First Published: In Struggle! No. 128, October 10, 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Friday September 29, 1978, at eight a.m., the RCMP began following everyone entering or leaving the village of Katevale in Quebec. All day, about fifty police officers, armed with long-range rifles, held a group of about 40 people participating in a study session hostage.
The RCMP has so far chosen to remain silent on these incidents. When questioned by radio, television, and newspaper reporters,the official response of the RCMP is always the same: “it is not appropriate to give information on an operation of this scope ... For reasons of national security, we cannot disclose anything“... The absolute and arrogant silence around this affair is ominous. It is a silence which indicates that the “operation” is far from over.
The Katevale incident is far from an isolated event. It is not the first time that the State police apparatus has used such methods to attack fundamental democratic rights. RCMP officer Claude Brodeur, testifying before the MacDonald Commission on September 20, declared that the illegal activities he took part in, and in particular the burning of a barn in Quebec to foster distrust between two “subversive” political groups, were justified. “Necessity wins over legality”, he declared to the commission.
It is becoming increasingly clear that, in Canada, “democracy” does not bother itself with “legality”. Once again, following the “necessity” of their class, those in power, instead of trying to hide the illegal acts of the political police are attempting to make them legal and even to extend these powers. But while some illegal activities, like searches and arrests without a warrant, dynamite theft, and the planting of bombs by RCMP officers like Brodeur or Samson, may become legal, we can bet anything that some “legal” activities of the working class, like strikes and meetings, will become “illegal”
Several democratic rights are already openly denied, in the name of the superior interests of the ruling class, which are more important than legality. The police operation, that members of the Group IN STRUGGLE! participating in a seminar in Katevale were victims of, shows how the more fact of holding a meeting is now enough to justify the mobilization of armed police. The CNTU this week revealed the existence of an RCMP unit specialized in infiltrating unions. What lessons can we’ draw from the present situation when the threat of the War Measures Act is hanging over the heads of Canadian workers?
We can clearly see that the repressive and dictatorial nature of the State, the intimidation and provocation of the political police are not the fruit of the imagination of paranoid revolutionaries. The present situation clearly demonstrates that there are two sides to “democracy” and “legality” in Canada and in other capitalist countries.
– One side grants all possible freedoms to a ruling minority:the freedom to exploit,and to do what it pleases with the lives of workers; the freedom of expression and the right to make itself heard loud and clear on the air and in its papers; the freedom to meet in a restaurant at $250 per person to learn how to break unions; the freedom to call in the army and the police force to defend its private property.
– The other side, a little more hidden, is the side of the democracy of “ifs” and “if nots”. “if” you do not threaten “democracy for a minority”, then you have the right to speak. “If not”, we have laws ready like the Official Secrets Act which stipulates that a person can be convicted for an act, although no such act is proven against him, “if it appears that his purpose was a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State.” “If not” we also have blacklists, dossiers put together thanks to electronic eavesdropping, the legal opening of mail and searches without a warrant, as well as informers infiltrated in your unions, community organizations, and revolutionary groups. “If not”, we also have the army, with specialized anti-subversive teams and anti-guerilla tanks, and volunteers recruited among the population “to support the forces in an emergency” (Globe and Mail 06/05/78).
Yes, all the repressive measures which the State undertakes daily or prepares to undertake at the right moment, clearly demonstrate that, behind the illusion of democracy, hides a dictatorial power which will not hesitate to use any type of violence to stay in power, including outright “illegality” as in previously very.“democratic” countries like Chile.
To defeat this repressive movement it is important to denounce each action, each attack against democratic rights as widely as possible. This is why IN STRUGGLE! organized a press conference on October 3. With few exceptions, most media simply hid the story away beside the classified ads, and some like the Montreal daily, La Presse, even raised doubts on the facts surrounding the event. This was hardly surprising since these newspapers, for the most part directly controlled by the bourgeoisie, take an active part in the reactionary propaganda campaign against unions, the unemployed and civil service workers.
In the face of rising repression, militants in union and community organizations have a duty to denounce the Katevale incidents and all other repressive measures, to vote resolutions of protest and send them to bourgeois papers and, more importantly, to IN STRUGGLE!. Groups are also invited to endorse the letter which IN STRUGGLE! sent to Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Levesque.
We must not have any illusions about bourgeois democracy. In all its struggles, the working class has to confront the dictatorial power of the ruling minority which will not shrink from using violence and illegal methods to break communist and working-class organizations. There is not one country in the world where the bourgeoisie has not at one time or another, used reactionary violence to crush workers. There 1s not one country in the world where the bourgeoisie has not generalized this violence into systematic terror to prevent the proletariat from taking State power. IN STRUGGLE!’s Draft Program clearly states that it is necessary to arm the messes to face reactionary violence today as well to guarantee victory in any insurrectional situation. (article 15c)
To seize power, not only must the working class arm itself with revolutionary tactics and strategy which it will use to overthrow the bourgeoisie, but it must also build an organization, a vanguard party which will enable it to lead the struggle of the proletariat to victory whatever the conditions.We must take up the task of denouncing all repressive measures and link this to the denunciation of bourgeois power and to the construction of the proletarian party, an indispensable tool in the struggle for socialism.