Canada, like all imperialist and capitalist countries in the world, is presently experiencing the longest and most acute crisis in its history. As a matter of fact, the country has been hit by a combination of several simultaneous and interrelated crises. There is no reason to believe that the situation is going to improve in the near future. On the contrary, everything indicates that it will get even worse.
For several months now, the economic situation has been characterized by a sizeable growth in unemployment, galloping inflation and a very substantial rise in consumer prices. The Canadian dollar, which has been floating for several years now, started to drop very abruptly, just as the British pound did, not very long ago. Its drop parallels that of the U.S. dollar, although it is more drastic. All this is linked to a new crisis of overproduction that accentuates competition between monopolies and between the various imperialist countries fighting for the world market. Such a situation inevitably results in bankruptcies, cutbacks in production and ... a new round of concentration of capital.
In Canada more than in any other country, perhaps, an economic crisis soon has political consequences. The unity of the Canadian bourgeoisie has always been fragile; and, up until now, the federative structure of the country has never permitted a solution to this problem. In Canada, State power is shared between the federal and provincial levels of government, as well as with municipal administrations and school boards. The consequences of economic crises are generally less serious and less immediate in Ontario, the heartland of Canadian capitalism. As a result, economic crises inevitably lead to an upsurge of resentment against “central Canada”, namely Ontario and Quebec, the second most industrialized region of the country.
This situation, arising from the rivalries between monopolist groups, is accompanied by significant interference on the part of U.S. imperialism. Industrialized Canada is a very long, narrow strip of land, still fairly unpopulated, strung out along the northern border of the United States. There have always been extensive north-south exchanges – between the United States and Canada, and between the various American states and the different Canadian provinces.
Canada is divided by more than often diverging regional interests. Historically, national differences have also been a central factor in political life. This is still true today, as a strong pro-sovereignty movement develops within the French-speaking Quebec nation, an important portion of which wants to secede. Moreover, French-speaking minorities outside Quebec, and in particular the Acadians, have in recent years renewed with the tradition of struggle that was theirs at the turn of the century.
At the same time, the Indians, Metis and Inuit who together make up the Native peoples are opposing growing resistance to the age-old contempt with which they are treated by the bourgeoisie and its State. Their resistance is more especially focused on the huge energy projects of Canadian and U.S. monopolies, projects that tend to be concentrated more and more in the northern territories inhabited by the Native peoples and that threaten to dispossess the Native peoples of all their lands. The different Native communities are increasingly defining themselves as nations and demanding the right to self-determination and complete control over their lands and the wealth they contain.
Indeed, the image of Canada as the “peaceable kingdom” of democracy and social harmony, a peace-loving country without imperialist ambitions, is an utter illusion. The myth of Canada as an exemplary democracy was seriously tarnished by the military occupation of Quebec from October 1970 to April 1971 and all the subsequent disclosures concerning the uninterrupted work of the political police in Canada since the 1950’s. The reactionary and repressive nature of government action for some years now simply confirms that the Canadian bourgeoisie has one overriding goal: to ensure the development of its capital. Especially in a period of crisis, a “strong State” is necessary to bring the working class to heel.
Canada’s imperialist nature is borne out by the substantial development of its economic activity abroad – trade, investment and “aid” to underdeveloped countries – and by its military interventions in all parts of the world since the Second World War as it seeks to shore up imperialist domination in the underdeveloped regions of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Like the oppressed peoples, working people in Canada refuse to pay for this new crisis. Since the beginning of the 1970’s, they have waged an increasing number of struggles: strikes, occupations, boycotts and demonstrations have followed one another in all regions of the country. However, the control exerted over the big union centrals by the social democrats and the revisionists and their policy of class collaboration are major obstacles in developing working-class struggles and unifying them so as to vigorously oppose the manoeuvres and intrigues of the enemy class.
The bourgeoisie and its agents sow division within the ranks of working-class forces: national and linguistic divisions; division between men and women; divisions between workers and the unemployed; regional divisions; and also political divisions. Anything goes when it comes to opposing the united struggle of all workers.
The present situation illustrates the inevitable decay of capitalism, which is bogged down in more and more disastrous crises. The conclusion is obvious, and is being adopted by a growing segment of the working-class movement: the existing system must be abolished. It is in this context that the struggle for the revolutionary party of the proletariat takes on its full meaning. Capitalism won’t come tumbling down all by itself; working people will only destroy it if they can rely on the revolutionary leadership of the proletarian vanguard.
The party, however, is built in the very heart of the class struggle, in the heat of the battles between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Today’s struggles are characterized by the resistance of the masses to the bourgeoisie’s many crisis measures. Up until now, the workers’ fightback has in general been confined to the economic level, but working people are gradually realizing that their struggle must oppose the bourgeoisie’s action on the political level if they want to maintain the rights won over the past century. For with the crisis, bourgeois power attempts to maintain its hegemony over the proletariat and the entire people by constantly restricting democratic rights.
It is of vital importance that the working-class movement realize that the political struggle to take power is both necessary and central. The economist and opportunist line put forward by the revisionists and social democrats, which says that workers should look after their wages and leave political questions to the MPs, must be rejected. Proletarian politics cannot be equated with electing MPs every four or five years. Rather, it means resisting the daily attacks of the bourgeoisie, mobilizing in struggle, uniting more and more workers every day and building the camp of the revolution that will put an end to bourgeois power.
Canada is the offspring of a marriage of convenience... as is still often the case in ruling-class circles, where family interests often determine who marries whom. In 1867, the British Parliament passed the British North America Act (BNA Act), formally uniting four colonies of the British Empire: Upper and Lower Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. British Columbia, including Vancouver Island, joined Confederation in 1871 and Prince Edward Island finally did the same in 1873, while Newfoundland held out until 1949.
The Prairie provinces gradually acquired this status; Manitoba becoming a province in 1870 and Saskatchewan and Alberta following suit in 1905.
These provinces were carved out of the Northwest Territories, which had until then remained under the direct jurisdiction of private companies, and notably the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the federal government. The federal government eventually bought these lands back from the Hudson’s Bay Co. before building the railway through to the Pacific.
In fact, the Canadian federation created in 1867 was based mainly on the interests of capitalists in Ontario and Quebec – merchants, bankers and factory owners who saw in the creation of this vast country the possibility of considerable and rapid development of business. Confederation also reflected the interests of the British metropolis: the union of all its North American colonies would give it an opportunity to dampen the annexationist ambitions of the young American republic.
Although capitalists in the Maritimes finally agreed to join Confederation, they were decidedly un-enthusiastic about it. It was clear to them that the new country was conceived in terms of the interests of the central colonies, Upper and Lower Canada. Moreover, their reluctance was reinforced by the fact that the local population was firmly opposed to Confederation. In Quebec, the big bourgeois were alone in supporting Confederation. People in Quebec, like people in the Maritimes, openly demonstrated their opposition to the proposal. In Quebec, opposition to a union decided in top secrecy by the Canadian ruling class and the British metropolis was reinforced by nationalist aspirations born out of the assimilationist policies of the British colonialists – policies embraced and perpetuated by the mostly English-speaking Canadian bourgeoisie.
But the Native population was the one treated with the greatest contempt. It was not consulted; it was in no way represented in the negotiations preceding the adoption of the BNA Act; and once Canada was founded, violence and fraud were used to dispossess the Native peoples of the lands in northern and western Canada to which they had gradually retreated after the arrival of European settlers.
The “treaties” were the fraud. When the bourgeoisie decided that it wanted to develop resources or do business in a region inhabited by the Native peoples, it proposed that they cede their land rights in exchange for what were usually ridiculous benefits, and ratified the whole deal with treaties. It was all apparently quite fair, except that private ownership of land was an utterly foreign concept for the Native peoples. Furthermore, those with whom the Canadian State chose to deal were not necessarily representative of all the interested parties; they were sometimes bought off with personal advantages; and on top of everything else, they were asked to sign treaties in a foreign language written in legal terms referring to administrative, political and economic realities that were totally unknown to them. The James Bay Treaty, ratified in 1977, is the most recent in a long list of agreements that have been used to cheat the Inuit and Amerindian peoples for centuries. The treaty gave rise to bitter debates and vigorous opposition, including fruitless appeals to the Supreme Court of Canada, which forcefully illustrated the injustice of such a practice. It amounts to nothing less than the forced annexation of lands that have been occupied by the Native peoples for centuries.
The fraud was backed up by violence. Canadian history has shown more than once that when the treaties were not enough to cope with a situation, the police and military forces were there to take over. Ask the Metis of western Canada about it. Their historic leader, Louis Riel, was condemned to death and executed by Canadian justice, and they were thrown off their lands at gunpoint in the late 19th century.
Canada was built by dispossessing the Native peoples and relegating them to parts of the country that Capital had not yet decided it was interested in or else to “reserves”, enclaves in regions inhabited by “Whites” that are veritable ghettos. There, they lead a generally miserable existence. Native people leaving these “reserves” face two possibilities: either they become totally assimilated by the dominant nations, or else they head even further north.
At the same time, Canada has regularly resorted to badly exploited immigrant labour, especially during economic booms.
Between 1901 and 1930, a period of economic growth in Canada, almost 5 million immigrants arrived in Canada – an enormous number, given that the population of Canada in 1931 was little more than 10 million. The Second World War was followed by another period of massive immigration. Between 1951 and 1970, nearly 3 million people immigrated to Canada, which had a total population of 21.5 million people in 1971.
The result of all this is that Canada’s population has some very specific characteristics. For example, it is commonplace to find factories in major cities where the majority of workers speak neither French nor English nor Native languages. In 1971, the language spoken in the home was English for 67% of Canadians, and French for close to 26%. The Native peoples represent approximately 5% of the total population. This indicates that the vast majority of immigrants integrate into the country’s English-speaking community, which today includes the majority of the population.
Capitalism developed extremely rapidly in Canada. Today, it is one of the most highly industrialized counties in the world and a medium-sized imperialist power, although it has a population of less than 25 million – which is only slighty more than one-third the population of Mexico, a country with a territory about one-fifth the size of Canada’s.
In 1971, for example, less than 7% of the total population was still dependent on agriculture for a living, a 55% drop from 1961. The same year, farmers, working farm family members and agricultural labourers accounted for barely 3% of the national labour force.
Furthermore, while agricultural production grew substantially from 1971 to 1976, the number of farms dropped sharply from 732,858 to 338,578. Capital concentration in agriculture stands out even more clearly if one looks at the average capital value of each farm: it has risen from $5,788 in 1941 to $27,389 in 1961 and $144,499 in 1976. Needless to say, small farms are rapidly giving way to medium-sized and big farm operations. The big farms are genuinely capitalist enterprises, heavily dependent on the banks from which they borrow and the monopolies from which they buy farm machinery and fertilizers and to which they sell their crops for processing and marketing.
As.well as being highly industrialized, Canada is also characterized by a high degree of concentration of capital. This is especially true in banking: in 1969, five banks alone controlled 93% of the country’s banking assets. Here again there has been substantial concentration since the Second World War, given that in 1940 twice as many banks (ten) controlled approximately the same proportion (93%) of banking capital. There is a very high level of concentration in all sectors of the Canadian economy, although it is not necessarily as extreme as in banking.
Since the Canadian economy is so industrialized, the proletariat is the largest social class in the country. Using official statistics, we can determine the relative size of social classes in Canada: the bourgeoisie accounts for less than 3% of the active population; the petty bourgeoisie approximately 30%; and the proletariat close to 65%, which represents more than five million workers.
All the governments in Canada, federal and provincial, agree that it is necessary to amend and “patriate” the constitution, which is currently nothing more than an act passed by the British Parliament. But this is all they can agree on. The federal government would like the provinces to agree to “patriate” the constitution first, leaving its amendment by the Canadian State for later. But the provincial governments are more concerned about the distribution of powers between the two levels of government. Unless agreement can be reached on this prior to patriation, they prefer to stick with the status quo. The Quebec government, headed up by the Parti Quebecois since November 1976, advocates a “new Canada” in which Quebec and English Canada would form two sovereign but “associated” States.
The PQ government is getting ready to hold its referendum, to get Quebecois support for the establishment of a “sovereignty-association” regime. According to the PQ leader and his parliamentary wing – because they differ from the party programme – the Quebec government will try to obtain a mandate to negotiate “sovereignty-association” with the rest of Canada. What is new in their position is that the “sovereignty” of Quebec will be proclaimed only if Canada accepts “association”. If the PQ were trying to discretely totally abandon its initial plan for independence, it couldn’t go about it in a better way. In practice, submitting the sovereignty of Quebec to the approval of the Canadian bourgeoisie means choosing the status quo. There is ample evidence of this in the history of the last century.
The contradictions currently dividing the Canadian bourgeoisie are basically the same as those which existed when the country was created. The rivalries between the industrial centre of the country, that is Ontario and Quebec, and the other provinces, which to a certain extent have “subsidized” the industrialization of the country without getting as much out of it as they should have, are still very considerable. That is why the distribution of powers between the federal government and the provinces is of such vital concern to the provinces.
Today, after more than a century of existence and despite very rapid development, as we have just seen, Canada faces one of the worst political crises of its history. For the most chauvinist elements of the Canadian bourgeoisie, the problem boils down to “Quebec separatists who are threatening the very existence of Canada, who want to destroy our country”. Reality, however, is a bit more complex.
The question of the oppressed nations and national minorities has yet to be resolved. In fact, it is becoming increasingly important in Canadian political life. The Quebecois are no longer alone in putting forward national demands, as was the case in the early 1960’s. A real national movement is developing among the Native peoples, who are also demanding the right to self-determination. This movement will probably continue to develop, given the tendency of monopoly capital to appropriate the territories of the Inuit and Amerindian communities.
The French minorities outside Quebec, particularly the Acadians, have stated their firm intention of having their rights recognized. And immigration has given rise to several communities, some of them very sizeable, that are following the example of the other national communities and demanding the same rights.
To the extent that these movements are opposed to a greater centralization of political power in the country, and to the extent that the concentration of capital requires more centralized power, it is difficult to see how the Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie can attempt to solve this contradiction other than by answering the demands of the nations and national minorities with a categorical ’no’. The history of this country has in fact been the history of the constant centralization of power to the benefit of monopoly capital and to the detriment of minorities.
There is another factor that has strongly influenced the pattern of development in this same direction since the founding of the country, and which was even an important factor in the colonies’ decision to unite together and the British metropolis’s decision to yield its power to the colonies. We are referring to the fact that the United States is Canada’s neighbour, a very powerful neighbour with limitless ambitions.
U.S. imperialism has played an important role in Canada’s economic and political life, and continues to do so. Although the Canadian bourgeoisie has so far maintained its independence, it has nevertheless for many years generally adopted a policy favourable to U.S. imperialism. However, despite very close cooperation, particularly since the Second World War, frequent contradictions, especially concerning the handling of economic and trade matters, have often come to the surface. Since the early 1970’s, Canada has been much more actively searching for economic partners other than the United States.
Nonetheless, trade relations between the U.S. and Canada have an undeniable effect on Canadian unity. Industrialists in different regions of the country, particularly in the West, find it much more profitable to deal with neighbouring American states than with the Maritimes, for example, which are thousands of kilometres away and which don’t represent a very large market. In fact, Canada is by far the biggest buyer of U.S. products ($25.5 billion in 1977, compared to $10.4 billion for Japan and $6 billion for West Germany). It also sells more than anyone else to the United States ($28.7 billion in 1977, compared to $18.2 billion for Japan and $7 billion for West Germany). Furthermore, Canada has more direct investment in the U.S. than anywhere else. This investment for 1973 totalled almost $4 billion. In comparison, Latin America, which ranks second, received only $917 million in Canadian capital for the same year, 4 times less than the United States received.
The very close ties that link the Canadian and U.S. economies, including major U.S. investments in Canada, explain the existence of contradictory tendencies within the Canadian bourgeoisie with regard to the attitude to adopt towards this situation. In the 1960’s, a nationalist tendency emerged. Its major spokesmen were to be found in the NDP, in particular, but also in the Liberal Party. More recently, the tendency advocating closer ties with the United States has been more vocal. Senators, the Economic Council of Canada and some bankers have all spoken out in favour of free trade. These changes in attitude are intimately linked to changing economic circumstances in Canada and throughout the world. They nevertheless illustrate the relative weakness of the Canadian economy and the specific internal contradictions of the bourgeoisie in Canada.
An important characteristic of the present Canadian political situation is the development of various national movements which so far have been extensively used by the bourgeoisie to maintain division among working people. As we have seen, the origin of these contradictions lies in the history of our country. However, in order to understand their importance in recent years, and the importance they will surely continue to have in coming years, it is necessary to examine more closely the history of the country since World War II.
The development of nationalism at this time in history is the direct result of the development of imperialism in our country. The end of the Second World War marked the beginning of a new era for Canadian imperialism. The Canadian bourgeoisie, well aware of the United States’ new status as the dominant power, decided to embark on this new era of consolidation and expansion in close liaison with its southern neighbour. The former British metropolis no longer offered the “back up” or assistance Canadian imperialism needed to develop its enterprises at home and abroad. The U.S. was to take its place. In exchange, U.S. imperialism was allowed to make deep inroads into Canadian markets and to make considerable investments in our country. Military agreements were also concluded which placed continental defence under joint command.
By the 1940’s, Canada and the U.S. were already major allies in their struggle for imperialist expansion, which included the struggle against the socialist camp. The German Nazis had not even been totally defeated when the alliance with the U.S.S.R. was abandoned in favour of a fight to the finish against socialist expansion in Europe and against the North American communist movement, a fight that involved very close collaboration between the United States and Canada.
Imperialism is based on the concentration of economic power. This evolution had already taken place to a large extent in Canada in the period between the two world wars, when the number of corporate mergers and takeovers was very high as a result of the 1929-30 crisis and other factors. This process continued after World War II; and U.S. capital, then in full expansion, made great inroads in Canada. This, of course, had major effects on Canadian society. The monopoly bourgeoisie grew, while small business and traditional agriculture lost ground. They were not eliminated, of course, but they were very definitely relegated to the role of second fiddle. At the same time, the capitalist development of agriculture intensified and was soon to prevail in Quebec, where small farms had previously been the general rule.
It is significant that ultra-reactionary political regimes were then in power, notably in Quebec (Duplessis’ Union Nationale) and British Columbia (Bennett’s Social Credit). These regimes marked the end of an era. Although they denounced big capital, and “finance” in particular, they did not do so in the name of socialism but rather because they longed for the days when small-and medium-sized business capital was king. To a certain extent, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) played the same role in the Prairies. This party, which had social-democratic origins and was just as populist as the Social Credit and the Union Nationale, was a great defender of the farmers and small business in general against big capital.
In the 1960’s, the old social structures and the old ideas linked to rural society were definitively replaced by ideas associated with the complete industrialization of the country, the concentration of production in big plants, and the social demands of monopoly capital. Big industry needed better-trained labour and a more sophisticated and developed State apparatus. It also needed more social measures, because it caused a relative decrease in the incomes of many and a lot of chronic unemployment.
The 1960’s were years of mounting Canadian nationalism. They were also the years of the “Quiet Revolution” which led to an upsurge of Quebec nationalism. As well, it was in these years that the groundwork was laid for “Native nationalism”. It is easy to understand all of this when the consequences of the development of monopoly capitalism in Canada are examined.
Within the bourgeoisie itself, monopoly capitalism led to the concentration of economic power amongst a handful of big financiers. Smaller capitalists were relegated to a secondary status, and the petty bourgeoisie fell even further. This created friction amongst the bourgeoisie, and in particular contradictions between big and small capital. However, big capital in Canada is largely U.S. capital. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that many small capitalists blame their difficulties on the effects of U.S. imperialism in Canada. Indeed, this is true to a large extent. However, even if monopoly capital was more Canadian and less American, they would find little difference in their situation.
The concentration and monopolization of capital does more than dispossess, or at least substantially limit the power of, small and medium-sized capitalists. It also creates new capitalists and whole new strata of the petty bourgeoisie in private enterprise and in the State apparatus. These new petty bourgeois make up what is called middle-level management, and it is their job to manage capital. They neither control nor own the machine, but, in practice, they oversee the managerial aspects of its operation.
It is quite striking that the dispossessed bourgeois strata and the newly-created petty bourgeois strata share very similar ambitions. The former want to retain the power that they are losing more and more and the latter want to exercise the power “normally” attached to their managerial positions.
This situation is intimately related to the system of ownership. Big capital is seen as an obstacle to the bourgeois aspirations of these strata. Given that big capital in Canada is mainly American, Canadian nationalism has solid ground to develop on. The nationalism that characterizes a certain faction of the bourgeoisie, and even more of the petty bourgeoisie, is based precisely on this. And given that in Quebec big capital is also English-Canadian, the same holds true for Quebec nationalism, which is even more solidly based on opposition to what is called the “colonial” domination of the Canadian bourgeoisie.
The development of monopoly capitalism is not solely the result of the merger of smaller enterprises. It also requires the constant expansion of production, that is the exploitation of new resources and more labour-power. This is the source of the increasing rivalries between monopolies and imperialist countries. The entire globe is already divided into zones controlled by the big powers.
Canada has an important particularity in this respect. It has immense territories within its borders which are sparsely populated and even less exploited. This is the case with the Far North, as it is generally called, which extends from Labrador in the east to the Yukon in the west and includes the Northwest Territories and the northern regions of the provinces.
There is only one obstacle to the “free exploitation” of these territories – they are inhabited by Native populations. This presents the Canadian bourgeoisie with the same problem it had when it wanted to take control of the Prairies in the 19th century. It has to expropriate and drive out the Native populations that the French and British colonialists have driven out of the southern and eastern parts of the country since the 17th century.
The growth of monopoly capital in Canada since the Second World War has not only disrupted the mode of ownership among English Canadians and Quebecois. It has also meant a push to open up the North which can be divided into two major phases.
The first phase began following the Second World War, with the creation of several mining and industrial towns in the near North. From Sept-Iles in Quebec to Kitimat in British Columbia, many forestry and mining operations were started up or considerably expanded. Native populations inhabited the affected regions in many cases. They were ignored.
A second phase began in the 1960’s and continues today. It involves exploration for energy resources in the Far North. This includes the giant hydroelectric development at Churchill Falls in Labrador and James Bay in Quebec, the natural gas and oil wells in the Mackenzie Valley in the Northwest Territories and the off-shore developments in the North. Big capital’s massive invasion of the North gradually led the Native populations to realize how precarious their situation was and to start organizing to defend their lands and their culture.
The Native national movement is now in full development and unity between the northern Natives and those in the southern “reserves” is growing. Increasingly their demands now include the right to self-determination.
Nationalism is the ideology of the bourgeoisie. It takes the form that the interests of the bourgeoisie require: nationalism, in the common sense of the word, meaning the ideology of an oppressed nation or colonized people; great nation chauvinism, the bourgeois ideology which is used to justify, or so it is claimed, the domination of a powerful nation over another nation or over other countries or peoples; or finally, fascism, the most extreme form of nationalism because it is the ideology that the bourgeoisie uses when it resorts to the worst violence and most barbaric forms of repression to defeat any threats to its power.
It is true that the oppressed peoples and nations can expect nothing from nationalism since nationalism logically leads to the nation-State, a bourgeois State where their condition, far from improving, will sooner or later deteriorate. It is, however, also a fact that there still exist oppressed peoples and nations, entire populations totally at the mercy of the dictates of imperialism. To ignore this fact would dangerously compromise the progress of proletarian revolution. Indeed, this is so true that communists support all national and anti-colonial struggles against foreign domination whenever these struggles contribute to weakening imperialism and strengthening the camp of social progress.
Canadian nationalism is as old as the Canadian bourgeoisie. The Canadian bourgeoisie began to play an important role in the first half of the 19th century, in the 1830’s to be more precise. At that time, it began flexing its muscles both in Lower Canada, now Quebec, and in Upper Canada, now Ontario. Like all bourgeoisies of the time, it was republican and wanted to end the colonial domination of Great Britain. The 1837-38 uprisings were put down by the colonial army, but thirty years later the British bourgeoisie granted political independence to its North American colonies although it continued to play a major economic role in them. This path was later adopted by many other colonial powers.
The early decades of the 20th century saw Canada complete its political emancipation as it obtained full power over military questions and international relations. This process occurred at the same time as the economic role of Great Britain in Canada was progressively reduced in favour of the young U.S. power, which was growing very rapidly at the time.
By World War II, Canada had acquired total independence from Great Britain. However, the conditions were already ripe for considerably closer links between Canada and the United States. The U.S already had many investments in key sectors of the economy, and the Allied victory made the U.S. the leading power on the international political scene. U.S. imperialism had major interests to protect in Canada, including the mines and forests that it exploited and the sections of the manufacturing industry that it controlled. In 1945, U.S. investments in Canada accounted for 70% of all foreign investments, while British investments accounted for only 24% of the total.
It is easy to understand why the Canadian bourgeoisie chose to tighten its links with the U.S. on all levels and why it put all the country’s resources at the service of the U.S. great power which acted as leader of the “free world” in its fight against the “communist menace”. Canada was then the United States’ biggest supporter in all its endeavours, including its military adventures such as in Korea in 1950.
This amazing support did not stem from noble motives, of course. The alliance with the United States was the best way the Canadian bourgeoisie had of promoting its own interests. U.S. investment in Canada continued to grow at a great pace, and the aid of the U.S.. “big brother” was invaluable when it came to putting the trade-union movement “in its place” and to ridding it of all its progressive and communist leaders.
In this context, it is easier to understand how the revisionist party (the CP), which in 1943 changed its name to the Labour Progressive Party (LPP), became an ardent defender of Canadian sovereignty and a resolute opponent of the U.S. grip on the Canadian economy... in the name of patriotism and the defence of social peace in the country and in the world. From then on, Canadian nationalism became inseparable from resistance to U.S. economic penetration of Canada. In the 1960’s, Canadian nationalism fit right in with the international movement against U.S. imperialism, the post-war defender of the “free world” that had become the main oppressor of the underdeveloped regions of the world, where it responded to any challenge to its hegemony by armed forces.
The Canadian nationalist current following World War II was, from the outset, essentially the expression of a reformist and petty-bourgeois outlook which confused the struggle for socialism with the denunciation of foreign imperialist domination – U.S. imperialism, in Canada’s case. It has retained this character, being taken up by the NDP, the Waffle, various organizations revisionist in inspiration such as the Progressive Workers Movement (PWW) and the Canadian Liberation Movement (CLM), and others dominated by petty bourgeois radicalism such as student and faculty associations. It was even behind groups based on Guevarism and terrorism, such as Red Morning, in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
Like many other currents of thought that originate with the petty bourgeoisie, this nationalist current also expressed the interests of the Canadian bourgeoisie as they are seen by one faction of it. So long as the Canadian bourgeoisie was thoroughly content with its special ties to the U.S. in terms both of investment and of repression of the working-class movement, in terms of its penetration of international markets, and in terms of its lucrative functions as a military ally of the U.S., it paid little attention to the radicals who denounced U.S. imperialism and its tightening grip on Canada. But in the 1960’s, it had become evident that the constant penetration of U.S. capital in Canada did not make everything rosy. The manufacturing sector remained underdeveloped, and this made Canada a net exporter of raw materials and a net importer of manufactured goods. Furthermore, there was a considerable amount of discontent over Washington’s directives concerning Canada’s relations with other countries.
This is when a strong nationalist current began to develop within the Canadian bourgeoisie. By an ironic twist of history, the representatives of this current were in the party which had defeated the Diefenbaker Conservatives with U.S. help when Diefenbaker opposed the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons on Canadian soil. These representatives included the Walter Gordons, Eric Kieranses, Jean-Luc Pepins, and Herb Grays of the Liberal Party of Canada. In the late 1960 s, they maintained that Canada had to reconquer the control of its own economy. Trudeau joined this current and proposed that Canada’s foreign policy be less dependent on the U.S. and that it be more open to Europe, Japan, Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia – in short, that foreign policy be better adapted to the interests of developing Canadian imperialism and that it help to open markets to Canada products and Canadian capital.
The history of Canadian nationalism from 1837-38 to the present time has shown that nationalism is indeed the ideology of the bourgeoisie, irrespective of the banner it waves. Sometimes, the banner is the CP’s pro-Moscow revisionism; at other times, it is the Canadian Communist League’s pro-Peking revisionism. The anti-Soviet nationalism of the League is no more revolutionary or progressive than the anti-U.S. nationalism of the CP, the CPC(M-L), or other opportunists. The question facing the Canadian proletariat and people is not to determine which big power Canadian sovereignty has to be defended against, but rather how to defend their own interests against imperialism, starting with Canadian imperialism because it is the principal enemy of the proletariat and of socialism in Canada.
It is only from the point of view of the people’s immediate interests and the interests of the revolution that the question of Canada’s sovereignty can and should concern the proletariat. It is not the goal of the proletariat, and of its revolutionary vanguard in particular, to strengthen the bourgeoisie – any bourgeoisie, and especially not its own bourgeoisie. Rather, its goal is to weaken it.
The opportunists of the CP and the League and their ilk call for the nationalization of U.S. monopolies in Canada. They claim that the adoption of the 200-mile territorial coastal limit is a great victory. One group supports trade with the U.S.S.R. while the other supports trade with China. They encourage the bourgeoisie to procure more weapons in order to safeguard... peace. In short, they reproach the bourgeoisie for not paying enough attention to strengthening its economic power in the face of other powers. From their point of view, the bourgeoisie is not “consistent” and “steadfast”. It isn’t nationalist enough, it’s not protectionist enough, it is too soft with its more powerful rivals. And these people claim to be communists. This is the kind of communists that Canada has had since the end of the Second World War when the LPP took the patriotic torch which the bourgeoisie had let fall.
However, the fact is that the Canadian bourgeoisie is just as “consistent” and “steadfast” today as it has ever been. The extent to which it defends or doesn’t defend the country’s sovereignty depends on its bourgeois interests. It is just as “consistent” and “steadfast” as the opportunists who ever since Kautsky in World War I have always sought to turn the working-class movement away from revolution in the interests of “defending the homeland” – in other words, in favour of support for their national bourgeoisie. “War is the continuation of politics,” said Lenin, borrowing a phrase from Clausewitz. Faced with the possibility of a war which would involve their bourgeoisie, these so-called communists end up defending the bourgeoisie’s positions. This shows that they follow a bourgeois policy, and their position on war is simply an expression of this.
The history of Canada provides many examples of the bourgeoisie’s capacity for patriotism, its capacity to cultivate nationalism and resort to chauvinism whenever its interests demand it. The anti-colonial rebellions of 1837-38, justified as they were, were to lead to the massacre of Metis on the Prairies in the 1870’s and 1880’s, and the on-going oppression of various national communities in the country today. The resistance to U.S. domination over the Canadian economy today is of the same nature as the resistance to British domination in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
At the same time, the Canadian bourgeoisie has always been quite capable of accomodating itself to the presence of foreign capital in the country, as indeed all bourgeoisies are. It has always done very well by the assistance that other imperialist powers could offer it in its efforts to maintain its power, notably to repress the working-class movement and prevent the proletariat from developing its revolutionary struggle for socialism. It is in this respect that the country’s political sovereignty is of utmost interest to the proletariat.
The close relations between Canada and the U.S. at all levels, since World War II in particular, would clearly not be so developed if the economy of the two countries had not been so closely linked. This is obvious. In other words, U.S. imperialism and Canadian imperialism have many many common interests throughout the world. This explains the convergence of their foreign policies, Canada’s regular participation in “peace-keeping forces” where U.S. interests are involved, and the quasi-integration of the armed forces of the two countries through the unified command of NORAD.
The interests of both the U.S. and Canadian bourgeoisies lie, obviously, primarily in North America. It is these common interests which explain the many agreements concluded in various ways between the two countries to maintain the rule of Capital throughout the continent. It was in the McCarthy era in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s that the close collaboration between the two bourgeoisies in repressing the working-class movement became particularly evident. At that time, unions which had communist or progressive leadership, notably in the merchant marine, the mines and textiles, were literally decapitated thanks to the combined efforts of agents hired jointly by the U.S. and Canada.
The situation has not changed fundamentally since, except for a trend towards more intensified action by U.S. repressive forces in Canada with the complicity of the Canadian bourgeoisie. U.S. labour bosses sold out to Capital and the U.S. police and army are “at home” in Canada, where they do as they please. Such a situation can only exist because it serves the interests of the Canadian bourgeoisie. Inasmuch as it serves bourgeois interests, it is counter to the interests of the proletariat. This is why it must be vigorously denounced and fought.
The proletariat is thus concerned by the country’s political sovereignty, but not because it wants to support the bourgeoisie in its confrontations and eventually in its wars with other powers. Rather, it is concerned solely inasmuch as the concessions of the bourgeoisie in this respect are additional handicaps which complicate the proletariat’s revolutionary struggle and threaten its democratic rights. The proletariat fights capitalist exploitation, whatever* the nationality of the factory owners. It also fights repression and oppression, no matter what bourgeoisie is behind them.
In the case of Canada, the struggle against oppression and repression has to take into account the action of U.S. imperialism. This is all the more true when the Canadian bourgeoisie is party to this action, which also serves its own interests. The Canadian proletariat does not denounce infringements of Canada’s sovereignty so that U.S. bosses will be replaced by Canadian bosses, nor with the goal of having more unemployment in the United States and less in Canada. It denounces and fights interference in the country’s political sovereignty because it is a result of agreements between bourgeoisies that try in this way to maintain their power as exploiters.
Quebec became a French-speaking nation on its own territory, more particularly on the banks of the St. Lawrence and in the surrounding regions, well over a century ago. Since then, the Quebec nationalist movement has often played a decisive role in the political life of the country.
This is easy to understand when one considers that, even if a faction of the French-speaking bourgeoisie in Quebec has regularly been able to rise to the level of the big bourgeoisie in Canada, the French-speaking masses in Quebec – and the French minorities in other regions of the country even more so – have continually been the object of many forms of discrimination and oppression. For years, they have been called “frogs” and “French pea soupers”, and they are told to “speak white” (that is, English). Indeed, they still have to “speak white” in many factories, offices and enterprises in Quebec, especially in Montreal, even when the majority of workers are French-speaking.
The linguistic question is only one aspect of national oppression. A government inquiry carried out by the Laurendeau-Dunton Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in the 1960’s showed that francophones were, along with the Native peoples, the linguistic community with the lowest income, and that the proportion of them in low-level jobs was much greater than it was for anglophones, irrespective of their origin. And it is still true in Quebec today that education and health services are of better quality for anglophones than for francophones.
This historic situation explains the persistence of nationalism in Quebec for over a century. This situation also explains why Quebec political parties have always used nationalism to get the support of the Quebecois masses, although they have never worked at solving the problem. Their goal has never been anything other than using the nation as a springboard to advance the interests of the bourgeois strata they represent.
The evolution of the Quebec nationalist movement over the past decade is the best illustration of the reactionary character of bourgeois nationalism. In the 1960’s, great efforts were made in Quebec to convince workers that the key to their emancipation lay in the independence of Quebec which would put an end to the rule of U.S. imperialism, and, more particularly, to “English-Canadian colonialism”, as it was called. Is it not clear today that this was nothing but demagogy and lies? What has the PQ done in power except to try to make people believe that it is continuing its march towards independence while it is frantically engaged in the most blatant manoeuvres to consolidate the rule of monopoly capital in Quebec and trying to ensure that Quebec capitalists get as much control over it as possible?
One would have to be blind to believe that Quebec nationalism is an anti-imperialist force. It is a bourgeois current and members of the ruling class can only survive if they turn their capital into monopoly capital, which implies getting fully involved in the export of capital to where it is the most profitable. The recent creation of Hydro-Quebec International (a subsidiary of Hydro-Quebec, the electricity monopoly founded in the 1940’s that went on in the 1960’s to become the owner of all the private companies in this nationalized sector, to the great satisfaction of those who defended the slogan “masters in our own house”) is a good example of the “natural” evolution of capitalist enterprises that have become monopolies. Hydro-Quebec, promoted as an instrument for liberating the Quebec nation in the 1960’s, is becoming an instrument for oppressing other less-developed nations. The intentions of Hydro-Quebec International are very clear in this matter. They are the same as those of all the enterprises controlled by Quebec francophones. They are in no way different from those of U.S. or Canadian enterprises. Incidentally, Hydro-Quebec is currently showing great interest in the openings that might come about with the present developments in China. This is certainly not because the League has convinced its directors of the correctness of the “three worlds theory”.
If the Quebec nationalist movement, with the PQ at its head, is trying to speak in the name of the great majority of those who make up the oppressed Quebec nation, it is only so as to better serve those who want more power, people like the directors of Hydro-Quebec, of the Bank Canadian National, of the Provincial Bank, of the Mouvement des Caisses Populaires Desjardins, etc. They can only get this power through the exploitation of the Quebec proletariat and, increasingly, of the proletariat in other regions of the country and in the world where they invest. In fact, they have already begun this on a large scale.
Working people have to reject thoroughly independence, sovereignty-association, and any other projects designed only to assure the “full development of the nation”. The interests of the working people of Quebec lie first and foremost in the abolition of the present system of exploitation, which only profits the bourgeoisie... of all nations.
The PQ’s nationalism is increasingly being identified for what it really is – the policy of a bourgeois stratum that wants to develop Quebec in its own interests – by the Quebec working-class movement. But other nationalist tendencies are emerging. They give themselves a progressive image, but in fact they lead to the same dead-end. Their progressive appearances are quickly unmasked, however, when it becomes apparent that they don’t criticise the PQ for its nationalism but rather, in the League’s terms, for its “inconsistent nationalism”. How can the opportunists demarcate from other opportunists? The method is always the same – by being more radical opportunists!
The Trotskyists of the Revolutionary Workers League (RWL) and the Groupe socialiste des travailleurs du Quebec (GSTQ) and the revisionists of the League and the Parti des travailleurs du Quebec (PTQ), who all claim to work in the interests of the working class and to oppose capitalism and the bourgeoisie, do not in fact criticise nationalism. They carry the PQ’s (bourgeois) nationalism to its extreme. They radicalize it, because, as “consistent” opportunists, it would never cross their minds to make an articulated criticism of nationalism.
The Trotskyists don’t think that the PQ’s sovereignty-association is enough. They demand nothing less than independence. Why? Because this is the way to unite the proletariat of the two nations and of the entire continent! The League, which opposes sovereignty-association and independence, nevertheless finds the PQ too timid, not “consistent” and “steadfast” enough in its nationalism. According to the League, real nationalism should lead to the “full development of the nation!” One would think that this was the psychiatrist of the Quebec nation, the PQ’s Camille Laurin, speaking. This kind of language resembles that of certain sad personnages of the 1930’s, who did not, however, have the hypocrisy to claim to be Marxist-Leninists and who, on the contrary, openly avowed their corporatist and fascist leanings. We must beware like the plague of these so-called revolutionaries who claim to demarcate from nationalism only to spend their time emphasizing national particularities.
Should this lead us to reject the national demands of the Quebec people? Should we deny the fact that francophones in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada are oppressed? Should we remain silent about the big-nation chauvinism that has always characterized the bourgeoisie of English Canada? Not at all.
Rejecting the independence of Quebec means primarily rejecting a bourgeois movement which, as we have seen, is what it is. It means rejecting a bourgeois movement which, in the present situation, does not mean progress for the Quebec masses, and which bears within it the seeds of the oppression of minorities that live in Quebec, beginning with the Indians and Inuit and also including the anglophones. The Quebec territory is not inhabited exclusively by francophones. This gives an idea of the complexity of the situation and also highlights the implications of the communist point’of view on the equality of languages and nations throughout the country.
The Quebecois people are tempted to believe what the bourgeois nationalists say because they experience national oppression. Therefore, it is national oppression that must be attacked and eliminated wherever it exists – in wages, in jobs, and in the language of government services and work. The struggles that have to be waged today on the Quebec national question mean fighting for absolute equality.
It is from this point of view alone that the Quebec nation’s right to self-determination should be defended against all forms of chauvinism. This means that the Quebec nation will only have real equality when its status as a nation is fully recognized, including its inalienable right to form an autonomous State.
With the approach of the referendum in Quebec, working people in Quebec should say no to independence. It is very much in their interests to avoid paying the cost of setting up a new bourgeoisie in Quebec which would be particularly aggressive due to its very weakness.
Recent statements by the PQ suggest that it is entirely possible the referendum will be a huge fraud with the sole aim of giving the Quebec francophone bourgeoisie another card to play in its negotiations to share power with Ottawa. This is truly a scandalous situation. It’s simply disgusting. It means reducing the question of national sovereignty to deciding which factions of the bourgeoisie will get the biggest slice of the cake in the exploitation of the working people. Tax-sharing means sharing the results of the labour of the working class.
The working people of Quebec must refuse to play along with this fraud. Their interests do not lie in choosing “their bourgeoisie”, nor in arbitrating the difference among various factions of the bourgeoisie. In the event that the referendum question is so biased as to ask, for example, if Quebec can negotiate sovereignty-association, the only legitimate response will be to boycott the referendum by abstaining or, better, by spoiling one’s ballot.
At the same time, however, the will of the majority of Quebecois must be respected. This is what defending the right to self-determination means. It means defending the right of a nation to decide its own future without any outside interference.
Victory over bourgeois nationalism in Quebec is not only of concern to Quebecois workers. It also demands the greatest unity of the proletariat of the entire country. Only this can lead to the defeat of both Quebec nationalism and also big-nation chauvinism, which is a form of nationalism, in English Canada. The struggle against nationalism is inseparable from the struggle against chauvinism. So long as Quebecois are subject to discrimination and oppression, it will be difficult if not impossible to convince them not to believe the nationalist rhetoric. They would be left with no choice.
Chauvinism is the nationalism of a nation that oppresses another. It is a form of bourgeois nationalism which is used to justify or hide oppression under various pretexts, in the name of the higher interests of the majority nation. Chauvinism becomes racism when it explains discrimination against a nation or any human community by their “objective” inferiority. This is used especially against the Native people and the Black or Asiatic minorities, but racism also exists against the “frogs” and “French pea soupers”.
The most prevalent form of chauvinism is the outright denial of the existence of national oppression. While francophones in Canada, and more especially in Quebec, have been calling themselves a nation for over a century, the Canadian bourgeoisie has so far consistently and categorically denied this fact. Forced by events to recognize the specific character of Quebec, more especially in the past 20 years, bourgeois spokesmen have wracked their brains for vague and false descriptions of this reality in order to continue to be able to speak of the Canadian nation. They speak of the “two founding peoples”, “two solitudes”, “two linguistic communities”, etc.
The policy of forced assimilation practised by the Canadian bourgeoisie should not surprise us. It is the logical continuation of the same policy formulated by the British colonial metropolis back in the 19th century. It wanted all of North America, and all India and all the empire, to “speak white”. It is the continuation of the policies of all the provincial governments that have constantly reduced the rights of the French language for over a century. Manitoba’s law to this effect has just been declared unconstitutional by the provincial Supreme Court, almost a hundred years after it was passed. In the intervening years, the francophones have become a small minority, by-and-large assimilated!
Any pretext is used to deny the very existence of the Quebec nation and this wash one’s hands of the problem of eliminating national oppression. Some say that all that the Quebecois want is a better economic situation... just like all Canadians. Others say that wages are lower and that there are more unemployed in the Maritimes than in Quebec... This is to evade the question, to bury one’s head like an ostrich. This sort of thing is flagrant chauvinism. This is how the bourgeoisie and its parties act, from the Tories to the NDP, not to mention the openly fascist organizations that demand nothing less than the elimination of French in the country so as to achieve a beautiful “white” “Canadian unity”.
The first duty of the proletariat in English Canada is to disassociate itself totally from this reactionary ideology, which fuels nationalism in Quebec and which is the underlying cause of the chronic division of the proletariat along national lines. It must combat resolutely the policies corresponding to this chauvinist and racist ideology. The duty of the proletariat in English Canada is to firmly support the just demands of the workers of Quebec for the elimination of all discrimination against them. Its duty is to defend the absolute equality of languages and nations.
The urgency of this battle is all the greater because nothing has been done up until now. In fact, no party – not the Communist Party of the 1920’s and 1930’s and not the unions – has ever demanded the absolute equality of nations in Canada. None has ever led the fight to have this stance adopted by the labour movement as a whole. Instead, all parties and unions have regularly echoed the chauvinist positions of the bourgeoisie in the name of a hollow unity – hollow because it’s based on oppression and inegality – designed to fight more important battles against unemployment or for wage increases and economic prosperity.
In recent times, unions like CATCA and CALPA, made up of air controllers and pilots, have taken up the fight against the use of French by French-speaking pilots in some Quebec airports on the pretext of guaranteeing safety in the air. They have even struck to support this move in favour of the supremacy of English in Canada. CALPA and CATCA leaders are the James Richardsons  of the labour movement – outright reactionaries.
In fact, union bosses as a whole are reluctant to recognize the rights of the Quebec nation and the country’s other nations and national minorities. Those who have taken up the task of seeing these rights recognized by union federations have quickly realized that the resolutions ultimately placed before the assembled union members are more often than not distorted and diluted, and usually end up as a pious litany extolling the unity of the working-class movement.
The Canadian working-class movement needs to make a clean break with this pettiness. It should also reject the hypocrisy of people like the revisionists in the Communist Party of Canada who speak of self-determination for Quebec – in Quebec. Their opportunism smells all the way across the country, for in English Canada they espouse the same positions as the CLC and the NDP, despite certain nuances in their presentation.
The Canadian working-class movement must take up the battle against chauvinism and the oppression and discrimination against the Quebec nation. Adopting a resolution on the national particularities of Quebec will not do: the battle requires fighting for the absolute equality of languages and nations in practice.
The unity of the entire proletariat in Canada against national oppression is basic to unity of the proletariat in other key struggles against the bourgeoisie and against its repression. Unity is central in the fight for socialism.
Over the last three centuries, the Native peoples in Canada have progressively been forced off their lands. Their wealth has been pillaged by colonizers from Great Britain and continental Europe. They have been slaughtered and exterminated, and their traditional way of life has been destroyed by force.
Today, the bulk of the one million Native people in Canada, – the various communities of Amerindians, the Inuit and the Metis – live in the Far North, that is Ungava, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, or in the northern parts of most provinces. Others live on “reserves” – the official term – which are, in fact, ghettos of Natives and Metis in various places around the country where the majority is not Native. Still others – and their numbers are growing – come down south, or leave the reserves and move to the big cities where they live, unemployed, in the poorest neighbourhoods under wretched conditions. One-third of Regina, the capital city of Saskatchewan, is Indian and Metis. Chalk this situation up to the credit of the “Canadian nation”, that bastion of democracy, freedom and prosperity, according to its bourgeois spokesmen. If there is something in what they say, it’s that bourgeois democracy means oppression for the people.
The Native peoples have always fiercely resisted oppression. It took the force of numbers and brute force itself to reduce these peoples to their present dispersed and depopulated state. Today, the Native peoples are relatively weak due to their sparse number spread out over a vast area. This helps the bourgeoisie to retain its grip on Native lands and develop mining, forestry and energy projects.
The Native peoples, however, are becoming aware of the importance of unity amongst themselves, on the one hand, and with the people of Canada as a whole, on the other. Realizing that the “treaties” imposed on them by “the Whites” are nothing but robbery, and that capitalist industry has penetrated the North over the years in total disregard of their rights, many Native communities have decided that the only real option open to them is self-determination, the full and complete exercise of their rights on their territory.
Canada’s Native peoples: a million people ruthlessly oppressed. Canada’s Native peoples, referred to in school books not so long ago as “savages”, are the country’s most oppressed community. It is no exaggeration to say that they are subject to the vilest forms of the racism that still exists in many parts of the world – a fate shared, it should be noted, by Canada’s Black and Asian minorities.
For a variety of reasons, our Organization has up until now held a position on the question of the Native peoples that was in many ways erroneous. The two major reasons for this are: one, nationalism and chauvinism; and two, an academic way of analysing the situation. For a long time, the debate revolved around the question of whether the Native peoples formed one or more nations according to the criteria laid out by Stalin in the early 1900’s. This amounted to forgetting that Marxism-Leninism is not a dogma, but a guide to action. In fact, Stalin never said: Here, these are the criteria that determine whether any given community is a nation. What he said was that there is such a thing as oppressed nations and these nations exist by reason of objective and material phenomena that he identified as territory, history, economy and language. Stalin opposed the position that reduced the phenomenon of nations to the question of cultural identity or “psychological make-up.”
A concrete analysis of the concrete situation – which must include an analysis of national movements as expressions of national realities – leads to the conclusion that there are nations and national minorities within the Native populations in Canada. Already, there is the Dene nation and the Inuit nation, as well as Native minorities living in southern Canada, on reserves or in cities. We reject the position of “the Native nation” because it is also chauvinist in denying the national differences between the Inuit of Ungava in Quebec and the Dene in the Northwest Territories. These differences are as great if not greater than those between the Ukranians and the Georgians in the Soviet Union.
There can be only one just response to the national oppression of the Natives peoples: once again, this response is the absolute equality of languages and nations and its corollary, the inalienable right of oppressed nations to decide on their own future, to self-determination up to and including the right to secede.
But just as we do not advocate independence for the Quebecois, we do not advocate the secession of the Native nations of the North. Even more than in the case of the Quebec nation, secession would mean the emergence of the worst forms of neo-colonialism, akin to what you find in the former colonies in Asia and Africa. It would lead to formal independence whose real impact would be cancelled out by complete economic subservience to foreign imperialism. In other words, the basis for a bourgeoisie is largely lacking for the moment within the Native communities, and the interests of both Canadian and U.S. imperialism in Native territories is so vast that no effort would be spared to subjugate the populations that live there.
The future of the Native communities lies in militant unity side by side with the country’s working class and masses as a whole – and this is true for the northern Native nations as well as the southern minorities. But here, too, unity is only possible if it is based on equality, and responsibility in this question falls largely to the working-class movement. It has the task of breaking with centuries of ignorance, indifference and contempt, centuries of chauvinism and racism.
For a long time, national demands were considered reactionary by the Canadian “left”. During the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s, there was little attention paid to these questions. One of the reasons that nationalism is today so powerful a force within the oppressed national communities in Canada is that national oppression has persisted and even developed.
Only the absolute equality of languages and nations, only the elimination of the chauvinism that fuels nationalist feeling, can conquer narrow nationalism, because this is the only way to re-establish equality and justice between communities history has separated in many ways. All these communities share a common aspiration for a better life, and ultimately their interests are not in contradiction, they are not fundamentally opposed to sharing their victories with others. These divisions, like all others, are due to the ruling classes which create and maintain them for their own advantage.
The most fantastic gadgets in unlimited quantities are now available on the Canadian market – things like electric toothbrushes, etc. – and this in the middle of the “energy crisis”. At the same time, there is a lack of decent housing for hundreds of thousands of working-class families. There may be no funds for housing, but it was easy to find fabulous sums for building extravagant stadiums and swimming pools for the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal – and this did not change the fact that most children in working-class neighbourhoods have only alleys to play in while their parents still pay for the Olympic deficit. To top it all off, tens of thousands of construction workers are unemployed across the country. Can greater anarchy even be imagined?
Canada is one of the most industrialized countries in the world. The most modern production methods are well-known and widespread. The country has great wealth in abundant and varied natural resources. At the same time, unemployment increases relentlessly even though many working people lack essential goods. In fact, it is estimated that about 20% of the active labour force and their dependents live below the poverty level, not to mention the many, many elderly people in the country. In all, a third of Canadians – nearly 8 million people – live on less than $4,000 a year (in several big cities like Toronto and Vancouver, decent housing for less than $250 or $300 a month, which means $3000 to $3600 a year, is practically impossible to find!) while in 1976, 26 Canadians declared incomes of up to $340,000. – i.e. 85 times more – which were not even taxable. Finally, it should be noted that discrimination against women has not abated because of government “concern” – for example, men’s wages averaged 88% more than women’s in 1976.
Young people share a similar fate: more than one in five youths leaving school will find themselves among the chronically unemployed.
So what is the problem? Is it a lack of capital which leads to the country’s wealth going unexploited, people’s needs unfulfilled and manpower lying idle? That answer would explain why the State has increased personal taxes in order to subsidize business – because in Canada taxes have gone up 312% since 1961. Yet...
In August, the Bank Canadian National – incidentally, the most important bank controlled by French-speaking Quebec interests – announced its decision to set up shop in Hong Kong to participate in the coming “fantastic development” in Southeast Asia. The president of the BCN, Mr. Castonguay, has mastered the “three worlds theory”. He says he wants to put his know-how (and his capital) to work in Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines and thus encourage the liberation of these countries, whose heads of State – people like Park, Marcos and Suharto – are leaders yearning for peace, democracy and progress! Indeed, it would seem that Mr. Castonguay understood all this some time ago. His bank is already involved in international consortiums in the region, and he would like to increase the share of the bank’s assets – currently 20% – already invested in international activities. 
Last September, the Canadian finance minister revealed the country was extending one billion dollars worth of credits to Algeria to allow it to buy more Canadian products. At the same time, General Torrijos of Panama announced his country would use one billion dollars in Canadian credit to open a copper mine. Tex-asgulf, a branch of the Canadian Development Corporation, a Crown corporation, holds a 20% interest in the project and will be in charge of getting the mine into operation.
No, the Canadian bourgeoisie is not short on capital. The social suffering of the majority of Canadians is instead directly related to the fact that Canada, like so many other capitalist countries, is in the throes of one of the worst economic crisis in its history. That is what explains the feverish activity of Canadian capitalists around the world. They are trying to liquidate their stock and invest their money. The crisis is the reason behind the various measures the country has taken to reduce wages and weaken the union movement.
The present crisis in the Canadian economy has the same characteristics as all capitalist crises. And it is the most serious crisis since the Second World War. By 1970, there were serious signs of economic recession. Since 1974, things have deteriorated even further. Industrial production stagnated between 1974 and 1976. After growing by 9% in 1973, industrial production in Canada grew by only 3.2% in 1974; it fell by 4.8% the following year and rose only 5% the year after. Thus, in 1976 it was about at the same level as it was in 1974. Since then, it has grown at an insignificant rate!
Manufacturers’ inventories have had a tendency to accumulate since 1973. Inventories were valued at $252 million in 1971 and rose by a factor of 8 to $1,900 million in 1973. This was only the beginning. In 1974 they rose to $4 billion, more than twice as much as the previous year. They fell the following year (1975) but remain at much higher levels than they were at the beginning of the 1970’s.
The logic of this situation is as follows: inventories accumulated for three years because companies could not sell their products with a satisfactory profit. The result was a considerable 4.8% drop in industrial production in 1975. Since 1976, the capitalists have once again found themselves with stock accumulating in warehouses.
Another element has to be added to this picture – overproduction culminating in 1974 with a huge commodity surplus at a time when workers were successful in obtaining relatively good wage settlements which more or less kept pace with the consumer price index. But since 1976, prices have continued to skyrocket and wages have scarcely budged. In practice, real wages have fallen. This makes the danger of new stockpiles of goods and a new fall in production even greater than in 1974.
Furthermore, the steady rise in unemployment (even according to the official statistics of the ruling class) indicates that the country’s productive capacities are far from being used to the full. The official unemployment rate in 1967 was 3.8%. It rose to 6.9% in 1971, and then to 7.1% in 1976, 8.1% in 1977 and 9.6% at the beginning of 1978. Unemployment comes from factory shutdowns, personnel reductions and the bankruptcies which inevitably occur in capitalist crises.
The number and importance of bankruptcies in Canada has risen continuously in recent years. There were 2,848 in 1972, with liabilities totalling $250 million. The number increased only slightly to 2,683 in 1975, but the value reached nearly $472 million. There were 2,976 bankruptcies in 1976 for a total value of $1,173 billion. Finally, in 1977, there were 4,131 bankruptcies with a value of nearly $1 billion.
Such a “performance” is more than catastrophic. Concretely, it means an enormous waste of productive forces: it means that thousands upon thousands of workers, including highly skilled ones, are inactive; that factories, some of them very modern, are only half-used for months and years; finally, that big stocks of machinery, tools and raw materials are removed from the production process. And goods are stockpiled while millions of people are starving around the world and when, in Canada itself, thousands of families lack essential goods and are unable even to feed themselves properly.
It is clear that Canada is a country that has suffered severely and increasingly from the effects of the crisis of imperialism for several years now. One obvious manifestation of this is Canadian capitalists’ new aggressiveness, as they devote much time and effort to giving their activities international scope. Back when the RSC still thought that it had a duty to denounce “IN STRUGGLEI’s errors” regarding Canada’s imperialist nature publicly, it liked to point out that Canada has no colonies. But this does not alter the fact that the Canadian bourgeoisie applies a thoroughly consistent imperialist policy (contrary to what the League’s pen-pushers would like to have us think). Nor does it alter the fact that this policy leads directly to the domination, together with other imperialist powers (for the time being), of less-developed countries; and, when joint control will no longer be compatible with its specific interests, to inter-imperialist war.
One of the major problems in the Canadian capitalist economy is precisely the limitations of its domestic market. Canada still has a population of fewer than 25 million. It is thus easy to understand why the very idea of Quebec’s independence is intolerable for the Canadian bourgeoisie.lt is also easier to understand why the proponents of Quebec sovereignty are so intent on economic “association” with Canada and the United States, since it would be impossible for Quebec capitalism to develop on the sole basis of the market provided by its six million inhabitants.
The limits of Canada’s internal market were partially compensated for by the enormous development of trade relations with the U.S. This has been especially true since the Second World War. 70% of Canada’s foreign sales are now made in the U.S. But the U.S. is also experiencing the effects of the present crisis. Unemployment is high and production is running below capacity. For these reasons, it is not very interested in importing more Canadian manufactured goods. It is increasingly disturbed by the Auto Pact, although it is not likely to renounce it unilaterally given its dependence on Canada for certain raw materials, in particular energy resources like oil and natural gas.
While the U.S. has a big trade deficit which its partners want it to solve, Canada has a trade surplus. Nevertheless, it still wants to increase its exports, if only to help make up for the deficit of its commercial balance of payments that results from the heavy interest payments it has to make on loans contracted abroad and the dividends sent out of the country each year to foreign investors. This is the context for the current devaluation of the Canadian dollar.
Canada undoubtedly encourages the devaluation because it makes it easier to export Canadian products and discourages imports at the same time. Industry gets the double advantage of less foreign competition on the domestic market and a more competitive position for Canadian products abroad.
The fact remains that the phenomenon has taken on considerable proportions. There is a lot of talk about the fairly considerable devaluation of the Canadian dollar in relation to the U.S. dollar. But to get an idea of the general situation, we should note that between July 1977 and July 1978 the Canadian dollar fell by 18% in relation to the German mark and the pound sterling and by 48% in relation to the yen, while it only fell 6% in relation to the U.S. dollar. The reason, of course, is that the U.S. dollar also lost a lot of value for reasons similar to the devaluation of the Canadian dollar: to turn around the balance of payments deficit.
Finance Minister Jean Chretien stated last fall that “in Canada, the Canadian dollar is still worth a dollar”! The idea was to cheer up Canadians worried about their falling currency. But the minister chose a very bad argument, because Canadians know very well that their dollar is no longer worth a solid dollar even in their own country. Rumour has it that it was not a good idea to ask ex-president Gerald Ford to walk and chew gum at the same time. It also appears that it is not a good idea to ask Jean Chretien to connect one idea to another when he’s talking. When he spoke of the devaluation of the dollar, he was unable to think of inflation at the same time, much less able to take it into account.
With the exception of Mister Chretien, who handles the country’s finances, all Canadians know that inflation exists and that it has not abated since the beginning of the 1970’s. For example, the consumer price index rose an average 8.2% per year between 1971 and 1976, while it rose at an average rate of only 2% between 1948 and 1965. Contrary to what Chretien would have us believe, the Canadian dollar is no longer worth a dollar, even in Canada. Workers pay for this just as they pay for devaluation.
The present crisis has not yet reached the catastrophic proportions one would have expected because the bourgeoisie has practised a deliberately inflationist policy. The result is to put off the effects of the crisis until later, and not to solve it. In other words, the country’s economy would not only be stagnant, it would also be undergoing a period of major recession if the bourgeoisie had not artificially stimulated production by various means. The inevitable recession still lies ahead.
We do not speak of an economic recession in Canada because, despite the fact that production decreased in 1975, it picked up again the next year. An economic recession means an important and prolonged drop in production. We can, however, speak of stagnation in that the total value of production is stable or growing very slowly – below the rate necessary for capitalist accumulation.
The artificial character of the present stable level of production is apparent when the rate of increase in the Gross National Product (GNP) is compared to that of the total amount of money in circulation. Normally, these two should be about equal since money is supposed to represent goods which exist in reality; at least, that is what it is supposed to represent. However, since 1971 there has been no relation between the growth of the money supply and the GNP. The money supply increased by 10.3% in 1971 and the GNP by 6.7%. In 1974, the respective rates were 24.9% and 3.6%; in 1975, 14.1% and 1.3%; in 1976, 18.4% and 5.5%; finally, in 1977, 15.8% and 2.7%.
Given the nature of the market-place – as a general rule, commodities are exchanged at their real value – inflation inevitably leads to the devaluation of the dollar.
This situation corresponds to a constant and huge rise in the federal government’s budgetary deficit as well as in those of the provinces, municipalities and school boards. The relation between the budgetary deficits and inflation is apparent when we compare the 1973 federal deficit of $8 million with that of 1977 when it was $8 billion: it increased by a factor of 1,000 in 4 years! Government deficit spending is an important factor of inflation. It means expenditures that do not correspond to an equivalent increase in real goods, in useful production.
This makes it easier to understand the growing protest from an entire sector of the bourgeoisie against rising State expenditures. For although these expenditures stimulate the economy temporarily, they also set the stage for worse things to come. Eventually, unproductive expenditures – namely expenditures which do not lead to the creation of new value remaining in the capitalist network – mean that productive forces are wasted, that possibilities for making a profit are lost.
It is also easier to understand why, when he came back from the Bonn Summit in the summer of 1978, Prime Minister Trudeau informed the “nation” of his decision to prune the federal budget and to cut all “superfluous” expenses in the coming years.
In fact, it is not really State expenditures in general that bother the bourgeoisie. It is only social expenditures that irk it. This is why budget cuts are primarily aimed at the number of public service workers and their wages, at education and health services, UIC benefits and welfare. Meanwhile, the military budget continues to grow in Canada, just as it has done everywhere else since 1945. The position of the bourgeoisie is easy to understand: better education and better health care have no direct impact on profits; on the other hand, building weapons is one of the best sources of profit for many gigantic monopolies. Incidentally, Canada is about to buy military aircrafts at a cost of billions. This comes right after it renewed its tanks and other ground equipment. Next, it will be the navy’s turn. Canada, by the way, is one of the world’s biggest arms producers.
Artificial stimulation to production is not only the result of State expenditures. The multiple forms of credit, and consumer credit in particular, are also artificial stimulants. Canadians have a remarkably high rate of indebtedness. Personal debts have quadrupled in recent years, going from $6,668 million in 1967 to $24,799 million in 1977. This means that an increasing proportion of workers’ income is often paying for goods that are already old and have to be replaced. The aim of consumer credit is to sell goods that would otherwise stay on the shelves or in warehouses, adding to the current overproduction.
But there is an Achilles’ heel to the credit solution. It eventually reduces the capacity of workers to consume because the interest on the loans adds to the real cost of the goods they buy on credit. This inevitably results in impoverishing the working masses even further. Concretely, the reproduction of labour-power today already depends partially on work that will be accomplished later. We get a better idea of the problem when we consider that many underdeveloped countries are in a similar situation: their future is already massively mortgaged to imperialist powers, and the phenomenon continues as the imperialists grant them more loans so that they can sell them goods today that they will pay for later with considerable interest.The billion-dollar credit lines, mentioned earlier, that Canada has opened for Algeria and Panama are all designed to help Canadian business sell its products to these countries.
There is no way out of today’s economic crisis, because it is caused by the anarchy inherent to the capitalist system itself. It is caused by the contradiction between the private ownership of the means of production and the social character of that production. This social character, along with the gradual integration of the world economy, means that production, if it is to function properly, requires social control over the means of production, that is, economic planning and consideration of social realities in the organization of production. But the owners of the means of production, the capitalists and more particularly the big monopolies, are beyond all control; they in fact have ultimate control... and the result is periodic crises.
People who say we can wangle our way out of the current crisis by subsidizing residential construction or controlling wages are either liars or ignoramuses. The traditional parties have no solution to the crisis except the suppression of the working-class movement and stronger police forces and armies either to put down those who rise up in struggle or to engage in war with imperialist rivals.
The so-called workers’ parties are also void of solutions: the NDP, the revisionist CP, and the Canadian Communist League each have their own brand of rhetoric and magic solutions. But no matter how varied the solutions, they all have one thing in common: when it comes right down to it, they all put forward some sort of support for the Canadian bourgeoisie. At least the NDP and the CP have the honesty to plainly display the fact that their basic aim is developing Canadian capitalism. For both of them, the enemy is foreign – the big multinationals. So they are both happy to see the big Canadian corporations investing abroad... as if the circulation of capital wasn’t an integral part of capitalism at its current stage.
As for the League, it pushes rhetoric to the point of hiding its support for the imperialist activities of Canada in Europe and more especially in the underdeveloped countries behind the hideous mask of the “three worlds theory”. In point of fact, Canada invests in China, in Southeast Asia, in the Middle East, in Africa... for the sole and unique reason that it is looking for profits.
Paul Desmarais, president of the giant Power Corporation, recently headed up a delegation of businessmen on a visit to China. He returned enthusiastic, and predicted that the volume of trade between China and Canada could be worth $10 billion or more by 1985. But to achieve this, it would be necessary to be “aggressive” and fully exploit the temporary advantage Canada enjoys vis-a-vis the United States because of its diplomatic relations with China. This advantage would seem to have been just about eliminated by recent events.
It would certainly seem that the Canadian bourgeoisie fully realizes the advantages for it of both belonging to the “second world” and allying with the United States, the “superpower on the decline”. The CCL(M-L) sometimes reproaches the Canadian bourgeoisie with being “inconsistent” in defending national interests which, as everyone - or at least, all the defenders of the “three worlds theory” – knows, are identical with the interests of proletarian revolution. But statements like that made by Mr. Desmarais perhaps indicate that the bourgeoisie is becoming more “consistent”.
Whatever the specific reasons that explain why Canada straddles the fence (or perhaps we should say the worlds?) may be, they don’t seem to hinder the development of the bourgeoisie’s imperialist activities. It is highly unlikely that the industrialists and bankers who went to China with Paul Desmarais in October 1978 did so because they like the way he or Chairman Hua or comrade Deng smiled. Canadian imperialism’s offensive in China is certainly an integral part of the titanic struggle it is engaged in to conquer markets for its goods and its capital. Canadian imperialism’s “successes” in this field are pointed out in dozens and dozens of bourgeois newspapers these days.
For instance, the engineering firm Simons-Tecsult of Vancouver, B.C., was getting ready to sign a $400-million contract to build a pulp and paper mill in Czechoslovakia, much to the disappointment of its French and Austrian competitors. Bombardier, a Quebec company, is about to close new sales of locomotives to Mexico as part of over-all trade between that country and Canada which may total as much as $2.5 billion.
There are many other examples of the penetration of Canadian capital abroad. But despite its achievements, our bourgeoisie’s record is still marred by its occasional “inconsistencies”. For instance, we learned last summer that an Albertan consortium was bidding on a “spectacular contract” for the sale of $500 to $700 million worth of oil and gas production equipment... to the U.S.S.R.
When Power Corporation trades with China, when the Bank Canadian National consolidates its position in the Philippines and South Korea, when Canadian engineers help out Czechoslovakia, and Bombardier modernizes public transportation in Mexico, we should be very pleased; because, as the League has explained so well, all this strengthens the “united front”, puts off the “inevitable” world war (Canada being a pacifist country, apparently) and advances the struggle for socialism. Unfortunately, trading with the U.S.S.R., the “rising” imperialist power, is “naughty” because it supports the development of social fascism, infinitely worse than the fascism of dictators like Pinochet and Pahlavi! Or at least, so the League would have us think.
Facts show, however, that the Canadian bourgeoisie is fully involved in the inevitable imperialist race to conquer new markets, invest capital, appropriate other countries’ natural resources and make more profits through the superexploitation of the labour force in these same countries. The Canadian bourgeoisie’s activities in countries where capitalism is still at a preliminary stage do not help to free these countries from imperialism; rather, they result in a greater enslavement of these countries by Canadian imperialism. Those who point to this activity as an example of the “united front” against the “rising superpower” reveal their extreme opportunism. They in fact consider inter-imperialist contradictions from a fundamentally bourgeois point of view. They tail after “their own” bourgeoisie and objectively support its efforts to become more powerful. These people are terrible chauvinists for whom Marxism-Leninism, proletarian revolution (and the dictatorship of the proletariat in the case of their good friends, the current Chinese leaders) are simply a mask, a window-dressing, a smokescreen.
The intensification of Canada’s imperialist activities, just like the intensification of the activities of all other powers, has but one result: to increasingly sharpen inter-imperialist contradictions and create the conditions for new inter-imperialist confrontations.
The “three worldists” propagate an essentially bourgeois policy which today has the goal of maintaining the balance of power between the major powers. This allows a certain power to assure its modernization and “become a great power” as well. This developing power is China. The proletariat’s policy is not to assure that the different imperialist blocs are of equal power, so that other powers can catch up to them. The proletariat’s policy is to overthrow the bourgeoisie wherever it is the weakest.
Capitalism is condemned to perish, but history shows that it will not leave the stage of history of its own free will. Given that the current crisis is one of the most serious in history, the most serious since the Second World War, we can anticipate that the bourgeoisie will do everything in its power to solve it. This includes force, violence, repression and fascism to put down the working class in Canada and the dominated peoples. It will also use war to get rid of its most embarrassing adversaries.
The Canadian bourgeoisie has shown more than once that when its absolute power is threatened, when faced with any situation that would hinder its development, it will not hesitate to use all available means to reach its aims and preserve the capitalist system and assure its dictatorship on the proletariat.
Its methods, which are the same methods used by all bourgeoisies, haven’t varied since the beginning of the century, when Lenin exposed them in his studies on imperialism. Political corruption is part of this arsenal. A lot of noise has been made about the millions of dollars given out by the American firm, Lockheed, to various cabinet ministers and heads of State throughout the world. It was a case of being able to outbid its rivals who were also seeking to sell airplanes; billions of dollars were at stake. In Canada, the Crown corporation Atomic Energy of Canada used exactly the same strategy when it sought to sell the CANDU reactor. The American administration has also disclosed that the Canadian government was involved in a sort of cartel with U.S. companies to raise the price of uranium. A cabinet minister went to Washington, where it was agreed that “certain things” shouldn’t be made public, in the interests of the vultures on both sides of the border.
Although monopoly capitalism is different from competitive capitalism, it has not eliminated competition. It raises it to a higher level, a level where the stakes are much greater. The means used are consequently more serious; in the last resort, they include fascism and war.
Before reaching this point, the bourgeoisie disposes of methods of superexploitation and repression that it has already used in Canada. During the two world wars, all those who opposed Canada’s participation in the war were severely suppressed. Blood flowed in the streets of several Canadian cities under the hail of army fire. In the 1930’s and later in the 1940’s and 1950’s, Canada again distinguished itself for the way it repressed the masses’ revolt and destroyed progressive forces.
During the Depression, it was the unemployed who were thrown into veritable “concentration camps”; they rose up by the thousands against this situation, and were met by the guns of the army and the police, notably in Vancouver and Regina.
Communists who were active amongst them were singled out and many were thrown in prison. The leadership of the Party and many other members were arrested on August 11, 1931. In 1940, the Party was declared illegal and a number of its members imprisoned until autumn 1942.
After the war, McCarthyism ravaged Canada, as it did in the United States and Western Europe. All progressives active in the workers’ movement were identified with communism. They were described as being more totalitarian and repressive than Hitlerite fascism. American organized crime was even called upon to help the Canadian government get rid of the militant leadership in the unions and replace them by leaders sold out to the “international unions”, that is, U.S. unions. This is how the notorious Hal Banks built his “empire” in the seamen’s union in 1949. At its congress in 1945, the TLC (Trades and Labour Congress of Canada), ancestor of the CLC (Canadian Labour Congress), decided that “no known communist shall be permitted to hold office in the TLC, provincial federations, and central bodies, nor be permitted to sit on any committee of the convention”.
The Canadian bourgeoisie had decided that the struggle for “democracy” throughout the world was a thing of the past. Now it was a matter of assuring the greatest possible development of its industry, and it would pursue this objective in close collaboration with U.S. imperialism... including in the unions.
The multiplication of the Canadian State’s reactionary policies and the repressive gestures towards the workers’ movement and progressive forces in recent years is the political reflection of a new turn for the worse in the general crisis of capitalism. The lessons to be learned from the past experience of the workers’ movement in its clashes with the ruling class should serve us today in examining the situation and drawing political conclusions that will guide our action. The workers’ movement has always paid very dearly for the basic error of its leaders in not recognizing that imperialism is reaction, in not applying the line that says that there is no solution to the capitalist crisis outside socialist revolution, in “forgetting” that for the bourgeoisie the solution to crisis is fascism and war.
The unions remain the main means of struggle of the working class to obtain better working conditions. Incidentally, Canadian trade-unionism won a number of gains, especially in the 1960’s, with the unionization of practically all the employees of the civil service and a good proportion of those in what is known as the “semi-public” sector, institutions like hospitals that are “independent” from the State but subsidized and largely controlled by it. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which is far from being the only Canadian union of civil servants, is today the biggest union in Canada; it has more than 230,000 members.
Since 1974, Canadian workers, faced with continued increases in the cost of living, have made wage increases tied to the cost of living a key demand; and in a number of cases, they have won.
Since then, both the federal and provincial levels of government have attacked the labour movement with an avalanche of laws and decrees. The opening volley in this attack was certainly Bill C-73, the Wage Control Act, passed in October 1975 with the aim of controlling prices (supposedly) and wages. Officially designed to control inflation, Bill C-73 (like its counterparts in many other imperialist countries) was really aimed more at permitting the monopolies and capitalists to maintain high profit margins during the period of crisis. Worse, it was the bourgeoisie’s main weapon in demobilizing the workers’ movement, forcing class collaboration on the union bosses (who accepted it willingly), and creating ideal conditions for the multiplication of repressive measures against the workers’ movement.
The results of this offensive should today be clear to all, even to the so-called communists of the League who claimed in 1976 and 1977 that the slogan for the struggle against the Wage Control Act didn’t interest workers in “their factory”. In reality, the Wage Control Act demonstrated just how interested the bourgeoisie was in depriving all workers as much as possible of their means of struggle and resistance.
Almost all strata of the working class have today had a taste of the bourgeoisie’s medicine, flavoured with Bill C-73 and the policy of capitulation adopted by the “union bosses” and their friends in the NPD, the CP and the League. Thanks to Bill C-24, immigrant workers have no security in Canada. They are only a commodity that can be put back on the boat or plane whenever it pleases the bourgeoisie: “Go home, job thieves and foreign agitators!” In fact, thirty Portuguese workers were deported not long ago, thanks to the James Bay Development Corporation, which is certainly not a big bad U.S. monopoly!
Unemployed workers have already been treated to a first measure, Bill C-27, aimed at limiting their access to unemployment insurance benefits and forcing them to prove that they have sought a job continually, despite the fact that in some parts of the country, such as Newfoundland, unemployment is the lot of 20% of the labour force, according to official figures. The government plans even further restrictions in access to unemployment benefits: “Get rid of the lazy bums and cheaters!”
At a time when the cost of living is climbing very rapidly and taxes continue to rise, the ruling class finds it convenient to present the unemployed as lazy and cheaters. It claims that the new measures aim only at eliminating abuses.
The bourgeoisie’s intentions are clear. It is going to try and discredit the unemployed, depicting them as lazy bums and profiteers, so as to make them accept any old job, including work as scabs, at any old wages. In this way they will tend to exert a downwards pressure on wages. Many labour bosses have become accomplices to these manoeuvres by recommending that striking workers “not ask for too much”... since unemployment is so high!
Governments have used the same methods to attack public servants. Across the country, they talk about eliminating jobs and at the same time seek to considerably reduce the rate of any raises in pay. They say that the State must set a good example by reducing its own spending. In the same spirit of setting a good example, the State has made it even more difficult for civil servants to exercise the right to strike they won after many struggles during the 1960’s. This right is likely to be practically eliminated in most provinces. This will simply confirm as general practice what has in fact become established policy in recent years with special back-to-work laws and attempts to render strikes completely useless by various injunctions (court orders), especially those aimed at limiting the number of picketers.
But if the civil service is “overflowing” today, we should ask ourselves why. In the majority of cases – in hospitals and other social services, for instance – the reduction of personnel means an immediate reduction in the quality of services. This indicates that there is not really a surplus of personnel. As well, it was the State itself that considerably boosted the size of the public sector over the past few years. This was a deliberate policy to offset the effects of the developing crisis by increasing State expenditures.
Repressive laws are sometimes presented as vanguard measures; an example is Quebec’s Bill 45, called the “anti-scab” law. In reality, this law allows companies to continue their activities legally throughout a strike. As for the scabs, a company in Ste. Therese, Quebec, operated for more than a year with strikebreakers by taking advantage of government inaction and using a series of legal manoeuvres.
These are only a few of the anti-worker measures undertaken by governments in Canada in the past two years. Nor should the constant use of violence against strikers be overlooked: striking workers at the Robin Hood flour mill in Montreal were even shot and wounded in the summer of 1977, just as in the worst days of the anti-communist witch-hunt.
Women have been singularly hard-hit by all the repressive measures of the bourgeois State. In their case, there is a concerted effort to propagate the most reactionary ideas. Women are usually the first to be laid off: it is more important that husbands and fathers work! Women earn the lowest wages; and despite all the official speeches by the bourgeoisie on the equality of the sexes, the gap between men’s and women’s wages is continually widening... All of this is common knowledge, because all of this is ancient history.
But what is new is that the recent victories of women in a number of areas are now going up in smoke. This is the case with daycare. Everybody’s always talking about creating daycare centres, but in practice the money isn’t there. They even go so far as to claim that the demand for daycare is less now! In fact, a whole series of measures are taken to discourage women from working. When a woman is offered a job, she is required to show up on the job the very next day. Obviously this woman will end up not needing daycare because she won’t have the time to go looking for one in the short time allotted, not to mention the fact that she will no longer have the right to unemployment insurance benefits because she is not really available for work: she has children!
The equality of men and women requires social measures which will eliminate not only discrimination in hiring practices, promotions and wages, but also the different restrictions – mainly child care and housework – that prevent women from working and becoming involved in social and political activities. The high rate of unemployment and budget cutbacks furnish excellent pretexts for putting these changes off indefinitely.
And at the very same time, the proponents of keeping women in the kitchen, the propagandists of the meek and submissive woman, the adversaries of birth control and abortion, are taking public stands. Paradoxically, the fellow-travellers of the crusaders for “virtue” sing the praises of the virile male whose superiority resides in his strength, his capacity to dominate women and even beat them up.
The language used by Canadian politicians is more and more openly reactionary. “We must tighten our belts; we must live within our means; rising prices and factory shutdowns are the fault of the unions.” Prime Minister Trudeau is proud to recall how he quickly ordered the military occupation of Quebec in 1970, thanks to the proclamation of the War Measures Act. He says that he would do it again if it proved to be necessary, meaning that he wouldn’t hesitate to use this law again. We should remember that the proclamation of the War Measures Act is a decision left entirely to the discretion of the government (not Parliament), and that it allows the government to decree and immediately implement all the rules and regulations it wants, to hold anyone without a warrant or trial, to postpone elections and control trade, etc.
It should also be noted that only one item in the budgets of all levels of government has increased regularly: repression. The police and the army are now equipped with the latest hardware and have a free hand as to the repressive methods they may use. If the police happen to overstep their powers under the law of the land, the government has recently stated that the law will be modified so as to permit the police to do its job: electronic eavesdropping is already legal, and mail opening soon will be (the RCMP admits to having done this regularly for over twenty years).
The Canadian police enjoys, in fact, almost total immunity, regardless of what it does or may do. The police charged with breaking and entering the offices of the Agence de presse libre du Quebec (APLQ) in 1974 pleaded guilty. The judge who heard their plea in effect acquitted them; they won’t have a criminal record, they retain their jobs with the police and they won’t spend a day in jail. One might wonder why the judge didn’t propose that they be promoted ... or perhaps he did, outside the courtroom!
A few months ago, some RCMP officers appeared before two commissions of inquiry. To begin with, some of them quite clearly perjured themselves. Then they admitted having stolen a membership list from a Parti Quebecois office, stolen dynamite, burned down a barn, and kidnapped a number of individuals in an attempt to force them to become informers. These people walked out of court none the worse for wear. Some of them have quit the RCMP to open “private agencies” made up of hired killers who show up at union activities and during strikes.
The tremendous development of “security agencies” in Canada over the past few years is an important phenomenon. These agencies are in fact really private militia for the bosses, often managed by former policemen. These bosses’ militia have the advantage of being much more manageable than the police. They render all kinds of services to the bosses, ranging from armed repression against picket lines during strikes to the surveillance of workers in factories and investigations of the more combative workers... on the pretext of controlling the theft of tools. Here again, the working-class movement must be alerted, because the bourgeoisie has experience in using the lumpenproletariat to combat the proletariat. And high unemployment creates the necessary conditions for the emergence of social strata without work, rebellious and thus ready to serve whoever will offer them a living.
The political police are increasingly active at all levels and in all kinds of ways. Recently in New Brunswick, for example, teams of riot-control specialists were set up in various cities, as was done in Montreal several years earlier.
Just north of Ottawa, a brigade of 3,500 men began training in September 1977. Their military hardware is impressive: tanks, helicopters, planes and the most modern weapons. According to its commander, Andrew Christie, the brigade is capable of acting quickly in case of trouble anywhere because it is based in the heart of the country.
If “trouble” doesn’t break out fast enough for these specialists in repression, perhaps they’ll ask the police teams specialized in union infiltration to provoke trouble. This would permit them to show that they didn’t arm themselves in vain; it would also be a pretext for greater restrictions on democratic rights.
All this is only the official repressive action of the ruling class; something that can be pinned on it directly. But there is also racism and big-nation chauvinism towards national minorities. There is the reactionary nationalism that the bourgeois press is constantly encouraging in a multitude of ways. It opens its pages to the avowed fascists that propose the “purification of the race” by all the means made available by science, including sterilization and euthanasia. And then there is the male chauvinism found in songs on today’s hit parade, that openly promote violence against women. As well, we are presently witnessing a revival of the most reactionary ideologies, religious sects that are a throwback to the Middle Ages, “white” organizations that aim at fighting coloured people and commandos which spread terror within the immigrant communities among the progressive elements by any and all means, including murder.
This frenzy of terror and reactionary violence would be of little importance if it weren’t accompanied by a massive distribution of backward ideas presented in free publications, some of which are even international in scope and occupy a choice place in news-stands. They would be of little importance if, last year in Ontario, one of these fascist organizations had’nt make attempts to get the status of political party, as the Western Guard wanted to create the National Party. The Western Guard specialized in attacks against black people, hate campaigns against Quebecois, the sabotage of progressive meetings and the organization of counter-demonstrations.
The working people of Canada aspire to completely transfom imperialist Canada, a society of exploitation and oppression. The ceasless struggles which they have waged and are waging on a variety of fronts are irrefutable proof on this. The present crisis has given rise to a considerable increase in the number of struggles both among workers and in many other strata of the working people. In most cases, the objectives of the constant struggles of thousands of Canadian workers are economic. This is easy to understand, since for the masses the crisis is synonymous with unemployment, work speed-ups, rises in the cost of living, reductions in real wages, and cutbacks in social services such as welfare, health, education, and unemployment insurance.
However, it is an important distortion of reality and a deliberate manoeuvre to turn the proletariat away from political struggle to state, as bourgeois ideologists and revisionists often do, that Canadian workers only aspire to greater material well-being, that socialism doesn’t interest them and that working to win the proletariat to the revolutionary struggle for socialism is a hopeless cause.
Organizations which are today aware of the full scope of the growth of all these manifestations of reaction in our country are few and far between. This situation, as a whole, includes all the ingredients of fascism, from the current crisis that constitutes its economic base to its characteristic ideological manifestations including big-nation chauvinism, male chauvinism, medieval religions, racism and contempt for the most deprived people such as the unemployed, welfare recipients and the elderly, anti-unionism and anti-communism.
The union bosses, far from worrying about this situation which permits the bourgeoisie to pass its anti-worker laws, play right into the hands of the bourgeoisie. They support its crisis measures and spread its anti-communism. Of course, it’s true that the phoney communists are very useful to them, with methods that the worst reactionaries might envy: the most revolting rhetoric about genuine communist work, violence and terror against their opponents and even informing for the police. These practices, which are regular activities for the CPC(M-L), are being increasingly adopted by the League.
Canada is one of the imperialist countries with the highest proportion of man/days passed on strike in relation to the number of employed workers.
Many of the numerous strikes in recent years took place during negotiations for a first collective agreement because the employer refused to recognize the new union. The recent examples of Fleck, in Ontario, and Commonwealth Plywood, in Quebec, are only two cases among many. The movement for the unionization of new sectors continues. Many workers in the public and semi-public sector became unionized during the 1960’s. Then there was a drive to unionize workers in the commercial sector. And recently, bank employees have taken up the battle, particularly in British Columbia. In Quebec, the employees of the Caisses populaires (credit unions) had great difficulty in getting the movement off the ground because these so-called popular institutions, supposedly so different from the big banking monopolies, are in fact strongly opposed to the unionization of their employees.
We should not be deluded, however, by the victories which workers have won in battles to unionize sectors which were only marginally or not at all organized, in the. past. In Quebec, at least, a government study indicates that the proportion of unionized workers did not increase at all between 1974 and 1976. Instead, it decreased from 34.2% to 31.2% of the active labour force.
Moreover, if we consider that in Quebec 4.7% of all union members are affiliated to the CSD (Centrale des Syndicat democratiques – Democratic Unions Central), whose only desire is to avoid all conflicts, that 2.1% are affiliated to the Teamsters, a thoroughly corrupt American union, and that 15.1% are members of “independent unions”, that is “company unions” which are nothing but tools in the hands of the bosses to maintain “industrial peace”, it is clear that the struggle for unions that really defend the interests of the workers is far from over.
Some of the most important union struggles in the last few years have been the struggles waged for “cost-of-living adjustment” clauses. In 1974 and 1975, a broad movement for COLA clauses developed when workers saw real wages shrink as prices soared. In several cases, workers went on strike before their collective agreement expired.
The Wage Control Act, passed on October 14, 1975, was an attempt to put a stop to this growing movement. The law set a legal ceiling on wage increases. For several months, however, workers continued their struggle and certain employers were forced to sign contracts granting wage increases higher than the law allowed – for example, at Irving’s in New Brunswick, and in some pulp and paper mills.
It was only in 1976, after tens of thousands of workers demonstrated in Ottawa, that the bourgeoisie succeeded, with the help of the labour bosses, in really reducing workers’ wages to the level stipulated by the law. The manoeuvres of the labour bosses who, from the beginning, worked to channel the struggle into a legalist dead-end with legal procedures contesting the validity of the law while neglecting to continue mobilizing workers, gave results.
The effects of this collaborationist line were felt very rapidly. In 1977, the number of man/days of work lost on account of labour conflicts was three times less than in 1976 – 3.7 million instead of 11.6 million – while in previous years the increase had been constant.
Once the Supreme Court of Canada rejected the CLC’s appeal aimed at having the Wage Control Act repealed, the position of the labour bosses became that it was necessary to defeat the Liberal Party that had passed such a law and work to elect the NDP instead, even though, in practice, the NDP had not objected at all to the law in the three provinces in which it was in power. Meanwhile, in Quebec, the position after November 1976 was that we should not hassle the newly-elected PQ, because it had a favourable attitude towards workers... although the leader of this party declared that Ottawa had waited too long before imposing the wage freeze!
Today, the Wage Control Act is no longer in effect, and there is a resurgence of a strike movement similar to that of 1974-76. This is particularly true in the public sector, where the bourgeoisie has decided to concentrate its attack by limiting wage increases and cutting back budgets and, consequently, jobs.
Struggles to unionize, struggles for COLA clauses, struggles for wage increases and better fringe benefits: these are the issues on which hundreds of thousands of Canadian workers fight the bourgeoisie regularly. But these are not the only issues, and strikes are far from being the only means of struggle. In the past four years, there have been an increasing number of campaigns to boycott various products as a means of supporting workers’ demands. In some cases where bosses threatened to close down factories, workers occupied them. In factories and other workplaces there have been frequent walkouts, lasting a few hours or a few days, to stop mass layoffs or firings for union activities, or to protest against compulsory overtime or speedups.
Many community groups have joined the unions in defending the economic interests of the various social strata across the country. An important struggle is the struggle for daycare centers, which have often been set up by parents who are now struggling to get the subsidies they need to keep them open.
Welfare recipients, injured workers and handicapped people have also started to get together to organize. Even elderly people have organized, notably in Montreal, to obtain decent housing and easier access to public transportation.
One of the most important developments in recent months has been the creation of committees of the unemployed across the country. There are already several in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. It was demonstrated in the 1930’s that such a movement can become a real threat to the bourgeoisie in crisis, because the capitalists are incapable of giving work to hundreds of thousands of unemployed, in particular those who have just left school, or women who want to take their place in social production.
Women have been in the forefront of many struggles in the past few years in Canada. There is a long history of women’s struggles, and women in Canada have recently renewed with it by celebrating International Women’s Day, March 8, each year in a more and more spirited way. It is significant that the “rebirth” of March 8 coincided with the “rebirth” of May 1, International Workers Day, which had also been forgotten for many years, thanks to the revisionists.
Over the past decade, the women’s movement has moved forward with new vigour and waged many battles on a variety of grounds where the oppression of women is manifested: jobs, wages, daycare, reactionary marriage laws, abortion, violence against women, etc. What is no less significant is that the majority of women waging these battles have rejected feminist ideology, which while verbally denouncing the isolation of women wants to make their struggle an isolated battle and a battle against men. But women, on the contrary, are active everywhere – in trade unions, in their neighbourhoods with welfare recipients and the unemployed; more and more frequently, they are to be found alongside their husbands on strike, setting up support committees which completely cancel out the bosses’ attempts to turn wives against their husbands on strike.
The fall of 1970 was an important moment in the history of the Quebec and Canadian working-class movement. Using the pretext of the two FLQ (Front de liberation du Quebec) kidnappings, the Canadian State proclaimed the War Measures Act (a kind of a “state of emergency”), sent the army in to occupy Quebec, abolished democratic rights, arrested hundreds of people and searched thousands of places. In the short run, the progressive forces of Quebec were almost completely disorganized, and it took several months for community groups which had been broken up and deprived of their offices to reorganize. Repression was victorious... momentarily.
The War Measures Act, proclaimed without very convincing justification, rapidly provoked considerable reaction across the country. Many support committees for prisoners in Quebec were set up. Many progressive and democratic people spoke up in protest, although the labour bosses of the union federations in English Canada remained silent when they didn’t openly support the government’s move.
The action of the Canadian government revealed the true nature of the bourgeois democratic State and showed how, when the power of Capital is threatened, it does not hesitate to use all possible means, including the most anti-democratic ones, to guarantee its domination. The supposed threat of the FLQ turned out to be a gigantic hoax: the so-called “apprehended insurrection” had no rebels. It was certainly not the fault of the courts and the police, who did all they could to make some up! When this whole story came to an end in the summer of 1971, it became clear that the only conspirators in this whole affair had been Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Bourassa and the lackeys in their respective cabinets, Mayor Drapeau in Montreal, the various sections of the political police, the army’s anti-subversive squad and obliging prosecutors and judges who turned out to be numerous enough to do the work that had to be done.
The objective of their conspiracy was just as clear: to do a thorough clean-up of everything progressive in Quebec, including some of the more radical unions (ex. the Montreal Labour Council of the CNTU), community groups and political organizations.
Today, Canadian working people are realizing that they can rapidly lose what democracy they still have. In recent years, forces devoted to the defence of democratic rights have developed. The events of October 1970 are of course not the only reason for this. This is rather the result of the multiplication of attacks against the democratic rights of national minorities, women, immigrants, and so on. Many unionized workers are also realizing that it is not enough to struggle for better living conditions on a day-to-day basis. It is also necessary to ensure that the government does not deprive the unions little by little of the means of waging victorious struggles.
The demonstration of tens of thousands of workers from all parts of Canada in Ottawa on March 22, 1976, and the General Strike on October 14, 1976, both of which were demonstrations against the crisis measures and in particular wage controls, were the first signs of the emergence of a political movement of resistance and struggle on the part of the working class and working people. This movement will undoubtedly not only be able to check the bourgeoisie’s attempt to set up an extreme right-wing and even fascist system; it will also bear within it the seeds of a mass revolutionary movement that will defeat the basically reactionary power of the bourgeoisie.
As the crisis develops, the bourgeoisie is at a loss – and in the future will be more and more at a loss – for ways to surmount it; and a new movement of the working class and masses is taking up the banner of resistance to the reactionary goals of the bourgeoisie. Not long ago, postal workers decided to defy the special law passed the first day they were on strike, a law which ordered them to go back to work or face fines of up to $100,000 a day, and to continue their strike even if the courts condemned them to fines or prison.
This position is considerably different from the attitude of the labour bosses who, thanks to the wage controls, succeeded in imposing an attitude of submis-siveness and collaboration. This is an indication of the determined resistance which is developing among public service employees across the country. A great number of public service employees are in danger of losing their jobs, and the various governments have announced their firm intention of cutting back wage increases for these workers. We can get a better idea of what this means by looking at what the Quebec government has offered its public service employees. First, clauses providing for cost-of-living adjustments are abolished. Second, wage increases will henceforth be decided on the basis of a comparison with wages paid to private sector employees according to government criteria. This means that all employees whose wages are higher than those paid in private industry will get zero wage increase. This is not a very bright prospect for these thousands of workers whose wage increases have been inferior to the rise in the cost of living in recent years.
Meanwhile, workers are growing more and more aware of the numerous laws passed by the governments to limit the rights of unions and democratic rights in general. In the spring of 1978, the Civil Liberties Union (the human rights association in Quebec) launched “Operation Freedom” with the aim of drawing attention to the increasingly repressive nature of the State’s action. Concretely, it called for the repeal of the War Measures Act and for support for Quebec’s right to self-determination. Very quickly, many community groups and a great number of trade unionists responded to the call and a coalition was set up to build support for the struggle on a country-wide scale. The Quebec labour bosses received a special invitation to join the coalition. They agreed, at least in words, and then later proceeded to sabotage the coalition’s work.
Like the betrayal of the postal workers in November 1978 by the labour bosses of the CLC and other labour centres who limited their support to a press release, the sabotage of Operation Freedom, at a time when it mobilized a lot of people in many cities across the country, is a good illustration of the rotten nature of union leaderships in Canada. They are mostly made up of social democrats and nationalists who seem to have only one concern: to collaborate more and more with the bourgeoisie. To hide their betrayal, these corrupt leaders generally support the bourgeois parties which have the most populist image – the NDP in English Canada and the Parti Quebecois in Quebec.
With the exception of the extreme right-wing parties and organizations, such as the Social Credit, the Western Guard, and other similar ones, official spokesmen for the capitalists have generally not attacked communists and progressive people in the past few years. Trade unions, on the other hand, have engaged in real witch-hunts. The postal workers’ struggle gave CLC president McDermott the chance to make a tour of the country to denounce, in the most reactionary and violent terms, leftists and Marxist-Leninists who according to him have manipulated workers. In Quebec, Paul Gerin-Lajoie of the Steelworkers and Andre L’Heureux of the CNTU are in the vanguard of the reactionary forces. Their anti-communist denunciations are so hysterical that even workers who are not very receptive to communist ideas reject them.
Whether they like it or not, whether they realize it or not, McDermott, the Ontario Federation of Labour’s Pilkey, Gerin-Lajoie, L’Heureux and all those of their kind are presently the best defenders of the bourgeoisie’s point of view in the working-class movement.
The main victims of their action are not the communists but the Canadian working people. For it is important to realize that the postal workers’ strike could have triggered a mass movement of resistance and been the rallying point for all public service workers across the country who are presently the target of a systematic attack on the part of the bourgeoisie, an attack on wages, of course, but also on the acquired rights of the unions. CLC union bosses wanted to avoid this strike. It is also important to realize that the development of Operation Freedom across the country and the general mobilization for a mass demonstration in the fall of 1978 could have been the beginning of a movement of active resistance on the part of working people in Canada against the gradual erosion of democratic rights. But the CNTU, under the leadership of vice-president L’Heureux, decided otherwise, and the other labour centres were only too happy to have an excuse to do the same.
The official mouthpieces of the Canadian capitalists are not as active today in openly denouncing communists and progressive people as they were in the past. For the time being they are content to just pass anti-worker legislation and pour thousands of dollars into the treasury of the labour centres that, in turn, take care of the dirty work. Clever, very clever. The federal government subsidized the CLC and CNTU in 1978 at the very same time that it decided to cut back in social budgets and to no longer support community groups, such as those struggling for daycare centres, unemployed committees or welfare recipients.
The Canadian working class movement has no use for these agents of the bourgeoisie. It must simply get rid of them as soon as possible. They may become deputy ministers, ministers, high-ranking government officials or, who knows, Governor-General. The “socialism” of the NDP or the PQ nurtures men with ambitions to go all sorts of places. The cases of Senator Marchand (former president of the CNTU), Judge Sauve (former secretary of the CNTU), Governor-General Schreyer (formerly the leader of the NDP in Manitoba) and many others are blatant proof of this.
Trade-unionism must cease to be a stepping-stone for careerists on the path to a comfortable future in the service of the bourgeoisie and reactionary forces. Trade-unionism has got to stop acting as an agency for reconciling workers’ demands with the interests of Capital. The working-class movement cannot put their hopes in the labour bosses who lead them regularly into the dead-end of reformism.
The working-class movement has learned this in the past few years at its own expense. The election of the NDP in Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Manitoba and the election of the PQ in Quebec proved without a doubt that when they are in power these so-called socialist parties, supposedly favourably disposed towards workers, simply manage Capital’s interests and serve the bourgeoisie, just like all the other parties.
Moreover, the line adopted by the followers of these parties in the numerous conflicts between the labouring masses and the bourgeoisie, the bosses and the State, in the crisis period of the 1970’s, has turned out to be a monumental failure. Unemployment increases steadily, wage hikes are ridiculously low in comparison to the rise in prices, union rights are slowly eaten away by injunctions and various pieces of legislation.
For many unionized workers, the CLC’s betrayal of the postal workers was the last straw. It has given rise to a powerful movement of opposition in all the conventions of CLC-affiliated provincial labour federations held since then. Even at the Ontario Federation of Labour convention, which has been the bastion of reactionary trade-unionism in the country in recent years, those who oppose McDermott spoke up and denounced his support for the NDP as well as his betrayal of the postal workers.
It is not surprising that L’Heureux, Pilkey, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour president Yetman, Gerin-Lajoie and Co. are getting edgy and vehemently attacking communists. They are trying to pass off the growing revolt of an important part of the working-class movement against their class-collaborationist line as the result of the action of a few marginal elements devoted to the defence of a “foreign ideology”. The manoeuvre is not new. The bourgeoisie and its agents have always acted in this way to attempt to justify their basically reactionary endeavours, which are fundamentally opposed to the interests of all unionized and non-unionized workers.
Nor is the fact that there is a whole series of groups and organizations trying to take advantage of the situation anything new. This is the case with the revisionist Communist Party of Canada (pro-Moscow), the Canadian Communist League (pro-Peking), various Trotskyist sects (pro-Trotsky and everything that’s “hot”) and the CPC(M-L) which, like Bolshevik Union, now follows the PLA after having had Mao Zedong as chairman for years! There are also others: the Parti des Travailleurs du Quebec (PTQ) in Quebec, the Red Star Collective (RDSC) and Socialist Organizing Committee (SOC) in British Columbia, the Waffle in Saskatchewan, the Canadian Party of Labour (CPL) mainly in Ontario, and so on.
The Communist Party of Canada, a revisionist pro-Moscow party, and its provincial counterpart, the Parti Communiste du Quebec, which is simply another provincial section in all but name, have kept a very low profile since the degeneration of the Soviet Party, when it was greatly weakened. Those of its members who remained active, mainly in English Canada and especially in British Columbia and Ontario, simply infiltrated certain unions and organized campaigns against U.S. imperialism that, in passing, served the interests of Soviet imperialism, which was working to extend its grip throughout the world.
But recently it has become clear that the revisionist party has decided to broaden its activities and take advantage of the growing revolt of the masses and their disenchantment with the NDP to brush up its image as the party of progress and, at the same time, the party of “reason”, as opposed to those whom they indiscriminately label as “ultra-leftists” and “Maoists”. The new verbal radicalism of the revisionist party has recently enabled it to obtain something of an audience in the union movement, in committees of the unemployed and other community organizations.
In Quebec, for example, the members of the Communist Party of Quebec (CPQ) are coming out into the open more and more. They identify themselves in union conventions; they organize public meetings and try to increase the distribution of their publications. They have realized that since 1974-75, the working-class movement has become more receptive to communist ideas with the development of the Marxist-Leninist movement. They have chosen to try to sabotage this movement by offering their reformist trash with a little zip and verve.
This new-found energy animating the revisionist party will go the same way as the fiery rhetoric spouted by the Quebec union bosses a few years back. People such as Chartrand, Laberge and Charbonneau  understood sooner than did the Moscow-style revisionists that the working class aspired to more than reforms and election promises. So they began to proclaim their support for all struggles and advocate the necessity of smashing the system. We know what happened next: the election of the PQ silenced them. To be more precise, it convinced them that it was more important to attack Marxist-Leninists... who were condemning the electoral promises made by the Parti Quebecois.
The CP’s revisionist line is not fundamentally different from that of the NDP and all the other opportunists who work at turning the working-class movement away from the path of the revolution. Its line puts forward the path of “socialism” through successive reforms obtained more by collaborating with capitalist power in Canada than by opposing it. Proof of this lies in its support for the consolidation of the Canadian bourgeoisie through the nationalization of foreign monopolies that treat Canadian workers most highhandedly. This is the line it applied in the strike at INCO in Sudbury; it was the line put forward by all the reformists and Trotskyists during the strike at United Aircraft in Montreal in 1975.
The revisionist CP’s political line seems to differ from the NDP’s line today more than it did 5 years ago. This is more because the NDP has gotten rid of the Waffle, its “left”-leaning wing, than because the CP has changed its line. If this political line seems to be getting a favourable hearing in the working-class movement, especially among the union bosses, it is more because the experience of the NDP in power in the Western provinces has shown up the NDP’s fraudulent promises for what they are than anything else.
The camp of the opportunists who are trying at this very moment to profit from the NDP’s and the PQ’s loss of credibility to gain a foothold in the working-class movement includes more than the revisionist CP. The Communist League also has to be included as part of this camp, and it is indeed gradually adopting the methods of the CP, starting with blind support for China, an exact duplication of the revisionist party’s unconditional support for the Soviet Union.
Ultimately, the League will wind up defending a line that resembles the revisionist CP’s line. Fundamentally, this line says that the interests of the Canadian proletariat and people lie in the defence of the country’s sovereignty. For the CP, the main danger is American imperialism; for the League, the U.S.S.R. is the more dangerous power. In practice, however, the two organizations share a common political line of collaboration with the Canadian bourgeoisie.
It should be noted that most of the time the League and the CP do not attack the bourgeoisie as the class that is the enemy of the proletariat, the bourgeoisie as the class that holds State power, the bourgeoisie as the class responsible for exploitation and oppression, as the class responsible for the present crisis. No, the reformist line of these two organizations leads them to attack, in words, such-and-such a monopoly or company or government only. This is where the CP gets its line on nationalizations: when a monopoly does not satisfy workers, the solution is to replace the private monopoly with a State monopoly, with a Canadian monopoly. The League’s line of “co-ordinating different workers’ strikes”, which substitutes for a line of uniting the working class in its struggle against the bourgeois class, is also due to this underlying attitude.
Not only do the League and the CP fail to struggle consistently against the Canadian bourgeoisie, they have on many occasions given it their open support. The League has even gone so far as to support more arms for the Canadian military on the grounds that “we” must do something about the danger of a takeover by the U.S.S.R. and be ready for a new world war!
For years now, the revisionist CP has been an agent of the Soviet State bureaucracy and of social imperialism in Canada through the active support that it gave to the Soviet Union and the role that it has played as an intermediary between the Soviet revisionists and the Canadian bourgeoisie. And the League is headed in the same direction... with China. The China-Canada Friendship Association, which is controlled by the League in many cities, played an active role in the organization of trips to China for Canadian businessmen in the fall of 1978. That is where the “three worlds theory” leads: to the degeneration into revisionism which corrupted the Soviet party in the 1950’s and which is winning out in the Chinese communist party today.
There is one other organization which has taken it upon itself to keep the proletariat from taking up the path of revolution: the CPC(M-L). This so-called party of the working class brings together in its political line and actions the most negative parts of both the revisionist CP and the neo-revisionist line. Its line of national independence for Canada comes directly from the revisionist CP, which elaborated it during the Second World War; it shares with the League an unbelievably dogmatic attitude and fascist methods of “believe what I say or else”, topped off with a thorough opportunism. These methods do more to discredit communism than the inflammatory speeches of McDermott or L’Heureux, because they make communists look like the sort of characters who are ready to do anything to make their ideas prevail in the workers’ movement. Yes, the CPC(M-L) is willing to try anything – anything, that is, but the day-to-day work of persuasion which characterizes the work of real communists.
When it comes to opportunism, though, no one can really hold a candle to the Trotskyists. There are quite a few Trotskyist organizations in Canada. It is the rule for them to have the “right to form factions”, and this prevails over unity. Hence, they are regularly splitting and uniting and splitting over the years, all of which warms the hearts of the enemies of the proletariat, who love to see organizations active in the working-class movement get smaller, more isolated and fighting one another. Trotskyism, starting with Trotsky himself, has always been parasitic, leeching off the communist movement. Wherever communism develops, Trotskyism pops up too and concerns itself with making criticisms aimed at supporting it and making it better. The Trotskyists inevitably tag along wherever there are struggles or opposition developing. They take on the views of the most “radical” elements in the struggles; again, however, their object is to criticise them. Indeed, they get involved precisely in order to disorganize the struggles they pretend to support. One would be hard put to imagine more straightforward collaborators with the established order. The Trotskyists do their best to bring together those people waging a given struggle so that they can sow dissension in the ranks and thereby make it fail.
The Trotskyists have a general programme which is thoroughly counter-revolutionary. It is simply a grab bag of whatever might “sell” in relation to immediate demands. It represents a real dead-end as far as the struggle for socialism goes. One need only recall how they have always given critical support to the NDP, supported Quebec independence, etc. This is a clear illustration that these people have no desire whatsoever to see the revolutionary struggle develop in our country.
The masses make revolution. It is the party’s job to work among the masses, to join their ranks and struggle alongside them in order to win people to the path of revolution.
The political and economic situation in Canada is deteriorating, and there is a growing sentiment of resistance and revolt among the masses. In such a situation, it is absolutely normal and predictable that various sects which are objectively working for the bourgeoisie get involved in the workers’ movement and work away at stopping people from taking up the line of proletarian revolution. Neither is it surprising that the language they use sounds intentionally Marxist-Leninist. After all, the language of reformism that the labour bosses have been using for the last twenty years or more to accomplish the same ends as the sects hasn’t got much credibility any more.
It is quite remarkable how the opportunists work to hide fundamentally identical positions by using different words. The League and the Parti Quebecois, for example, seem to be great enemies. The League never passes up a chance to denounce the PQ. But in practice they find themselves united in cultivating nationalism in Quebec. More often than not the League’s criticism of the PQ is that it is not nationalist enough! The League and the CNTU also appear to be mortal enemies. But recently they adopted the same position, objectively, on Operation Freedom. Both condemned it in their own way and found their own words to express the same idea, namely that it is more important to fight against what they call “economic repression” than against political repression. Was it not the League that openly engaged in union raiding on behalf of the CNTU? It wouldn’t be the first time that an engaged couple fought bitterly with one another all the while moving closer and closer together... until they finally get married.
The CPC(M-L) is another organization which criticises in words positions that it adopts itself in practice. No one has been attacked by the CPC(M-L) more frequently and in more despicable fashion than Jack Scott, the former member of the revisionist CP who founded the Progressive Workers Movement (PWM) in the 1960’s. And yet the CPC(M-L)’s position on revolution in Canada is identical on all points with that of Jack Scott, who in turn developed his positions on the basis of stands taken by the CP in 1943 when it changed its name to the Labour Progressive Party (LPP).
The main obstacle today to the development of popular revolt into a powerful revolutionary movement is the corrupt union bosses who stand opposed to workers’ struggles and preach class collaboration. But we must keep in mind that waiting in line there are others who would be only too happy to take their places. These relief troops are madee up of a series of sects, organizations and parties which all use more radical language but which in practice abide by the very same line of class collaboration. It is imperative that these fakers be publicly exposed. Their actions only put off the day when the party will be created, the one and only party which the working class wants and needs to lead the struggle for socialism.
It is quite likely that there will be important confrontations in the months to come, especially in the public sector and around democratic rights. We must not forget what we learned from the postal workers’ fight. We should also remember what went on in Operation Freedom, when it comes time for working people to answer the question, “Who are our friends and who are our enemies?”
But the most important thing of all is to make the question of rebuilding the party a focal point in all the struggles going on now. Of course, we cannot predict exactly what is going to happen politically in Canada or in the world in the next few years. But one thing is sure: it is inevitable that the masses’ living conditions will deteriorate under capitalism. Proletarian revolution looms as the only solution. Because of this, the workers movement will realize more and more that there is a need for the revolutionary leadership that a party can provide. When that happens, it would be nothing short of tragic if the party were not ready and able to assume its proper role.
Canada is presently going through a crisis period the likes of which have not been seen since the Second World War. Once again capitalism is displaying its complete incapacity to resolve its inherent contradictions. Yet again the masses of the people are saying that the system we have now is fundamentally anti-worker and must be abolished if they are to win their freedom.
The crisis which is shaking Canadian society today has its origins in the very nature of capitalism. Canada is an industrialized country where the capitalist relations of production are clearly dominant. They are virtually the only relations that exist. Even agriculture is in the process of developing capitalist relations, and small-scale independent producers-fishermen and self-employed workers, for example – are quite clearly very marginal.
On the one hand, production is increasingly socialized, i.e. it is entirely based on the labour of millions of individuals whose activities are interdependent. On the other hand, the minority that exercises absolute control over production is constantly diminishing in numbers. The competition which pits them one against the other is growing, each individual capitalist being first and foremost on the lookout for bigger profits. And they cannot obtain them without eliminating their competitors.
However, no matter how much the capitalists compete with one another, it’s always the working class that they attack first when their system of exploitation doesn’t produce the results it is supposed to. With the kind of difficulties that they face these days in this country and around the world, they are getting steadily more aggressive. They chop away at the material conditions of the masses and take away one by one the acquired rights of working people. The object of all this is to progressively strip away all of those things which make it possible to fight, to resist and to win.
The Canadian proletariat lives in a system where the main trend is the rise of the reactionary forces. This will continue to be the case as long as the crisis persists. If the years ahead are like the ones we have just been through, then the crises of capitalism will occur one right after the other in short order, without any intervening periods of economic recovery, as has been the rule up to now. Not a single capitalist organization or economist dares predict a significant recovery in the near future.
Without being alarmist, people should be aware that if the economic situation we have today persists, the conditions of the proletariat and the people in general are going to keep on deteriorating. The Canadian capitalist class nurtures growing imperialist ambitions. The realization of those dreams requires that the price of their products remain competitive on international markets. Thus we should expect that the real income of workers will tend to decrease while limitations imposed on democratic rights will become still more stringent.
The step-by-step rise of reactionary forces is the road that leads to fascism. The intensification of inter-imperialist rivalry is the road that leads to war. Canada is as involved as anyone else in the race to extend its domestic market and find outlets to invest its capital. When you realize how closely tied Canada is to the American colossus, its participation in any future world war is just about beyond all doubt. The present crisis has taken Canada in a very dangerous direction. No matter what measures the capitalists apply to try to reverse the trend, the medicine is going to be very strong and negative in its impact on working people. Fortunately workers are increasingly aware of how serious the situation is and how necessary it is to organize a strong and immediate movement to counter all the attacks by the class enemy.
It is imperative that the working class of Canada develop into a unified force on a country-wide scale. The working-class movement must get rid of the class-collaborationist leadership which it has been infested with since the Second World War. Equally important, the working class must give leadership to the struggles of other strata of the people and channel them all in the same direction: against the Canadian bourgeoisie and its State, against Canadian imperialism and its ally, U.S. imperialism.
The unity of the Canadian proletariat and the unity of the Canadian people remain an indispensable condition for victory over the reactionary forces in both the short and the long run. If the capitalist class is also more divided because of the contradictions which eat away at it, so much the better. The struggle of the proletariat for a better life, for greater democracy and for socialism will simply achieve even more overwhelming a victory.
But there is no use cultivating the illusion that this struggle will be an easy one. The factors promoting division are also present in the people’s ranks, and the capitalists are eager to encourage them. Included on this list are the national and language differences, the divisions between men and women, between high and low paid workers, between different regions, between workers with a job and those without, between immigrants and workers born in Canada, and so on.
Disunity has been a common feature of the history of the workers’ movement in Canada, especially disunity caused by national divisions. This must be radically transformed. The working class must respond to the factors of division established and maintained by the bourgeoisie by turning them into their opposite, making every possibility for division into an opportunity to build stronger unity. Every time one group or sector of working people is attacked – whether it is women, a national minority, a group of immigrants, or young people – the capitalists will try to weaken them by keeping them isolated. The working class must respond quickly, strongly and united to join their fight.
This means doing certain very specific things. The Quebec trade-union leaders who reject the objective of uniting with workers in the rest of Canada must be exposed; the chauvinist and racist labour bosses like those running the airline pilot (CALPA) and air traffic controller (CATCA) unions should be denounced and condemned time and again until they have been driven right out of the labour movement. A clean break must be made with the practice established in the earlier part of this century by the old CP of organizing workers solely on the basis of their nationality. The interests of workers in relation to the capitalist class is not determined by what language they happen to speak.
In approaching the question of Quebec or the Native peoples or other national minorities, the guiding line for workers must be to build unity among the popular forces. All of the working people in Canada share a common goal: to put an end to imperialist exploitation and oppression. This is the objective basis of their unity, But unity in turn must be based on equality. As long as big-nation chauvinism has not been swept right out of the working-class movement – and that includes the “chauvinism” of some minorities in relation to other minorities – and as long as the working-class movement has not built its unity despite the chauvinism of the bourgeoisie, this will remain an important obstacle to the development of the struggle for socialism in Canada. And it will be just as much of an obstacle to winning victories in the immediate struggles of the proletariat.
The same goes for the regional divisions that the capitalist class is only too happy to use to pit the workers from the Maritimes against those from Ontario or workers from Quebec against those in B.C. and the Prairies. The working-class movement must realize that the unequal and anarchic pattern of economic development in Canada is a direct consequence of capitalism. It is by building the greatest possible unity that the proletariat will eventually be able to reduce these inequalities. Such a unity will enable the proletariat to defeat the system which creates those inequalities.
The participation of women is essential in all working-class struggles. The fight against the oppression of women demands support from all working-class men. Women’s oppression is a consequence of the division of society into social classes. The feminist line which preaches division between men and women must be completely rejected. Equally, we must dedicate ourselves to getting rid of all forms of male chauvinism within the movement. Fighting side by side is still the best way to overcome the effects of chauvinism and feminism within the movement. That is where women will continue to demonstrate that their fighting spirit, their courage and their leadership ability are fully equal to men’s. That is where men can show that they are able to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the struggles against women’s oppression just like they do any other struggle.
Thus the slogan of unity must guide the struggle of working people on all fronts. The call for unity is of particular significance in Canada because this objective has never been achieved in a lasting fashion in the working-class movement. The current manoeuvres of the capitalist class are sufficient proof in themselves of how crucial unity is.
Unity is the precondition for the success of the people’s resistance to the growing attacks by the bourgeoisie and to the dangers of the fascist tendencies that are becoming more and more apparent in the system. The resistance must develop on two fronts. First, the proletariat and people must defend their living conditions. Here it is not just a question of threats any longer either – it’s already happening. With inflation and rising taxes, the disposable income of the majority of people is declining. But in the long run it would be pointless to simply confine the fight to this level of struggle. Democratic rights and workers’ acquired rights must also be unstintingly defended.
Despite workers’ combativity, nothing has been won for once and for all. For one thing, the labour bosses work hard to confine workers’ struggles to a strictly trade-union level, letting each battle go on in isolation from the others. When the question of politics comes up, they say: oh yeah, we know that the Liberal government is sold out; what we have to do is defeat it and get the NDP elected instead. That’s just great! By law, the federal election must be held before the end of the summer of 1979 . The referendum in Quebec is planned for the fall of 1979 . We can look forward with near certainty to the sold-out leaders of the labour movement in English Canada taking up the task of rallying workers into line behind the NDP. In Quebec, the labour bosses who are Parti Quebecois supporters or “left-wing” nationalists will not want to cause too many problems before the referendum. This augurs badly for the working-class movement. It indicates that the movement is still dominated by reformists and revisionists. As long as this situation persists, the working class will not be able to win any decisive victories.
The Canadianization and democratization of the unions should be understood in this perspective. It is not a matter of promoting one labour body instead of another. Neither is it a question of idealizing Canadian unions in contrast to American unions as such. The Canadian working class needs unions that it can control and use freely and fully to defend its interests. Obviously, such unions would have to be democratic and have a leadership over which Canadian trade-union members can exercise complete control. This is something which Canadian workers have understood for a long time. The struggle for autonomous and democratic unions instead of the “international” unions has made considerable progress in the past ten years in a number of economic sectors, including the public service and pulp and paper.
The success of these struggles depends on our ability to expose the false friends of the proletariat and throw them out of the working-class movement. In particular, the collaborationist labour bosses should be driven out completely so that the trade unions can return to the role of defending workers and stop being a go-between betwixt the capitalist class and the working people, a go-between assigned the task of getting the workers to accept the policies of the bourgeoisie. Furthermore, the current labour bosses aren’t the only ones who need to be exposed; all those who aspire to replace them and carry out the same class-collaborationist line ought to be dealt with in the same way.
The Canadian proletariat has been without its vanguard party for at least the last thirty years. Revisionism has had a field day in mixing things up for people. Among other things, revisionism has been able to redirect the people’s forces onto the path of nationalism, which sooner or later leads to class collaboration. Thus the struggle against the various forms of nationalism constitutes a fundamental task before us. The situation in the country and in the world today is such that in the near future the proletariat could very well have to make some clearcut choices between the defence of the “Nation” or the “Homeland” on the one hand, and the defence of the working class and people in the perspective of making the proletarian revolution on the other. These choices are not ones which might have to be made in some unforeseeable future; they are on the immediate horizon. People should get ready for them right away.
And the working class will be ready to firmly take the road which serves its class interests and those of the revolution when the time comes, if it starts now to reject all the appeals from the nationalists of various hues and stripes: those who try to arouse among people a sense of national distinctiveness, those who support the Canadian bourgeoisie in its imperialist undertakings, those who would like to hitch the Canadian people to the falling star of one foreign power to defend us against other foreign powers. These nationalists are so preoccupied with “taking advantage of contradictions among the imperialists” that they completely forget about the contradictions between the working class and the imperialist Canadian bourgeoisie.
The working class has one overriding responsibility, and that is to give leadership to the various struggles which pit the people against the bourgeoisie on all fronts. This includes assuming fully the internationalist duties of our class. That means denouncing imperialism, starting at home with Canadian imperialism, while giving support to the struggles of workers in other countries as well as to the struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples.
The struggle for the party and for the international unity of the proletariat (not the unity of the bourgeoisie in the different “worlds”) are presently the two most important tasks which must be accomplished if we are to meet our responsibilities, as we will see later.
To sum up briefly, the Marxist-Leninist Organization of Canada IN STRUGGLE! intends to struggle in the coming period with the following objectives in mind:
1. Warn the working class and people about what effect the present crisis is having on living conditions and democratic rights, especially highlighting the dangers of fascism and of a new world war.
2. Mobilize the working class and all oppressed strata in a unified and militant movement to fight back against all of the capitalist crisis measures, making sure at all times that we clearly emphasize the political stakes at issue.
3. Work to build the indispensable unity of the different sections of working people. This involves transforming the many types of divisions maintained by the capitalists – between the sexes, between nations and national minorities, between workers with jobs and without – into their opposite, into fronts of struggle where the whole working-class movement can become stronger and more united.
4. Unmask the traitors and opportunists who infest the working-class movement and too often dominate its organizations, confining them to the rut of class collaboration and the status quo; intensify the struggle to make these organizations democratic, thoroughly devoted to their members’ interests and to those of the working class as a whole, freed at last of the local and foreign labour bosses and truly controlled by the membership.
It is through all of these struggles that the working class vanguard can be won to Marxism-Leninism and brought to consciously take up the struggle for the party and for the unity of all communists around the world.
 The bases of this class analysis can be found in two articles published by IN STRUGGLE! in its journal PROLETARIAN UNITY, the first in the August-September 1978 issue no 12, pp. 20-39 (“The proletariat is the only thoroughly revolutionary class”) and the second in the October-November 1978 issue, no. 13, pp. 26-40 (“The new strata of the Canadian proletariat”).
 The party was later to become the NDP.
 Former federal Liberal cabinet minister, James Richardson is well known for his extremely chauvinist attitude towards French speaking Canadians.
 See La Presse, Montreal, August, 29, 1978, p. 2.
 Ed. note: Chartrand is a former president of the CNTU's Montreal Labour Council; Laberge is president of the Quebec Federation of Labour; and Charbonneau is a former president of the Centrale de l’Enseignement du Quebec (the Quebec teachers' central).
 Ed. note: This election was held on May 22, 1979; the Progressive Conservative Party won and took power.
 Ed. note: Since this report was written, the referendum has been scheduled for the spring of 1980.