July 29, 2010


PV Commentary

Defying a barrage of threats and warnings against exercising their democratic freedoms, tens of thousands of people from across southern Ontario and the rest of Canada rallied in Toronto leading up to and during the weekend of June 26-27. A wide range of protests during the G8 and G20 Summit meetings expressed mass opposition to the anti-people policies being imposed by right-wing and social democratic governments.

The message in the streets was a powerful demand for a change of policies, such as the call by the Canadian Peace Alliance and its affiliates for an end to the war in Afghanistan and a shift from militarism to civilian priorities. Other participating groups urged protection of labour rights rather than corporate profits, just settlement of indigenous peoples' demands, and a swift reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

But the corporate mass media largely ignored these actions, which were organized by labour and popular movements representing millions of Canadians. Instead, attention was focused on the torching of several police cruisers conveniently left unguarded by the massive security forces surrounding the G20 meetings.

Since the events of June 26-27, heated debates have raged around the issues of police responsibility (or lack of such), and the implications of the biggest mass arrests in Canadian history.

The position within the popular movements is that the G20 leaders, and the major imperialist powers in particular, are responsible for crimes against working people and the planet far outweighing the relatively minor property destruction in the streets of Toronto.

Most of the same movements have been sharply critical of the so-called "black bloc" tactics used by some groups which were infiltrated by security forces. This criticism is based on the view that such tactics are welcomed or even encouraged by the ruling class, since they provide a handy excuse to convince working people that protests against corporate policies are carried out by forces which have no interest in the needs of "ordinary citizens."

But there has also been nearly universal condemnation by such critics of the brutal, arbitrary use of police powers to attack people in the streets of Toronto. The "police riot," far from being an aberration, is seen by many as an exercise in crushing dissent, a deliberate message to Canadians that mass opposition to the corporate agenda - or even curiosity about witnessing such opposition - is de facto an illegal act which will be met with violent state repression.

For this reason, the same movements which rallied thousands in Toronto have called for a full, independent public inquiry into the police attacks and the attempt to criminalize protesters and onlookers.

This demand is critical, because the brief period of "pump priming" in response to the economic crisis appears to be over. Most G20 states have indicated their determination to make deficit reduction the main goal - at the expense of social programs. There will be no reduction of military spending or warmaking, no stopping the expansion of the prison system, no end to billion-dollar "security" operations surrounding capitalist summits. Instead of raising taxes on the wealthy and the corporations, working people can expect more and more of the "Greek solution" - major cuts to the public sector, wage reductions, attacks on pensions, further privatization of public assets.

This all-out attack across the capitalist world is intended to drive down wages and shift even more wealth into the hands of the tiny minority of billionaires who control the global economy. The G8 and G20 leaders expect a response similar to that of the workers in Greece and other countries: massive protests and general strikes. Defeating such opposition will call for full use of the state's forces of repression. As Canadians saw in June, this means removing the "obstacles" of legal protections for the rights of free speech and assembly. The traditional concept of "bourgeois democracy" - which the working class and its allies have struggled for decades to expand - will increasingly be reduced to a mere shadow.

In this ominous direction lies the threat of fascism, the open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sections of the ruling class, no longer cloaked with limited electoral rights and constitutional protections.

That's the warning of the summit protests in Toronto. The tactics of window-smashing and hiding faces are of little use in this situation; if anything, such tactics only confuse and divide the millions of people who can and must be moved into action against the capitalist attack.

On the other hand, attempts to confine the resistance movement to purely symbolic and ineffective actions are doomed to fail.

The response of the labour movement and all others who reject the corporate agenda must be to build more powerful and united mass struggles.

In a statement issued leading up to the June summits, the Communist Party of Canada noted that "this savage attack is being met by heroic resistance across the European continent, especially in Greece and Portugal where the left, Communist-led unions and popular movements are mounting escalating general strikes and other forms of mass resistance."

At the heart of a similar resistance movement in Canada, we need a genuine, progressive alternative to pro-capitalist "solutions" such as the mantra of "deficit reduction." To capture the imagination of the peoples of Canada, such an alternative must include sweeping measures which challenge the rule of monopoly capital, such as nationalization of the banks, the big energy monopolies, and other key sectors of our economy. These steps need to be combined with expanded access to healthcare, public and post-secondary education and childcare, a $16/hour minimum wage, a shorter workweek with no loss in take-home pay, and improved public pensions. We need sweeping tax reforms to shift the burden from working people onto the corporations and the wealthy, and a 50% cut in military spending, which would save $10 billion every year.

In the wake of the Summits, the issues before us are clear. The big monopolies and banks want to make working people pay for the economic recovery through lower wages, higher unemployment, and huge cuts in social spending. We say: those who reap billions in profits must pay! Unite and build the fight to put people's needs, peace, and the environment before corporate greed!

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