Why Has It Happened? Where Do We Go From Here?

The debate now breaking out in the ranks of organized labour over the Magna-CAW Framework of Fairness Agreement (FFA) deal is of extreme importance for the future of every worker in Canada, organized and unorganized. The Magna-CAW deal is the opportunity to lay on the table everything that has brought the auto workers and all workers labouring in the manufacturing and industrial sector to this point and to answer the question, “why has it happened” and “where do we go from here?”
What can come out of this turn of events is a re-examination of the strategy and tactics of the struggle of organized labour for jobs and job security in the era of the dominance of trans-nationals over the work place. It sets the stage to work through all of the problems standing in the way of developing a fight back strategy. It will allow for development and elaboration of a program of action that deals with the short term and long term needs of the industrial working class. (See: Program of Fight Back – A Strategy to Win at end of document)
Class conscious workers will have to dig deep, read everything, question everything, do their own thinking about what this means for their future as a class and subject every “expert analysis” to the harshest critical examination. This is not the time to leave it up to “the friends of labour” and academics adept at dispensing off the shelf analyses to do their thinking for them. There is no shortage of advice. The internet has become a political Wal Mart where an abundance of cheap goods abound that in short order will end up in the political landfill.
Developing the Fight Back Strategy and Program
This contribution to the discussion is motivated by the need to “get on with it”, i.e. get on with the work of developing a fight back strategy and program. It will not deal with the FFA itself. Workers can read it on the CAW website (www.caw.ca), the CAW’s Speakers Notes and Buzz Hargrove and Bob White’s defense of the reasons why the CAW entered into the agreement.
Several trenchant criticisms have been made by labour analysts over the difficult and huge concessions and content of the FFA, among them the Labour Commission of the Communist Party (Peoples Voice – November 1-15 Issue), Professor Sam Gindin of York University and former CAW researcher and Rick Salutin Globe and Mail left wing columnist. Former federal NDP leader Ed Broadbent was given editorial page prominence in the October 30th edition of the Globe and Mail to vent his opposition to the agreement. A mélange of crypto would be revolutionaries dash excitedly in and out of the debate with their usual simplistic “world revolution” solutions.
All of these contributions can be reference points for the discussion but none of them can be considered as answers. That can only be done with the active participation of the manufacturing and industrial sector workers themselves, with their unions and with workers in every part of the country that confront similar problems. The starting point has to be to listen to what the auto workers themselves are saying about their future and what they are demanding be done.
The affects of globalization and integration of the Canadian economy makes it urgent that auto workers open up discussions with the energy sector workers, with the resource sector workers, with the transportation workers, with service workers in both the private and public sector and with their international counterparts in the USA and around the world. It is one problem and one fight. It cannot be won sector by sector. It can be won as a unified struggle by workers in all sectors together.
Analysis or Rhetoric?
Exposures of retreats and compromise, however heartfelt, impassioned and militant the rhetoric, by itself does not move the struggle of the auto workers forward. Unless the analysis goes beyond rhetoric and is accompanied with a fight back strategy, it becomes a form of sterile self righteous hectoring. Barren analysis will only anger auto workers who support their union, feel their leaders are besieged and isolated and who have no where else to turn as they confront imminent job loss and economic ruin by the crisis afflicting the auto sector.
Neither will hurling epithets at one union leadership move the discussion forward one iota. The current fashion of attributing the situation in the CAW to a Liberal-Labour alliance policy, now complete with a distorted attack on Tim Buck and the Communist Party’s WW2 liberal-labour policies (see: Ken Kalturnyk and Karen Naylor – Socialist Project ) is part of the confusion made worse by the position of the current leadership of the Communist Party that endorses that flawed analysis. Such an approach covers up a lack of depth of understanding of working class history that only deepens divisions in the ranks of labour and takes the discussion in the direction of sterile name calling and into the realm of “leftist” gossip at which modern day crypto Trotskyites excel.
The First FFA Agreement
Life is demanding a careful re-thinking of some of the initial outbursts. The critics of FFA will have to conjure with the first agreement struck under its terms. The following statement was issued by the CAW on November 7th.
“More than 250 workers at Windsor Modules, a division of Magna, have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a first collective agreement negotiated by the Canadian Auto Workers union and to join the union under the Framework of Fairness agreement (FFA).
CAW President Buzz Hargrove congratulated the workers on their first union agreement. “I’d like to welcome this group of workers to the CAW, the first of many Magna workers whom I believe will vote to join our union.”

The three year agreement, ratified by over 87 per cent, includes an immediate $3/ an hour wage increase for production workers with annual improvements, a skilled trades program, layoff and job security protections, a women’s advocate, paid education leave and inter-plant transfer language, all of which are new benefits to Magna workers under the CAW/ Magna agreement. (The actual wage increases were $12/hr to $15/hr rising to $17.50 by the end of the agreement and according to a report in the November 7th edition of the Globe and Mail with some improvements in layoff protection and job security. DC)
Hemi Mitic, Assistant to CAW National President, Buzz Hargrove, said he was pleased by the outcome of the negotiations which began more than two years ago.

The Windsor Module plant is the first of over 40 plants in the Magna system that has voted to adopt the Framework of Fairness and the new collective agreement which will be the template to be taken to the other Magna divisions.
The union will move to establish a country-wide Magna local union to welcome these and other Magna workers as they join the CAW.
Workers at the Windsor Modules plant produce door components for the Chrysler mini-van plant in Windsor as well as a Chrysler assembly plant in St. Louis, Missouri.”

For labour realists it will not come as a surprise when more, if not all, of the 40 Magna parts plants workers vote to join the CAW and initially accept the terms of FFA. What will be critical in their decision is whether joining the union results in improved wages, better benefits and working conditions, a measure of job protection and some union representation within a joint union-management grievance procedure with a no strike clause. The CAW under the terms of the FFA will bring in 18,000 auto parts workers into its ranks into a large Magna local, not an insignificant gain for the union. The process is projected to take three years.
After the Denunciations – What Next?
That is a reality that the “labour experts” need to consider. After roundly denouncing FFA what will they now advise Magna workers to do? Will they advise workers to oppose the deal and forgo some economic benefits and not join a union with a no right to strike clause and a bad grievance procedure, or will they advise workers to join, improve their economic situation and fight to overcome the worst provisions of the FFA Agreement?
The complexity of the situation goes beyond that. The CAW leadership confronts negotiations with the Ford, GM and Chrysler, next year. Company negotiators will be gunning for a Canadian version of the two tier wage and pension debacle signed by UAW negotiators in the USA. The negotiations will be tough and complex. For a sober analysis of the UAW agreement in the USA readers are advised to visit the CPUSA web site and read the analysis of Scott Marshall, CPUSA Vice-Chair and Chair of the CPUSA Labour Commission. Here is one excerpt from Marshall’s analysis that is food for thought. The situations are different but we have much to learn from the US experience. Marshall said:
“It should be clear to all that the failed strategy and tactics of struggle in the auto industry of the last 30 years will not work today. New strategy and tactics have to be based on the very new conditions of a globalized auto industry. They also have to be based on the reality that so much of the U.S. auto industry is unorganized. The power of a union is its members and its numbers. And increasingly, that power is in global labor alliances that can match global giants like GM. Labor’s power is not measured only by the wisdom and determination of its leaders, but real leadership wisdom and determination is required to win in this new world.

By all accounts it was GM’s resistance to the union’s demand that it invest in U.S. plants to guarantee jobs that forced the strike. Trying to force GM to commit to and expand its domestic operations opens an important front of struggle. GM’s capital comes from the hard work of generations of autoworkers. The workers very much need to challenge GM’s “right” to invest where it pleases with no responsibility to the people and communities who made all that capital. Unfortunately, the contract gives GM a loophole, saying “market-related volume decline” will guide plant closings and U.S. investment. Hopefully the contract will keep jobs and investments here, but GM should not be allowed to make those decisions alone.”
We cannot just stand on the sidelines and throw stones, even at wrong ideas. Simply complaining about the loss of focus on a single industry or sector of the economy will not change much. We have to dig into the situation as it is and figure out how to move things from there. And we have to embrace the idea of bigger and different kinds of industrial unionism for today. Just as the CIO promoted an idea of unionism that was much bigger than craft unionism, today’s labor movement needs to provide new union forms that can engage both domestically and internationally. These new forms must lead to bigger and bolder ideas about organization.
A new stage of struggle requires the world communist movement to shake off old problems and hangovers from the past. We don’t have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for things to develop. We have to leave behind old attitudes and sectarian habits and jump in to try new forms of organization and unity. We must be much more pro-active.
Marshall’s point of view invites a political discussion among auto workers of what confronts them in the USA. That must also be the point of departure in Canada. There is no doubt that in the next round of negotiations the very survival of the auto sector will be discussed in government and the answers will be the result of political pressure from both the union and the companies. With the Harper Government in power that will make the negotiations even more difficult. The debate in the ranks of labour is already politically connected with talks between Prime Minister Harper and the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec that call upon the Harper Government to act to halt the rise in the Canadian dollar (actually the fall in the US dollar) that is having a ruinous affect on Canada’s manufacturing exports.
The Harper Government and Who are the “Hacks”?
Prime Minister Harper, finance Minister Flaherty and right-wing think tanks such as the C.D. Howe Institute shrug and complain that they are powerless to do anything about the international currency crisis resulting from a war induced balance of payments and government deficit crisis in the USA and the affects of the US sub-prime melt down brought on by massive consumer debt and the collapse of the Asset Backed Commercial Paper (ABCP) scandal.

See www.focusonsocialism.ca Parliamentary Collusion – Corporate Agenda In – Labour’s Agenda Out!)
The blatant Conservative-Big Business lie that nothing can be done to assist the auto sector and save workers jobs is in contrast to the quick government response to bail out ABCP investors. It is this issue that should preoccupy labour “experts” if they wish to have any credibility in the ranks of labour and want to make a solid contribution to developing a program around which all manufacturing workers can unite and defend their interests.
That is the reality faced by the leadership of the CAW. Buzz Hargrove is not a “Liberal hack”. That characterization of his leadership, past and present, is a way over the top and trivializes the serious nature of the problems faced by the leadership and the rank and file of the CAW. What Hargrove is, is a militant anti-conservative. His critics rarely examine that side of his record.
Hargrove is confronted as a labour leader with the stark reality of the decline in the auto sector and how to save workers jobs and to do that he cannot avoid dealing with capitalist parties and their governments. In fact to force Prime Minister Harper to even meet with the CAW and listen to what the union has to say has become a struggle for democracy that all militants should support.
Consider the reality confronted by the CAW.
Stephen S. Poloz, Senior Vice-President, Corporate Affairs and Chief Economist, Export Development Canada said a year ago, that motor vehicles and parts mean employment for more than 170,000 people in Canada, and many more depend indirectly on the sector for their jobs. Vehicles and parts exports amount to nearly $90 billion per year, which is close to 20% of total exports of goods and services.
Canada’s exports have been struggling in recent months, what with the strong dollar and the emerging economic slowdown south of the border. Merchandise exports are up only 1% in June compared to a year ago. Strip out the strong energy and other commodities sectors and the picture is even weaker. Not surprisingly, autos and parts exports are down 4.6% compared to last year.
Interestingly, though, the number of Canadian cars actually being exported has been growing. Dollar values have been declining because of a combination of low pricing and the strong Canadian dollar, which translates weak U.S. prices into even weaker Canadian dollar prices. But the physical number of automobiles being exported was up 13.8% in June compared to last year.
Simply moving the metal is not a recipe for profit. But it is encouraging that 14 of 26 models produced in Canada have seen production increases in the past year. Japan’s automakers with plants in Canada account for about 40% of the production, and about 40% of the growth – the rest is coming from the North American Three.
Confronted with these facts Buzz Hargrove in a letter to Prime Minister Harper slammed the Harper Government for giving a $50 billion tax cut, much of it going to the big investors and providing nothing for the auto sector when total auto jobs lost to date are over 20,000. (See the full statement on www.caw.ca ). Hargrove outlined a four point program of demands for federal government action to help the auto sector and save jobs. Hargrove demanded of Harper:
1. Your government indicate immediately to the government of South Korea that you are withdrawing from negotiations on a free trade agreement that even your own officials admit will significantly worsen the utterly lopsided automotive trade deficit we already experience with Korea.
2. Your government give notice to the Governments of Japan, South Korea, China, and the European Union that we will not tolerate the one-way inflow of automotive imports that is the root cause of the market share losses that are the root cause of the downsizing of production and employment by North American automakers. Their future exports to the Canadian market must depend on quantitative commitments to purchase equivalent values of automotive products back from us.
3. Your government work with the Bank of Canada to reduce interest rates, and signal to currency markets that the dollar’s current levels are undesired and unsustainable. You can take other measures to reduce the dollar’s value, as well, such as tightening restrictions on foreign takeovers of Canadian firms.
4. Your government act immediately with other auto stakeholders to finally develop and implement a long-awaited auto strategy for Canada that would include supports for new investment, infrastructure, skills, and other essential features
While the four point CAW program is inadequate it is an attempt to address the real objective crisis resulting from the globalization of the auto sector. That is what the “friends of labour” need to get their teeth into instead of firing cheap shots.
History and All That is “Good” According to Ed Broadbent
This brings us to the October 30th 2007 edition of the Globe and Mail and Ed Broadbent’s public attack on Buzz Hargrove leader of the CAW under the heading, “Dignity, Liberty and Autonomy, No Place for phony defanged unions, The Magna-CAW deal drives a stake through the heart of workplace democracy”.
Mr. Broadbent writes what on cursory reading appears to be a vigorous defense of the right to strike and union democracy. On this score the Broadbent critique of the CAW-Magna deal is not unlike the criticisms of the aforementioned “labour experts”. However, Broadbent steers the discussion in the direction of sweeping statements characterizing the entire post WW2 period of labour struggles, Broadbent implies, with the authority of the founding president of a social democratic think tank - Rights and Democracy - that labour’s interests are well protected by Canada’s endorsement of the International Bill of Human Rights recognizing the right to a union and Canada’s signature on the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Broadbent asserts, “By so doing Canada committed itself to recognize both the right to a union and the right to strike. In international human-rights law, these are as important as other fundamental human rights.” Then Broadbent intones, “In democratic societies there are two principal arenas of non-violent conflict over power: the state and the workplace. The international human-rights treaties have brought to the global domain what Western Europe, Canada and the northern United States (Broadbent wisely excludes the southern United States DC) had already put in place, namely the recognition that independent unions give ordinary men and women an important check on autocratic power in their places of work.”
After a vigorous lecture on the meaning of “political democracy” and the importance of workers selecting their own representatives in the workplace and the right to strike, Broadbent launches into his view of post WW2 history.
“The great period of peaceful and progressive change affecting millions in the North Atlantic democracies after the Second World War was the product of governments on the one hand, and independent trade unions, on the other. In addition to progressive income taxes, governments added important social rights (universal pensions, health care, postsecondary education) to our tradition of civil rights. At the same time, the great growth of unions in Europe and North America ensured that both working conditions and shares of income for ordinary people became vastly improved”
After this rosy assessment of post-war labour history, Broadbent concedes that Buzz Hargrove has a point in being concerned about the loss of jobs in auto and manufacturing and advises that workers “would respond to imaginative new proposals that would require their co-operation” without outlining what those proposals should be.
Broadbent then goes on to say that “Undemocratic regimes have understood very well that independent unions have been a bulwark of democracy” and gives the example of the Tienanmen Square “massacre” where he alleges students were spared but workers were executed. Broadbent, the good social democrat that he is, never misses the opportunity to insert a little dose of anti-communism into his discourse.
Ed Broadbent’s rendering of history asserts that everything progressive and good was bestowed on the working people by enlightened North Atlantic democracies including vastly improving labour’s share of income through government-labour cooperation. It was this cooperation Broadbent argues that allowed governments to deliver pensions, health care, secondary education and civil rights. All of this Broadbent proclaims is now assured and secured by Canada’s signature on some of the Covenants of the International Bill of Human Rights. What is there left for organized labour to do but defend all of this with the right to strike that Broadbent asserts is rarely used in any event.
Red Baiting and “Defanged Unions”
While claiming to be outraged by “phony, defanged unions” Broadbent seems to be unaware that he cheerily outlines in classic social reformist style a whole era of post-war class collaboration business unionism that “defanged” militancy and suppressed rank and file democracy. This was carried out under the direction and leadership of right wing social democratic trade union leaders, that road to power during the cold war by capitalizing on the atmosphere of psychological terror unleashed by McCarthyism and red-baiting. It was seized upon by right wing social democracy to conduct relentless raids on militant unions and to oust battled hardened elected trade union leaders simply because they were Communists. Worse, this was done to introduce the new “people’s capitalism” version of business unionism in collaboration with capitalist governments Liberal, Conservative and NDP and by utilizing the anti-communist clauses in the constitutions of US based international unions.
Despite all of this “communist cleansing” that made trade unions pure and “defanged” major struggles could not be avoided because they had nothing to do with Communists and had everything to do with the age old exploitation of workers in the work place that did not end with the ouster of the Communists.
Broadbent’s bland assertion that “In democratic societies there are two principal arenas of non-violent conflict over power: the state and the workplace.” is patently false. A review of labour struggles in post war “North Atlantic democracies, (excluding the Southern U.S. States don’t forget) is replete with violent encounters between workers and the state. To suggest that there were no bitter struggles for union rights and that economic gains were “bestowed” by democratic governments in “co-operation” with trade unions is not only fanciful it is deliberately misleading . It didn’t happen then and it is not happening now.
Presenting the Communist viewpoint on post-war labour history waits for another time. What is upon us now, is Broadbent’s “Pollyanna” version of the current status of the right to strike in Canada and his rosy assertion that all that is required is to defend international covenants.
Most labour readers will be familiar with the 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights in Canada. (For those that haven’t they can view it at: http://www.survey07.ituc.org). The report is a devastating indictment of the denial of the right to strike to organize and to picket by every government in Canada. Particularly damning are the growing numbers of workers deemed by governments to be “essential” and denied the right to strike and subjected to compulsory arbitration and in the case of B.C. health care workers illegally cancelling binding contracts. Most of the legislation is backed up by draconian fines, jail time and bans on picketing and secondary picketing - international covenants notwithstanding. The very government that signed the covenants stands by and sanctions their violation.
The Auto Pact - Fact and Fiction
Let us return to Broadbent’s thumbnail sketch of post WW2 labour history and in the particular how it has impacted the auto sector. As Broadbent grudgingly admits Hargrove has a right to be concerned about what is happening to the jobs of his union members. Broadbent understates the seriousness of the matter. The fact is that the entire manufacturing sector of the Canadian economy, of which the auto sector is its key element, is in deep trouble.
Canadian workers in many respects are back where they started in 1965 when the auto pact was signed. Workers are now in a the 21st Century and confront a whole new round of struggles to restore what has been lost, rebuild what has been broken and to forge new alliances, adopt new policies and programs to move forward. According to Broadbent, the task was completed long ago through the beneficence of the “North Atlantic democracies” (excluding the Southern USA let us not forget). Broadbent says the post-war period was an uninterrupted bonanza of wealth and prosperity for Canadian workers resulting from government labour cooperation. That is a fiction that must not be allowed to stand.
The economic-political roots of the uncertainty confronting auto sector workers today can be traced to six decades of post World War Two (WW2) labour struggles fought out in the context of the cold war. Since 1990-91, in the absence of the Soviet Union and the European Socialist states, it has been fought out in the midst of a renewed aggressive drive of US imperialism for global supremacy. Canadian workers since WW2 have been compelled to fight for their rights and economic survival in political conditions created by Canadian finance capital. Finance capital sacrificed jobs for super profits gained from integrating investment capital, raw material and energy resources, industrial production and military doctrine with the aims of US imperialism.
At each stage of that process, Canadian governments, both Liberal and Conservative and more often than not with the acquiescence of the leadership of the New Democratic Party, acceded to the pressure of US finance capital to adjust Canadian economic development to the domestic and foreign policy goals of the Government of the USA. It continues today as the Harper Government sacrifices the economic interests of Canadian workers to promote the sale of Canadian energy to the US market and align Canada with the Bush administrations war on terrorism. (See Sean Currie’s exhaustive article “Viewpoint: Energy Superpower, Superpower Military Budgets – A New Canadian Imperialism atwww.focusonsocialism.ca)” proving that a reactionary foreign policy is always accompanied by a reactionary domestic policy.
Tim Buck – Forty Years Later and Back in the Fight!
There have been two conflicting viewpoints in the labour movement throughout the post WW2 era vis-à-vis economic development. One proclaimed that labour should develop its own vision of the future economic development of the country and independently fight for it, and the other asserted that all labour could hope for was to choose one or the other of the economic policies of the two dominant capitalist parties. The latter viewpoint, with the active support and encouragement of social reformist ideology, dominated with the result that the role of labour was relegated to a defensive fight to mitigate the worst affects of the policies of either the Conservatives or the Liberals, both of whom upheld the profit system.
The decision of the Canadian ruling class to become a partner in the US drive for world supremacy was based on a mutual hatred of socialism, the Soviet Union and the European system of socialist states. The interests of Canadian workers were subordinated to the struggle of US and Canadian imperialism to wipe socialism off the map and all of the erstwhile “friends of labour” more often than not helped them do it.
Tim Buck, Leader of the Communist Party of Canada wrote the seminal work on the subject of US-Canadian integration entitled, “Canada – The Communist Viewpoint” published in 1948 and in a follow up work entitled “Our Fight for Canada” published in 1959. Buck, on behalf of the Communists, further elaborated his political views in a new economic policy for Canada published in 1964 entitled “Put Monopoly Under Control”.
Buck was the first working class leader to fully expose the reactionary essence of the policy of Canadian US economic integration and its cold war roots. Having exposed its reactionary character Buck went on to outline an economic program of action that challenged the power of state monopoly capitalism. Around Buck’s program labour had a basis to unite in struggle, defend jobs and raise living standards, place monopoly under control and begin the democratic renovation of the economy. It posed the question of socialism as the ultimate solution.
In Chapter 7 of Put Monopoly Under Control, entitled “Expand Our Manufacturing”, Buck pilloried the sterile argument that it wouldn’t pay for Canada to produce finished manufactured products because the Canadian market is too small. That same canard is heard today. Buck said the problem wasn’t the size of the Canadian market that was the problem rather it was the result of allowing successive Liberal and Conservative governments to reduce Canada to a captive market dominated by U.S. monopolies that control the commanding heights of the economy.
Buck used the example of the auto industry, pointing out that in 1963 the auto sector produced 600,000 vehicles a remarkable feat for its day. Because Canadian auto plants were US subsidiaries their US owners took advantage of low or no tariffs and shipped parts from US plants into Canada to the value of $500 million (a huge sum for that time), charging exorbitant prices for the parts which were passed on to Canadian consumers. Buck exposed that this arrangement was the source of super-profits extracted by US owners of Canadian auto subsidiaries.
The situation was a drain on Canadian reserves, causing a chronic annual balance of payments deficit that became a scandal. In 1962 out of a current account deficit of $874 million $580 million was due to imports of automobile parts and equipment. The Liberal Pearson Government decided something had to be done and on October 16th Walter Gordon the Canadian Minister of Finance called in the House or Commons for government action to regain a measure of control over Canada’s own economic affairs, “including the policy decisions of Canadian operations.”
The Pearson Government had two options. It could have opted for high domestic content for vehicle assembly operations high tariffs, insistence on high domestic content expansion of the home market and multi-lateral trade (a large potential market existed in the socialist countries of Asia and Europe and newly independent former colonies). The other option was a continental auto industry. The Pearson Government opted for the latter and on January 1965 the Auto Pact was signed at Lyndon B. Johnson’s Texas Ranch. Pearson and Paul Martin Sr. Minister of State for External Affairs signed for Canada and Johnson and Dean Rusk, US Secretary of State signed for the USA.
The Auto Pact was a sectoral free trade agreement signed in the midst of the US War in Viet Nam. The Lyndon B. Johnson’s Democratic administration was confronting rising international and domestic opposition to the war. The US economy was in a war induced foreign and domestic deficit situation and relied heavily on Canadian raw material imports and Canadian government political support. (Canada was a member of the International Commission of Control and Supervision along with Poland and India and played a duplicitous pro-US role throughout the conflict). There is even a suggestion by some historians that the US was pressuring Canada to enter the war. The Pearson Government had no intention of entering the war. Canadian investors were prospering from the war under the terms of the 1959 Defense Production Sharing Agreements.
Forty Years Later – Another War Induced Crisis
Four decades later we have a replay of roughly the same circumstances except this time Canada is now directly involved in the US-NATO sponsored war in Afghanistan. What has not changed though is the fact that the same big arms manufacturers and military suppliers are getting rich out of this war as they did in the Viet Nam war, and they are enriching themselves by plundering the public treasury through rising defense expenditures.
What does this have to do with the auto sector? Public monies that are spent on war are not available to assist the domestic manufacturing sector – plain and simple. That is why labour has a stake in the struggle for peace. War expenditures to fuel foreign imperialist war are a major contributing factor to job loss in the domestic economy.
It was less than two years into the 1965 auto pact before the sectoral free trade agreement wiped out the Canadian balance of trade deficit with the USA as Canada began to market automobiles into the US market and US manufacturers supplied Canada with auto parts.
The Mulroney Conservatives, Free Trade and the Auto Sector
With relatively cheap gas prices, the market for new cars expanded and so did the parts manufacturing sector on both sides of the border. The trade agreements resulted in an auto sector boom that lasted for almost two decades until the Brian Mulroney Conservative Government. Canadian finance capital wanted greater unrestricted access to US financial markets – Mulroney was eager to deliver. These markets were opening up to speculative foreign capital under the Reagan administration’s phony supply side economics. Reagan’s phony economics were a cover for lower taxes on the rich, speed up, union busting and high military spending all buttressed with a renewed anti-Soviet arms race drive.
Mulroney was elected in 1984 and held power until 1993, long enough to ram through the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 1988 and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that was signed in 1992.
With the advent of the FTA and NAFTA, the North America market was opened up to challenges from Europe and Asia under the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (the GATT) to admit foreign produced automobiles into the North American market. A combined Japanese, Korean and EU challenge was successful and foreign cars, some produced in the home country, but most produced in subsidiary plants in Canada, began to be marketed into the USA. The change meant that foreign imports began to take market share away from the Big Three, Ford, Chrysler and GM.
Ed Broadbent, NAFTA and the Auto Sector
Back to Ed Broadbent, who seems to have missed the whole era of the auto pact in his haste to pillory Hargrove. But was it accidental? Broadbent’s bio on the NDP website www.ndp.ca is helpful.
“Broadbent succeeded David Lewis as Party leader in 1975. He was born to an autoworker's family in Oshawa in 1936. Broadbent studied at the University of Toronto and the London School of Economics before joining the political science department at York University in 1965. He was first elected to the House of Commons in 1968. As leader he emphasized economic issues and helped the Party recover from its losses of 1974. Although New Democrat support appeared to decline prior to the 1984 election campaign, Broadbent waged a brilliant campaign, emphasizing tax reforms, lower interest rates and equality for women. In the 1984 election, the New Democratic Party emerged with 30 seats, only 10 fewer than the Liberals”.
“The Broadbent years of leadership were marked by great changes in Canadian politics in which New Democrats played major roles. It was the period when the Canadian Constitution was patriated with a Charter of Rights and Freedoms and when corporate interests pushed for rapid globalization of the economy which, in Canada, was highlighted by the North American Free Trade Agreement”.
In the 1988 federal general election campaign, Broadbent led New Democrats in a campaign that elected 43 seats in the House of Commons, the largest number of NDP MPs ever. Broadbent retired as leader in December 1989 and went on to become the founding President of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development.
In 2004, Broadbent returned to federal politics and was elected MP for Ottawa Centre, a seat held by the Liberals for the previous 16 years. He served as the NDP critic for democratic reform and served as a beacon of respect and civility at a time when Canadians were rapidly losing faith in parliament and their federal politicians.
He announced his retirement in May 2005.

The way the bio is written implies that the NDP played major roles in the repatriation of the Constitution in the enactment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which were largely achievements of the Trudeau Liberals. But where the fudging becomes egregious is where the bio glosses over Broadbent’s record on globalization and NAFTA.

Under Ed Broadbent’s leadership the NDP sat on the sidelines during the Free Trade debate in the 1988 election and allowed Brian Mulroney and John Turner, two corporate candidates, to dominate the free trade debate with the result that the Conservatives won the election and the Canadian people were burdened with NAFTA. NAFTA effectively ended the auto pact and opened the door to the wholesale plunder of Canadian energy resources.

The NDP, with 30 seats and heading for 43, were urged by the left to enter fully into the debate and oppose NAFTA. Had they done so, they and the Liberals could have defeated Mulroney and NAFTA. Instead the NDP brain trust decided to sit it out because they dreamed of becoming the official opposition, displace the Liberals and make a try for power. Instead, after the highpoint of 42 seats the NDP declined to its present status.

It is this go-it-alone NDP electoral policy that has allowed the Conservatives to come back to power in 2006 and carry NAFTA forward to its present iteration as the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and to carry Canada more deeply into the Afghanistan war with such tragic consequences for our country and its youth.

The CAW and the Liberal Party
Much of what is being written by “labour experts” about the Magna-CAW FFA is to use the FFA to settle scores and attempt to justify their attacks on the CAW electoral policy in the last federal election. The CAW electoral policy position was clearly spelled out and endorsed by 900 CAW leaders at a pre-election conference in 2006. They issued a formal declaration on the issue. What Hargrove said on behalf of his leadership and to his membership was that where the NDP had no chance of being elected workers should vote Liberal to keep out the Harper Conservatives. This observer believes the CAW was right at the time and we have said so many times. That is a legitimate and useful difference of opinion. For those who believe the CAW leadership was wrong in their electoral policy – deal with that and stop evading the substance of the question by drive by smears of Hargrove.

The influence of the Liberal Party in the ranks of organized labour is of long standing and didn’t start with Buzz Hargrove and won’t end with him. The Liberal Party has been the dominant capitalist party in Canadian politics for decades and has always had a capitalist “labour policy” that organized labour has had to confront.
Liberalism in the ranks of labour is a peculiar Canadian phenomenon going back to the 1930’s when the Liberal Party brain trust maneuvered to cash in on the struggles led by the Communist Party to defeat the hated Conservative regime of “Iron Heel” R.B. Bennett and by moderating the crude visceral class hatred of the Conservatives, diverted it into a federal election victory for the Mackenzie King Liberals. The Liberals honed their capitalist “labour policy” over the decades by deftly stick handling between Conservative right wing extremism and social democratic reformism, that it frequently mimicked. Liberalism and social reformism became dueling contenders for labour support and both are sources of class collaborationist pressures inside organized labour.
There isn’t a working class leader or party in Canada that hasn’t at various times in its history had to contend with the influence of the Liberal Party in the ranks of labour. Sometimes labour has been able to extract concessions and at other times not. That is the reality of the class struggle when there is no mass revolutionary party of the working class. To take the purist stance that under no circumstances will the labour movement deal with capitalist parties and governments is the type of infantile “leftism” that Vladimir Lenin dealt with nearly a century ago.
We live in the era of transnational capitalism, capitalism in its final stage of development defined as imperialism, beyond which there are no other stages of its development. Socialism is the next historical stage. Between where we are now and socialism there will be many intermediary steps. However, for the working class to advance and wrest real concessions from monopoly capital it will have to advance demands that have within them elements of those goals that are fought for under capitalism but are ultimately realized under socialism.
Such goals as the democratic renovation of the state by a people’s democratic government, the nationalization and public ownership of energy and all natural resources, the undertaking of nation building projects that unite the country such as public housing, mass transit, rebuilding of infrastructure in both urban and rural communities, exclusion of profit making from all social programs of health, education and pensions, curbs on monopoly power over agricultural inputs and marketing, state intervention to direct banks and finance capital to invest in the expansion of job creating industries, withdrawal from all military alliances and the adoption of a foreign policy of peace, a defense policy to protect the national democratic gains of the people not to provide profits to arms suppliers and manufacturers and so on.
A government led by labour, representing all working people and all of the democratic and peace forces of the country that enacts an anti-monopoly policy, fights for it and defends it, is not a far or distant hope, it is becoming an immediate and urgent necessity.
Labour militants will have to come to grips with that objective reality in fashioning its fight back strategy and program. There is no going back to a “better time” or leaping forward to some post-monopoly era, there is only going forward from where we are towards more encounters with the power of capital that lead in the direction of socialism.
The Root Cause of the Magna-CAW FFA
“Labour experts” offended by FFA need to get a grip and decide what to do to assist the CAW and the auto workers to move forward. If they believe that Buzz Hargrove and the CAW leadership are class collaborators and enemies of labour say so. They can join the crypto Trotskyites and assorted over-excited r.r.r. revolutionaries in endless “feel good” discussions at the latest University “we love labour” love in. There is a career path there right out of the class struggle.
We say there is a different reality out there and we need to get our teeth into it in a way that helps labour not worsens its problems. The FFA is part of the modern reality of the class struggle where seemingly insoluble problems have arisen where even the most militant tactics seem not to be effective. The CAW FFA is an attempt by the leadership of a militant industrial union, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), the largest private sector union in Canada with 260,000 members, 37,000 of whom are employed in the parts industry, to enter into a labour-management partnership deal with Magna, the largest auto parts manufacturer in Canada employing 18,000 workers in 40 parts plants to find a less difficult path forward, to master the harsh realities of the global crisis afflicting their industry and save the jobs of their workers.
The CAW leadership is clearly disillusioned with right wing social democracy and its long record of disparaging militancy and preaching conciliation. It has exhausted, and been defeated in, its attempts to forge electoral alliances of social democracy and liberalism to defeat the most reactionary section of capital represented by the Conservatives. It has practiced social unionism only to be scorned as now selling out. Now it is attempting to forge an alliance with a section of monopoly to build its ranks and to protect jobs in the mistaken belief that Magna might win some rounds with its competitors.
Policies that attempt to merge the interests of the working class and capitalism are bound to lose. Their interests are irreconcilable. To expect every worker to understand that as they confront low wages and layoff is not reality. Experience will show that. To continue to engage in simplistic assaults from the safety of the Monday morning quarterback is not helpful to the solving the dilemma faced by the CAW.
What should be done? It is the view of the CPS that there needs to be a short term and long term program of action to defend workers jobs and to restore the vibrancy of the manufacturing sector.

Program of Fight Back – A Strategy to Win

The elements of a short term program must include as a minimum:
  • defense of, and solidarity with the CAW and all of the unions in the manufacturing sector in their struggle with companies and government to defend the jobs of their members
  • encourage workers in the Magna plants to join the CAW with their eyes wide open, get what they can in wages and job security and fight in their union to overcome the class collaborationist features of FFA on the grounds that it is better to be inside the CAW and fight for a restoration of its core militancy than to be on the outside divided and unable to influence events.
  • support fully the CAW four point program in spite of its weaknesses and limitations.
  • participation of organized labour as a full partner with the right to veto in any federal government negotiations with the Canadian Manufacturers Exporters (CME) or the auto sector corporations that propose the use of federal or provincial funding to sanction plant closures
  • fight to end by legislation the practice of foreign corporations to use capital earned in Canadian operations to move plant operations to low wage countries
  • develop an electoral strategy that unites the anti-Harper electorate in the next federal election
The elements of long term program must include as a minimum:
  • a unity movement in the ranks of labour to bring together an action council of all industrial, trades and manufacturing union leaders from all unions inside and outside the CLC to develop a solidarity fight back strategy and program to challenge the dominance of transnational corporations and finance capital over the long term development of the Canadian economy.
  • Demand a new federal government energy policy to halt the sell out of energy to the USA and for its re-direction to eastern Canada as the basis for a revival of the manufacturing industry
  • Develop a labour peace program that demands a halt to the militarization of the Canadian economy and the re-direction of war expenditures to peace expenditures
  • Call upon the leadership of the Canadian organized labour movement to sponsor a world forum of workers from all countries irrespective of their political affiliation to promote international solidarity in the struggle against transnational corporations and neo-liberalist policies.

New times demand new approaches, new thinking, new levels of audacity all based on the fundamentals of the history of trade union solidarity and unity of action.