CONTRIBUTION OF THE YOUNG COMMUNIST LEAGUE TO THE SEMINAR
“YOUTH STRUGGLE AGAINST CAPITALIST CRISIS AND IMPERIALISM”
Held at the Congress of the Communist Youth Union of Spain, Madrid.
Dear comrades, members of the presidium, delegates, and honored guests
It is with great pleasure that we greet the 12th Congress of the Communist Youth of Spain (UJCE) being held under the theme «Conquering the future, building socialism» and make a contribution to the seminar "Youth struggle against capitalist crisis and imperialism."
This is an important and very relevant question for today, and especially for the youth.
We are here to tell you that the aggressive, imperialist and pro-NATO policies of the Canadian government towards the peoples of Haiti, Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Syria and Palestine, and its cavalier position on climate change, do not reflect the true sentiment of the Canadian peoples.
Instead we bring you greetings not just from the Young Communist League of Canada but the progressive youth of our country who continue to demand the opposite direction -- peace, friendship and international solidarity.
We stand with the UJCE and all the youth of Spain in your struggle to conquer the future and build a better world.
As the slogan of the Young Communist League of Canada says –
The Youth are the Future, the future is socialism!
In our contribution to your discussion we would like to highlight the resistance of the young people in Canada. But it is relevant to make a few brief remarks about Canada and our place in the imperialist system first.
The Canadian ruling class likes to tell the people of our country that we are very positively regarded as peace-makers around the world and not as an imperialist country. Recently the Prime Minister of Canada claimed Canada had "no colonial history." Of course this ignores the reality that Canada was founded on the theft of Aboriginal people's lands.
But as we also know, drawing from the Leninist definition of imperialism, the decisive question in determining a countries nature as imperialist is not simply the presence or absence of military aggression or colonies. This popular understanding of imperialism doesn't go far enough.
The essence and source of imperialism is the cancerous operation of the inherent laws of motion of capitalism. The reality that Canada is a highly developed monopoly capitalist state forces it to transform into an imperialist country.
Canada has, we believe, the highest level of foreign ownership amongst the imperialist countries. But it is not a colony or a semi‑colony, nor simply a junior partner of U.S. imperialism; it is an integral part of the world imperialist system and subject to the intrinsic contradictions of global capitalism.
Canadian monopoly interests are interwoven with those of U.S. capital and increasingly with capital from the EU and Asia.
In particular, we would like to single out Canada’s role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
As the main vehicle for imperialist aggression, NATO is the largest military organization in the world and, through its Parliamentary Assembly, it is also a powerful political organization.
In our view, NATO membership has a directly negative impact on democratic Canadian sovereignty and democracy, and on the ability to pursue either an independent international policy of peace or progressive economic development based on people’s needs.
As we said at our last Central Convention:
For us, Canadian sovereignty means the sovereignty of the peoples of Canada – the vast majority of whom are workers [...] – and the basic democratic right of the Canadian people to determine their own future, their own destiny. It is also sovereignty against US imperialism. Sovereignty is directly connected to the rights of nations and peoples to self determination.
This is not a selective right reserved only for oppressed nations, or those which have already embarked on a revolutionary path. Recognition of the national rights of Aboriginal peoples, Quebec, and the Acadians, does not detract from or negate the sovereign rights of the peoples of Canada who as a whole to resist the onslaught by U.S. imperialism and international finance capital.
In this framework the YCL, together with the Communist Party of Canada, has the longest established track record, within the youth and student movement for advancing an agenda of an independent and made-in-Canada foreign policy, based on peace and disarmament. We demand that Canada quit NATO as well as other military agreements like NORAD.
Today we continue this strategic direction by actively supporting the Canadian Peace Congress, a member of the World Peace Council, as well as the World Federation of Democratic Youth. We look forward to participation in the upcoming 18th World Festival of Youth and Students in Ecuador.
This is the context to understand the major uprising of the young people in Canada over the past few years with the Occupy movement, partly inspired by the youth of Spain and the Indignados, the Quebec student strike of 2012, and most recently the protest of Aboriginal youth called ‘Idle No More’.
These mobilizations are in sharp contrast with the right-wing social democratic forces in our country, which dominate the labour movement and are to blame for the inadequacy of the fight back overall. The right-wing social democrats have most recently endorsed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union – free trade agreement which will further undermine our democratic sovereignty.
For every job posting in Canada today, there are six unemployed workers trying to get that job. Real youth unemployment is 24%.
The youth of our country are told Canada can no longer afford the social programmes and environmental standards that our people won, after struggle. We are told the state does not have any more money for public education or jobs.
But billions of dollars continue to be wasted on death. In fact, military spending in Canada is at its highest levels since before World War II and continuing to rise in the recent March 2013 federal budget of the Harper Conservative party.
And we should not that the social democratic NDP opposition has endorsed maintaining this level of military spending.
The economic crisis was not created by the people, and the youth are demanding: we will not pay for it!
The struggle of the Quebec students from the winter to the summer of last year -- which saw 300,000 youth marching in the streets, as well as daily mobilizations in communities across Quebec and large solidarity demonstrations across the country – was therefore not just a question of accessible education.
It was a direct confrontation against neo-liberalism and the austerity agenda!
It was a demand voiced by the young people, which won great support from wide sectors of the population especially the working class, that an alternative future is necessary and possible.
And for us, in the YCL Canada, that direction must be socialism!
At a recent conference of our student activists the YCL Canada drew three conclusions about the Quebec student struggle that we would like to share here.
First, the struggle showed that the movement has to have programme; you cannot draw people into the streets based on weak or tepid demands that have little or no substance.
Secondly, in whatever form it takes, the student struggle showed that mass participation and empowerment is essential. In Québec, this went beyond just the way decisions were made, but really entered into the life of the struggle as one in which the students and youth took ownership over.
Nor did the drive of the struggle simply come from the organized bodies of the students alone; it came from the grassroots. The battle became everyone's struggle, and from this came the strength and confidence to keep going and escalate the fightback.
Third, there is the connection of unity and struggle. From the start in fall 2011, the student organizations agreed on a basis of unity, including not condemning each other publicly and standing together in the negotiations. They took the attitude that they could not wait to "ride out the storm," but needed to start right away. They kept that unity in the face of serious assaults and differences of tactics and approach, like when the government tried to exclude the progressive students union CLASSE from the negotiating table and in the face of Bill 78.
What the people have is numbers, which becomes a real force when organized.
The outcome of the strike was to force an election, were the reactionary Liberal Party was swept from office. But not long after their victory, the minority nationalist government has shown itself to be a reactionary force of the monopolies and is implementing many of the same attacks on labour and students as the Liberals.
The youth will need some time to re-group but they have not accepted the latest offer. Protest continues.
In fact, our General Secretary, our French-language magazine editor, our Montreal organizer and several other members of the YCL were all arrested at a series of demonstrations in the past few days. Over 600 students have been arrested and fined hundreds of dollars each, in the last two weeks.
In closing I would like to touch on the uprising of the Aboriginal youth in Canada with the ‘Idle No More’ protests – the most widespread and significant movement for indigenous rights in recent decades, which has also given voice to millions of Canadians, by mobilizing popular anger against the pro-corporate Harper Conservative government.
The aboriginal peoples have been hard hit by the economic crisis and were already suffering third-world conditions in a first-world country – over 200 Aboriginal communities do not have fresh, clean drinking water; almost 33% of women prisoners in Canada are Aboriginal, despite Aboriginal people making up less than 5% of the population; in the last thirty years, almost 1000 aboriginal women have gone missing or been murdered; and Aboriginal teen suicide rates are 11 times the Canadian average.
The Idle No More protests, the six-week hunger strike of Chief Spence near Parliament Hill, and the young Journey of Nishiyuu who walked 1600 kilometers from the sub-Arctic shores of Hudson’s Bay, through blizzards and storms, all the way to the doors of Parliament, have drawn attention to crucial issues of economic inequality, social justice, and environmental devastation.
But Idle No More has gone further, tearing down the curtain hiding an ugly sight: the festering issue of inequality within the Canadian state, and making it absolutely clear that Canada was built on the theft of Aboriginal lands and resources, and that only genuine equality of all the nations in this country, large and small, can begin to overcome this genocidal policy.
The people, not the corporations, must re-write the constitution.
This is the perspective of the Young Communist League of Canada.
We are facing in a complex and dangerous moment today, a time of significant and often bitter struggles, but with the potential of resurgent socialism.
Genuine proletarian internationalism must be at the centre of our common vision.
We salute the internationalist spirit of the UJCE, especially in bringing forward the struggles of the peoples of Western Sahara and the POLISARIO youth, and the YCL Canada looks forward to joining the UJCE at the 18th World Festival of Youth and Students in Ecuador.
Lastly we wish you good luck during this important meeting and your Convention.
Long live international solidarity!
Viva the UJCE!