Contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion (Discussion Bulliten #3)

Canadians for Peace and Socialism (CPS) thank the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) for inviting friends and supporters to participate in the 35th Central Convention pre-convention discussion. We join with each and every member and supporter of the CPC in celebrating the 85th Anniversary of the founding of the CPC and the year of the 90th Anniversary of the Great October Soviet Socialist Revolution.


The Main Resolution of the 35th Convention and documents of the Lisbon International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties declare that labouring humanity is in the midst of an acute global confrontation with imperialist predation and war. Communists express their confidence in the capacity of peoples to force imperialism to retreat.


In Canada, public opinion has hardened in opposition to abject support the Harper Government for the US-NATO-Israeli military aggression against the people of Iraq, Gaza, Southern Lebanon, Afghanistan and Haiti. A clear majority of Canadians reject the Harper Government’s assertion that Canadian military participation in US instigated wars is in the interests of Canadian security and support the withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan.


The foreign policy of the Harper Government has nothing to do with security. It is avowedly imperialist. Conservative support for the Bush Doctrine accords with the interests of that section of finance capital that derives its corporate profits from the business of war. First among these interests is the oil and gas sector that provides 30% of all of the energy requirements of the US military. The integration of the Canadian energy sector with the global aims of US imperialism is amply exposed in the CCPA document, “Fueling Fortress America” and John Warnock’s “Selling the Family Silver – Oil and Gas Royalties, Corporate Profits, and the Disregarded Public” Parkland Institute.


The policy of militarism and energy sell-out is a root cause of poverty and government cuts in social spending. Canadian workers, especially the youth, experience the affects of such policies in their day to day lives and are rapidly losing confidence in trite set piece, status quo formula style capitalist politics. There is receptivity to class struggle style politics that promote the peaceful economic development of the country.


The NDP and Liberal Party are compelled to react to mass disaffection. The defeat of the Republicans in the US midterm elections, the election of Stephane Dion representing the liberal-democratic wing of the Liberal Party, the decision of the NDP Convention to call for the withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan are examples.


During their three month leadership campaign and convention, Liberal candidates left the impression with Canadians that they intend to “take Canada back” from the extreme right when and if they are re-elected. Will the election of the Stephane Dion Liberals assure the withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan cut the arms budget, enact legislation to protect the environment and conserve our energy resources, restore and expand social programs and raise the interests of labour and farmers to the top of the Parliamentary agenda? Every Communist will answer with a qualified no because of our understanding of the capacity of capitalist parties for treachery. The standard response of all capitalist parties to mass disaffection is to repackage the profit system in neo-liberal garb while actively assisting corporate power to expand, intensify and refine all methods of profiteering. The corporate plunder of the social and natural resource wealth of Canada is proceeding unabated under both the Liberal and Conservative Governments proving that monopoly economics is not the same as capitalist politics.


Why then not adopt the petty-bourgeois anarchist view that all politics is worthless until there is a universal acceptance of revolution? Why not hunker down and from the bunker throw verbal grenades at our enemies and wait for the perfect revolution? Communist do not wait upon events, bow to spontaneity or underestimate the capacity of the working people to compel the ruling class to make concessions. While Communists answer no to the question as to whether we have confidence in capitalist parties we say yes to the question do we take into account their differences.


That is why we are not indifferent as to which capitalist party is in power.  Lacking a mass revolutionary party of its own, Canadian workers, are compelled to consider how best to defend their vital class economic interests within the limitations imposed by bourgeois parliamentary politics. A mechanistic view of elections that one is the same as the next is harmful. A mechanistic view can lead to a mechanistic participation in elections where we show up, compete and wait for the next election. That is not Marxism. Elections are always dynamic events affording the working class the opportunity to break into federal politics with its own agenda. 


That is why the Communist Party calls for a broad electoral alliance to rebuff and administer a crushing defeat in the next federal election to the Harper Conservatives as the party of the most reactionary war-like, obsequious servants of US imperialism. Every consistent democrat, every labour and peace activist agrees with the Communists that the re-election of the Harper Conservatives would be a disaster for Canada.


If the Harper Conservatives are to be defeated it will be the result of unity not division at the polls. How is that unity to be achieved? Applying the logic of the Communist strategy of alliances it can only be the result of building an electoral alliance of anti-Harper voters. In the last federal election the New Democratic Party rejected such an approach and adopted a policy of focusing its main attack on the Liberals in the vain hope of becoming the official opposition in Parliament. That was an opportunistic self-serving act that increased the number of NDP members of Parliament but brought the Harper Conservatives to power. A repeat of that debacle in the next federal election could have the effect of eliminating the NDP as a serious Parliamentary party. More ominously, the re-election of the Harper Conservatives resulting from a split in anti-Harper voters will unleash the full reactionary program of right wing extremism with its inevitable restrictions on democracy and attacks on the rights of organized labour and perpetual involvement in US sponsored wars. The Convention must address this complex problem.


Is there a compelling argument for a Liberal-NDP-Labour-Peace-Environmental electoral alliance in the next federal election to defeat Harper? Is there an argument for such an alliance that is consistent with all of the Communist Party’s fundamental principles and in particular its concept of strategic alliances? We contend there is. More than that, we contend that if the Communist Party advances such a strategy it will propel itself into the electoral debate on the left in a new way and where it counts among the rank and file activists in the labour, peace and democratic movements of the people.  


What would be the programmatic basis of such an electoral policy? It can only be a limited program based on the desire of Canadians for sovereignty, peace and social progress. All of those elements are stated in the programs of the Liberals, the NDP, organized labour, the Council of Canadians, the left social democratic think tanks such as CCPA Monitor and Parkland Institute and a swath of liberal intellectuals and academics.


What would be the method of organizing such an alliance? It can only be to organize a movement demanding electoral agreements to unite at a constituency level around the anti-Harper candidate with the greatest chance of victory. In the last federal election there was an intense debate within organized labour leading to polarization splits and expulsions over such a proposal. Central to that debate was the decision of NDP electoral strategists to bring on the election and then to concentrate on defeating the Liberal Party with the aim of becoming the official opposition in Parliament. The result was the election of the Harper Conservatives. A heavy price has been paid by Canadians for that result.


We may argue endlessly that the same heavy price would have been paid if the Martin Liberals would have been elected. Communist are not Monday morning quarterbacks. It happened the way it happened and it shouldn’t happen again. We Communists are realists and harshest critics of our own mistakes. If we say we are committed to the defeat of the Harper Conservatives is it simply a tactical maneuver or a strategic commitment? We contend that the defeat of Harper is strategic in content because it will open the way for the struggle for a more advanced people’s democratic program.


What then will be the role of Communist candidates in the election? While actively supporting the alliance to defeat Harper the Communists will tell workers forthrightly that a strategic alliance of all progressive forces for fundamental reform of capitalism will inevitably confront the most reactionary forces in society necessitating a struggle to abolish the profit system.


How will we explain the differences between the Communist vision of Canada and the Liberal-social-democratic vision? Communists argue that the need to abolish the profit system is revealed, not primarily by the exposure of the hypocrisy of what capitalism says about itself, something all social and liberal democrats are adept at doing and often do very well, but primarily by the exposure of the actual source of the causes of the steady decline of the economic conditions of the working people. The Communists say the source of the worsening economic conditions of the working class is the system of capitalism itself and that capitalism is irreparable and must be replaced with socialism. The liberal and social democrats say the source of the causes of the deteriorating conditions of life of working people is a malfunctioning capitalism and all that is required is to repair the system.


How should Communists approach working class voters to discuss the question of socialism in an era of relatively stable and advanced capitalist development? It can only begin successfully by addressing those questions workers themselves confront. We Communists assert that it is impossible to seriously consider a solution to the dilemma faced by half of all Canadians who rely on wages and salaries to live and who are two pay cheques away from poverty without considering how to fundamentally change the political and economic system that expose workers to such economic uncertainty. The Main Resolution provides more stark facts that illustrate the widening gap between the real conditions of life of the overwhelming majority who produce the wealth of the country, and the privileged minority who appropriate that wealth. The gap is not only wide, it is irreconcilable and once that is understood, the majority of working people will fight resolutely in their own class interests, for their own program.


While the immediacy of the possibility of replacing capitalism with socialism may legitimately be discussed, it is incumbent upon those who advocate deferring the discussion of socialism to some distant time, to explain how that deferral strengthens the immediate and contemporary struggles of the people for peace, democracy and social and economic progress. To assert that socialism is not on the agenda implies that capitalism is durable and has overcome its internal contradictions and periodic crises eliminating the possibility of revolutionary situations thereby obviating the need for a revolutionary party. To assert that socialism is not on the agenda can also be a convenient way to evade the task of defending the achievements of previous socialist revolutions and the internationalist duty to organize solidarity and support for existing socialist states and contemporary socialist revolutions. Postponement of the discussion of the dialectical relationship between socialism and immediate struggle for reform reduces the role of Communists to a choir for social democracy and reformism and becomes in practice an accommodation with neo-liberalism and an unintended concession to anti-communism.


The Main Resolution and the documents of the Lisbon Conference warn of the resurgence of anti-communism and the danger it poses to democracy and human progress and call for a sharp struggle against it. Anti-communism is the attempt of imperialism to emasculate from the historical record its crimes against humanity and nature, its predation and wars, its dehumanizing role and its reactionary essence. The answer to anti-communism is consistent partisanship for the sum total of the historic experience of the struggle of the working class for socialism. Communists concede nothing to the anti-communist revision of working class history. The working class creates its own history in struggle and it will decide what is relevant and what is to be learned from that history. Imperialist ideologists, theorists and apologists have nothing to teach Marxism.