This year's May Day celebrations across Canada take place just before a critical federal election, and prior to two critical labour events. The 26th Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress opens on May 9 in Vancouver, followed by the 63rd Congress of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) in Montréal. As we send solidarity greetings to all Canadian workers on May Day, the Communist Party also salutes our sisters and brothers around the planet on this International Day of working class solidarity.
Today we are in a period of aggressive imperialist wars, a time when global capitalism is mired in a deep and multifaceted systemic crisis, expressed in economic stagnation and decline, environmental degradation, increasing assaults on the labour and democratic rights of the people, and every other aspect of modern life. It is more evident than ever that capitalism is incapable of solving the problems of the world. So‑called "reforms" which put more burdens on the backs of working people will only create more misery and deepen the next round of economic crises. Fundamentally different solutions must be found, based on meeting the interests of the people and the environment, and defeating the corporate drive for maximum profits.
Here in Canada, the May 2 election campaign has seen a surge in actions by youth, working people, Aboriginal peoples, women, seniors, and other Canadians, responding to the threat of a possible Conservative victory. As our Party has warned, a Harper Tory majority would escalate its attacks on jobs, living standards, social programs, pensions, labour and equality rights and civil liberties. It would accelerate the sellout of Canadian sovereignty and the environment, and the integration of Canada into the militarist, aggressive global agenda of U.S. imperialism. For these reasons, the labour and democratic movements have made the defeat of the Harper Tories as the critical first step in forging a new direction for the country and its peoples.
But whatever the balance of forces in the next Parliament, the fight to defend the interests of the working class must be intensified. Even if the big business drive for a Tory majority is blocked at the polls, it will take a huge mobilization by the working class and its allies to compel the next Parliament to reverse the neoliberal policies imposed by both Liberal and Tory governments in recent decades.
After May 2, the main focus of the class struggle in Canada will return to the extra‑parliamentary arena, to our workplaces, campuses and communities across the country. Big capital has no intention of slowing its drive to take advantage of the economic crisis by wringing further concessions and rollbacks from both organized and unorganized workers. As the Vale Inco and U.S. Steel cases prove, the transnational corporations are determined to cut wages and strip the pension rights of private sector workers, and to trample Canadian sovereignty in the process. Public sector workers at the federal, provincial and municipal levels also face sharpening attacks on their wages, benefits, working conditions and collective bargaining rights.
On this May Day, it is crucial to strengthen the working class fightback which is gaining momentum. The heroic resistance of the Hamilton steelworkers locked out by US Steel is a beacon for their sisters and brothers across Canada, and the labour movement must build much wider solidarity with this struggle. Just weeks ago, over 50,000 trade unionists and their allies marched through the streets of Montréal in a powerful display of mass opposition against the reactionary policies of the Charest Liberals. On April 9, some 10,000 rallied in Toronto against the attacks of the McGuinty Liberals and the union‑bashing privatization agenda of Mayor Rob Ford's regime at City Council.
These and other examples show that workers in Canada are increasingly prepared to take the road of class struggle which is building across the capitalist world.
The past year witnessed the biggest upsurge of huge general strikes in the past century. Sparked initially by the general strike actions called by the All‑Workers Militant Front of Greece (PAME) against the dictates of the European Union and the IMF, workers in country after country of Europe and Asia have walked out by the millions to protest the imposition of vicious policies designed to enrich the corporations while destroying social gains achieved through decades of progressive struggles.
Inspired by these class battles, other sections of the international working class are moving into action. The workers of Tunisia and Egypt have played critical roles in defeating reactionary, pro‑imperialist regimes in their countries. The workers of Wisconsin and other U.S. states have mobilized enormous rallies to fight back against the drive by Republican politicians and their corporate backers to strip away collective bargaining rights.
This militant strategy must be the path for Canadian workers to follow. May Day 2011 must be a day to step up our efforts to make the organized working class a more powerful, unifying force in the struggle to roll back neoliberal governments and the corporate agenda. It is also a day to press the leadership of the trade union movement to move into wider action.
Whatever the outcome of the federal election, the Canadian Labour Congress in particular must assume its responsibility to advance the interests of workers across the country, to project strong leadership in the streets and workplaces. "Business as usual" tactics - simply issuing speeches and news releases, or calling for only the most timid measures to ameliorate the fall in living and working conditions in Canada - are woefully insufficient to build the fightback workers need today.
The CLC and CSN conventions will be an important measure of the top trade union leadership and the rank and file. Unity of the labour movements in Canada and Québec around strategies to move in such a militant direction is critical. Unfortunately, it appears that much of the attention at the CLC will be focused on internal matters, such as structural changes which will sharply limit the ability of labour's rank and file to influence and set the movement's course of action. We urge delegates to reject this step backwards, and to instead demand that the CLC advance a program for mass, militant action, including a call to convene an emergency meeting of all trade unions and their social allies to work out a common fightback program against the offensive of big capital and its governments.
On May First, the Communist Party of Canada extends our warmest solidarity to all those in struggle against imperialist war and aggression, and for a better world of peace, democracy, equality, and socialism. Long live May Day! Workers of all countries, unite!
(The above article is from the May 1-15, 2011, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)