GM shutdown, the loss of jobs and manufacturing value must be stopped

Time for a new direction for the economy under the control of Canadians! | K.C. ADAMS


Unifor 222 press conference, November 26, 2018, demands GM keep Oshawa plant producing.

GM executives in Detroit have announced the closure of an auto assembly plant they control in Oshawa, Ontario. The shutdown will terminate the direct employment of 2,522 auto workers, members of Unifor Local 222 and a large number of salaried workers, and result in an enormous loss of value for the Canadian economy and community.

The closely kept secret of the GM foreign oligarchs caught most Canadians off guard and has sparked outrage and debate on how to respond. Two main responses have emerged. The first is one of complete impotence. Prime Minister Trudeau and Ontario Premier Ford appear to have accepted the GM decision as final and have focussed their remarks on how to help the affected workers deal with the crisis of unemployment and loss of income. In his press conference addressing the issue, Premier Ford repeated his neo-liberal mantra of making Ontario “open for business” for the very same oligarchs who are wrecking the economy and attacking Canadian working people.

The other response is outrage and a desire to do something to resist the decision of the U.S. oligarchs. Unifor Local 222 and most of the workers interviewed in the mass media condemned the closure as an attack on Canada, the economy and working class. They expressed a determination to stop the shutdown and the loss of jobs and manufacturing value.

Upon hearing the official news on Monday, November 26, the morning shift at the auto plant was gripped with shock, grief and anger. Workers gathered outside of the plant and in the Oshawa union hall to discuss what to do in the face of the situation. Some workers said the government should force GM to pay back the billions of dollars in subsidies and other pay-the-rich schemes the company has received over the years, especially after the 2008 economic crisis. Others bitterly said the closure is the thanks workers receive after all the concessions in their collective agreements they have given GM in the last twenty years, resulting even in a three-tier workforce. A veteran worker said his son, who started recently at the Oshawa plant, receives only $2.11 more per hour than he did when he started in 1985. Can you imagine how much less that is with price inflation, yet the company is still not satisfied. Let that be a warning to other Canadian workers against giving concessions, he said.

How to reverse the decision of the global oligarchs and chart another direction for the economy is a serious concern for all Canadians. The decision of the oligarchs to wreck the economy on this scale causes untold damage throughout the local economy and well beyond. Much of the material and parts for the vehicles to be assembled originate in other plants, steel mills and mines in Ontario. Needless to say, the oligarchs in control do not even live in Canada let alone in the communities their decisions directly affect.

Manufacturing for a long time was the backbone of the southern Ontario economy but has been under attack from the global oligarchs since the turn of the century. During the last ten years alone, manufacturing as a percentage of the total Ontario Gross Domestic Product has fallen from 16 per cent to just 11.7 per cent.

Sudden attacks such as the GM Oshawa announcement focus attention in the immediate sense. In a way they test the mettle of the working class, its current condition and the ability of its institutions and social consciousness to defend itself and Canada from the global financial oligarchy and defeat these attacks on the economy and country and chart a new pro-social direction.

The ability of the working class to respond forcefully and defend itself depends greatly on whether it has organized itself independently of the ruling oligarchs, their institutions and agents within the political and social organizations of Canada. For the working class to fall prey to the cartel political parties of the financial oligarchy and not have its own independent politics and institutions leaves itself vulnerable to these attacks and incapable of mounting a serious resistance.

The destruction of manufacturing in Ontario and the entire neo-liberal anti-social offensive have occurred under the watch and governments of the three main cartel parties in Parliament and the Legislature. They have either been willing participants in these attacks or have done nothing concrete to stop them.

Just last month, the Trudeau Liberal government’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland boasted of the “well-balanced outcome” of Canada’s trade negotiations with Washington.

The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is an example. Just last month, the Trudeau Liberal government’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland boasted of the “well-balanced outcome” of Canada’s trade negotiations with Washington. Freeland said the Trudeau Liberal government had saved Ontario vehicle manufacturing from the attacks of Trump. She wrote vaingloriously, “The car industry now has stability and room to grow and thrive.” This was said despite the fact that not one vehicle manufacturer is a national institution, none of the decisions of their leading oligarchs are made to strengthen nation-building but only to serve their narrow private interests, and that the USMCA leaves in place the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs against Canada in the name of U.S. national security. The Oshawa shutdown does not demonstrate stability, growth or some Liberal fantasy of what it means to be thriving.

The working class movement at one time had a clear head that free trade would be a disaster for Canada’s sovereignty and working people and opposed it. Despite widespread opposition, the Conservatives and Liberals forced free trade through Parliament, which became a victory for the U.S. oligarchs and their determination to eliminate any impediments to their control. NAFTA and the line of making Canada “open for business” for the global oligarchs has destroyed the last remnant of sovereignty and has left Canadians vulnerable to the wrecking of the global financial oligarchy.

What control do Canadians now have over their own economy and lives? The foreign decision to shutter the GM Oshawa plant is but one disaster that was made behind our backs and without our say. The dismantling of Bombardier’s commercial airline business was a direct attack from Boeing and the U.S. Pentagon. This lack of control has to change if working people are to be able to defend themselves and their well-being and turn the situation around. A new direction for the economy can only be achieved with control of the working people over their own organizations and over all the decisions that affect their lives.

Workers in Oshawa have been manufacturing vehicles for one hundred years. At one point, workers at the Oshawa plant alone built one million vehicles in a single year. Why was the value from that production not reinvested back into manufacturing in Ontario and in developing a stable national market for vehicles produced in Canada, let alone creating a more diversified and vibrant economy not vulnerable to crises, which can engage in trade with others for mutual benefit and development? The answer is simple: Canadians do not control their own economy and without that control they cannot control their lives or build their nation to secure their well-being. Those in control are not nation-builders; they are empire-builders out to satisfy the insatiable demand of the owner-oligarchs to expropriate more and more profits from the value workers produce.

The pundits and politicians for the financial oligarchy say Canada is too small to have its own market and must rely on the global imperialist market to survive. This disinformation is meant to discourage investigation and discussion and declare nothing can be done to change the current reality that Canadians do not control their economy and cannot even engage in trade with others on a modern basis of mutual benefit and development. The pundits simply rationalize the fact that the global oligarchs control everything to serve their own narrow private interests and could care less about Canadians.

Canadians bought around two million vehicles last year and produced about the same number. Is that not a solid home market, which trade could further enhance?

Canadians bought around two million vehicles last year and produced about the same number. Is that not a solid home market, which trade could further enhance? The value from that national market could be the foundation for moving vehicle production into a new era of social responsibility and humanization of the natural and social environment. But that national market and international trade have to be under the control of Canadians and not the global imperialist oligarchs.

The time is now for the working people to organize themselves in a new way to meet the challenge and assault of the global oligarchs. The time is now for a new direction for the economy. Control of the economy and politics of the country must be in the hands of the working people to serve their well-being and nation-building.

The global oligarchs are attacking Canadian lives, well-being and social fabric. The shutdown of the GM plant cannot go unchallenged! Unite in defence of the Oshawa GM workers and a new direction!

Nation-Wrecking No! 

Nation-Building and Manufacturing Yes!

TML Weekly, December 1, 2018 – No. 42

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