CPS Viewpoint on the Canadian Labour Congress 25th Constitutional Convention.

Don Currie, Chair, (CPS)
The 25th Constitutional Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) will be held from Monday, May 26 to Friday, May 30 in the City of Toronto at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Two thousand delegates representing 3.2 million members confront an organized assault by finance capital to force Canadian workers to bear the brunt of another cyclical slump in the capitalist economy. Big capital is keeping their profits high through manipulating the labour market, wage cutting, layoffs and raising prices for the basic necessities that working class families require to live; food, shelter and transportation.
The assault of big capital on the standard of living of the working class is engineered by the most hostile, cunning anti-labour, pro-big business government since the Dirty Thirties.
The Harper minority Conservative Government is the front office of the most reactionary sectors of Canadian capitalism today. On behalf of finance capital Prime Minister Harper, with token reference to Parliament, pursues a foreign policy of support for made-in-USA imperialist wars and arms spending, rewards the banks and the investor elites for the Asset Backed Commercial Paper (ABCP) fiasco, washes it hands of the decline of Quebec and Ontario manufacturing sector jobs, supports the unrestricted export of raw bitumen, raw logs, mineral ores and bulk agricultural products. The Harper Government’s corporate economic plan is to sell out Canadian unprocessed resources and with it the value added jobs of Canadian workers.
Stephen Harper was installed in power by big oil investors and seconded by the banks to strip all democratic restraints on government from using the vast power of the state, the Bank of Canada, federal monetary and fiscal policy, federal trade and commerce policy, foreign policy in the exclusive service of finance capital.
Prime Minister Harper’s government is indifferent to working class interests. The Harper “corporate team” consider Canadian workers as a faceless reserve of labour power to be purchased or discarded at the whim of big capital. The “Harper Hacks” in the corrupted private media posing as “analysts” berate workers for not being dutifully grateful to private capital for being allowed by to work harder, longer and for less.
CLC Convention delegates confront the fact that from a working class standpoint, Canadian capitalism in the 21st Century is a failed system, incapable of answering the needs of workers, and indeed all strata of working society, today and in the future. Capitalism, based on the private ownership of the means of production, operates on laws of development that devotes the vast apparatus of the state to ensure that the lion’s share of the wealth created by the working class winds up in the coffers of a small class of finance capitalist elites.
Workers with only their labour power to sell to make a living witness their work places disappear, wages stagnate, working conditions worsen, benefits that were wrested from employers that made life bearable disappear one by one and the basic necessities of life, shelter, food and transportation placed out of reach of two-income families.
The working poor, single parent families, immigrants, and in particular the youth are simply abandoned. Pensioners and all those on fixed incomes confront choices of food or fuel, rent or prescriptions, tea and toast alone or bus fare to the local seniors centre for a square meal and some human contact. The plight of indigenous first nation’s peoples is a racist crime condemned by Canadian labour and internationally.
Immigrants are the new under class of workers imported as casual labour intended by the bosses to be used as cheap labour to destroy collective agreements and drive down union wages. An immigrant worker is a brother or a sister and the way to beat the boss’s plan is to bring them into labour organizations as soon as they arrive on our shores.
The system of private ownership of the means of production can never answer the needs of the industrial working class and the semi-proletarian exploited and oppressed. Capitalism is not about the primacy of workers, it is about primacy of capital.
This reality will loom over the delegates in the CLC Convention Hall. The extent to which it is actually discussed will be the measure of the success or failure of the Convention. The line of up of guest speakers, including social democratic luminaries, with long records of failure in attempts to reform the capitalist system, will bemoan the lot of the working class, pledge their undying solidarity and wind up with an appeal for labour votes with a promise to put it all right if they are elected. Too often these same friends of labour once elected promptly forget their pledges at labour conventions and begin to “manage the system” to “get things done.”
Rank and file activists, trade union militants, dedicated working class fighters who have been through bitter strikes, forced back to work by big business governments, out-gunned at the bargaining table by corporate lawyers, have heard it all before.
They know from experience! Capitalism can’t be managed out of a crisis – it can only be confronted and through mass struggle forced into making concessions.
The 25th Constitutional Convention of the CLC will be a continuation of the debate that has been at the centre of every labour gathering since Canadian workers first organized themselves into unions; can the system be fixed or should it be changed?
The extent to which the latter makes headway at the 25th CLC Convention depends on whether the rank and file, militants, the class conscious workers, the socialists and above all the Communists, can get to the floor mike and articulate the idea, starting with the demands workers themselves are making, that the system must not only be exposed it must be changed.
How is that question of changing the system to be presented in an era when there is no mass party of labour? How is the question of changing the system to be discussed when the corporate media is devoted to the cause of big capital, and when workers are politically marginalized and out of government?
The appeal starts with the truth that organized labour is not the local Rotary Club, tolerated by the ruling elite as part of “civil society” carrying out the role of providing the capitalist system with a benign face.
Organized labour is the primary organization of the working class. It is organized because of the place it occupies in the capitalist system, the class that creates beyond what it receives in wages, values that are appropriated by the owners of the means of production and is compelled by that fact to confront the employers for more wages to live. That is the root cause of the class struggle and that is why unions were organized.
Organized labour is the only force in society capable of compelling the power of capital to retreat, capable of imposing its class power on politics and capable, given the opportunity of changing its position in the relations of production from being a victim of the objective laws of capitalism into being its master by installing a new worker’s system - socialism.
Today, the starting point of that journey is to challenge capitalist power where it counts. The demand for public ownership of the key sectors of the economy and in the first place the energy sector must be taken up and fought for. The vital economic interests of labour must be embodied in a program that speaks to the millions who create the wealth of the nation.
The CLC Convention delegates are called upon to demand full employment with rising wages for all. Retirement with adequate income and full social benefits for men at 60 and women at 55 or after 30 years of continuous labour regardless of one’s age. Organized labour rejects the demand of the idle rich who have never known a hard day in their whole life that workers must work to 70 or even 75 before getting some respite.
The CLC Convention must speak to the millions of Canadians who work for wages that they will not be abandoned when the bosses throw them out the door. They will not be abandoned when the mortgage is due and there is no income. They will not be abandoned when their kids are denied a good education or their parents can’t get a decent senior’s accommodation. They will not be abandoned when all the government has to offer the youth is a military uniform and another US war.
Canada is a wealthy country. Canada has no need of war, nor any reason to go abroad and tell others how to order their lives. We are rich in resources, advanced in science and technology. We have enough to provide everything that working people of Canada have earned and deserve.

What is required is a new system. Capitalism doesn’t work and can’t be reformed. The CLC Convention can begin the process of turning the politics of Canada around, can make it impossible for the bosses to impose the economic slump on the working class and rally all workers organized and unorganized for a new vision of Canada that places the working class where it should be – in motion, in struggle, in charge, in power.