projects that serve the needs of the people (for example, building hospitals and low-cost housing, etc.);
• an end to job cuts in the public sector;
• the withdrawal of all laws and measures restricting access to or lowering benefits from unemployment insurance;
• benefits equivalent to full wages, or a guaranteed income for all.
In periods of crisis the easiest places for governments to cut are in the public service and social service programs.
In the health-care field, medicare is threatened, hospitals are closing and the number of beds is reduced. Waiting lists in the hospitals grow longer and longer, and the quality of care is lowered. In education, conditions are deteriorating and school after school is closed, teachers are laid off and many programs are cut. All kinds of social welfare programs like family allowances and welfare payments are affected by budget cuts. Not only do these measures seriously harm the people’s standard of living, but they also markedly aggravate unemployment.
• We demand an end to cutbacks in health, education and social services.
• We demand an increase, and cost-of-living allowance, in old age pensions, family allowances and welfare payments.
• We demand better quality and more public services.
• We oppose the transfer of funds from public services and social programs to the monopolies.
The capitalists are trying to rationalize and speed up production. The result is the deterioration of health and safety standards on the job. Workers have accidents and contract industrial diseases and nervous problems. Every five seconds there is a work accident in this country. But what counts for the bourgeoisie is profits, not lives. We demand an end to dangerous working conditions by eliminating the dangers at the source. Workers’ health must come before profits.
Our Party demands:
• the collective and individual right to stop work when conditions are dangerous for health, with no penalty to the workers;
• the union’s right to investigate working conditions, independent of the bosses;
• full compensation and job security in cases of industrial diseases and work accidents;
• free choice of doctors.
In its progressive period, when it was fighting feudalism, the bourgeoisie formulated a number of democratic rights – freedom of speech, of assembly, of political opinion and the press.
But once the bourgeoisie had consolidated its power and developed its strength, and, in the epoch of imperialism had become a monopoly bourgeoisie, it put severe restrictions on these democratic rights. The defence of our democratic rights is an important aspect of the revolutionary struggle because organization and struggle are easier under democratic conditions than in periods of repression or fascism.
As the crisis worsens our democratic rights are trampled by the bourgeoisie to an even greater extent. Our rights are shackled when the RCMP engages in electronic spying, harassment, shadowing and infiltration of political parties. The increase in repression is manifested also in the increased suppression of unions, limits imposed on the right to strike, and the trampling of the right to organize.
Our Party fights for:
• the defence of democratic rights and against increased repression;
• the defence of the right to strike;
• the defence of our unions.
Immigrant workers are hit hard by the crisis. The vast majority of immigrants are part of the working class. They work in the lowest paid jobs as it is, often in small shops where there is no union and conditions are intolerable. In a period of crisis the imperialist bourgeoisie, which has lured immigrants to Canada with promises of a better life, does an about-face and throws them out into the streets, blames them for unemployment, and deports many of them.
New immigrants are denied their basic democratic rights. If they participate in trade unions or political activities in Canada, or develop support for progressive movements in their home countries, they face harassment by the police and the Immigration department and the threat of deportation.
The Immigration authorities do not even need warrants to conduct raids against immigrants. It takes at least three years to become a Canadian citizen and during this time immigrants are deprived of their basic political rights. And the state often denies immigrants citizenship for years on the most flimsy pretext.
Each year hundreds of immigrants are arrested and deported back to their countries of origin. The reactionary immigration act, C-24, adopted in 1977 allows deportation without trial on suspicion of even the most minor offense.
Immigrants suffer harsh discrimination in housing, health care, education and jobs. Many immigrants from the third world are victims of racist abuse and attacks. They suffer constant harassment and various forms of persecution at the hands of the government, police and capitalists.
But despite all the capitalists’ attempts to crush their resistance, immigrant workers are standing up for their rights.
Our Party fights to defend the rights of immigrant workers and to build their unity with the rest of the multinational Canadian working class.
• an end to arrests, harassment and deportation;
• an end to discrimination and racist attacks;
• full democratic rights for immigrants, including the right to participate in trade union and political activities;
• no discrimination in jobs, housing and social services for immigrants;
• repeal of the racist and discriminatory immigration laws.