Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

WCP work in unions

How NOT to fight class collaboration

First Published: In Struggle! No. 244, March 31, 1981
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Since the beginning of the election campaign in Quebec, the WCP has put itself forward as the “working class alternative”, the only party capable of defending the workers’ interests. Yet the WCP’s work in unions shows that it is far more interested in seizing the leadership of the unions and radicalizing the struggles than in doing sustained educational and consciousness-raising work with union members. Criticisms of the WCP’s work in unions have been accumulating for a little over a year now. “You can’t even speak, they always have the mike”: “another one of their proposals which doesn’t take reality into account’ , “action, action that’s all very well, but we can’t always be on strike”; “we have to take all workers into consideration, not just the most conscious ones” – these are the sorts of comments which many workers have made on the basis of their daily experience with the WCP. The same views were heard following meetings like the symposium on occupational health and safety held in Rouyn and the CNTU convention last fall.

These criticisms are more and more numerous, and they cannot simply be brushed aside on the pretext that they were just incidental mistakes or that the criticisms are all made by anti-communists.

We believe that it is important to understand why the WCP has adopted these attitudes, and then to make the necessary criticisms on this basis.

A moralistic view of the labour aristocracy

The booklet entitled Batir des syndicats de classe, (Build class-struggle unions) published in October 1979 by the WCP helps make clear what the political roots of those erroneous attitudes are. This pamphlet gives “a detailed account of the WCP’s point of view on unions”[1]. It tries to explain why a collaborationist line exists and in fact is dominant, within the labour movement.

If we are to believe the WCP booklet, for over 50 years now the majority of unions have been held hostage by a handful of big union bureaucrats and by a small minority of highly-skilled workers. “These reformist leaders turn unions away from the resolute struggle against capitalism”[2]. These individuals are bought off by the bourgeoisie one way or another: they are offered a promotion, a position on the board of directors or on a tripartite commission. “Of course, not all labour leaders and workers who hold positions in unions let themselves be corrupted by the bourgeoisie in these ways”[3]. As this passage clearly demonstrates, according to the WCP, the labour aristocracy is the result of corruption of individuals and not the result of material privileges of a section of the working class. It’s almost as if each individual labour leader has a choice to join the labour aristocracy or not.

This narrow and moralistic view of reality has important effects on their analysis of reality. It prevents them from understanding that some of the workers who support Louis Laberge as president of the QFL have a vested interest in doing so for they are also part of the labour aristocracy. Although our analysis of this question is far from being complete, it is clear that the labour aristocracy cannot be boiled down to a question of individuals. According to the hypotheses presented in our journal PROLETARIAN UNITY. “the labour aristocracy is basically made up of skilled workers working for monopolies”[4]. Consequently, the percentage of workers of the labour aristocracy varies a great deal from one sector to another and from one union to another. Moreover, we must remember that the relative prosperity of Canadian imperialism since the Second World War has made possible the improvement of the living conditions of Canadian workers as a whole, even the vast majority of those who do not belong to the labour aristocracy. This situation has created objective conditions enabling the labour aristocracy to take over the leadership of the unions. The same conditions have led the vast majority of workers, sucked in by the baseless dream of a prosperous capitalism meeting basic human needs to take up the ideas put forward by the labour aristocracy.

Since the WCP does not understand this, it often overestimates the relative position of strength enjoyed by the labour movement at any given time. For example, during the last Common Front of public and semi-public workers, The Forge exaggerated reality: “Tide turning in favour of Quebec Common Front” (24/08/79) and “PQ cornered” (7/09/79). Yet just a few weeks later, the Common Front fell apart and the government got injunctions and adopted emergency laws which stuck. The approach regularly leads the WCP to neglect the contradictions which exist within unions between the more conscious workers and the mass of union members, those between union in different sectors etc. The WCP thus ofthen pushes radical all-purpose solutions instead of doing education and consciousness-raising work with workers. At the last CNTU convention, the WCP militants wanted the delegates to vote against paying fines before the local unions concerned had debated the matter.

When communists become the source of class struggle

The WCP has a simpler explanation for the domination of the collaborationist line: “When the struggle against the class-collaboration line is not systematically organized, it can only win temporary victories (...) It is only when this struggle is led by a communist party that it can drive back the bourgeois line and win once and for all”[5]. In other words, without the help of a communist party workers would he incapable of adopting a class position for the defence of their immediate interests. The WCP believes that this is easy to prove. When the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) was strong in 1930, the struggle against class collaboration was well under way; when the CPC degenerated in the fifties, the labour aristocracy once again dominated the labour movement and, since the beginning of the seventies, with the birth of the new communist movement in Canada (this means the creation of the WCP!), “there has been a new burst in the development of the class struggle line”[6].

The WCP does not see that the main cause of the rebirth of the struggle against the class-collaborationist line in both 1929 and the mid-sixties was above all the economic crisis. Indeed, the demonstrations against the Vietnam war at the end of the sixties, the October ’70 crisis and the massive Common Front strike of 1972 did not wait for the WCP to exist to happen. When all workers are under attack, when the bourgeoisie is no longer able to pay decent wages, unionized workers then oppose the labour aristocracy which, because of its privileges, continues to uphold collaboration with the bourgeoisie. The communist movement in Canada developed precisely on the basis of these direct conflicts between workers and the bourgeoisie, and not the opposite as the WCP claims. Since they think they are at the origin of working class militancy, it is not surprising that they use every possible means to monopolize the mikes at meetings and grab a majority on union executives.

The WCP’s erroneous attitudes flow directly from its conception of the role of communists in unions: take the place of the masses in organizing their immediate struggles. It flows from a conception of the world where the action of communists make up for the development of workers’ consciousness and militancy instead of taking this situation into account while acting to transform it. IN STRUGGLE! does not share this view of the world and of the tasks of communists.


[1] Bātir des syndicats de lutte de classe, pg. 2 (all quotes our translation)

[2] Ibid., pg. 8

[3] Ibid., pg. 12

[4] PROLETARIAN UNITY, no 22. pg. 20

[5] Bātir des syndicats de lutte de classe, pg. 14

[6] Ibid.. pg. 15