Canada or Capitalism! Theses on the Canadian Capitalist Class

by R. J. Reierson

1. Canada arose from white settler colonies to an imperialist state ruled by a binational Canadian capitalist class. The capitalists rule based on their ownership and control of the vast majority of the industrial, resource, and commercial wealth of Canada, which they have amassed through the exploitation and robbery of the working people and natural resources of Canada and of other countries.

2. Despite its immense and increasing wealth, the Canadian capitalist class is a small and historically diminishing element of society – less than 5 percent of the population. Indeed, capital has become so concentrated and centralized that the decisive power within the capitalist class rests in the hands of a financial oligarchy of a few thousand families whose transnational banking and industrial corporations dominate the general direction of both the Canadian economy and state.

3. While Canadian transnational corporations wield the paramount power in most key economic sectors as well as in the Canadian state, Canadian big business has a long history of collaboration with US, British, Japanese, and other foreign capitalists to sell out large portions of Canadian industry, resources, and culture, in flagrant disregard for the economic and political independence of Canada. Canada’s extremely high level of foreign ownership, international indebtedness, and technological dependence – by far the highest among the developed capitalist countries and many less developed countries – has added to the exploitation of Canadian working people and resources, and weakened Canadian economic and cultural development, and impaired Canada’s political sovereignty, especially in the face of US imperialism.

4. In Canada and internationally, transnational corporations have become the primary conduit of capitalist exploitation and imperialism. Transnationals, the highest form of monopoly capital, are the extreme of the concentration and centralization of capitalist wealth; some transnationals possess greater wealth and control more resources than entire governments. Transnationals are the leading capitalist force behind global impoverishment and war, the reproduction of sexism, racism, national chauvinism, and militarism, the degradation of nature, culture, and science, and the monopolistic control of technology and mass communications. The transnational corporations have stretched to the breaking point capitalism’s fundamental contradiction between private appropriation and social production.

5. Contrary to claims about “supra-national” capitalism and “globalized” capital, the ownership, control, and profit flows of transnational corporations remain concentrated in and tied to the capitalist classes of particular nations and regions. However, in recent decades the production, financial activities, and sales of these corporations have shifted significantly outside their restricted home markets. This occurred as a result of the rising scale of capitalist accumulation and export, the revolution in communications and transportation, and intensified international competition driven by the deepening crisis of capitalism.

6. Transnational corporations have not disengaged from or abandoned the use of states or state power. They require the capitalist state power of particular national and subnational governments to perform its core exploitative function: maintaining capitalist property and exploitation, particularly by controlling and suppressing whenever necessary labour movements and other democratic forces. However, the transnationals pursue the political direction of anti-democratic internationalization to reduce and eliminate the democratic sovereignty of existing national states such as Canada and to transfer state power to larger-scale capitalist blocs and international organizations further removed from democratic control.

7. In Canada, the dominance of Canadian transnationals and the trend of anti-democratic internationalization underlies a fundamental shift in the political direction of the Canadian state: the shift from National Policy protectionism and bourgeois national development strategy to continental ‘free trade,’ in particular, and neoliberalism, in general. Though driven by the transnationals, this historic shift was supported overwhelming by the non-transnational sectors of the Canadian capitalist class, who do not have a general class political direction independent of the transnationals. Only the working class and some groups of farmers, fishers, and other small proprietors were collectively opposed to free trade and neoliberalism.

8. The neoliberal “corporate agenda” of free trade, privatization, deregulation, and the destruction of universal, high-quality social programs is not simply a temporary or opportune “policy” but a new phase or central tendency in the expansion of modern imperialism. To reverse this trend, to reclaim and advance democracy, sovereignty, and social reform for the benefit of working people requires a fundamental realignment in class power to break the grip of transnational corporations, beginning with the Canadian transnationals. Such measures as strengthened international trade-union bargaining, and strengthened minimum labour and environmental standards in international trade agreements can moderate the worst symptoms of imperialist expansion; but taken alone they are incapable of reversing the general direction of neoliberalism and imperialist expansion. All transnationals must be publicly taken over, gradually divested of their foreign holdings, and reorganized on a smaller scale under social ownership and democratic national, regional, and local control appropriate to an efficient scale of production and to ecological conditions.

9. The struggle against neoliberalism and the ‘corporate agenda’ is a democratic and anti-imperialist struggle that depends first and foremost on the leadership and mass engagement of Canada’s multinational, multiracial, female-male working class, which today constitutes the vast majority of Canada’s population. A democratic, anti-transnational alliance of political forces based in and around the working class is necessary to take public control of the Canadian transnationals and, hence, the commanding heights of the Canadian economy, to begin a process of profound democratization of the Canadian economy and state, and to renegotiate and transform Canada’s international economic relations.

10. Key international goals of Canada’s new international economic relations would be: on the one hand, increased national and regional self-sufficiency in production, consumption, and resource use, and the gradual ending of foreign ownership and indebtedness, and; on the other, an expansion of equal and mutually beneficial international exchange and sharing at the level of culture, research, technology and, when desirable, mutually owned and controlled joint production. Canada would work actively towards establishing non-imperialist international economic institutions outside the imperialist frameworks of the IMF, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

11. In taking control of the commanding heights of the Canadian economy and in initiating a process of the democratization of the state and economic power, the anti-transnational alliance would turn the general direction of the Canadian economy and state away from neoliberalism and imperialism towards socialism. This anti-transnational period would not be socialism, because medium and small-scale capitalist ownership and capitalistic commodity money relations would still exist widely as, for a time, would foreign transnational ownership and commerce. But neither would it be to return to an earlier form of national competitive capitalism, nor to establish, beyond the initial transitional period, a form of highly monopolized and centralized state capitalism. Rather it would be a transition period, not a stable condition or a final result, in which the political process itself, particularly the hostile, anti-democratic activities of capitalist interests, would clarify the necessity of the political leadership of the working class and its allies – and of socialism.

Spark! #9 – pgs. 3-5