- Statement of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist)
- A Time to Think About Concrete Solutions to the Problems the Workers Face – Peggy Askin
- The Neo-liberal Ideological and Institutional Basis for the Negation of Workers’ Rights – Pierre Chénier
The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) sends militant revolutionary greetings to all the working people across the country on the occasion of May Day 2016 as well as to the workers in all countries demonstrating on this day. May Day is always a time to think about the struggles the workers have waged in the past year and continue to wage in defence of their rights and the rights of all. It is a time to raise the demands of the workers’ movement and accept the challenges the workers face in the coming year.
At this time in Canada and Quebec, in all sectors of the economy, the workers and their allies have continued valiantly to resist the anti-social offensive by defending their rights and the rights of all. In every instance, they have come up against the aim governments have set for society to make the monopolies competitive on global markets, to privatize social programs and public assets, to defraud the workers of the pensions and benefits which belong to them by right and to put downward pressure on wages and living standards and defame unions and those who fight. The working class rejects with contempt these attacks and vows to redouble its organized efforts to resist.
On the occasion of May Day, CPC(M-L) denounces the program of governments at all levels to pay the rich and impose decisions of a supranational nature to serve the empire-building of the U.S. imperialists abroad and wreck nation-building at home. The task is squarely before the working class to participate in nation-building against empire-building so as to open a path to progress. Far from discussing the choices the rulers and their agents put before the workers, the working class movement must take stands based on its own independent politics and build a political movement capable of achieving the objectives it sets for itself.
The working class in the twenty-first century has acquired enormous experience in defending its rights and organizing to complete the transition to modern human relations within industrial mass production. The maturity of the working class is evident in the constant organizing and struggles for its rights and in the development of its ideological and theoretical positions in opposition to those of the ruling imperialist elite.
In light of neo-liberal restructuring of the state and nation-wrecking, the time has arrived to open a broad front to determine the kind of modern democracy Canada needs in the twenty-first century. Only the workers’ movement can become the cornerstone of a renewed nation-building project to fashion a modern democracy that empowers the people and puts control over the economy in their hands. In opening a path forward through organizing itself and defending its rights, the workers’ movement creates confidence that a modern democracy is possible. The strength of the movement depends on the working class standing on its own feet on the basis of its own independent politics and momentum. With its head clear of all the backward and retrogressive notions of imperialist democracy that currently strangle all public institutions, it can take the initiative and realize successes as well as turn successes into victory.
It is up to the working people to take up the challenge before them today which is to provide solutions which meet the needs and requirements of a society with industrial mass production as its economic base.
On May Day 2016, all across Canada and Quebec let workers together demonstrate their determination to continue their resistance to all attacks on their rights and to open a path forward to a modern democracy.
Our Security Lies in Our Fight for the Rights of All!
Nation-Building, Yes! Empire-Building, No!
Workers and Oppressed Peoples of All Countries, Unite!
A time to think about concrete solutions to the problems the workers face
Across the country, the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) organizes and participates in all kinds of activities on May Day, including demonstrations, discussions, banquets and celebrations.
May Day is a day of unity and struggle which belongs to the international working class movement. As such, it is a day to stand as one to press for specific demands but is also a day to reaffirm what the workers stand for and what their struggle for their rights and the rights of all represents in the present and for the future. It is a day when fighting contingents of the working class declare what challenges they will take up for solution in the coming year.
A good start is to think about what concrete solutions can be put forward to solve the problems the workers face. For this reason, one of the most important activities the organizations of CPC(M-L) carry on the occasion of May Day is to hold discussions in which collectives of workers review the battles the workers have waged in the past year, the obstacles in their path and the challenges they must take up in the coming year.
This year the working people face difficult circumstances. In Alberta alone, 200,000 workers have joined the ranks of Canada’s more than one million unemployed workers. Media reports indicate that 24,000 more jobs will be lost in the energy sector before the end of this year. The cause is said to be the crisis in the oil patch but the Workers’ Opposition contests this. The cause is the direction of the economy which is subordinate to the aims of the international financial oligarchy and decision-making on a supranational basis. Far from going against this direction, the policies of the federal government are in fact making matters worse. This is evident in its changes to the Employment Insurance regime which are inadequate and do not provide for the people in need. How to view this situation and what can be done about it is one of the concerns on the minds of the workers today.
This year, May Day is marked in the context of a new federal government. How this government is dealing with the all-sided crisis with economic crisis at the base is a major concern. Are the changes it is enacting or decreeing helping to resolve the crisis in favour of the people, or a further implementation of neo-liberal agendas to find funds from social programs and workers’ pension funds to pay the rich and further destroy the public authority? This agenda is implemented in the name of prosperity and the claim that when the monopolies are prosperous, the well-being of the people, society and the country are looked after. How to deal with this claim which is clearly false is also a matter of concern.
The Trudeau government has taken the reins of power at a time when all the arrangements upon which the society in the post-war period was based have been done away with, leading to ever greater riches on one pole and increasing poverty on the other. Despite this fact, the anti-social offensive and nation-wrecking are being stepped up while the new Trudeau government speaks about ending inequality, “growing the middle class” and consulting with the people.
How to resist the vicious anti-social offensive unleashed by governments at different levels in a meaningful manner has become a very important fight, especially now with the new Trudeau government claiming it is consulting everyone and reversing the policies adopted by Harper such as on EI. But this government is rapidly revealing itself to be a government which, like the Harper government before it, is also restructuring the state to impose monopoly interests as the aim of society. And it is going further, streamlining measures which will criminalize the resistance struggles at home and abroad in the name of “responsible conviction,” its entirely self-serving concoction to fool the gullible and justify empire-building. Under the pretext of reforms to the electoral process and what are called the democratic institutions, the government aims to further liquidate the vestiges of those arrangements which bind the people to the political regime in Canada. It pushes a distinct version of anti-politics to keep the people incapable of orienting themselves on an informed basis to ensure that they cannot mount an effective opposition.
In this regard, today the fight between the Old and the New is a manifestation of the class struggle between the ruling elite to disempower the working class and people so as to impose their dictate without opposition, and the working class and people who seek to build a bright future for themselves and the coming generations. This presents particular challenges which must be addressed. The aim of the Workers’ Opposition and Marxist-Leninists in addressing these challenges is not to bemoan our fate but to arm ourselves so that we can see how to open a path for society’s progress and avert the grave dangers of fascism at home and war abroad which face us at this time.
How to defend the rights of the working people within a situation where negotiations to determine working conditions and wages as well as employer-employee relations have been replaced with dictate from above, often on an international level, is a constant concern. So too is the fact that the political parties have been systematically destroyed. They no longer operate as primary political organizations which connect the broad masses of the people with the political power and governance but have been converted into official state institutions and formed a mafia-style cartel party system which maintains privileges and keeps the people disempowered. The Trudeau government is taking this much further with its proposals to restrict organizations’ political spending and reform the Liberal Party itself so that it no longer has any members which can hold its leadership to account.
Discussing these matters is necessary to orient the workers’ movement. It must ensure that the movements of the peoples in defence of their rights are not disinformed and liquidated with the new regime which opposes the people having any political role whatsoever.
The Workers’ Centre of CPC(M-L) is at the disposal of all working people across the country to smash the silence on the workers’ working and living conditions today and on the resistance struggles they are waging. Developing the independent politics of the working class is the way to provide concrete solutions to the problems the workers face today in a manner which resolves the crisis in favour of the people, not the rich.
On May Day 2016, Let Us Stand as One in Defence of the Rights of All!
Develop the Independent Politics of the Working Class!
Provide the Problems with Concrete Solutions
Which Favour the Working People, Not the Rich!
The neo-liberal ideological and institutional basis for the negation of workers’ rights
Workers want to know how to advance the struggle for their rights and the rights of all in the context of the difficult conditions they are experiencing as a result of the brutal anti-social offensive launched against the people by the rich and their governments. While the workers are looking for ways to overcome the obstacles that block them from taking up a pro-social alternative, it is important to note that one of the fundamental features of the offensive on rights is the conception of rights that disinforms the workers’ movement. Examples of this offensive show how this disinformation operates.
The 2007 Throne Speech of the Harper government was entitled, “Strong Leadership. A Better Canada.” It said, “Canada is built on a common heritage of values, which Canadians have fought and died to defend. It is a country that continues to attract newcomers seeking refuge and opportunity, who see Canada as a place where they can work hard, raise families and live in freedom. Our Government is resolved to uphold this heritage by protecting our sovereignty at home and living by our values abroad.”
We see here the essence of the disinformation at the base of the anti-social offensive — that there are no social classes and no class struggle; that Canada was founded on timeless common values that have always existed; that there is no such thing as an oppressor Anglo-American state that has been built on the negation of the rights of the people in general and especially those of the working class, the Indigenous peoples and the people of Quebec. According to this conception, the political parties and governments and non-government institutions and organizations, the people and the workers — everyone — should rally to defend those values decreed from time to time by whatever party is in power. Those workers, Indigenous people, youth and others who do not take up these values, will have the full weight of the law brought against them on the basis that this constitutes an attack on the national interest.
Today, it is said that the national interest is represented by private monopoly interests and their ability to be competitive on global markets. The workers’ struggles are treated as narrow self-serving interests that are opposed to the national interest. There is a void when it comes to recognizing the workers’ and people’s struggles for their rights and for an alternative that will change the situation in the people’s favour.
In 2011, after back-to-work legislation was tabled to break the strikes of Air Canada and Canada Post workers, the then-Minister of Labour said in a televised interview:
“There’s a point in time where the innocent third party is affected…. It’s one thing to withhold your services to a company in order to make them hurt economically so that they come back to the table. It’s quite another thing to withhold services from the Canadian public so that they cause an economic difficulty for the entire nation in order to get their way. And that’s just not acceptable.”
The way the Minister spoke of the workers’ aim being “to get their way” is designed to warrant whatever measures the government will pass in the name of defending the interests of the people and the nation and the national interest against the allegedly narrow interest of the workers. In fact the workers were merely using a negotiating tactic that is established in law and has been part of theLabour Code for decades. The Minister consciously referred to the concept “inflicting economic damage” as being harmful to the national interest even though it is central to labour laws and the negotiation process itself. Through a decree by the party in power and the usurpation of the public interest by private interests, this legal labour process is pronounced to be an attack on the national interest. In other words, the attacks on working conditions by monopolies such as Air Canada and attacks by Canada Post to dismantle and privatize services and inflict a terrible burden on the workers are not to be questioned. The monopolies are protected by the executive power which is by definition an arbitrary power which operates outside the government of law. The government then uses its majority in the Parliament to declare its anti-worker measures “law.” Through sleight of hand, the arbitrary power becomes “law.” It is very self-serving indeed.
The exercise of the arbitrary power in the name of high ideals is a major problem that the workers face. Their actual working conditions are hidden behind a wall of silence and disinformation and all the arrangements which presumably used to provide a “level playing field” are now stacked against them in the name of the national interest.
How can what is called the national interest be used to undermine the rights of the workers and people?
“Canadians gave this government a strong mandate to complete our economic recovery. As Canada’s labour minister, it is my view that the Government of Canada must take decisive action now before real damage is done to our economy. That is why our government has put legislation on notice to ensure continuing air service for passengers,” said the federal Labour Minister in 2011 regarding the Air Canada workers’ fight for their rights.
This raises another characteristic of the present situation and that is fraud. For the party in power to say that it has a mandate to put all of society’s resources at the disposal of the monopolies and to attack the workers who are fighting for their rights is a fraudulent statement. The more neo-liberal governments pursue the anti-social offensive and nation-wrecking, the more public institutions that are said to defend the public interest are liquidated. The more governments claim a “mandate,” the more they do as they please. These “mandates” are achieved through electoral coups bolstered by massive disinformation campaigns. They marginalize the people from decision-making in the matters which affect them, and the parties of the establishment degenerate further.
To speak of a mandate is to cover up the further concentration of economic and political power in fewer and fewer hands. What is required is the alternative advanced by the working class, which begins precisely with the rejection of the fraud that these governments have a mandate to govern in our name, and to fight to put decision-making power in the people’s hands so that we can turn things around in our favour.
One of the most striking aspects of the disinformation which is pushed on the workers’ movement is that the workers have a choice not to be criminalized if they agree to voluntarily accept the dictate of the monopolies and accept that there are to be no negotiations.
In 2009, the CN workers went on strike to defend their health and safety. The health and safety of the railway workers is synonymous with the health and safety of the passengers in the case of passenger rail, and of the freight in the case of freight trains and of communities and the environment in both cases. The rights of the workers are thus far from being “private interests.” They are a public interest.
The Labour Minister at that time stated in Parliament regarding the threat of back-to-work legislation:
“My preference has always been for the two sides to resolve their own labour dispute but since this has proven impossible, our Government must act to protect the public interest. We cannot allow a major disruption of our transportation system. CN is a vital component of Canada’s economic infrastructure and we will do what is necessary to protect Canadians’ jobs and the country’s prosperity….We will not impose a settlement on the employer and union, but we will introduce legislation to end the strike…. This is more than a private dispute between CN Rail and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference. It has serious repercussions for the national economy at a time when Canada’s recovery from the global recession is still fragile.”
The Minister’s parliamentary secretary stated:
“No one in the House likes back-to-work legislation. All of us prefer to see employers and unions freely bargain their collective agreements. That is certainly something that happens in the course of events, and many times there are struggles and difficulties to get there, but eventually a method is found to resolve an impasse, which is exactly how it should work if it can. But sometimes the parties are unable to reach agreement. Sometimes parties reach an impasse and a strike or lockout tends to happen and, in that case, it affects the national economy. When that happens Parliament must act in the public interest.”
This was in fact an attack against the workers mounted by CN and the government. After months of trying to get the workers to accept drastic changes in their working conditions that would have forced them to increase their hours and further aggravate the already serious problem of fatigue, CN threatened to unilaterally impose changes to their working conditions after a given date. The workers’ only remaining legal option to counter an automatic change to their working conditions was to go on strike. CN was pushing for a strike while the government supported the company’s shock-and-awe tactics against the workers by threatening back-to-work legislation if they did not “voluntarily agree” to the rail monopoly’s demands.
In Quebec we have the firsthand example of what has happened with the municipal workers, especially the blue-collar workers. The City of Montreal is in the process of a massive restructuring of its functioning and this has international ramifications especially with its transformation into a hub for neo-liberal free trade. When the workers try to find the space to negotiate and bring their demands to defend their working conditions and the services they provide, they are met with provocations to the effect that if they do not “voluntarily accept” the destruction and privatization of their jobs and public services, they will be criminalized. The City is silent on the working conditions it wants to impose. It uses grandiose neo-liberal phrases to cover up what it is up to, saying it wants to “make Montreal a world-class city.” And when the blue collar workers hold public actions to break the silence on what is really happening and to mobilize public opinion to defend the public interest, they face the concerted onslaught of the city council, the media, the courts and the police.
Criminal proceedings will begin in 2018 regarding the so-called rampage of municipal workers in front of Montreal City Hall in August 2014 when they held a protest to protect their pensions. The trial of the accused workers will go on for months, the media say. A major aspect of the workers’ action, on which the media have been completely silent, is that they dumped copies of their collective agreement at City Hall to express the truth that it is not worth the paper on which it is written.
This is an example of a real problem the workers face. The arrangements that are supposed to protect the workers and recognize their rights, such as the right to collective bargaining and labour laws, have been rendered useless. The space for negotiations that would permit the workers to present demands has been abolished by decree. Anti-social austerity has become the law and the workers who defend their rights are criminalized.
There is no such thing as voluntarily submitting to dictate. The dictum “submit or else face the full force of the law” expresses the brutal arbitrary rule when “the law” is unfair, unjust, undemocratic and, more so, despotic.
Today, negotiations have been replaced by fraud and coups against the workers. In Hamilton, the MANA workers have been locked out for three years while the company runs the plant with scabs. Where is the government that will take action against the company for unfair labour practices? Far from the law creating a “fair playing field,” the government’s self-serving stand is that it has no jurisdiction on matters pertaining to labour law. But when monopolies demand that labour law be scrapped, governments are only too happy to comply in the name of high ideals. Meanwhile, the media and others carry out disinformation amongst the people and the workers’ movement that the workers are opposed to progress and the financial well-being of the nation, the cities and the companies. Their mantra is that the workers are selfish for wanting to impose “their own way” on the allegedly altruistic aims of the governments and companies who only want “prosperity.”
The same thing is done in the case of construction workers. They are accused by their employers, the government and the media of intimidation. It is all a diversion to cover up the brutal conditions on the construction sites where workers are dismissed or do not have their contracts renewed for objecting to unsafe working conditions or violations of the collective agreement. It also diverts attention from the corrupt relations between the party in power, contractors and engineering firms.
The new Trudeau government has picked up from where the Harper government left off. It says that one of its major concerns is the struggle against inequality. An example of what it means can be seen on the question of Employment Insurance in the 2016 budget. The first thing that stands out is that although during the federal election Trudeau said that he would ensure that funds allocated for Employment Insurance would be used for that purpose, the Trudeau government has decided to continue down the disastrous path taken by the Chrétien and Martin governments, putting these funds into general revenues, which resulted in the misappropriation of tens of billions of dollars from the EI program in the 1990s. Taking up again the issue of inequality, the government continues to deprive workers of EI benefits. It has established a notion of “equality” that a two-per cent increase in unemployment in an area is the threshold for unemployed workers there to qualify for a five-week extension in EI benefits, thus excluding workers in all jurisdictions where this magic number is not attained from these same benefits. Calculating how many workers are jobless is itself subject to an unacceptable method that ignores all those who have given up looking for work.
In other words, it has enshrined a notion of “equality” based on a mathematical formula that deprives hundreds of thousands of workers of benefits. In effect, the criteria for the extension of benefits are based on the official regional unemployment rate and not the actual conditions facing the workers and definitely not on the requirement that all workers who lose their jobs should be able to receive sufficient benefits to maintain a Canadian standard of living. According to this system, an increased unemployment rate in a region means that fewer work hours are required to qualify for EI and extended benefits are also available (although still totally inadequate) unlike in those regions where there has been a lower increase in unemployment. Time will tell how the concepts advanced by the Trudeau government will play out, but this example clearly shows that it does not recognize the existence of rights based on objective conditions.
To face this assault and step up the fight for their rights and the rights of all and for the alternative, workers need their own institutions that enable them to build their independent voice and find their bearings at this time when rapid changes are being made on all fronts that affect them. The Marxist-Leninist Party has established the Workers’ Centre to make sure that the silence is broken on the workers’ living and working conditions and on the fights they are waging to defend what belongs to them by right. The work to strengthen the Workers’ Centre is taking centre stage today so that the workers can be self-reliant. This work is key so that the workers can open society’s path to progress.
1. In October 2011 the Parliament passed the Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers filed a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge with the Ontario Superior Court, claiming that this back to work legislation violated their right to free expression. On April 28, 2016 the Court issued its decision. It found that the law did violate postal workers’ rights, and was unconstitutional.
(Translated from original French by TML.)
Source: TML Weekly, April 30, 2016 – No. 18