Positioning for Advance

By William Stewart

The obstacle is imperialism and neo-conservatism, the shape of capitalism. It cannot be modified, downsized, democratized, or civilized. It must be displaced.

1. This is the challenge facing the working class and its allies the world over. Until we are able to face this reality, the future holds only ceaseless struggles, poverty, insecurity and wars.

2. Communist parties evolve to assist the working class in understanding and addressing this unrelenting truth. They are joined in this undertaking by other socialist and left forces. Other political parties who do not understand or support the need for fundamental social change for socialism, seek to obscure this social reality.

The scientific elaboration of Marx and Engels that the working class is the grave-digger of capitalism remains at the heart of revolutionary strategy. This is the aspect of Marxist-Leninist science that has been the target of the main fire of capitalist ideologues since 1850.

It was most illustrative that the betrayers of socialist power in the Soviet Union grouped around Mikhail Gorbachov hastened to heap ridicule on the concept of working class power as they scrambled for the spoils of their counter-revolutionary efforts. Nor was it incidental that one of Yeltsin’s first acts was to illegalize Communist organization in factories and enterprises.

No other social group in capitalist society can or will lead the way to socialism. The working class will undertake this task as consciousness of its role and its unity around this consciousness develops. This is a process.

It is a process which is honed in the day-to-day struggle for its own ends. This is a spontaneous struggle which tends to ebb and flow with the ups and downs of the system. The rising militancy of the working class and people’s movement in Canada testifies to the law of class struggle. For example, the strike movement headed by the showdown between the Canadian Auto Workers Union and General Motors; the angry upsurge in the Maritimes; and the nurses’ victory in Alberta. And of course the historic Toronto Queen’s Park Rally culminating the Days of Action of October 1996.

However, spontaneous class struggle is one thing. Class consciousness is another. Class consciousness implies a coming together of struggle (practice) with theory; and understanding of the laws of social development; the methodology of social change; recognition of the need for a political party based on working class principles.

Continuation and building on the Days of Action is by no means certain. The entrenched forces of outright capitalist ideology and “modern” social reformism (the same thing without a top hat) are still considerably stronger than the left-centre forces (perhaps not numerically, but through position and power.)

What experience, here and abroad can we draw on to help change this situation? In the era of neo–liberalism, a major debate is engaged in, in Communist and Workers Parties, in left and progressive circles around the world, centering on the practice of social democracy. Can it be regarded as an integral part of the labour movement, that is, a party of social change or has it become a conduit for capitalist ideology and neoliberal policies? Communist parties in Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Portugal and Germany, regard social democracy as the major obstacle to achieving a democratic alternative to neo-liberalism (the world term for neo-conservatism).

In France, Norway, Austria, Holland, Belgium, Spain, parties are not so categorical in their critique. The same is the case in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. In the United States, the party takes a fully negative attitude to the social democrats.

Communist parties in Greece, Portugal, France, Spain and Italy are mass parties with major influence in the unions as well as deputies in parliament, senates and the European Parliament. They also hold mayoralties and other elective positions in many municipalities. They have all witnessed many years of social democratic governments.

Aside from such differences in time, shape and place, there is a common concern crossing all lines. That is whether the struggle against capitalist politics in the working class and people’s movements can be effectively countered without a sharp critique and exposure of social democracy.

Recent events in Canada have brought this into open debate: the debacle of the Rae government in Ontario, where a seeming significant victory was turned into a disaster; the behind-the-scenes and open friction over preparations for the Days of Action; and the somewhat similar developments in B.C. where the NDP won the election on a firm anti-neoconservative campaign and has since caved in on too many matters to right-wing pressures.

Neither has the record of the Romanow government in Saskatchewan departed from the main line of the neo-conservative push.

It is useful to recall that social democracy emerged from the womb of the world revolutionary movement. In reacting to the pressures of capitalist ideology, it broke with revolutionary tradition entirely and invented a philosophy in which revolutionary change was replaced with step-by-step reform of capitalism until socialism would emerge. Envisaged was a form of peaceful co-existence between workers and capital.

In this contest, according to their outlook, government serves as mediator between capital and labour. If a government favours capital, workers suffer, but if government honestly acts in the interests of both capital and labour, both sides win. Therefore the election of social democratic governments is the total (obvious) answer.

Like in Britain? Sweden? Germany? Finland? Australia? New Zealand? Like in Spain? Chile? Grenada?

A glaring reality is denied by social democracy. There is a world of difference between government and the state. If you have a capitalist system with all its economic and political levers of power, you either have a capitalist government to administer it, which social democracy has tried unsuccessfully to do since its birth, or a government which challenges the dictates of capital – witness Chile.

This requires dealing with an army sworn to defend the capitalist state, a police force likewise, a judiciary and a set of laws predicated on the defense of capitalist property (witness the Helms-Burton Bill) as well as a range of NGOs which are politically committed to capitalist rule, plus a powerful imperialist, military political force – primarily the USA.

Refusal to accept this reality consigns them to the role of being just another tweedledee-tweedledum in the process of capitalist politics.

Here another contradiction appears – not just between the NDP and the working class and people’s movement, but in its own ranks. The linkage to labour through its organizational connection with the CLC brings it into direct collision with the needs and wishes of the working class. Its constituency organizations, which have shed their original socialist character, more easily capitulate to the lure and glitter of capitalist politics and the personal rewards suggested. Add to this the contented labour lieutenants co-opted by right wing social democracy and other forms of capitalist ideology.

Nonetheless, the majority of working people inside the NDP net constitute an important component of the left and progressive forces, and a major component of the working class. As well, they are experienced in the art of political campaigning.

However it is to be done, it would seem that the most advisable course to follow inside and outside the NDP, would be a systematic, relentless exposure of right-wing social democracy with the aim of breaking its influence on the program and policies of the NDP and the trade union movement. If this proves ultimately unrealizable, this struggle will have created the best possible conditions for winning from its ranks the left and progressive forces.

The Communist Party has long called for an end to the organizational linkage between the trade union movement and the NDP, whereby the unions declare the NDP as their political arm. Unions should not delegate that responsibility to any party, while they may well favour the NDP in given elections, depending on a satisfactory program. After all, the immediate alternative is even bleaker.

Primarily however, the exposure and defeat of the right wing needs to centre on elaborating and fighting for an alternative program.

Such a program should resolve the following dilemma so as to be clearly understood by the working class and the people: How to break with the neo–conservative agenda, which is global in its scope, without breaking entirely with the capitalist system? Such a break appears beyond the bounds of realistic politics in today’s Canada.

The Communist Party of Canada calls for a democratic renovation: a new “democratic” government, pledged to reverse and replace the neo-conservative program. Such a government would need to be made up of the various strands of the labour and peoples’ movement, including but not dominated by the NDP, with full input into its program. Its candidates would be decided on a pro-rata and historical conditions basis. It would be drawn from and directly answerable to the people.

Its mandate should include:

· a program to establish full employment in Canada, including a massive social spending program;

· restoration of all social funding to its level prior to cuts;

· restoration of the public sector;

· restoring the level of currency production by the Bank of Canada to 20%;

· control over the export of capital;

· a new tax system making corporations pay their full share and all back taxes;

· reducing the work day and week; curtailing overtime;

· raising UIC benefit rates to 90% of previous earnings and reducing qualifying time;

· overhauling the Workmen’s Compensation Acts to protect injured workers and not corporations;

· making education a full and free right for all at all levels;

· eliminating all poverty quickly and child poverty immediately;

· implementing full gender equity and affirmative action to guarantee immigrant access to meaningful well paid jobs;

· making work ghettos illegal;

· amending the constitution to provide full national rights to our French Canadian fellow nation;

· protecting full aboriginal rights of native Canadians and according them full self government on their lands;

· expanding budgets significantly for culture and the arts, including the CBC, whose television should shed all private advertising. Giving significant grants to public radio and TV;

· financially encouraging the publication of community, labour and peoples’ print media to provide an antidote to the press of the Conrad Blacks et al; breaking up media monopolies;

· abolishing the senate and replacing it with an elected house of provinces, aboriginals and French Canada;

· abolishing all discrimination against gays and lesbians;

· tightening all laws to protect the environment and establishing a commission to determine the long term rational use of resources compatible with environmental needs;

· getting out of NAFTA, NATO, NORAD and all US imperialist and military alliances;

· declaring Canada a nuclear–free zone and establishing a neutral non–aligned foreign policy of peace.

This program, upgraded and amended by the members of such a political coalition, could form the basis of political campaigning for a new democratic government and alternative within the bounds of capitalism.

It would not win the majority of Canadians if placed before them today. It would first have to become the program of the left and peoples’ organizations.

It would have to be fought for day in and day out, until it captures the hearts and minds of the Canadian people. Social change cannot be achieved through elections until it has been won in the factories, streets, offices and communities.

If this process is not undertaken consciously, it will not just grow out of misery and suffering. What will arise out of misery and suffering, unaddressed by a conscious alternative, is more misery and suffering.

Victory for such a coalition would not bring an end to the struggle against capital. In the short term, it would likely intensify as capital, in the name of democracy and the sanctity of capital, would fight to protect and regain its lost positions of strength.

The only guarantee would be the eternal vigilance of the working class and peoples’ movements. So long as capital rules, there can be no end to the class struggle.

Only the socialist re-organization of society based on the peoples’ needs, not the profits of capital, can resolve this struggle. And as events in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe demonstrated, even the winning of people’s power does not ensure the uninterrupted development of democracy and socialism in a hostile imperialist world.

Together, the working class, its political party, and the peoples’ organizations are the sole guarantee of extending and protecting democracy, winning and ensuring the firm establishment and continuity of socialism.

The labour and peoples’ movement in France, Germany and other European countries are blocking the worst excesses of the neo–conservative onslaught. Black and white American labour, women, youth and students, are mounting a spirited fight back. Cuba is standing firm as a socialist state, withstanding the despicable attempts of US imperialism to crush it. Mexico, Brazil, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru, Chile in fact most of Latin America, is struggling for freedom and sovereignty.

We can draw great confidence and strength from the knowledge that the working class and democratic forces around the world are fighting for similar policies. In different ways – perhaps not always understood or accepted by us.

Communist and workers’ parties are undertaking the construction of socialism and the building of democracy in China, Vietnam, North Korea and Laos. In India, the Communist Party is elected in areas representing more than 100 million people. The Communist Party of Japan scored a major success in recent elections. In the East European countries, communists and workers are drawing painful lessons from their downfall and are winning the growing support of their people.

In South Africa, the National African Congress, in close cooperation with the South African Communist Party is forging the core of a new liberated African continent. Socialism and the onwards march of the world’s peoples has not been halted, and history continues to unfold. The future belongs to the people, not capital.

Spark! #9 - pgs. 6-11