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Organized Labour and the Politics of the Class Struggle Today

Viewpoint on the Tasks of the 36th Central Convention Communist Party of Canada (CPC)

Toronto Ontario, February 5-7 2010

Don Currie, Chair, Canadians for Peace and Socialism (CPS)

January 6, 2010


A Convention of the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) is always a significant event in the struggle of the working class to defeat capitalism and replace it with socialism.  Only the Communists strive to take responsibility for the whole revolutionary process underway in our own country and globally.  Every revolutionary class conscious worker is concerned that the Communist Party becomes strengthened and more effective in fulfilling its historic responsibilities to the working class of Canada and all of its peoples and for the victorious outcome of the cause of the International Communist Movement.

From its formation in 1978 the Committee of Canadian Communists (CCC) under the leadership of W.C. (Bill) Beeching[1] and later, Canadians For Peace and Socialism (CPS), our members have critically studied the theory and practice of the CPC and have consistently striven to strengthen its work.  The 36th Convention is no exception.

CPS has forwarded two contributions to the pre-convention discussion of the CPC, for consideration by its membership and delegates, one by its honorary chair of CPS, John Beeching and the other by current Chair of CPS, Don Currie.  The CPS contributions conformed to pre-convention discussion rules limiting statements to 1000 words.[2]  Such a restriction necessarily limited the contribution on the role of the organized labour movement to a sparse treatment.  We take this opportunity to elaborate in more detail those views and in addition comment on some questions of the general line of the Draft Resolution.

The 36th Central Convention Draft Main Political Resolution

The CPC Draft Main Political Resolution (MPR) is a strengthened and more exacting statement of the current conjuncture of class forces in Canada over previous documents of its type.  There is no doubt that the global capitalist crisis and the response of the International Meetings of Communist and Workers Parties (IMCWP) is beginning to clarify theory and program and strengthen the strategy and tactics of the entire Communist Movement and each one of its member organizations.

The concluding paragraph of the statement of the Delhi 11th Meeting of the IMCWP proclaims:

“We the communist and workers’ parties of the globe and representing the interests of the working class and all other toiling sections of society (the vast majority of the global population) underlining the irreplaceable role of the communist parties call upon the people to join us in strengthening the struggles to declare that socialism is the only real alternative for the future of humankind and that future is ours.”[3]

The Organized Working Class: Key Element of the Fightback

This contribution to the pre-convention discussion attempts to be in the spirit of that declaration.  It is not about repeating what is manifestly true in the MPR.  Neither is it an attempt to improve its descriptive analysis.  What follows is a more elaborated statement of those basic ideas CPS believes were overlooked or treated inadequately and that in our view are critical and require further work and development.

The MPR, throughout, correctly accords to the working class the central role in leading Canada forward to economic and political independence, peace and socialism.  That profound truth alone elevates the role of the Communist Party above all other political forces for progress that are active in the body politic of our country.  All other political parties represent, in one way or another, the class interests of wealth and privilege, all with a direct interest in perpetuating state monopoly capitalism.  The Communist Party alone of all of the political parties recognizes and accepts the inevitability of the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system and its replacement by the historically imminent and necessary system of socialism.

The CPC accepts the responsibility of studying deeply the organic composition our class.  It acknowledges this duty and takes on the necessity of examining the living, fighting, psychology and historical evolution the Canadian working class has travelled to its present stage.  The CPC takes on the difficult and historically necessary task to thoroughly scrutinize and expose how the Canadian working class is currently embattled with foreign and domestic finance capital and what problems of the class struggle are urgently in need of resolution.  We approach that task with the fullest confidence in scientific socialism, Marxism-Leninism, correctly applied, to solve all of the problems confronted by the working class as it struggles to find its way to socialism.

That is why CPS is confident it will be understood when we say that the Communist Party of Canada’s Draft Main Political Report is adept throughout the document at identifying problems of the class struggle but weak in substantiating theoretically what needs to be done to solve them.  One wants to cry out after reading each paragraph: “Yes I agree – but how do we do it! What must be done?”  That is particularly the case with the sections in the MPR dealing with labour political action and coalition building.

For example: in the crucially important section entitled “The Organized Working Class: Key Element of the Fightback” encompassing paragraphs 46 to 60, the MPR correctly points out in paragraph 46 what it is that the capitalist ruling class fears above all else; a working class challenge to finance capital’s economic and political power. The Draft Resolution states:

“that the working class has the potential to unite all the diverse forces of society…into political movements that have the potential to overthrow them.” (ie. the capitalist class DC).

The following paragraphs of the section are then taken up with identifying all of the problems standing in the way of the working class realizing its potential. It is a long and daunting list.

Finally in paragraph 59 the resolution attempts to get at the essence of the problem.  After discussing in some detail recent labour struggles and the strengths and weaknesses revealed in those struggles, the resolution states:

“The problem of leadership – or lack thereof – in the fight back against the corporate agenda is not primarily organizational, but rather ideological in character. It is absolutely essential to build the left and provide workers with a vision of something larger, of a road that leads somewhere.”

The draft resolution then goes on to propose the convening of a CLC sponsored special emergency conference to; “…develop a comprehensive strategy to confront the impact of the current crisis…” One of the key issues at such a conference would be labour unity and the cessation of raiding.

What Kind of CLC Conference and When?

It is correct and obligatory not only to call for such a conference but to elaborate in some detail the Communist proposals for a “comprehensive strategy to confront the impact of the current crisis” Regrettably the MPR has not defined what specific type of CLC Conference it has in mind.

We urgently suggest consideration of the following proposal.

There is no doubt that the convening of such a CLC Conference would, by itself, be significant even if it did not succeed in adopting a “comprehensive strategy to confront the impact of the current crisis.”  The symbolism of such a meeting would have a profound effect on labour politics.

The Communist Party of Canada should immediately re-issue its call for a CLC Conference and coming out of the 36th Convention undertake a public campaign for such a meeting as the central task of the leadership and membership of the Party.

Such a CLC Conference is made more urgent by the decision of Prime Minister Harper to prorogue Parliament and exclude the people from the affairs of state until sometime in March 2010.  A pubic campaign by the Communist Party to mobilize support among workers and the organized labour movement for the calling of such a conference would place the CPC at the centre of labour politics.

Prime Minster Harper’s decision cannot be dismissed as simply a cynical self serving manoeuvre - which of course it is.  It is more sinister than that.  The Harper Conservatives are now the chosen party of war profiteering, the global investment plans of Canadian finance capital and profit interests.  Having the ear of the Harper cabinet are those sections of Canadian and US capital that are plundering the energy resources of Canada and in so doing, endangering the economic future of the whole country. Parliamentary democracy is no longer a useful tool in the pursuit of the profit interests of this traitorous cabal of self-interested militarists and profiteers.

Parliamentary democracy is proving to be an impediment to monopoly capital and is being dismantled and replaced with executive and administrative power.  Simultaneously the weakness within the “centre-left” which did not recognize the Harper conservatives as the main danger (i.e. he NDP, Liberals, environmentalists etc,) compounds the difficulty in mobilizing opposition to this sinister move.  This situation can only be reversed by organized labour intervening directly in the struggle for democracy.  Labour has a big stake in defending democracy. Once administrative and executive power is consolidated in the hands of monopoly capital and their councils and associations the ability to reverse it, even if social democracy is in power, will require a bitter struggle that will only be won by mass mobilization and the political power of the working class.

The spontaneous movement that arose in support of a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition and that could have defeated the Harper Conservatives, were it not for the betrayal by Michael Ignatieff, and now another popular upsurge of protest against the prorogation of Parliament, illustrates the fact that the majority of Canadians who oppose the Harper Government are ahead of all of the opposition parties.  Millions of Canadians are ready to support a movement inside Parliament or at the polls to defeat the Harper government.  There is a growing realization that Harper poses a threat to democracy, and represents all those interests that seek open dictatorial governance in Canada.

That is why there is no room for business as usual politics on the left. The Leader of the Communist Party is called upon to go to the people of Canada and in the first place to the organized labour movement to underline the gravity of the situation.  The Conservative Government of Canada, a minority in the body politic of the nation, is exhibiting an appetite for and undertaking all of the actions to take Canada in the direction of open corporate rule.

The Harper Conservatives, confident of the support of their finance capitalist backers, have become the main threat to the interests of the working class, democracy and peace and they must be stopped and administered a crushing and humiliating defeat. The only force in the country capable of doing that is organized labour and all of the forces of popular resistance that can be attracted to labour’s banner.

Ideally such an all-in CLC Conference would be convened in Vancouver and during the Winter Olympics as the real Parliament of the people and majority public opinion. The audacity of such a meeting would seize the imagination of the whole country and strengthen the resolve of all Canadians who are the victims of the economic depression.

The CLC should be called upon to extend invitations to all of its affiliates, each and every people’s organization in the country presently involved in resisting cutbacks, each and every peace organization campaigning for the immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan, and every MP and MLA who has a record of publicly opposing the corporate line of the old line parties.

It falls to the Communist Party to take up this audacious work. Such a task should be considered the concentration work of the whole party so long as Parliament is prorogued. A CLC Conference should be promoted as a the real people’s Parliament of the majority, a Parliament for the mobilization of majority public opinion against the Harper Government, the prelude to building the great electoral coalition that must come together in the next federal election to deal Harper and his minions a crushing defeat.

The Main Ideological Weakness of the Organized Labour Movement

The Draft Main Political Resolution in posing the question of the main ideological weakness and the need to develop a “left” within the labour movement carries with it the obligation to attempt to answer those important questions. The authors of the section have once again posed the correct question but without a hint as to what they consider to be the answer.

Let us attempt to answer concretely the latter two questions mentioned by drawing on the history of our Party. The main ideological weakness of the organized labour movement was dealt with by the Communists 85 years ago, and in essence is still valid. The question was answered in a famous booklet published by the Trade Union Educational League (TUEL) and authored by Tim Buck entitled “Steps to Power, A Program for the Trade Union Minority of Canada.”[4]

What was its central thesis? Buck and the TUEL speaking directly to trade union militants said:

“Our problem and the aim of this booklet is to direct our activities and the activities of our organizations so that, instead of merely functioning as a kind of bargain counter across which officials continually haggle with the boss in a futile effort to maintain a balance between wages and the cost of living, our organizations will also engage in struggles for more fundamental things; which struggles in turn, while strengthening the unions, will bring them into direct conflict with capitalism as a system.”

Buck was among a whole generation of militant class conscious labour revolutionaries that emerged during and after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution who studied deeply the theories of Marx and later Lenin, about the role of trade unions in the struggle for socialism. Marx and Engels spoke of the role of the trade union movement in its nascent stage with profound foresight as to the future role it was destined to play.  Their advice began with the Communist Manifesto[5] published February 21, 1846 and was given further elaboration in Marx’s celebrated Wage-Labour and Capital lectures to the German Workingmen’s Club in Brussels 1847 and in a series of programs and resolutions authored by Marx and Engels during the 12 year span of the International Workingmen’s Association from 1864 to 1876.[6]

The initial work of Marx and Engels was further developed by Lenin during the growth of the world trade union movement in the era of the development of capitalism to its imperialist stage, extending from the 1905 Revolution up to the time of his death in January 1924.  Lenin’s advice was carried forward into the period of the Communist International in the 1920’s and 30’s, a period of turbulent growth of the organized working class in both capitalist states and the socialist USSR. 

After the defeat of Nazi Germany, with the main blow struck by the Red Army, the International Communist Movement once again turned its attention to the organized labour movement.  The Communists participated in organizing the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU)[7].  The WFTU represents the struggle to unite the organized labour movements of the capitalist and socialist world into a great militant world-wide labour movement.

A restudy of the glorious historical role the Communists played in working for a unified global movement of the organized working class is called for today.  It is important to establish for the present generation of trade union militants the continuity in new conditions, of the theoretically substantiated Marxist fundamentals of program, strategy and tactics that enabled millions of workers to organize and fight to abolish the profit system.  

The great US Communist and working class leader William Z. Foster writing in Chapter Seven of his remarkable work; “History of the World Trade Union Movement” commented (we quote extensively because of the exemplary, profound, simple and direct way Foster speaks to his working class audience about the question of working class power):

“Marx actively supported every strike and other struggle for amelioration of the workers’ hard conditions and he repeatedly drafted programs of immediate demands.  But at the same time he warned again and again of the futility of the trade unions confining themselves to such partial struggles.  They ought never to forget their final objective of abolishing capitalism outright.  The conquest of political power is the basic task confronting workers. In a celebrated passage, directed towards the trade unions, Marx declared; Instead of the conservative motto ‘a fair day’s pay for a fair days work!’ they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wage system.’  To learn this most basic reality in terms of actual achievement, in the face of treacherous opportunist leaders, defenders of capitalism, has been the most difficult of all lessons for the workers, but decisive millions of them have grasped it and are putting it in action.”[8]

Tim Buck and W.Z Foster guided by Marx answered the question in their day as to what constituted the main ideological weakness of organized labour.

What is the main ideological weakness of the organized labour movement today?  Is it not essentially the same as it was in 1847, 1864 to 1876, 1925, and 1956?  It can be summed up as the historical struggle conducted by Communists with a variety of non-Marxist trends inside the labour movement that attempt to divert the working class from undertaking political action on “fundamental things” that of necessity unavoidably brings the whole labour movement into direct conflict with capitalism.  The Communists always conducted that struggle by organizing and joining in support of each and every immediate struggle of the working class, but always in the course of doing so, openly declaring that if the working class was to become a class for itself it must accept the task of abolishing the wage labour and profit system.

Is the Struggle for Wages Futile?

Nothing said by Marx, Buck or Foster can be taken to suggest that the struggle for wages, improved benefits and job security is futile.  The current global crisis of capitalism is the pretext used by finance capital for an across the board assault on the wages and living standards of hundreds of millions of workers.  The fight back against this capitalist assault on workers’ livelihoods is much more than a simple “defensive” struggle.  The struggle for wage gains has once again become an essential component of the revolutionary process.

The economic struggle of workers today is the answer in practice to capitalist propagandists who assert that it is irresponsible for workers during a period of mass unemployment to fight for higher wages.  Workers are implored, threatened and legislatively ordered back to work by their capitalist oppressors to set aside their wage demands and meekly accept wage reductions, loss of benefits and job security.  Why? Because bourgeois economists never tire of repeating the canard that unrealistic wage demands during a depression is counter-productive to economic recovery. Since, they contend, a rise in wages will be accompanied by a rise in prices and thwart an economic recovery dependent on consumer spending.

W.Z. Foster makes reference to the Marxist lessons on the importance of the struggle for wages which necessitates another extensive quotation from his “History of the World Trade Union Movement.”  Foster said:

“Among their elementary contribution to trade union theory, Marx and Engels demonstrated the practical benefits of trade union action in improving wage standards – and this in the face of a host of bourgeois economists (and many confused trade union leaders) who held that the workers locked in a sort of economic vise, lost through raised living costs any and all wage increases that they might win by trade union action.  Such a theory implied passive submission to capitalist exploitation.  Marx in his famous discussion with Weston in 1865[9]  knocked this dangerous illusion on the head.  He demonstrated, with elaborate precept and example, that it was possible for the workers under capitalism, by trade union action, to wrest, a greater portion of their surplus value from the employers.  Marx summed up that, ‘A general rise in the rate of wages would result in a fall of the general rate of profit, but broadly speaking, not affect the prices of commodities.’   This elementary argument of Marx’s gave trade unionism a perspective of resolute struggle against capitalist exploitation. It is now taken as a matter of course in labour circles and is still used effectively in trade union negotiations with employers who accuse the unions of causing the high cost of livening.  But to make it prevail originally Marx had to wage years of bitter struggle against various opposition elements in the labour movement.”[10]

Today, in the midst of global economic depression to call for a renewed struggle for increased wages is not only economically imperative but potentially revolutionary.  There is an implied demand for power in the defiant slogan “we didn’t create the crisis and we will not be its victims”[11] summing up the only response that can be given by labour to the attempts of state monopoly capitalism to make the working class pay for the crisis of capitalism.  The slogan is a militant rejection of the entire rationale of finance capital that the labour power of workers is a mere commodity like any other to be bought and sold to serve the interests of the profit system.

Capitalist economists assert that if the commodity labour power serves the interests of capital it can be warehoused until needed.  Mass unemployment can be used to drive down the price of labour power, thereby increasing profits.  The commodity can be selected as useful and applied or rejected as redundant and cast off.  “After all”, reasons the capitalist, “we are not dealing with people, but only with what they have for sale in the market place; their labour power”.

This can best be illustrated by the contempt that the Harper Conservatives have for Canadian workers.  Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said in an interview to Canwest News Service last January on the crisis in the EI system that:

“Our goal is to help people get back to work, and get back to work quickly in jobs that will last. We do not want to make it lucrative for them to stay home and get paid for it, not when we still have significant skill shortages in many parts of the country."[12]

In a recent CBC radio documentary on Sudbury and the affects of the Steelworkers strike with Vale on the economy of the city and region the so-called “unreasonableness” of the nickel workers demands to maintain wages and pension benefits and job security in the midst of a fall in the world price of nickel rang throughout the program.  The mayor of Sudbury declared bleakly that there was a requirement on the part of the union membership, in the “interests of all”, to become more realistic and recognize the new reality of Vale’s far flung corporate empire that can shift production to low wage areas in the world and ride out falling nickel prices and still maintain handsome profit margins.  The burden of the advice to the striking Steelworkers was to accept a race to the bottom as the inevitable result of the vagaries of capitalism in the 21st Century.[13]

It didn’t occur to the interviewer to pose the question of the private ownership of the company and the resource as the real reason for the economic woes of Sudbury.  Also suggested in the documentary was that the old “good” employer was preferable to the new “bad” one.

Adapt to the Profit System or Abolish It?

The opportunist idea that the working class must adapt to each and every twist and turn of the capitalist economy and meekly accept the consequences of faceless investors buying and selling global corporate assets is at root the reformist belief that the capitalist system is permanent and nothing better exists to replace it.  The only option for workers they argue is to passively accept its anarchic development and wait for a better day to redress the gap between wages and the cost of living.

In simplistic terms that states the two standpoints in theory and practice of the role of organized labour, the reformist and the revolutionary.  Waffling between the two in centrist confusion attempting to reconcile the two polarities is the theory that for the moment workers are constrained to do little more than fight to defend gains, ameliorate the worst affects of capitalist exploitation because “socialism is not yet on the agenda”.

The assertion that socialism is not on the agenda is based on a particular theoretical view of the revolutionary process in the present era.  That theory has been determined to be correct and has been with us for many decades and still dominates the thinking of the present leadership of the CPC.  The essence of the theory was clearly enunciated in the late 1970’s by Bill Kashtan, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Canada in his closing remarks to the Central Committee on October 18th 1977 where he discussed in some detail the concept of left-centre coalitions and what constituted a correct labour policy and program “to make the trade union movement a more effective force…”.

The essence of that position, in the aftermath of the election of President Obama was repeated 32 years later by Sam Webb National Chair of the Communist Party of the USA in a speech in New York City on March 21st. 2009 where Webb also outlined in some detail as to what constituted the role of the CPUSA in building an effective coalition in support of the Obama administration.

First the quotation from Bill Kashtan from October 1977:

“The main thrust of this meeting, has been the necessity of unity and alliances, of left-centre coalitions, not only for the trade union movement, but of the work of the party over the next period of time. This coincides with how we estimate the present stage of the anti-monopoly struggle.  The main link in this struggle at this time, is how we can develop a united fight-back around a democratic alternative to the crisis of policies of monopoly.  When we say this, what do we mean? We speak of a democratic (Kashtan’s italics) alternative, not a socialist (Kasthan’s italics) alternative because the masses of the people are not yet prepared to unite around a socialist alternative.  The masses of working people however are prepared to unite around a democratic alternative that begins to curb the power of monopoly and gets at the effects of the crisis.

”That is how the report of the CEC places the present stage of the anti-monopoly struggle.  At the same time it is necessary to show that anti-monopoly struggle as the decisive part of the struggle for socialism, the pathway to it, the link in the chain, that opens the door to the next stage, the struggle for socialism.” [14]

We will come back to this concept after quoting Sam Webbs viewpoint.  Here is the quotation from Sam Webb March 21, 2009:

“Labour and its allies now have a friend, a people’s advocate and the first African American in the White House.  And because of this he should be supported and defended against partisan and racist attack, both open and coded….

“Obama is a reformer and we could well be entering an era of reforms, possible radical reforms.  And yet some say his main mission is to save capitalism…

“Setting aside some obvious differences, Obama shares a similar mindset.  His model of governance isn’t socialist, but it favours the interests of working people and their allies and challenges corporate power and prerogatives…

“But like the New Deal, it isn’t encoded into the historical process rising like the phoenix from the ashes on a particular day and year.  It will be the result of a contested and fluid political process in which a labour-led people’s movement will grow in unity and gain in understanding – not to mention take advantage of divisions within ruling circles, resist simplified notions of the Democratic Party and leave its distinct anti-corporate imprint on the reform process.

Socialism may be an objective necessity, but t isn’t yet on the agenda given the balance of forces and the disposition of millions. (italics DC) While this is not a socialist moment from an action point of view (what is obsolete for us isn’t necessarily obsolete to the American people) it is a ripe moment to enter into a dialogue with million about socialism and its meaning for our country,”[15]

Socialism Is On the Agenda

These quotations appear on first reading to be so reasonable why would anyone attempt to dispute their logic?  They are based on a somewhat shop worn catch phrase, “revolution as a process”, not to be confused with the correct phrase, “the revolutionary process.”

Revolution as a process suggests there is a defined series of stages, obligatory and necessary that must be gone through before we reach the “socialist stage” of the process.  Socialism is on hold until we get there.  When exactly we reach the socialist stage is unknown and one can only suppose it will become manifest when it is announced by some oracle.

Such doctrinaire views have nothing to do with Leninism.  Such views elevate the reformist concept of an incremental gradualist approach to progress, denying the Marxist view of the possibility and necessity of leaps in development.  If accepted it consigns the role of the communists to waiting upon events.  Such views must be subjected to the closest critical scrutiny because they fail the test of a dialectical resolution of the relationship between the struggle for reforms and the struggle for socialism in the last stage of capitalism - the imperialist stage.

The profound mistake and weakness in both of the above quotations is that they describe the moment but not the objectively real context in which labour politics is unfolding in our era - the era of imperialism.

Imperialism is the era of intense inter-imperialist rivalry with the threat of direct and proxy inter-imperialist wars, including nuclear confrontations, due to its uneven development.  Imperialism is an entire epoch of imperialist wars and extreme reaction, but also, due to its innate instability, the appearance of revolutionary situations that if mastered can rapidly lead to socialism.  The prerequisites for revolution are maturing in many regions of the world and that fact forms the main content of the revolutionary process in the 21st Century.  That is the significance of the conclusions reached at recent meetings of the IMCWP.  It is incumbent upon the CPC to study those prerequisites as they exist in Canada and prepare the working class to recognize them and act upon them as they arise.

It has always been the great merit of the Communist Party of Canada from its inception that it worked hard to explain, in detail and convincingly, the socialist alternative to capitalist crisis at each historical stage.  With Lenin’s help the Communist Party of Canada became convinced of the inevitability of revolutionary breakthroughs in one or more countries in the global imperialist system, not excluding Canada, which had reached the imperialist stage in its economic and political development.  Lenin’s scientific view of the world revolutionary process was brilliantly confirmed in 1917 and continues to be confirmed today throughout Latin America.

The Communist Party of Canada throughout its history, alone of all of the organizations of the labouring and democratic masses, held out the inevitability of the revolutionary passage of capitalism to socialism in our country.  In every struggle of the working class for its immediate vital interests the Communist Party never tired of explaining to workers, that they must not only become a class for themselves but fight for a new economic and political system that in its achievement would liberate all from the exploitation and oppression of finance capital.

The working class, because of the position it holds within the productive forces and its dispossessed status within the relations of production is accorded the historic mission of leading the nation.  Such an idea struck fear in the halls of corporate power and still does.  The full coercive power of the capitalist state has been rolled out every time there has been a perceived threat that the idea that the working class should hold the reins of state power might gain widespread acceptance.  That is the root cause of why Prime Minister has placed so much oppressive legislation on the books and why he increasingly resorts to arbitrariness and prorogation as a means to suppress and evade public anger.

The Communist Party’s Program always embodied that idea as its central thesis and never hid it.  That is why attention to the development of the Party’s program was central to the Party’s theoretical work.  The program was critical to the future of the working class and to properly arm it for the struggles it faced. The Communist Party considered its main task to prepare itself and the working class for political power. That required a careful analysis of the contradictions requiring resolution that opened the path to socialism.

For A Militant Working Class Program for Organized Labour Today

Upon what Leninist concept of imperialist should our approach to the revolutionary process be based in our time?  It must be based on Lenin’s penetrating insight into imperialism as the last and final stage of imperialism beyond which there is no other “rungs in the ladder” except socialism.

Lenin stated:

“The dialectics of history is such that the war, by extraordinarily expediting the transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism, has thereby extraordinarily advanced mankind towards socialism.

“Imperialist war is the eve of socialist revolution.  And this not only because the horrors of the war give rise to proletarian revolt—no revolt can bring about socialism unless the economic conditions for socialism are ripe—but because state-monopoly capitalism is a complete material preparation for socialism, the threshold of socialism, a rung on the ladder of history between which and the rung called socialism there are no intermediate rungs.”[16]

That idea has been vulgarized into asserting that its advocates are suggesting there is a revolutionary situation and socialist revolution will break out now if we advocate it. That of course is absurd and deserves to be dismissed for what it is - an invitation not to think.

What is the Significance of Lenin’s Teachings on Imperialism for Independent Labour Political Action?

First of all its significance must be grasped by the communists.  What political forces will cut through the confusion and break the dominance of sterile doctrinaire theories that abound in organized labour today?  What forces will emerge to provide the creative answer to the problem of formulating a militant working class program of struggle?  What forces will wage that struggle for a militant rank and file theory and practice inside the present day labour movement?  What political forces will compel even the most entrenched organized labour leaders to embrace and take up that struggle?

The Communist Party has the responsibility to provide the theoretical answer to these questions.  As the Party begins to answer the first question, the matter of the ideology of leadership, the answer to the second question, what kind of “left” that needs to be organized becomes obvious.

There is no “left” without an organization of militant Communist and non-communist workers to speak for and build it.  There is no “left” without an independent and militant program of independent labour political action that confronts corporate power.  And there can be no program of independent labour political action that confronts corporate power unless the Communists call a conference of its trade union members and supporters and drafts it.  If there is some other credible force willing and able to do that, we must know who they are.  It should not be kept a secret.

CPS argues there is no force other than the Communist Party to take up such work.  What is required is the initial first step.  Some years ago the Central Committee (CC) decided to draft a “Labour Bill of Rights”[17] that could have served as an important first step in developing a political action program for the militant rank and file of labour but that decision was not carried out.

Communists and militant rank and file workers with whom we work on the job and inside the labour movement and all those they attract to a program of political action constitute the “left” that the draft resolution speaks of.  If there is some other “left” out there, then those who drafted this section are called upon to say who it is, what it is, where it is and what it stands for.  If there is no left out there and no concrete proposal for the Party to undertake the arduous task to build one, then one is forced to the conclusion that the Draft Resolution expects that workers will do it themselves spontaneously just because the Communists have told them it is necessary.

Admittedly building the kind of left that is required is not easy.  Let us not evade that problem.  What is to be done when the Communist Party’s presence inside the labour movement is too weak to immediately organize the “left” political action committees, caucuses, rank and file organizations that are urgently required?

What is to be done is similar in form and approach to what was done in re-establishing the Canadian Peace Congress.  Take the first step

Before proceeding let us address the question that will fly to the fore – as it did when the proposal to rebuild the Congress was being discussed; “It is a mechanical approach”. “We need a record of activity first”. “It is in contradiction to our previous role in the Canadian Peace Alliance”, “It is not in accord with our policy of building peace coalitions”, “Where are the forces?”, “We need other forces to work with us first”.  Everything was considered except to act and bring together the Party and non-Party peace activists who recognized the need to re-build the Congress.

The Congress was rebuilt out of necessity because the peace movement requires a consistent anti-imperialist voice.  It was re-established to fulfil its historical role as part of the worldwide renaissance of the greatest peace organization ever to emerge after WW2, the World Peace Council.  The Congress is being rebuilt precisely because there is no other organization except the Canadian Peace Congress that can fulfill that role.

That same audacious approach is required in building a “left” organization of labour militancy.  If we are indifferent as to what kind of coalition is required, the one that we don’t want will always appear.  Petty bourgeois radicals are busy creating them without end.  Wait and another will come along and we will be invited to jump on its bandwagon, maybe even winning a little praise for doing so.

Communists envision and fight for a particular type of coalition.  One that arises out of a defined Marxist analysis rooted in the material conditions the working class confront.  That task forms the basis and articulates the theory and practice today to advance the working class struggle.  That type of coalition is not only militant but also internationalist in form and character.  From the outset it must declare publicly its affiliation to the WFTU and send its leading cadre to its meetings to participate in its work.

What are the steps to be taken to begin Communist led left labour coalition building of a new type?

First the Labour Commission of the Communist Party must write a new contemporary “Steps to Power”.  Its appeal and focus must speak directly to the militant trade union rank and file about the “fundamental demands” that must be taken up and fought for today to bring organized labour into a direct confrontation and challenge to corporate power.  In essence it must place the demands of organized labour at the head of the nation.

Secondly the appeal must be popularized in the Communist press, circulated as widely as possible and through a designated spokesperson that has no other responsibility.  The Communist Party must organize a worker conference where a “Steps to Power” manifesto will be debated and adopted followed by a public declaration that such an organization is now in existence and will begin its work.

In a hitherto unpublished correspondence with this observer August 4th 1970, Tim Buck, recovering from a paralytic stroke in Hillcrest Hospital took the time to elaborate his views on the critical importance of developing young party cadre.  Among other things Buck said:

“Conferences of activists certainly offer possibilities, organization of them should be considered. Note well Don: (Buck’s underline DC) It is very important that the process through which young activists are brought forward should be an integral part of the over-all struggle to extend and strengthen the Party and its influence among the workers.”[18]

That is the advice we must accept and implement in assigning someone to this critical file.  A genuine, rank and file left political action movement will be organized step by step, inch by inch and in no other way.  It will not happen quickly but it will materialize and eventually succeed due to the power of its clearly enunciated program of political action and because objectively it answers the urgent need for a higher level of labour political action as the current economic crisis rolls out and deepens.

On what fundamental objective reality should that program of political action be based? It can only be based on tirelessly explaining to workers that in the last stage of capitalism, the imperialist stage, there are no other rungs in the ladder of capitalism and beyond which there is only socialism.

Again we quote Lenin to reinforce the point:

“It is because Russia cannot advance from the economic situation now existing here without traversing the ground which is common to state capitalism and to socialism (national accounting and control) that the attempt to frighten others as well as themselves with “evolution towards state capitalism” (Kommunist No. 1, p. 8, col. 1) is utter theoretical nonsense. This is letting one’s thoughts wander away from the true road of “evolution”, and failing to understand what this road is. In practice, it is equivalent to pulling us back to small proprietary capitalism.

“In order to convince the reader that this is not the first time I have given this “high” appreciation of state capitalism and that I gave it before the Bolsheviks seized power I take the liberty of quoting the following passage from my pamphlet The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It , written in September 1917.

“. . . State-monopoly capitalism is a complete material preparation for socialism, the threshold of socialism, a rung on the ladder of history between which and the rung called socialism there are no intermediate rungs ” (pages 27 and 28)

“Please note that this was written when Kerensky was in power, that we are discussing not the dictatorship of the proletariat, not the socialist state, but the ‘revolutionary-democratic’ state. Is it not clear that the higher we stand on this political ladder, the more completely we incorporate the socialist state and the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviets, the less ought we to fear ‘state capitalism’? Is it not clear that from the material, economic and productive point of view, we are not yet on ‘the threshold’ of socialism? Is it not clear that we cannot pass through the door of socialism without crossing ‘the threshold’ we have not yet reached?

“From whatever side we approach the question, only one conclusion can be drawn: the argument of the ‘Left Communists’ about the ‘state capitalism’ which is alleged to be threatening us is an utter mistake in economics and is evident proof that they are complete slaves of petty-bourgeois ideology.”[19]

The “fundamental demands” that the organized labour movement must take up and fight for are those demands, which, in the course of the struggle to achieve them, challenges and confronts corporate power and its domination over the economy state and government.

Those key “fundamental demands” are already in the Draft Resolution and the Program of the Communist Party but need to be ferreted out and elevated to first rank importance reworked in language workers use on the job and understand and then popularized. They are:

1.    Organized labour has the power, the right and the necessity to lead the nation and must strive to do so. To do that labour rejects the economic model of US-Canadian economic integration and expresses its support and confidence in the ability of Canadian workers themselves, to independently and without foreign domination and control to rebuild the Canadian economy in the interests of all Canadians. There is no other force in the country that can or will do it.

2.    To lead the nation organized labour recognizes and accepts the unavoidable necessity to fight to curb the power of monopoly and break its stranglehold over the economy, state and government. The organs of state power must be dedicated to the needs of the people. That is the role of government, not as is presently the case, to uphold the primacy and tyranny of banks and the private ownership of the means of production.  This is the essence of genuine working people’s democracy that labour must uphold and defend.

3.    The key demands around which such a struggle can be joined and won are:

a.    The nationalization and public ownership of the decisive sectors of the economy, in the first place the energy resource sector from coast to coast to coast including the entire construction, extraction, processing, and transportation phases of that vital resource to satisfy the industrial, manufacturing, urban and rural domestic needs of all Canadians first.  All investment in the energy sector can come under federal scrutiny and control without first changing the constitution.  There is enough power in the National Energy Board[20] rules even as it stands, to begin to halt the sell-out policies of the private energy interests. All that is required is a government willing to do it.

b.    A national economic development program based on the public ownership of the transportation industry, including the entire network of pipelines, railroads, airlines and trucking; public ownership of basic industry and secondary processing industries in particular basic steel and metal producing industries, both ferrous and non-ferrous and basic chemical production as the first step to overcoming regional underdevelopment and make possible the centralized planned, rational and democratic development of the economy including a peaceful resolution to the responsible exploitation of the resources of the far north and arctic and with due regard to all of the legitimate native land claims settlements outstanding.

c.    Public democratic control over the banks and the enactment of laws to direct its enormous investment potential to the task of nation building which in the first place means the restoration of the manufacturing sector; specifically with emphasis on machine and tool building, a Canadian auto industry, funding research and development to identify the latest advances in technology applied to production that can ease labour and provide work for all.

d.   Canadian food self sufficiency.

e.    A comprehensive plan to stop environmental degradation and global warming relying on science and technology in the hands of the people to achieve that goal.

f.     Full public control and oversight of the telecommunications industry.  Beginning with expropriation of all of Nortel’s former assets, control over the wireless communications providers and a centralized and democratically control internet service provider to combat the culturally and morally destructive and dehumanizing anti-worker effects of rampant pornography and violence.  

The Communist Party’s Program and the Future

Through arduous theoretical, ideological and practical work, relying on its own resources and learning from the international Communist movement, Canadian Communists developed their program as only they could, defining it as; anti-imperialist, anti-monopoly, patriotic, democratic, working class, and socialist in content.

The program at the same time described the alliance of class forces that potentially could be organized and led by the working class to achieve socialism in our country.  Nearly a decade has passed since the adoption of the current program of the Communist Party of Canada, February 2001.  There are many inadequacies and weaknesses in the program reflecting the inner party struggle from which it emerged in 1990 that now require revisiting, correcting and updating to align it with the new revolutionary reality emerging internationally and in Canada.

CPS proposes that delegates to the 36th Convention adopt a resolution as one of its principal tasks, the establishment of a Program Commission to organize a Party-wide public discussion and prepare for adoption at its next convention a revised and updated Program.  That task is made necessary to bring the Program more closely in line with Canadian economic and political developments over the past decade, but more importantly to provide a line of advance to socialism that more accurately reflects the work of the International Movement of Communist and Workers Parties as it is creatively applied to Canada in the 21st Century.

The current stage of development of capitalism in Canada is correctly defined by Canadian Communists as advanced imperialism in the fullness of that definition as Lenin originally stated it in his great work “Imperialism – The Highest and Last Stage of the Development of Capitalism”.  In essence imperialism is capitalism in the monopoly stage where the export of capital is the principal activity of the finance capitalist class and competition for division and re-division of global markets and resources accounts for its extreme aggressiveness and competitive instability.

Imperialism means political reaction and militarism and the attempt to suppress all resistance to its global aims.  Imperialism also means, as Lenin observed, the last stage of the capitalist system in an advanced moribund and decaying stage, extremely parasitic and beyond which there no other “rungs in the ladder” or historical stages in the development of capitalism and beyond which there is only socialism.

The full implication of that brilliant idea is being restudied by all of the Communist Parties in developed capitalist states.  It must be taken up by the Communist Party of Canada as central to all of its theoretical work.  Until that theoretical work has been undertaken and the lessons drawn the Party’s mass work will suffer.  The main weakness of the Communist Party of Canada is not its low membership, undoubtedly a serious problem, but its low level of theoretical work.

Back to Buck Forward to Socialism

Tim Buck in his memorable 1970 work, Lenin and Canada[21], brought the Party to the leading edge of an understanding of the inter-imperialist relationship between Canada and the USA which prevailed at that time.  The entire book should be considered a basic text of every Party school and recommended reading for all of the young people attracted to our ranks.

Bucks farsightedness necessitates a lengthy quote from Chapter 7 entitled Lenin and Canadian independence. Buck said:

“The idea that a modern sovereign state, of fully developed state monopoly capitalism, could lose its independence and become dependent upon and, in essentials, subservient to another, and still remain an imperialist state, an active partner in the exploiting, oppressive, bellicose, imperialist world system, seeking to preserve that reactionary system by wars of conquest, had never occurred to us until it happened in Canada.  When it did happen our first tendency was to assume that Canada could either continue to be an imperialist state or could become dependent upon the United States but that it was not possible for her to be both at the same time.  Again we were impelled by our need to take counsel with Lenin and again Lenin’s guidance led us to ‘... the sense of bold forecast of the future and of bold practical actions for its achievement.’ (Vol. 21, p. 72)

“Reference to Lenin showed the argument that it must be “either, or, imperialist state or dependency,” to be just a boggle over static concepts.  Indeed reading Imperialism afresh, for light on the unexpected developments, showed clearly that Lenin’s explanations of certain features of imperialism as a distinct and higher stage of capitalism could have been written to help us to understand the new, radical change in the relations between Canada and the United States which was signalized by government action during the period of November 1947 to March 1948. For example:

“Finance capital is such a great, such a decisive, you might say, force in all economic and all international relations, that it is capable of subjecting and actually does subject, to itself even states enjoying the fullest political independence. (Vol. 22, p. 259)

“ must be observed that finance capital and its foreign policy, which is the struggle of the great powers for the economic and political division of the world, gives rise to a number of transitional forms of state dependence.

“...diverse forms of dependent countries which, politically, are formally independent, but in fact, are enmeshed in the net of financial and economic dependence, are typical of this epoch. (Vol. 22, p. 263 – Lenin’s emphasis)”

Tim Buck would be the first to advise that today we must readdress his work in the light of the 40 year experience since it was written.  We say that without in any way suggesting that its fundamental analysis is not still fully valid.

Buck left us with a brilliant analysis of that relationship turning to Lenin for help in answering the complexity of the Canadian-US relationship.  We are now confronted with returning to the subject and begin the discussion on how that relationship must be broken and reconstructed as the working class answer to the imperialist vision for our country and continent.

The Canadian Communists are called upon to make a major contribution to defeating the imperialist plan for North America in particular the canard that there is no alternative to the capitalist integration of our two countries. That canard accords Canada with a subservient role as a convenient source of cheap raw materials, primarily energy, for the further expansion of US capitalism.

We are also confronted with the task of developing a Communist view of continentalism.  A proletarian vision of the development of the North American continent is required. It is needed to counter-pose the imperialist vision for North America as a base of reaction from which US imperialism with the assistance of Canadian and Mexican finance capital cooperate in joint venture to dominate the world.

We Communists have an entirely different view of continentalism. Our view is based on the belief that the labouring masses of Canada, the USA and Mexico and Cuba share the same dream, of a North American continent at peace, productive, responsible and planned for the labouring masses that create all of the riches and wonders of this part of the world. Cuba has provided all of the people of North America with an example of what could be achieved in joint cooperation.

A working class vision of our continent ultimately can only be a great commonwealth of socialist states, equal and sovereign, that will preserve our beautiful continent from the far arctic to the Yucatan Peninsula.

That was the promise of the recently concluded Tri-Lateral Conference of the World Peace Council held in Toronto in October.  Delegates began to discuss the future of our continent as a great zone of peace and peaceful economic development and that idea must be taken up by Canadian Communists and made the property of millions.

These are some of the challenges confronting the delegates to the upcoming 36th Convention of the Communist Party.  The central task can be summed up as the demand placed upon the Communists to place before the people of Canada and our brothers and sisters of the USA and Mexico, that we reject the plans of imperialism for our respective countries and rededicate ourselves to a different vision that only socialism can realize.

Left Turn Canada!

Back to Buck, Forward to Socialism!



IMCWP, 11th Meeting of the International Communist and Workers’ Parties, November 22, 2009,  


Tim Buck, “Steps to power, a program of action for the Trade Union minority of Canada”, Published by Trade Union Educational League, 1924, (Toronto)


Karl Marx, “Inaugural Address of the International Working Men’s Association”, The International Workingmen’s Association (The First International, 1864,  


W.Z. Foster, “History of  the World Trade Union Movement” International Publishers, New York 1956


Value Price and Profit – Karl Marx – International Publishers - 1935


 Ibid page 68


Communist Party of Canada leaflet “The Working People Didn’t Create the Crisis and We Won’t Pay for It”   


 Norma Greenaway, Canwest News Service, “Govt. won't pay unemployed to stay home: Minister”, January 29, 2009,  


CBC, The Current, “A Mining Town”,


 “Some Questions of Party Line” Bill Kashtan, Communist Viewpoint, Volume 10 No.1 January February 1978.


“Out of the Crisis: Building a new era of justice and peace”, Sam Webb,

[16] VI Lenin, “The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It”, Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 25, pages 323-369


VI Lenin, “‘Left-Wing’ Childishness”, Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 27, pages 323-334


National Energy Board, Chapter N-7, Consolidated Statutes of Canada,


Tim Buck, Lenin and Canada, Progress Publishers, Toronto, 1970