Workers Vanguard No. 980
13 May 2011
Imperialist War and War on the Workers
TORONTO—The May 2 Canadian elections saw the right-wing Conservative (Tory) Party of Stephen Harper returned to office with a substantial majority, setting the stage for another four years of anti-working-class austerity attacks. The social-democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) of Jack Layton surged into second place, displacing the Liberal Party, which had by far the worst showing in its history.
Most of the NDP’s gains came in Quebec, where the party had never before had any substantial support. The New Democrats won over so-called “soft nationalists” through pledges to expand the use of French in the federal public sector and reopen negotiations on the constitution, which successive Quebec governments have refused to sign since it was adopted in the 1980s. While the Tories and Liberals were reduced to a rump in the province, the bourgeois-nationalist Bloc Québécois, which had won the majority of Quebec seats in six straight federal elections, collapsed from 49 seats to a mere four.
The capitalist media hailed the New Democrats’ rise in Quebec, saying, in the words of one right-wing pundit, “Better socialists than separatists.” The NDP has a long and sordid record of upholding flag-waving “Canadian unity” against the national rights of the Québécois. And far from being “socialists,” they ran an unabashedly pro-capitalist campaign focused on “support to small business” that was almost indistinguishable from that of the Liberals. As for the supposed eclipse of “separatism,” the bourgeois-nationalist Parti Québécois (PQ) remains far ahead in the polls leading up to the next Quebec provincial election.
Following the election, an editorial in the Toronto Globe and Mail (3 May) saluted both the Tory victory and the NDP’s advance in Quebec but expressed concern at the continued national divide in Canada. “Not since 1917 has a majority government been so underrepresented in Quebec,” it noted, adding:
“And with the Parti Québécois well-placed to take eventual power in Quebec City, we are entering a new phase in Canada’s dealings with Quebec. Mr. Layton and Mr. Harper will be fierce opponents in the House of Commons. On national unity, they must speak, as much as possible, with one voice.”
Against the “national unity” pushed by the bourgeois rulers and their social-democratic agents, it is necessary to fight for a program of proletarian class struggle that defends all the oppressed, including by advocating independence for Quebec. We reprint below an April 19 statement on the elections by the Trotskyist League/Ligue Trotskyste, Canadian section of the International Communist League.
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Days before the minority Conservative government was brought down last month, triggering the present election, parliament voted unanimously to support the military assault on Libya. The parliamentary parties may spar over budgets or the lies and obfuscation that are the stock in trade of capitalist politics, but all of them—the New Democrats included—spoke as one in supporting this new imperialist war on a neocolonial country.
The same parties are also united in ensuring that the working class bears the ravages of the worst capitalist economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Workers coast to coast have been devastated by job losses and anti-union attacks. Pensions, wages and the right to strike are under the gun; massive cuts to health care and other social services loom if the capitalists get their way. At the same time, the racist rulers seek to divide the working class, whipping up anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hatred, especially through the so-called “war on terror.”
This one-sided class war didn’t start with the Harper Tories. The Liberals carried out the most sweeping assaults on social programs in Canadian history in the 1990s and early 2000s. As for the social-democratic NDP, it has propped up Liberal and Tory regimes alike, thus taking responsibility for austerity cutbacks and massive hikes in military spending. Two years ago, Jack Layton obscenely told workers to have the “courage” to “take a pay cut so your friends at the plant can keep their job” (Toronto Star, 23 January 2009). Today, the New Democrats vow to balance the federal budget by 2014 while promising to spend just as much on the military as the Tories.
The capitalist order means bloody imperialist occupations and wars from Afghanistan to Libya and poverty and misery for working people at home. A successful fight against this ruinous social system requires a leadership that understands that the interests of the working class and the capitalist class are counterposed and irreconcilable. With its hands on the means of production, the working class uniquely has the social power and interest in sweeping away this deeply inhumane system.
What is needed is a class-struggle workers party committed to smashing capitalist rule and instituting a rationally planned, socialist economy based on meeting human needs, not private profit. Such a party can only be built through political struggle against the NDP and the trade-union bureaucracy, whose quest for “partnership” between labour and capital has shackled the workers to the enemy class and sapped their fighting power.
Class struggle against the capitalist rulers at home is inseparable from the struggle against imperialism abroad. While giving no political support to Libya’s capitalist strongman Qaddafi, the Trotskyist League/Ligue Trotskyste, Canadian section of the International Communist League, stands for the military defense of that semicolonial country against imperialism and the opposition forces who are acting on the imperialists’ behalf. We demand that all NATO forces, including Canadian ships and planes, get out of the region, and we demand the immediate withdrawal of all U.S., Canadian and other imperialist forces from Afghanistan. Every step taken by workers in Canada and other imperialist countries to halt the depredations and military adventures of their “own” ruling class is a step toward their liberation from capitalist exploitation, impoverishment and oppression.
No Vote to the NDP, Labor Front Men for Canadian Imperialism!
In endorsing the assault on Libya, the New Democrats did what comes naturally: over the years, they have backed just about all of Canada’s wars and other military adventures. As for the servile reformists who falsely call themselves socialists, they too are doing what comes naturally in campaigning for the NDP in the election. It is a measure of the reformists’ political bankruptcy that the NDP’s support for the NATO bombing of Libya has not deterred them in the slightest.
And why would it? Groups like the International Socialists, Fightback, New Socialists and Socialist Action have all ardently championed the cabal of pro-imperialist “democrats,” CIA stooges, monarchists and Islamists that comprise the Libyan opposition. They have done so in the name of a so-called “Libyan revolution.” But what kind of “revolutionary” appeals to the imperialists to impose a “no-fly zone” and launch air strikes in their country, as the opposition leaders did from early on? The reformists’ belated objections to Canadian and other imperialist military intervention aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
We stand with V.I. Lenin, leader of the world’s first successful workers revolution in October 1917 in Russia, who explained nearly a century ago that capitalist parliaments are “instruments for the oppression of the workers by the bourgeoisie.” “Important questions under bourgeois democracy,” Lenin emphasized, “are decided by the stock exchange and the banks.” This holds true whoever is on the parliamentary benches: Tories, Liberals or NDP social democrats.
We Trotskyists would of course never accord any political support to the Conservatives or Liberals, who represent the ruling class of “united” Canada, or to the small-time capitalist Green Party. Similarly, we give no support to the Bloc Québécois, a party of the bourgeoisie in Quebec. The parasitic capitalist class that these parties represent accrues its profits through savage exploitation of the working class and is the most bitter and direct enemy of all the oppressed.
Nor is there any basis for workers and oppressed minorities to give the NDP even the most savagely critical support today. While linked to the unions through the labour bureaucracy, the NDP is what Marxists term a bourgeois workers party, whose thoroughly pro-capitalist program of maintaining the present system is sometimes packaged in “social justice” rhetoric. Whenever they have ruled provincially, as in Ontario and B.C. [British Columbia] in the 1990s or Manitoba and Nova Scotia today, the New Democrats administer capitalism against the interests of workers and the oppressed.
Down With Anglo Chauvinism—Independence for Quebec!
Harper opened the election campaign with a vicious diatribe against a supposed “socialist-separatist” coalition government that would include the Bloc Québécois. This was an echo of the anti-Québécois chauvinism he unleashed against the short-lived Liberal-NDP coalition supported by the Bloc in late 2008. We declared in a 22 December 2008 statement that the Liberal-NDP coalition was “an enemy of the interests of the working class.” At the same time we sharply denounced the wave of anti-Quebec bigotry, emphasizing:
“As opponents of the chauvinism of ‘our’ capitalist rulers—and of all forms of nationalism—Marxists advocate independence for Quebec. We seek to get the national question off the agenda, to create conditions where it can be clear to the workers in both English Canada and Quebec that their own capitalist exploiters are the enemy, not each other. Absent this, chauvinist bigotry against Quebec and the national antagonisms that this generates will continue to divide the working class, undermining its ability to struggle against capitalist exploitation. The palpable anger among working people against the massive job losses must be directed against the capitalist rulers, not into chauvinism and nationalism.”
—Spartacist Canada No. 160, Spring 2009
“Canadian unity” nationalism is particularly promoted in the labour movement by the NDP, which, for example, upholds the Clarity Act, a law effectively outlawing Quebec’s democratic right to self-determination, i.e., to independence. This serves to drive Québécois workers into the arms of their own class enemies, represented by the bourgeois-nationalist Bloc and Parti Québécois. Only by championing the national rights of the oppressed Québécois can Marxists lay a basis for winning the Quebec workers to a perspective of internationalist class struggle.
Down With Canadian Nationalism! For an Internationalist Revolutionary Workers Party!
Labour’s capacity to fight the capitalists’ attacks is hamstrung by the union misleaders who tie workers to the so-called “national interests” of capitalist Canada and promote the NDP and even the Liberals (or in Quebec, the Bloc and PQ) as “progressive.” Canadian Auto Workers leader Ken Lewenza, who two years ago agreed to unprecedented wage and benefit cuts at Chrysler and General Motors, perfectly epitomizes these labour traitors. Today, Lewenza’s “defense” of unions consists of convincing the capitalist class that unions are really in their interests because they “play a constructive and valuable economic role” in negotiating cutbacks “which share the pain and preserve needed jobs” (National Post, 9 April). To Lewenza, the unions are a bulwark against struggles that might challenge this system. Without unions, he broods, “Who knows where and how the simmering fury of exploited, poor people would then bubble up?”
These misleaders—agents of the ruling class inside the workers movement—must be thrown off. The fight to rebuild the trade unions as instruments of proletarian struggle is closely tied to the need for a multiracial, binational revolutionary workers party. That requires, above all, a political struggle against the social-democratic NDP and for a new class-struggle leadership of the unions. Against the bourgeoisie, which manipulates all manner of racism and bigotry in order to poison class struggle, such a party will be a genuine tribune of the people, fighting to defend the rights of minorities and immigrants, and championing the struggle for women’s liberation.
The Communist Party of Canada (CPC) and the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada, two remnants of Canadian Stalinism, are also running candidates in this election. Both parties are notorious for their promotion of Canadian nationalism, from protectionist calls for Canadian-owned industry, to the CPC’s call for an “independent Canadian foreign policy.” It is a lie that Canadian capitalists are better than American (or Japanese or German), or that protectionist tariffs and a Canadian boss will protect jobs and stop plant closures. Such nationalist schemes retard united, internationalist class struggle, pitting workers in this country against their class brothers and sisters abroad. While opposing the NATO attack on Libya, these Stalinist-nationalists propound the worst illusions that capitalist Canada can be pressured to be a force for “peace.” Neither draws even a crude class line against the bourgeoisie; thus they merit not even the most critical support from class-conscious workers.
There is no answer to the boom-and-bust cycles of capitalism short of proletarian socialist revolution that takes power out of the hands of the irrational capitalist ruling class and replaces it with a planned, socialized economy. Only the achievement of a world socialist order can eliminate the age-old problem of poverty, scarcity and imperialist war. It is to this end that the Trotskyist League/Ligue Trotskyste devotes all our resources.