CUPE members call out union for anti-communism in solidarity message

On December 22, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) issued an open letter in which they criticized the national union body for anti-communism in its solidarity message to Indian farmers. The group is asking the union to issue a public apology and is encouraging CUPE members to get their local to sign onto the letter.

The text of the open letter follows:

Open Letter to CUPE National: Real Solidarity with Indian Workers!

On 10 December 2020, CUPE National posted a statement of solidarity from their social media accounts which included a photograph of Indian women carrying banners and flags, including flags of the many Left/communist parties that have been organizing the farmers’ protests. In the image shared, the hammer and sickle symbol of these parties was blurred. The Twitter post was deleted on 15 December after receiving dozens of critical comments; the Facebook post is still up but with the image removed as of the time of writing.

This censorship of workers’ speech is unacceptable to us. We request a public apology from CUPE National and a new public statement of solidarity.

CUPE members are proud to share a movement and stand in solidarity with the workers in this photograph and are ashamed of this disrespectful choice by CUPE National. This action from CUPE National is anti-democratic in spirit because it censors the political aims and expression of the comrades we are meant to be expressing solidarity with. It is also a direct threat to the free speech of CUPE members. As a democratic union with a professed dedication to solidarity, union members expect these principles to be reflected in how their organization is represented.

Communist activists, scholars, and politicians have been targets of the right-wing assault on free speech and dissent in India. Further, in recent weeks, voices sympathetic to the Modi government have repeatedly distorted statements by leaders and cast aspersions on the motives of protestors while ostensibly offering their sympathy to the farmers. This is not acceptable from the Modi government, let alone from a trade union such as CUPE.

Many Canadian unions were built by communists, and we can’t erase communism without erasing our own history. Instead of censoring our siblings in India, our labour movement in Canada should ask whether we truly stand in solidarity with our siblings, or if we stand with the political divides that only benefit our employers and their political servants. We should be inspired by these workers to advance our own fight for workers’ power at every level.

The letter’s authors can be reached via

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