Canadians for Peace and Socialis

Canadians for Peace and Socialism (CPS)

May Day Statement 2012 (Part One)

Don Currie, Chair CPS

April 22, 2012

On this May Day 2012, labour militants, leaders and rank and file activists, confront the need to make the leap from exposing the predation of finance capital on the standard of living and social gains of millions of Canadian wage earners to organizing the struggle to oust capital from dominance over government and the state.  

The task is daunting but not impossible.

The urgency of the need for a higher level of labour militancy and organizational unity in action was highlighted in a speech by Dave Coles President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) to the Canadian Auto Worker’s Council in Port Elgin on April 14th 2012 promoting a merger of the two unions called the New Union Project. [1]

The CEP/CAW New Union Project discussion paper deserves close study. It is noteworthy on at least two levels. First of all it is the work of militant trade union leaders and activists themselves. Secondly it recognizes the need “for a new kind of Canadian unionism.”

The CEP union website [2] reported President Coles’ remarks:

The New Union Project, currently in the discussion stages, could be a powerful response to the increasingly aggressive nature of global capitalism, says CEP National President Dave Coles.

New approaches are needed to ensure that workers are not crushed, said Coles and the creation of a larger, stronger and more militant union should be one of them.   "We must change to ensure responses from workers are not only heard, but are victorious," said Coles, in a fiery address on April 14 to CAW Council in Port Elgin, Ontario. "Our plan is that all workers will be able to unite under this New Union Project."

Coles spoke of the growing unification and consolidation of labour organizations that is taking place around the globe to create a stronger force for working people. The most recent example is the merger between global union federations - the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (to which the CEP is affiliated) and the International Metalworkers' Federation (to which the CAW is affiliated), which are in the process of uniting under the new name of IndustriALL - which will represent 55 million workers.

Coles said that unions should be proud of their storied histories, but these histories should not be a barrier to moving forward with a new model and new reality. Within CEP, there are local unions who have been certified for more than 140 years, the early printing press unions who were among the first in the country to organize. 

"We understand the premise that together we can win, but divided we will lose," said Coles. "It's our game to win, so let's win it."

 For more information on the New Union Project, please visit:

The CAW/CEP New Union Project is symptomatic of a ferment of dissatisfaction among many International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) affiliates. The ITUC, the former International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) still burdened with its anti-communist cold war class collaborationist origins has no global strategic policy independent of state monopoly capitalism.

The ITUC confines its leadership activities to a voluntary acceptance of the role assigned to it by the international financial institutions serving private capital. The ITUC is immersed in futile attempts to manage the effects of the current global economic crisis of capitalism on the wages and working conditions and social gains of hundreds of millions of workers. The gratuitous advice of the ITUC to the  April Meeting of the IMF and World Bank calling for reforms to mitigate the effects of the global economic crisis on workers illustrates the problem. [3]

Such a collaborationist policy of the largest international union federations has a dampening effect on the militancy of all ITUC affiliates and in the final analysis makes it difficult to mobilize a consistent internationalist class struggle line to counter-attack international finance capital.

Out of necessity, some ITUC affiliates are independently seeking a new class struggle strategy. The reasons are aptly stated in Dave Cole’s speech.

Dave Coles refers to the aggressiveness of global capitalism and the need for organized labour to not only respond but to be victorious. This forthright militant partisan stance is a departure from the policy of the CLC/ITUC top leaderships that limits the role of organized labour to seeking out points of agreement between organized labour and the institutions of global finance capital in the mistaken belief that capitalism can be made to operate less aggressively towards the working class.   

The CAW/CEP initiative is happening because the CLC/ITUC nostrums are failing. The rising militancy of the international trade union movement is emerging out of necessity. Class collaborationist business unionism on the cold war model has no future.

Whatever the final outcome of the CAW/CEP merger initiative, the discussion about a new class struggle strategy for organized labour has been opened up. The search for an effective class struggle strategy for Canadian labour is now on the agenda.  It is overdue.

The denunciatory- exposure limitation of the March 29th 2012 CLC response to the Flaherty-IMF federal austerity budget is a case in point. The CLC leadership continues to complain that a right-wing Conservative government, beholden to bank/corporate power refused to implement labour’s demands. Such a stance is a lamentation not a class struggle policy. [4]

The CAW/CEP document calls for a different approach.

Citing “new levels of political hostility from right wing governments” the CAW/CEP document addresses in a number of statements the need for organized labour to “initiate and lead powerful campaigns”.  The analysis is a recognition that the most aggressive and reactionary sectors of finance capital are in ascendancy and driving for a more open dictatorial form of rule.   

The Conservative Government is now moving to aggressively impose its anti-labour agenda on the entire working class. Federal and provincial anti-labour legislation and compliant courts routinely suppress strikes, enact draconian back to work orders, de-certify unions, abrogate collective bargaining rights, and turn to state violence to suppress mass protest demonstrations of workers and students. In Canada at both federal and provincial levels, state monopoly attacks on organized labour and students are intensifying.

Federal-provincial governmental actively facilitates union wrecking activities of global employers. The CAW/CEP document condemns the “Aggressive attacks by global employers on key contract provisions, and the foundation of unions…”

All of that and more is why it is significant that two major private sector unions have undertaken to discuss and act on what the document describes as the “The failure of the labour movement to date to significantly restructure and address issues of too many unions (57 affiliates), ability to initiate and lead powerful campaigns, and lack of coordination and duplication of labour movement services and resources.”

By itself restructuring is only a small part of the task of setting organized labour on a consistent class struggle line. Taking union organization to a higher level of unity in action is always possible once the fundamental issues of what constitutes a class struggle strategy are resolved in practice.

That is why the Part III of the CAW/CEP statement entitled: “Features and strategies for a new union to succeed” merit the study and constructive critical comment by every genuine labour militant.

Next: The World Federation of Labour’s Athens Pact – A Program for the International Class Oriented Trade Union Movement.