Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

In Struggle!

What immediate demands should the program of the proletariat contain?

First Published: in Struggle! No. 112, April 13, 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Article 16 of the Draft Program proposed by iN STRUGGLE! puts forward general demands like the Quebec nation’s right to self-determination and other more particular ones like the indexation of wages. But why these demands rather than others like free health services, for example? “On what basis were they chosen?” This question, which was raised at the Fourth National Conference on the tasks of communists is being asked by many workers after reading the Draft Program. So let’s look at it more it closely.

Not a shopping list of demands

First, there’s one thing which must be pointed out: the communist program has nothing to do with reformist programs, which are like shopping lists, including all sorts of demands for various reforms. We have only to glance at the programs of the NDP and the PQ to see just how many promises they contain. And this isn’t surprising since this is the way these parties try to collect the maximum number of votes so as to get themselves elected to government. These party programs aren’t the basis on which members join the party. Rather, they’re a hodge-podge collection in which everybody can find something which satisfies them, while rejecting those parts he or she disagrees with.

But the communist program is very different. Instead of being a package of electoral promises for one and all, it addresses itself to the working class and its allies, indicating what must be done to overthrow the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and to attain socialism. Not only does it identify the major goals of their revolutionary combat, their enemies, and the means of defeating them, but it also specifies what it is we must struggle against and what we must start struggling for so as to advance the struggle.

How can the working class one day overthrow the bourgeoisie if it doesn’t immediately begin struggling to reinforce its camp and to weaken the enemy’s camp? That’s the whole meaning of the immediate demands which are put forward in the Draft Program. And so the defense of these demands constitutes a necessity for all those who adhere to this program. On the other hand, the program can’t include all the just demands of the masses who daily resist capitalism. From among all the demands defended by the masses there are some which are more essential in weakening the enemy and reinforcing working class’ unity and capacity to fight. These include the political and economic demands which, during the entire period of the struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisie’s State of dictatorship, guide the proletariat in its daily struggles and draw its allies into the combat against the enemies of the revolution. This is the basic orientation underlying the demands in article 16.

The right to free daycare

Let’s take example of a demand which isn’t included in the Draft Program but which an increasing number of working-class people across the country put forward: the right to free daycare. it’s not surprising that more and more people are demanding this right since the State has been cutting back daycare budgets and is also cutting women, who can’t prove that they have a baby sitter or daycsre centre, for their children. off unemployment insurance; and this at the same time that these women are forced to pay exhorbitant prices to have their children looked after. Struggling for this right is important because it implies the struggle to increase the involvement of women in productive work, and that means increasing their involvement in class struggle. That’s why iN STRUGGLE! put forward this demand in its activities around March 8.

But how is it that this demand isn’t included in the Draft Program? Well if the program would have included this demand, it would also have had to include many others which are just as correct and important, such as paid maternity leaves, free health services, etc., for they; too, are all demands which favour the participation of women in class struggle or the unity of the proletariat as a whole against the bourgeoisie.

But the communist program shouldn’t include all these demands. What it does, however, is to formulate a more general demand which encompasses all these more specific demands and permits us to identify the justice of any particular demand: the complete equality of men and woman, in law and in practice, at work and in other areas of political, social and economic life. (Art. 16c) in other words, any specific demand which favours this equality, and by that very fact favours the unity of the working class of the two sexes, is included in this more general demand and thus included in the Draft Program. On the other hand. a demand such as “wages to housewives” must be rejected precisely because it denies women’s right to work, their participation in production, and thus contributes to isolating them in their kitchens and cutting them off from the struggle of the working class and the other strata of the people.

For the right to strike and to negotiate

Let’s look at another demand, this time one which is included in the Draft Program: the end in all limitations on the right to strike and all restrictions on the right to negotiate for all Canadian workers. (Art. 16d) Every worker can grasp the importance of such a demand: the right to negotiate and to strike is a right which was acquired at heavy costs by the Canadian proletariat, a right which allows it to more effectively resist the bourgeoisie, an arm which forces the bourgeoisie to provide workers with somewhat more decent work and living conditions. It’s easy to we that any limitations on this right would weaken the working class’ capacity to resist and, reinforce its enemy.

As well, this demand indicates to the working class that it must oppose any kind of attempt on the part of the bourgeoisie to restrain this right. And, as we know, in the past few years, in particular with the deepening of the crisis, manoeuvres aimed at denying this right have not been missing. We have only to think of the Wage Control Act which was imposed by the Canadian State to make the working class pay for the crisis, by breaking its resistance. This central arm of the ruling class against the working-class movement for more than two years was and is a frontal blow to the right to freely negotiate a work contract. The Draft Program didn’t take up the immediate demand, “Down with the Wage Control Act!” because such a demand is too linked to a particular situation. Yet, iN STRUGGLE! did organize a political campaign across the country to call on the working class to struggle against this law.

The bourgeoisie will continue attacking the right to strike and to negotiate. At the present time, it’s attacking by means of a multitude of laws from one end of the country to the other, like Bill 45, the so-called anti-scab law, and Bill 53 in Quebec, Bill 92 on essential services in British Columbia, Bill 41 in Alberta, Bill C-8 to reform the Labour Code, Bill C-28 attacking federal civil service employees. etc. They are all designed to let the State interfere at will in free negotiations and to limit the right to strike, particularly in the civil service. Thus, on the basis of an essential demand set forth in the program, the working class must be able to recognize the political attacks of the bourgeoisie at a given time against its right to strike and to negotiate, and to fiercely struggle to defend these rights. To struggle for this essential demand included in the Draft Program is thus to struggle against all the current laws, and all those to come, designed by the bourgeois State to threaten these rights.

As we can see, if the immediate demands contained in the Draft Program are general basic demands, at the same time, they are very concrete. Beacause they all aim at weakening the bourgeoisie and its State, the main enemy of the working class, as well as reinforcing the unity and capacity to struggle of all those whose interests lie with the revolution so as to one day get rid of capitalism.

It’s in this perspective, s revolutlonsy perspective, that we must struggle for immediate demands. By struggling in this perspective we can advance the revolutionary fight to overthrow the class enemy, to defeat its State of dictatorship, and to establish socialism, which alone can guarantee the full satisfaction of the most elementary rights of the working class and masses.