The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Canada met in Toronto over the March 4-5 weekend to discuss the big political upheavals of the past few months.
Elected at the 38th Central Convention last spring, the Party’s top leadership body convenes in person twice a year to set policy and guide overall activity. Given the outcome of the U.S. election, and the growing threat of ultra-right and racist movements in many countries, this was a particularly significant gathering for the CC, which includes 22 members from all parts of the country.
The meeting began with a political report, presented by leader Liz Rowley on behalf of the CPC’s Central Executive Committee. The report calls the election of Donald Trump and Republican majorities in Congress “the worst possible electoral outcome for the US working class, for the international working class, for the environment, and for movement towards global peace, disarmament and mutual security. It is also an immediate threat to Canadian jobs and wages, environmental security, health and social programs. It sharply accelerates the attack on Canadian sovereignty and independence.”
As the report notes, Hillary Clinton actually won three million more votes, but the Electoral College system helped the most reactionary elements of the US ruling class take office. While Clinton (like Barack Obama) was backed by trade unions, the main Black and Hispanic organizations, women’s organizations, etc., “a significant number of their members either didn’t vote, couldn’t vote because of extensive voter suppression in key states, or didn’t vote for Clinton.” Many others voted for Trump, including “an estimated 30% of trade union members, 53% of white women voters, 29% of Hispanics, 8% of African-Americans, and 46% of youth between the ages of 18 and 29.”
The political report points to widespread dissatisfaction with the pro-corporate and pro-war policies of the Democrats. After the defeat of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries, Trump focussed on winning over working class voters looking for immediate change from the status quo. But, the report stresses, his “coalition” included groups from the fascist right, sections of the police and military, and wealthy and powerful billionaires, bankers, and oilmen who financed his “outsider” campaign.
“The Trump coalition used Islamophobia, anti-Black racism and anti-Semitism, as well as misogyny to promote their demagogic candidate,” notes the report, creating increased political and organizing space for emboldened far-right groups. After posing as a candidate who could reduce the danger of war, Trump is instead escalating arms spending and threatening military action against a number of countries.
The president is also moving to unilaterally strengthen US economic domination, with a sharply negative potential impact on Canada. A key section of the political report analyzes the implications of “tweaking” NAFTA, which since 1994 has created a deeply integrated patterns of trade, production, and movements of goods, services, workers, and capital, across the continent. “While it doesn’t have to be that way,” the report says, “it is that way thanks to NAFTA.”
Instead of trying to win more favourable terms, the report says, Canada should withdraw from NAFTA, and negotiate new trade arrangements based on a policy of mutually beneficial, multi-lateral trade with all countries. The report outlines key priorities for “developing an environmentally sustainable industrial strategy, including a Canadian steel industry, and an energy policy based on public ownership and democratic control of energy resources and development of new sustainable energy such as solar, wind, thermal, tidal and others still in development. ”
A new economic strategy, it argues, should include a publicly owned and controlled Canadian transportation industry, and a massive program to build affordable social housing. “Instead of capitalist globalization, we fight for peace, jobs, sovereignty, equality, democracy, and for socialism,” the report says.
But in the immediate term, “the job of the labour and people’s movements is to make sure that the drive towards fascism is derailed before it gathers any more steam.”
The conditions that make this drive to the far right possible today include the deep economic crisis that has gripped the capitalist world, the growth of permanent mass unemployment, widespread anger at bourgeois politicians and governments, and deliberate efforts to stoke racial and religious prejudices against refugees and migrants.
Several fascist movements are growing in Canada, including “La Meute” in Quebec, with a military leadership and a claimed membership of 43,000; the so-called “Coalition of Concerned Canadian Citizens,” which has called two country-wide days of action to promote hatred of Muslims; and the fascist “Your Ward News” publication in Toronto, which glorifies Nazism and targets Communists, Jews, immigrants, LGBTQ, women, and minorities. These racist, xenophobic, misogynist and fascist forces, the report says, are “the shock troops of the most violent and reactionary sections of capital”.
The only real option for fundamental reform, the report stresses, is based on systemic and revolutionary change. The Communist Party calls for a People’s Coalition, with a platform to create good jobs and full employment; raise wages, pensions and living standards; and strengthen the social safety net. “These are the policies that can take Canada out of the crisis, and open to the door to fundamental change and to socialism,” says the political report.
From there, it looks at a wide range of struggles against reactionary governments and corporate interests. The Trudeau Liberals, it points out, have broken promises to indigenous peoples, dropped the PM’s pledge for electoral reform, and failed to achieve a new health accord to strengthen universal Medicare. These factors “will all have a significant impact on the next election slated for 2019.”
For that campaign, the Tories are positioning themselves on the far right of the Liberals, and the Bloc Quebecois has tied itself to the rising right-wing movements. Meanwhile, “unless the left-wing of the party is able to change the direction, the NDP is unlikely to pose a serious challenge to either the Liberals or the Tories in the next election. In the interim, the NDP’s support for NAFTA renegotiations, for NATO and NORAD, and for balanced budgets will not endear it to Canadians, nor help to mount the fight needed to defeat the corporate agenda, and secure the policies Canadians voted for in the 2015 election campaign. ”
However, the report does note important developments in the fightback against right-wing forces, such as the huge Women’s March demonstrations in cities across Canada on the day after Trump’s inauguration: “It was a remarkable demonstration of the unity, militancy, and power of women in action,” indicating better conditions for mass action to defend and expand women’s equality rights.
Other positive signs include the outpouring of solidarity with Muslims in the wake of murders by a white supremacist in Quebec, and last November’s pan-Canadian day of protest against skyrocketing tuition fees, the first in several years called by the Canadian Federation of Students. Recent labour struggles have included the militant battle by teachers and educational workers in Nova Scotia against the provincial government’s imposition of a four-year collective agreement that undermines teaching and learning conditions; the strike (now in its second year) by the Chronicle Herald newspaper workers in Halifax; the struggle in Newfoundland against the government’s 2016 austerity budget; the huge victory by British Columbia teachers against 15 years of attacks against public education by the Liberal government; the growing strike movement in Quebec, where the demand for a $15 minimum wage is now part of the bargaining strategy of the main labour centrals; and the strikes by cafeteria workers at York University and other campuses.
But the attacks on the working class, on racialized and indigenous people, on women and immigrants, and on organized labour, says the report, “can’t be rolled back by the lobbying that has been the main, and perhaps the only tool in the CLC’s arsenal for the past several years.”
With the Canadian Labour Congress convention taking place this May in Toronto, the Congress will “need to unite and mobilize the 3.3 million workers it represents to take on the employers and their governments in the streets, on the shop floor and in the workplace, in bargaining and on the picket lines, in the Legislatures and on their front steps, in the media, and in every way to stop them and to beat them back this vicious and deadly assault. ”
To help move the fightback in such a militant and united direction, the report says, requires a much stronger Communist Party and Young Communist League. Provincial leaders of the Party and other CC members spoke about the increased level of recruitment to both organizations, as more and more people turn to the ideas of socialism.
The next issue of People’s Voice will feature excerpts from the CC political report, which will also be posted online at the website of the Communist Party, www.communist-party.ca.