Upsurge in struggle against systemic racism, economic crisis

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The Communist Party’s Central Committee met on June 14, amid a massive struggle against police killings and systemic racism that began in the US and led to mass protests on six continents and sixty countries, including Canada. Led by Black Lives Matter in the US and Canada, the demonstrations quickly expanded to include Indigenous peoples and secured the support of large sections of the labour and democratic movements. Labour solidarity included the June 19 shut down of 29 ports along the west coast, by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

George Floyd’s murder on May 25 was the latest in an escalating number of police murders of Black and Indigenous people across the US and Canada. Since then, six men have been found hanging from trees and more have been shot by police in the US. In Canada, six Indigenous people have been killed by police or in police custody in the last two months.

The Central Committee received Party Executive’s previously issued statement supporting the protests and demanding an end to police killings and the systemic racism and violence against Black, Indigenous and racialized peoples. The statement noted that this oppression is a built-in feature of capitalism, which helps generate vast super-profits for the biggest exploiters, the large national and transnational corporations.

The CC reiterated the Party’s long-standing demands for radical reform of policing. These include charging, prosecuting and sentencing police for crimes such as murder, rape and assault; demilitarizing police forces and disarming most police units, and putting an end to racial profiling and carding; enacting strong civilian control over police; slashing police and military budgets and redirecting those funds to civilian and social spending; and abolishing CSIS, the CSE and RCMP, as well as “anti-terrorist” legislation that threatens civil and democratic rights.

The committee also confirmed the Party’s anti-racism and anti-oppression demands to introduce and enforce universal pay and employment equity; remove police in schools and expand anti-racist education; enforce equitable access to housing, healthcare, education and social programs; enforce hate speech laws and ban hate groups; implement the recommendations of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; legislate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into federal law; and enact just settlement of Indigenous land claims, while protecting inherent rights. The CC also called for massive public investment to redress impoverished economic and social conditions caused by years of genocidal state policies against Indigenous people.

Pandemic and capitalism

The pandemic has underlined all the ills of capitalism. These include privatization and deregulation, tax cuts for the rich and the corporations, trade deals that destroy manufacturing and secondary industry, low wages and precarious work, growing poverty and insecurity.

Eighty percent of COVID-related deaths in Canada have occurred among residents and workers in long-term care (LTC) homes. Most of these are private, for profit operations that are under-staffed, under-funded, and largely unregulated. LTC must be brought under public healthcare and treated as a public service with federal standards, needs-based staffing and funding.

Despite government and corporate ads lauding front-line workers as heroes, the $4 per hour “pandemic pay” promised to frontline workers by various provincial governments has yet to be delivered. The $2 per hour increase that Loblaws, Metro and Walmart paid to grocery workers during the pandemic was canceled in mid-June. Meanwhile, these grocery chains increased their profits by raising prices while desperate people emptied grocery shelves during the lockdown.

It is now clear to everyone that “we’re not all in this together.” The wealthy have managed quite nicely. But the poor and unemployed, and those living and working in cramped or unaffordable housing without childcare, are in desperate straits and much more likely to become infected by the virus.

While Cuba and China have been providing supplies, equipment and teams of healthcare workers to countries around the world, private producers of essential supplies and equipment in the capitalist countries have raised their prices, selling to the highest bidders. While scientists around the world are working hard to develop a vaccine that can stop COVID-19, the world’s peoples must demand that the vaccine be universally accessible and free to all.

It’s time to put the pharmaceutical industry under public ownership and democratic control.  Access to universal, quality public healthcare must include access to doctors, hospitals, long-term care, drugs, and vision, dental and mental health care. Nothing less will do.

In this respect, the proposal to introduce “pharmacare” that is limited to those without private coverage, is unacceptable, and is not pharmacare. Real pharmacare will be universal and public, and covered under the Canada Health Act.

A foreign policy of war and regime change

Under cover of the pandemic, US imperialism has stepped up its campaign to overthrow the Venezuela’s elected government of Nicolas Maduro, by amassing warships off the country’s coast and supporting a failed raid by mercenaries. US sanctions are making the pandemic’s effects much worse in countries around the world, including in Cuba where the US economic blockade has been in place for almost 60 years.

The US has also worked to fan the flames of war on the Korean peninsula and stepped up its campaign against China with racist attacks on Chinese and Asian people. This includes the Sinophobic attacks on the World Health Organization’s handling of the pandemic. Canada has participated in this attack through its refusal to release Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested while in transit at the Vancouver airport. This is part and parcel of imperialism’s campaign to isolate China, to bar Chinese communications and information technology from Canada and to sharpen tensions internationally.

Economic crisis and depression

While the pandemic triggered the global economic crisis, it wasn’t the cause. The cause is capitalism – its growing instability; rivalry between imperialist powers; insatiable thirst for greater profits; increasing reliance on militarism, war and reaction to solve problems; and massive attack on workers’ wages, jobs and living standards, which has created mass unemployment and impoverishment. Even the International Monetary Funds warns this will be the worst economic crisis since 1929 and the Great Depression of the Dirty Thirties. The austerity offered by conservative and reactionary forces around the world will only deepen the crisis and worsen conditions of life for working people, who will bear the full costs of the crisis and the bailouts to corporations.

Seven million people – one-third of the workforce in Canada – are currently living on the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB). This meager program was set to expire early in July, until the federal government extended the benefit by 8 weeks. The prospects of 7 million desperate people with no income was doubtless a fearful one for governments and businesses across the country – extending the CERB is their prophylactic against mass action by unemployed workers, many of whom will not return to their old jobs or to any job at all. There remains the strong possibility that unemployed protests will erupt and coalesce with the ongoing demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality.

While working people have been desperately trying to hold on to their homes and their jobs and savings, corporations have been busy securing government bailouts. Under cover of the pandemic, they have also been quietly restructuring their operations and slashing their workforces.

As the economic crisis deepens, conditions for the employed and the unemployed will worsen. We will see an accelerated drive to cut jobs, cut wages and pensions, cut public services and social programs. Millions of workers will be pushed to the fringes and into permanent unemployment. We will see conditions like those of the 1930s, facilitated by government policy and enforced by police forces.

Workers didn’t create the crisis … and won’t pay for it!

The unity and mass action that governments and corporations fear is the united struggle that the labour and people’s movements must intentionally build in the weeks and months ahead.  It cannot be a struggle for a return to the status quo. Instead, it must be a struggle recognizing that an injury to one is an injury to all, fighting for fundamental change in which racism, national chauvinism and sexism are eliminated. The fight for jobs and wages should be a fight for full employment, with rising wages and living standards for all. The fight for workers’ rights and standards, democracy and justice must be for all workers, everywhere – this is how unity can be built.

The corporations and the wealthy must pay for the capitalist crisis. Instead of bailouts, key sectors of the economy should be nationalized – banks and insurance companies, energy and natural resources, airlines and transportation. The government must get back into the housing business and build 1 million units of affordable social housing over 10 years. We need progressive tax reform, to put the burden on corporations and the wealthy and provide funds for social spending and job creation. We need a foreign policy of peace and to redirect 75 percent of Canada’s military spending to civilian spending.

People are in motion – Indigenous peoples, the Black community, teachers, nurses and precarious workers. And there will be more. This is a moment to seize and to build on.

Working people can count on the Communist Party to be involved in all these struggles and to fight for jobs, living standards, rights and the unity of working people across Canada.

Elizabeth Rowley is leader of the Communist Party of Canada

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