First Published: The Forge, Vol. 1, No. 3, January 26, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The Minister of National Defence James Richardson recently decided to purchase 18 long-range reconnaissance planes – Lougheed P-3C’s – for $950 million. Other expenditures are being made to beef up the equipment of Canadian troops in NATO: new tanks, and maybe planes, are being bought. Canada’s military budget this year while exceed $2,862 million, climbing to $3,345 million in two years.
These expenditures according to Richardson, will contribute to the reinforcement of Canada’s defence potential against the threat of aggression from Soviet social imperialism. A greater firmness towards the aggressiveness of the two superpowers is a good thing. But the problem is that, towards American imperialism, the Canadian bourgeoisie, on the military level, capitulates all down the line!
Aside from defending the country, the Canadian army also has the role of repressing the people at home and intervening abroad in the interests of Canadian imperialism.
Which of these three roles – repression, aggression, or defence – is dominant today?
The standing army and the police are the principal instruments of force of the state’s power. Here in Canada, in normal times, the police take care of the maintenance of bourgeois order. The army is usually out of sight.
It is always the police that we see every day, patrolling the streets, surveilling and breaking up picket lines or demonstrations. But the moment widespread mass resistance erupts violently – and the police can’t handle the situation alone – the bourgeoisie calls out the army.
That’s what happened in 1918, in Quebec, when the people refused the participate in the imperialist war. The army fired on the crowd and killed 4 workers. The same scene was repeated in 1919, during the Winnipeg general strike, when the militia (an auxiliary corps of the army) put down the revolt.
More recently, who can forget the events of October 1970 when the bourgeoisie invoked its “War Measures Act” and the army patrolled Montreal and several cities in Quebec. And, for the Olympics this summer 16,000 soldiers are being called in to lend the police a hand.
As an imperialist army, the Canadian army has actively served aggressive ends, alongside the armies of the great powers. That was the case in 1899, with the Boer war, in 1914, with the first imperialist world war, and right on up to the Korean War in 1952. Today, too, the Canadian army is being trained for imperialist goals. In recent years, for example, troops have been training in Australia and Jamaica in order to be able to “serve” in tropical countries.
What about another role at the army – the protection of the country against aggression. In recent years, this function has taken on a great importance.
The struggle for the domination of the world between the two superpowers – the US and the USSR – is pushing us straight towards a new world war. If war erupts, Canada is a choice morsel. Sandwiched in between the two giants, its natural resources are of strategic importance in wartime: petroleum, asbestos, copper, uranium, electrical energy, etc. And Canada is the sixth largest dealer in arms and military equipment in the world!
American imperialism is the superpower which most threatens Canada’s national independence. Its constant attempts to control Canada – for example, by economic penetration – speak for themselves.
But we cannot on the Canadian bourgeoisie to steadfastly face up to this situation.[MIA Note: as in original] For, from the point of view of military defense, the bourgeoisie capitulates before American imperialism.
The ruling class’s military policy contrasts with Canada’s tendency to affirm its independence as a country of the second world. In its fight for sovereignty over Canadian waters within a 200 mile limit, for example. Canada stood in contradiction to the two superpowers.
Canada’s defence largely consists of its membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the North American Air Defence (NORAD). NATO, which also regroups most of the West European countries, has been dominated by US imperialism since its birth. In participating in this pact, Canada in part gives over its defence to the US. A small example: in times of war, all Canadian anti-submarine naval war units, because they are integrated into NATO, would, be placed under the control of an American base in Virginia!
The NORAD pact submits the air defence of Canadian territory totally to the policies of aggression of American imperialism. The accord places the North American territory entirely under the surveillance of a mixed Canadian-American command, based in Colorado Springs, USA. And, of course, it is the American military which has the upper hand in this command. Canada, in fact, has so little say that it can be faced with previously made decisions on vitally important issues without any warning.
For example, during the 1962 “Cuban missile crisis”, US imperialism put its troops on alert. But, with the NORAD accords, Canadian troops were also put on alert... without even the Canadian government being forewarned! The same thing happened during the 1973 Middle East October War, when US imperialism put its forces around the world on a state of “atomic alert”.
To justify this capitulation, the Canadian bourgeoisie says that Canada’s defence is a “continental” affair. As the White Paper on Defence put it: ”Canada’s interest are intimately linked with those of the United States as concerns the defence of North America.”
To defend its policy, the bourgeoisie even invokes – of all things – Canada’s sovereignty. To quote the same White Paper: “The cooperation (!) between Canada and the United States in the common defence of North America is dictated by the motives of sovereignty (!!) and security (!!!).” Now that’s some sovereignty – it’s defended by whoever is bigger!
The Canadian bourgeoisie’s military policy can thus be summed up this way: repression of the masses and abandonment of national sovereignty.
Today, the army’s role of repression is dominant. The principal contradiction in Canada pits the proletariat against the bourgeoisie – and the ruling class calls upon its army as a “special force” to keep itself in power.
As for national defense, everything today suggests that, should a new world war erupt, the Canadian bourgeoisie will follow in the footsteps of American imperialism on the military level – either to back up its struggle for world domination, or even to “defend” Canada. So much as for an autonomous military defence, which would be a positive gesture on the part of the ruling class! Above all, there’s no way the ruling class will ever dare to arm the Canadian people to defend the country.
The proletariat and the Canadian people cannot place any confidence in the bourgeoisie for the defence of our country.
To alert, prepare and organize the Canadian people against the danger of war – a war coming out of the rivalry of the two superpowers – this is the task of the conscious and organized proletariat.