April 23, 2013

Labour and people's unity can defeat austerity

May Day 2013 message from the Communist Party of Canada

     On May Day, the International Workers' Day, the Communist Party of Canada extends warmest solidarity to all those in struggle against capitalist austerity and war.

     The systemic crisis of capitalism in Canada and internationally continues to deepen, reflected in ever‑widening social disparity, intensified economic and social attacks against the people, fresh assaults on labour and democratic rights, the further degradation of the national and global environment, and increasing militarism, aggression and war.

     The austerity policies pursued by ruling circles in the leading imperialist states, including Canada, to resuscitate economic activity and profits on the backs of the working class and working people in general, have failed miserably. The economies of the U.S., Europe and Japan ‑ the "tripod" epicentre of this global crisis ‑ remain stagnant or in decline. The crisis and the intense, all‑sided offensive launched by the ruling class are exacting a heavy economic, social, cultural physical, psychological and environmental cost on all humanity.

     The main target of this anti‑social offensive of capital is the working class, especially its organised section, the trade union movement. It is also falls heavily on women, youth and students, indigenous peoples, immigrants and migrants, pensioners and the elderly, peasants and small farmers, the extreme poor and marginalized sections of the people, and on all those reliant on the social functions and services of capitalist states ‑ benefits won through many decades of hard struggle.

     This capitalist offensive is creating an atmosphere of insecurity and desperation among wide sections of the working class and the people, but it is also giving rise to increased resistance.      Labour and mass democratic struggles across Europe have been marked by countless general strikes, mass demonstrations and factory occupations. Millions have come out into the streets of Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, Britain, Italy, Cyprus and elsewhere to demand jobs, decent wages and pensions, to defend labour rights, to insist on the restoration of health, education and other public services, and to denounce the austerity policies dictated by the EU at the behest of European bankers and monopolists.

     The counter‑offensive of labour and people's movements is also growing across Canada. The historic Québec student strike and social struggle which took place in 2012, and the Canada‑wide "Idle No More" protests of Aboriginal peoples and their supporters are particularly significant. These and many other mobilizations in defence of labour, social and equality rights, and the environment, signal a qualitative change in the mood of the working class and its allies to fight back against the austerity agenda of capital and its governments.

     Today, the issue of working class unity has become critical, as the big corporations attempt to pit sections of workers against each other. Even as the ruling class removes any barriers to the mobility of capital and investments, new obstacles are erected against the legal rights of workers to move across borders in search of better employment opportunities. Instead, the Harper Conservatives have dramatically boosted the Temporary Foreign Workers' Program, aiming to provide cheap labour for employers, and keep overall wage levels low. At the same time, right‑wing forces fan the flames of racism, blaming migrants for high unemployment and declining living standards. The enemy of Canadian workers is not our sisters and brothers from other countries, but rather the anti‑worker policies of the federal government and the big corporations. May Day 2013 should see a powerful rejection of this racist divide‑and‑rule capitalist strategy, and a call for unity of all workers ‑ employed and unemployed, organized and unorganized, Aboriginal and non‑Aboriginal, young and old, of all genders and national origins, including migrant workers.

     The shift to the use of temporary, non‑unionized workers, paid minimal wages and benefits, is part of a wider reactionary agenda which the Harper government, and its pro‑corporate counterparts at the provincial and municipal levels, are carrying through on behalf of finance capital. Their goal is to accelerate the accumulation of capital through every conceivable means (privatization, state-restructuring, corporate tax cuts, etc.), and to weaken and suppress working class and popular resistance.

     Lest we forget, the first target of the new Harper majority after the 2011 election was organized labour (CUPW, the Air Canada and CP Rail workers, etc.).

     Harper's "war on labour" in the federal jurisdiction gave a green light to right‑wing provincial and municipal governments to demand that workers yield concessions or face the legislative hammer, such as Ontario's attack on the bargaining rights of teachers.. Since 1982, federal and provincial governments in Canada have passed 199 pieces of legislation to restrict, suspend or deny collective bargaining rights. What is qualitatively new is the speed, ferocity and punitive nature of these legislative attacks.

     At its core, this offensive aims at crippling and ultimately destroying the organized labour movement. The federal passage of C‑377, requiring unions to disclose salaries, time spent on political activities and expenses, was only the beginning. There are now ominous signals that the Harper Conservatives are preparing to impose "right‑to‑work" legislation on all workers under federal jurisdiction.

     From the perspective of the ruling class, the weakening of the trade union movement is the key to reducing the cost of labour‑power, and not only among organized workers. They know that such reductions will put tremendous downward pressure on the wages and incomes of all workers, most of whom have no union protection. Finance capital realizes that the labour movement ‑ because of its size, resources and ability to take job action ‑ is the only social/class force capable of uniting broad sections of the people against its offensive.

     The struggle against rampaging militarism, aggression and war must also be a central focus of the labour and people's fightback. As this May Day approaches, threats of fresh imperialist aggression against Syria, Iran and the DPRK are escalating. We are called upon to oppose this growing war danger, to defend the national sovereignty of all countries, and to condemn the drive to militarization, along with the chauvinist, "anti‑terror" rhetoric used to justify it. This May Day, we express unwavering solidarity with socialist Cuba, the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and with all progressive and anti‑imperialist forces and movements around the world!

     The labour movement is the key to building broad struggles for the rights of all workers, for jobs and improved living standards, in defence of social services and programs, for gender equality, for justice for Aboriginal peoples, for young people's right to an education and a future, for genuine environmental protection, and for a foreign policy based on peace and disarmament.

     But the overall state of labour's fightback has so far been insufficient. More than five years into the current crisis, the CLC under Ken Georgetti (and the leaders of some important unions) have yet to draw the entire labour movement and its social partners together into a broad labour‑community "common front" against austerity. Instead, the CLC is focussing on organizing "political action" conferences to line up labour participation in the NDP's electoral machine for the 2015 general election.

     The Communist Party urges the CLC and its key national affiliates to act now to build the extra‑parliamentary fightback by convening an emergency "labour & people's summit", bringing together the entire trade union movement (including the non‑affiliated labour centrals in Québec) and its social partners ‑ Aboriginal peoples, women, youth & students, peace, environmental and LGBTQ activists, seniors and other mass democratic movements.

     Recent experiences show that it is quite possible to build a stronger labour resistance against the corporate offensive, and to win broad support from community allies. Despite the adverse conditions and subjective weaknesses, many labour and popular movements are becoming ever more vibrant and militant. New forces are coming into the fightback. Militant tactics and coalition‑building can move labour from a defensive posture towards a fighting strategy of mobilizing the entire working class and its allies to block the right‑wing agenda and to move onto the counter‑offensive.

     While situations elsewhere cannot be mechanically replicated in Canada, militant, class struggle trade unionism seen in Greece and other countries should inspire union activists here. A Canada‑wide common front against the corporate/government attack in turn can win wider support for the goal of a labour‑led People's Coalition to unite broad sections of the people's movements, not around a nostalgic return to a "rosy" Keynesian past, but rather around a platform of radical progressive demands, and for a fundamental challenge to the economic and political hegemony of finance capital, both domestic and international.

     As we salute the struggles of workers in all countries on May Day 2013, the Communist Party of Canada is confident the labour and people's unity can defeat austerity and war!

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