The Fightback editorial board is publishing our political perspectives for this year as a draft discussion document. We encourage discussion on this among working class activists and youth.
The election of the Trudeau Liberals marks a new stage in Canadian politics. Instead of ruling via the blunt reaction and division of the Conservatives, the ruling class is utilizing the deception of “sunny ways”. This trick may blind the masses for a time, but at a certain point the logic of the class struggle will win out. It is necessary for the most class-conscious sections of the workers and youth to prepare for this time.
The Federal Liberals were able to come from third place to win the 2015 election by presenting themselves as a progressive, and even “anti-austerity”, alternative to the Harper Conservatives. This is a total sham. The Liberals are, and always have been, the preferred party of Canadian capitalism. We should not forget that the largest austerity program in Canadian history was implemented by the Liberals in the 1990s. However, memories are short, especially amongst the youth who did not live through these times, and now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is enjoying a significant honeymoon that may last for a while.
The reason for this is easy to see. The population, especially younger and more urban Canadians, became sick and tired of almost a decade of Conservative rule. Their divisive tactics against Muslims, their “tough on crime” agenda, and attempts to whip up fear over terrorism, turned from a vote-winner to the cause of their downfall. This is partially due to the nature of Canada as an “immigrant country” where it is difficult for the reactionaries to keep the different populations separate enough to instil the kind of prejudice seen in other countries.
For example, in census year 2011, 20.6 per cent of the Canadian population was foreign-born – the highest in the G8. In France, UK, USA, and Germany, the immigrant population ranges from 8.6 per cent to 13.0 per cent. In the major cities, the “visible minority” population is even more pronounced. In Toronto and Vancouver, 47.0 per cent and 45.2 per cent of the population are members of a visible minority group – which stretches the definition, as effectively all ethnic groups are a minority in this context. Second generation immigrants with at least one foreign-born parent are 17.4 per cent of the population. Of course, none of this means that the bosses will not attempt to use racism to divide the working class. But in this specific context it lost the Conservatives the election. This has forced the ruling class to adopt different (Liberal) tactics and cloak themselves in the garb of multiculturalism.
The Liberals are currently riding high in the polls on the back of their “progressive” image and the feeling people have that they are reversing regressive Tory policies. A Forum poll taken in mid-February gave Trudeau 49 per cent support, which would translate into a crushing 70 per cent of the seats in a general election. This support came almost entirely at the expense of the New Democratic Party, which was pushed down to 10 per cent and a projected six seats. This miserable showing would put Canada’s labour party behind the Bloc Quebecois and without official party status in the House of Commons. Interestingly, the Conservative vote stayed relatively stable at 32 per cent.
The irony is that the Liberals are already reneging on many of their so-called progressive election promises. They have gone back on re-instating door-to-door mail, they continued the fighter-jet mission against ISIS beyond the original Conservative timeline – and then increased boots on the ground. They are continuing to buy the C-35 fighter jets at a cost of $49-billion (and higher as the Canadian dollar depreciates), they refused to cancel the $15-billion arms deal with the murderous Saudi royal family, and now even their promise to legalize marijuana appears to be going up in smoke! The only promise they have kept is the commitment to “generously” bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees with much propaganda and fanfare. This amounts to a paltry 0.07 per cent of the Canadian population and only appears generous because the NDP and unions have failed to wage a genuine internationalist “Refugees Welcome” campaign. It also ignores the role that Canadian and allied imperialism has played in fomenting the refugee crisis.
But none of this matters in the short-term, as all people see is a different tone and feel to this government, and do not read the small print until it affects them personally. The fawning of the mainstream media establishment over Prime Minister Justin’s vacuous utterances does not hurt either. The right-wing National Post quite amusingly released “Average-looking men read Justin Trudeau speeches” to highlight the lack of content. The Federal Liberals are copying the playbook of the Ontario Liberals. Premiere Kathleen Wynne likes to talk left, and even proposed “free education” in the last budget. But when people read the small print they discover there is no free education, only privatization and wage cuts. Currently, the smoke and mirrors is working, but eventually the euphoria will turn to its opposite as people see that the man behind the curtain is a fraud.
While the “progressive” side of the Liberals is built upon sand, the corporate side is rock solid. This is the age-old ploy of campaigning left while governing right. It turns out that the largest recipient of their “Middle-class tax-cut” will be those bringing in $200,000, while the poorest two thirds of families get nothing. The so-called tax hike on the 1% will in no way compensate, and will be widely avoided via creative accounting, so the tax cut will have to be paid out of service cuts that affect the poor. They fully intend on signing the Trans Pacific Partnership corporate “free trade” agreement that will increase the cost of prescription drugs, undermine the family farm and unionized manufacture, while extending the power of corporations to overrule anything that limits profit.
Deficits and Debt
However, the most interesting part of the Liberal policy book is their plan to run budget deficits and return to some form of Keynesian deficit financing, which has attracted support from various international economic commentators. This is another broken Liberal promise, as they had committed to cap deficits at $10-billion per year, but latest expectations peg their deficit at $30-billion annually and $150-billion over 5 years. This would push the federal component of Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio up 1.5 per cent per year, and these projections are based on modest growth which may not pan out.
The strategists of capital are turning away from the monetarist austerity model and are looking to Canada to see if budget deficits can find a way out where cuts have failed. The austerity model has failed as cutting public expenditure and attacking workers leads to a pullback in consumption and a contraction of the market. This is seen most graphically in Greece where budget cuts cannot keep pace with the resultant slump in GDP so the net debt-to-GDP ratio increases even while public spending contracts. The reality is that all the expectations and predictions of the capitalists have proved worthless and they are thrashing around for any solution. Interest rates are already near zero and the prospect of cheap money is not having any stimulative effect. Instead of productive investment, corporate Canada is hoarding approximately $700-billion in “dead-money” that isn’t helping anybody except money-market speculators.
The reformist and academic “Marxian” left should be happy at this deficit financing as it is what they have been calling for. Unfortunately for them it will not work. Deficit financing may have a temporary stimulative effect, but only sufficient to delay the worst aspects of the crisis for a few years, at which point the same problem remains but now it is exacerbated by the increased load of debt repayments. On the political front, such policies may serve to blunt the class struggle and delay austerity. The Liberals’ stated plan was to return to balanced budgets after a few years. If they keep this promise it will mean significant austerity and the resultant working class backlash when this occurs. The longer they delay in returning to balance, the bigger the eventual debt load, and the bigger the austerity to return to balance. As the Chinese proverb says, the trickiest part of riding a tiger is deciding when to get off. While interest rates remain low, the debt remains affordable. But there are the beginnings of inflationary pressures, which make maintaining low interest rates very difficult. The only direction interest can go is up, and under capitalism the choice comes down to austerity now or more austerity later.
In the 2008-9 slump, Canada was in a relatively favourable position when compared with its competitors. This was more due to luck than judgment, as the Canadian housing market was about two to three years behind the US and the Canadian housing bubble was only in the early stages of its development. The rise of China, which sucked up Canada’s raw resources and drove the price of oil to around $100 a barrel, also helped significantly. Seven years later things are very different. Fuelled by globally low interest rates, Toronto and Vancouver are probably the two most over-inflated housing markets on the planet. In the year preceding February 2016 the average price of a detached house in Toronto rose 16 per cent to $1.2-million, but Vancouver registered a staggering 27 per cent increase to $1.3-million. The collapse of the Canadian dollar over the last two years has also encouraged international speculation, as it acts as a discount for foreign buyers that prices local owners out of the market. Such astronomical figures are not sustainable, especially when matched with an unprecedented 165.4 per cent household debt-to-income ratio. When this bubble bursts the results will be catastrophic. Even Canada’s supposedly rock-solid banks may take a hit, especially after they have been weakened by the oil price shock.
Low Oil, Low Dollar
The collapse in the price of oil, due to the slowdown in China, has added to the specific crisis of Canadian capitalism. As recently as September 2014, West Texas crude was over US$90. Since then it has plummeted to under US$35 with little prospect of sustained improvement. While the low Canadian dollar mitigates the price crash somewhat, it should also be noted that tar sands bitumen is far more expensive to extract and of lower quality (and therefore price) at the refinery than a standard barrel. Low oil is a net negative for the Canadian economy and has taken billions out of the budgets of the federal government and the oil-producing provinces. Over the last year Alberta has hemorrhaged 73,000 full time jobs and for the first time in almost 30 years the unemployment rate in the oil patch is higher than the national rate. This crisis is set to continue for the foreseeable future and has sharp implications for the new Alberta NDP government.
Low oil has dragged the Canadian dollar from above US$0.90 in September 2014 to close to US$0.70. This is supposed to make Canadian goods more competitive on the world market, but it also increases the price of imported goods. This is affecting the poorest in society as the cost of essentials goes through the roof. Fresh fruit and vegetables went up by 12.9 per cent and 18.2 per cent respectively in the last 12 months. The prospect of inflation can be a real driver of the class struggle in the next period. The possibility of quantitative easing – a fancy term for printing money – combined with government stimulus, will only increase the inflationary pressures. Deficit financing and international trade may mean fewer workers are laid off, but stagnant wages will mean that the standard of living will be eroded by increased prices of basic items. Over time, workers will begin to demand that their wages keep pace with the high cost of living.
Union leaders in the manufacturing sector are cheering the low dollar in the hope it will end the bleeding in the Ontario and Quebec rust belt. Manufacturing was traditionally the heartland of the Canadian labour movement. Even to this day it represents 13 per cent of GDP and 9.2 per cent of employment, the third largest sector. But this is down from 15.6 per cent of GDP in 2005, and 24.3 per cent of GDP in 1961. At the turn of the millennium, over 15 per cent of Canadian workers were in manufacturing. However, predictions of a renaissance are far too premature and the erosion of manufacturing has a far more structural base than merely the episodic value of the Canadian dollar. Production is moving to China, Mexico, or the Southern US states and it would take a very healthy and sustained boom in the US market in order to lead to an actual increase in Canadian manufacturing. This long-predicted US-led boom is still yet to materialize. What is far more likely is that within the next 6-24 months China and Europe lead the world into a new global recession that drags the US down too.
Globally, the strategists of capital are predicting decades of “secular stagnation”. In Canada, this general crisis is set to be exacerbated by low oil and inflation. Instead of entering the global crisis from a point of strength, Canada enters it after two quarters of oil-driven recession in 2015, a significant household debt burden, and a property bubble just waiting to burst. Justin Trudeau picked a very bad time to be Prime Minister and these economic realities will steadily erode his support.
Class Consciousness and the Youth
The fact that Canada may be entering a period of economic downturn does not immediately mean that there will be revolutionary developments on the streets. There is not a direct and linear relationship between the economy and the class struggle. Instead there is a complex, indirect, and dialectical relationship. A slump may even depress the outward manifestations of class struggle as workers keep their heads down to try and save their jobs. The most important thing for this coming period is the lessons learned by the masses. The new generation of youth, who are not tied down by past disappointments, are in the best position to first learn these lessons.
The prolonged period of crisis after the 2008 slump is affecting the consciousness of all sectors of society, but none more than the youth. Here we have a generation that is poorer than both their parents and grandparents and has no reasonable prospect of improvement. For anybody under the age of 21, their entire conscious existence has been during a period of crisis and austerity. The revolutionary implications of this are immense.
In the United States there have been a series of shocking polls that reveal the radicalization of the youth. For whatever reason, Canadian polling companies have not seen fit to test the opinions of young people north of the border. However, it seems unlikely that the results would be significantly different. One poll of American 18-26 year olds reported the following:
“In response to the question, ‘Which type of political system do you think is the most compassionate?’, 58 percent said socialism and 9 percent said communism. Just 33 percent chose capitalism. Sixty-six percent of the poll’s respondents said corporate America ‘embodies everything that is wrong about America.’ ”
These results have been reflected in a number of different polls and are embodied in the movement around Bernie Sanders. In addition to Sanders there is a global revolt against the status quo that has manifested differently in a number of countries. In Greece we saw the rise (and betrayal) of SYRIZA. In Spain, Podemos exploded out of almost nowhere and in Britain the left-winger Jeremy Corbyn was propelled by a mass movement into the leadership of the Labour Party. The manifestations of radicalization have been different in each country, and that provides a challenge to Marxists attempting to orientate to these movements. There is no cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all solution, and each movement must be analyzed in its specific historical and national context. However, we need to see that all these disparate movements have in essence the same root – the rejection of the existing establishment due to the prolonged crisis that affects not only the economy, but politics, society, culture, and even morality. The youth have played a lead role in all of these developments.
Canada, yet again, is delayed relative to other countries. Outside of Quebec, there have been no mass movements to provide a focal point to the discontent. Revolutionaries should not bemoan this fact. Even if we had the ability to decide when a movement will arise (which we do not), having time to prepare, build and train forces, and learn from other countries, is not a bad thing. While we do not have Canadian polling data, anecdotally we have seen that young people have not been this open to the ideas of socialism in the entire period since the founding of Fightback. More and more young people are deciding to join the revolutionary movement. The economic crisis, world events, and the positive example of Sanders and Corbyn are having the effect of individually radicalizing youth in a way not seen for generations. It is this young generation that will provide the backbone of the future revolutionary movement – but victory will be significantly facilitated if the Marxists can train and educate these young radicals in the ideas and methods of scientific socialism. Time is pressing.
At present, while more and more young people are being radicalized in an atomized fashion, it is difficult to see exactly how this mass potential will be expressed in an organized way. The student movement in English Canada is in a moribund and divided state. They spend more time fighting disaffiliation campaigns than fighting for free education. The labour movement is in just as bad a condition. And yet, we can say with absolute certainty that sooner or later this mass potential will achieve a concrete realization.
Class Consciousness and the Workers
While the youth are increasingly radical, the workers’ movement has probably never been in such a sorry state. This is in no way due to any so-called backwardness or unwillingness to struggle by the workers. Again and again we see strike votes of 80 per cent, 90 per cent, even 100 per cent. But after these commitments to fight, frequently the trade union leadership does everything in its power to avoid a strike and end up settling on the bosses’ terms.
Numerous examples can be furnished, but the recent negotiations at the city of Toronto are typical. CUPE locals 79 and 416, representing tens of thousands of inside and outside workers, achieved healthy strike votes against management concessions. The workers rallied and made a lot of noise, but when the strike deadline passed the union leaders were afraid to pull the trigger. This merely emboldened the boss, as weakness invites aggression. In the end the union settled for a below-inflation five per cent wage increase over four years and the complete removal of historic anti-contracting out language won in 1999. The workers managed to protect this clause against Mel Lastman in 2002, who inaccurately called it “jobs for life”, and again against David Miller in the strike of 2009. Facing the reactionary Rob Ford administration in 2012, the union leadership sold out younger workers by conceding job security to those with less than fifteen years on the job. Upstaging themselves now, they have capitulated entirely without a fight, and any worker who has not reached 15 years of seniority by 2019 will no longer have any protection against being contracted out. Local 79 president Tim Maguire demoralizingly said it was, “the best we could get under the circumstances.” But this is not true. There is nothing worse than giving up without a fight, and the two-tier nature of the contract merely serves to split the union and discriminates against the youth. And now potentially thousands more union jobs are on the chopping block, starting with the privatization of garbage collection in the remaining sections of the city the Ford administration was not able to get its hands on. And all because some bureaucrats did not want to take a stand and give out some strike pay. Sadly, this is an all-too common story and it is not surprising that many workers are demoralized by this lack of a lead.
Instead of uniting workers against the boss, the main energies of the union bureaucracies seem to be involved over petty infighting. Sid Ryan, formerly head of the Ontario Federation of Labour, was recently forced out by a backroom coup and the withholding of dues by some of the affiliates. Sid was known to have a “left” reputation, although he also made a number of serious errors such as calling the 2014 Ontario Liberal budget “the most progressive budget this province has seen in recent years.” Since then it has become clear that this was an austerity budget. Now the leaders of the affiliates have replaced Ryan with a president that comes from the back rooms and is even more likely to cover for their inaction.
Despite the terrible situation in organized labour, there is a seething anger in the ranks who have often faced more than a decade of concessions. Eventually something will break and the leaders who are unwilling to fight will be replaced by those closer to the rank-and-file. Sooner or later, either by a courageous stand by new leaders, or even an accidental miscalculation by old bureaucrats, a focal struggle will emerge that will unite all the best elements in society. The youth will play their role in supporting, and even instigating, such a struggle. It is vital that the Marxists are prepared for this eventuality, numerically and politically, in order to help the workers win, to help mobilize youth support, and to help the workers learn the best militant democratic methods of struggle. The most class-conscious and self-sacrificing youth and workers need to be united in a revolutionary organization to learn and share the best ideas and methods that can assist the most important struggles. Building such an organization is a vital necessity and priority.
The Fight Against Oppression
Despite being one of the richest countries in the world that portrays itself as progressive and inclusive, Canada is still plagued by racism, sexism, discrimination of LGBTQ people, and the continued oppression of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. Racialized people experience higher rates of unemployment, barriers to education, poverty, and are disproportionately targeted by police and incarcerated. For example, while Indigenous people make up 4.3 per cent of the population in Canada, they make up a quarter of federal prison inmates. Additionally, the incarceration rate for black people is now three times higher than their representation rate in the general public. Despite formal equality under the law, discrimination of LGBTQ people persists leading to higher rates of mental health challenges and youth homelessness. The gender wage gap sits at 72 per cent in Canada and women are overrepresented in part-time and precarious work (which when taken into consideration widens the wage gap even further). Violence against women is pervasive with at least half of all women experiencing at least one incident of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Indigenous women are at least three times more likely to experience violent victimization than non-indigenous women in Canada. Fifty per cent of First Nations children live in poverty and many First Nations reserves have housing crises, lack of running water, and high rates of suicide, among other dire challenges. All of these groups are disproportionately impacted by the crisis of capitalism and the resulting austerity and cuts to social funding.
In reaction to these systemic oppressions and forms of discrimination, we have seen a number of spontaneous movements erupting against the multiple forms of oppression that different layers of the working class experience under capitalism. In March 2016, the Black Lives Matter Toronto chapter organized an occupation outside of the Toronto Police headquarters to demand justice for Jermaine Carby and Andrew Loku; two unarmed black men who were killed by the Toronto police. One scheduled rally saw over 1000 attendees, with solidarity from workers and youth from diverse backgrounds showing an intuitive drive for unity among different oppressed groups. Under this pressure, it has been announced that there will be a coroner’s inquest into the shooting and killing of Andrew Loku. The shameless victim-blaming and horrendous treatment of survivors of sexual violence that was witnessed during the trial of Jian Ghomeshi along with the “not guilty” verdict at the end, are a clear example of how the state and legal system trivializes and perpetuates violence against women. This has been met by an outpouring of rage from women all over the country, adding to the ongoing calls in the student movement to address sexual violence on campuses. The struggle for indigenous rights and justice for hundreds of years of oppression is ongoing, with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities across the country fighting for respect of treaty rights and to be meaningfully consulted about northern development; demanding justice for missing and murdered indigenous women; and calling for reparations for the cultural genocide of the residential school system. Youth have been at the forefront of many of these movements.
The pressure of these movements has resulted in partial victories that should be celebrated because they show the power of coming together in numbers, such as the coroner’s inquest into the death of Andrew Loku and the commitment by the Liberal government to carry out the long awaited national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. However, these commitments often do not fundamentally challenge the social conditions that breed discrimination and inequality. For any inquest or inquiry to have any teeth, it would need to be carried out by representatives of impacted communities and of the larger working class, including the trade unions, and would need to result in concrete and meaningful changes. Furthermore, under capitalism the state, judiciary, and police all ultimately serve the interests of the ruling class, as do the management and administrations of our work places and campuses. Therefore, we can have no illusions that these institutions will meaningfully work to prevent and address oppression and discrimination. These forms of oppression all serve to maintain the capitalist system of exploitation which relies on divisions based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender, and sexual orientation to force us all to compete in the race to the bottom for lower wages, also preventing us from uniting against our common oppressor. In order for these movements to win they need to unite and challenge the system that is at root of the various forms of oppression; these struggles cannot be separate.
While an organic desire for unity and solidarity is apparent in all of these movements, the methods of the leadership at the top frequently stem from reformism, that is expressed in the ideas of identity politics and intersectionality. Intersectionality focuses on the individual and subjective experience of oppression, cataloging and describing its many gradations and combinations. It also views the act of oppression from the individual level, whereby those individuals who are not directly experiencing a given form of oppression are seen to be the ones directly benefiting from and perpetuating it. So, the emphasis of struggle often times stops short at changing individual behaviour, thought, and language, at piecemeal reforms under capitalism instead of targeting the socio-economic roots of oppression and seeking revolutionary transformation of the very system that breeds this racism and oppression. This individual and subjective approach risks atomizing the movement instead of building the kind of class unity and solidarity required to win. Experience shows that the oppression of one group of workers in no way benefits other groups of workers. For example, in a workplace where an oppressed group faces reduced wages and conditions, the bosses’ divide and conquer tactics actually aim to depress wages for all workers - including the less oppressed workers. United strike action to win equal pay and conditions and an end to oppression improves the position of all workers.
It is the duty of all revolutionaries to fight against discriminatory attitudes and behaviors in the movement whenever they occur. We must be in the forefront of this struggle. But, in the final analysis, we have to recognize that the only way to change these attitudes on a mass scale is precisely through united struggle. In common struggle, people begin to view each other based on what they have in common instead of what divides them. It also happens to be the case that it is only through such a united struggle of all workers and layers of the oppressed, that we can transform society and end the social conditions that breed the different forms of oppression which movements seek to address.
The oppression of one group works to sustain the system that oppresses and exploits the majority of us. To paraphrase Marx, no people who oppresses another can be free. The struggle against racism in the streets, workplaces, and campuses must be fought by all workers; the struggle against sexism and discrimination of LGBTQ people must include all genders and sexual orientations; the struggle against the oppression of Indigenous people must involve the entire working class. The fundamental dividing line that needs to be drawn is that of class. This position has often been misunderstood or distorted by those from an identity politics background as meaning that Marxists are only concerned with class exploitation, and do not care about other forms of oppression. This couldn’t be further from the truth; what we mean is that any representative of the minority ruling class, regardless of their gender, race or sexual orientation, will ultimately serve their class interests above all else. Those interests involve attacking social funding, wages, benefits, and civil liberties and can only be fought from a grassroots movement from below.
In order to win the demands being put forward by any of these movements mass demonstrations, walk-outs, occupations, and strike action that mobilize wide sectors of the working class from diverse backgrounds are required. For example, to fight sexism in the workplace or on campus, walk-outs and demonstrations of both male and female workers and students should be organized. Mass pressure is required to wrest any reforms from the ruling class. Additionally, the only solution to state violence and the state’s failure to protect marginalized communities is to organize democratically accountable security bodies, run for and by the working class and representatives of oppressed communities. While the Marxists fight for any reform that would alleviate the oppression and exploitation of the workers and youth, we highlight that reforms under capitalism are temporary. Capitalism is in a period of steep decline, making austerity inevitable so long as we do not break with its logic. What is ultimately required is the socialist transformation of society; where the vast wealth and resources that exist in Canada (and the world) could be collectively owned and democratically controlled under a socialist plan of production. This would allow for massive funding and expansion of a series of universal programs that would raise the standard of living for everyone: guaranteed housing, employment, child care, health care including pharmacare, dental and eye care, post-secondary education and so on. Collective and democratic ownership of the media and education system would also go a long way to eliminating discriminatory attitudes in society over generations. Marxists do not pretend to know exactly what each oppressed group requires to heal from hundreds of years of oppression. Those groups will be at the forefront of advocating for their unique needs within the new society and will have access to all of the resources required to do so. So, when Marxists emphasize the primacy of the class struggle it in no way means that other forms of oppression are less important and their solutions should be put on the back burner; it means that they are inherently tied to class society and their demise is tied to its overthrow.
The student and trade unions have to be transformed into militant fighting bodies that can unite all layers of the oppressed in this struggle. Unfortunately the reformist leaders of these mass organizations have historically failed to provide a clear and decisive program that can successfully eradicate racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination. We require labour and student leaders who can build solidarity between workers and students, and all layers of the oppressed, and offer a genuine alternative to a society based on inequality. While some youth look to identity politics to explain their day-to-day experience of oppression, events are demonstrating in practice that class is the fundamental dividing line in society. This couldn’t be clearer when considering who can better serve the interests of working class women, for example, in the Democratic leadership nomination race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, which many youth in Canada are eagerly following. Clinton has even attempted to use identity politics to cut across the Sanders movement. In fact, by drawing the line in the sand between the 99% and the “billionaire class”, the Sanders campaign has built up a movement that unites all layers of workers and youth which has quite clearly rattled the American ruling class. Nothing poses a bigger threat to them than the unity of the working class and only a Marxist program can ultimately consolidate such a struggle and lead it to the overthrow of capitalism once and for all.
Quebec: Learning the Lessons
In the four years since the mass movement around the 2012 student strike, a lot has changed in Quebec. This fantastic mass movement of Quebecois youth shook the province to the core and led to the defeat of the Liberals in the provincial election. This, however, did not solve the problem as it only brought the bourgeois Parti Québécois into power. The PQ, while pandering to the movement, continued the austerity policies of the Liberals and attempted to distract and divide the population with the racist Charter of Quebec Values.
The PQ government of Pauline Marois was short lived and the true nature of the Parti Québécois has now been fully revealed with the coronation of oligarch Pierre Karl Péladeau as the new leader. With the Liberals at the helm, the blunt agenda of the capitalist class is again the order of the day.
This time around, the Liberals put the public sector workers in their crosshairs. The ferocity of the attacks angered the workers and youth. The pressure from below forced the trade union leaders to mobilize their membership to fight back. In the fall of 2014 union leaders promised “a new Quebecois spring” - an obvious reference to the mass movement of 2012.
The workers responded to this call in a big way, with tens of thousands taking to the streets in Montreal and Quebec City on multiple occasions. Many unions passed resolutions calling for a general strike against the government. Unfortunately, the conservative leadership of the unions led to many ups and downs of the movement, which confused workers and students. Union leaders put mobilizations on hold in the spring of 2015 in order to “negotiate in good faith” during the summer. Not surprisingly, the negotiations went absolutely nowhere, which forced the unions to mobilize again.
Through this period, parallel to the mobilizations of workers, the student movement started to show signs of life. Many were inspired by the advance of the working class. However, the zigzags and conservatism of the trade union leaders led to ultra-left trends among student activists. This is best summed up in the slogan “Fuck tout!” (“Fuck Everything!”). Student radicals attempted to push for an “unlimited general strike” of the student population in the spring of 2015, regardless of the situation in the workers’ movement. But only minimal efforts was made to engage the workers to bring them into the struggle. This ultra-leftism led to a backlash amongst the general student population and placed the student movement in a state of disarray. Some of the student unions with the greatest tradition of militancy faced disaffiliation and dissolution campaigns. When the workers started striking in the fall, the students were paralyzed due to the previous adventurism of their leaders. When they were needed the most the students were nowhere to be found.
In the fall, the workers’ movement exploded again with mass demonstrations and a wave of public sector strike action. Rotating regional strikes were held, shutting down whole regions at a time. The pressure from the rank-and-file ended up pushing the leadership further and they announced plans for a three-day public sector-wide strike set for the beginning of December.
The trade union leaders, in spite of the massive response from their members, once again put an end to all mobilizations. They decreased their demands in order to show “good faith” to the government. This did not work and only served to confuse the workers. The government was emboldened as they sensed weakness and pushed their advantage. Backed into a corner, the union leaders called a one-day public sector-wide strike. The response from the rank-and-file was again massive. All over Quebec, public establishments were shut down as over 400,000 workers walked off the job and picketed their workplaces. This was the biggest strike in Quebec since the insurrectionary general strike of 1972.
The agreement reached between the Common Front and the government just before Christmas was presented as a victory, when in fact it was a defeat. The total salary commitments were lower than the agreement that had been forced onto the public sector workers by Jean Charest in 2005! Contrary to the claims of CSN leader Jacques Létourneau that this deal had “stopped the impoverishment of public sector workers and had ended the lag in salaries,” public sector salaries will still not keep pace with inflation. This, combined with the concession of raising the retirement age to 61 and increasing the penalty for early retirement from four per cent to six per cent, means that this deal was a betrayal of the objectives of the workers and the energy they had put into this movement.
The irony of this deal is that the union and student leaders in Quebec have been arguing that “austerity is a choice” and “austerity is nothing more than an ideology.” When faced with the entrenched opposition of the government, now it is argued that “this is the best that we could do under these circumstances.” This shows the bankruptcy of the reformists, who are not prepared to break with capitalism and thereby accept austerity. Austerity is inevitable under private ownership of the means of production. To truly fight austerity, you must fight for the eradication of capitalism.
Some on the left glorify the movement in Quebec, in comparison with the movement in English Canada. The student and workers’ movements in Quebec show that the masses, once given an ounce of leadership, respond enthusiastically to opportunities to fight back. However, the opportunism of the trade union leaders, combined with the adventurist ultra-left attitudes of student leaders, has led the movement to a temporary defeat.
On the electoral front, in spite of mass movements over the past period, and the fact that austerity is very unpopular, the Couillard Liberals are still leading with 36 per cent support. Meanwhile, Québec Solidaire has been unable to capitalize on the mass discontent and has continued to stagnate with approximately ten per cent support in the polls. The fact that the strong worker and student movements of the past few years have not found a reflection in a mass political expression is striking. Only when we take into consideration the absence of any genuine representation for the workers on the left can we understand why the Liberal Party of Quebec is able to maintain its relative popularity.
The responsibility for the lack of a workers’ party in Quebec rests on the shoulders of the leaders of Québec Solidaire and the trade unions. The leaders of Québec Solidaire have been continually watering down their program and tail-ending the movement. On top of this, they have been confusing workers and youth by supporting some of the reactionary provisions like banning religious head coverings in public work places put forward in the PQ’s Charter of Quebec Values. In the eyes of many workers, they appear merely as a left rump of the PQ. Union leaders continue their conciliatory attitude towards the PQ, in spite of the presence of the reactionary billionaire PKP as leader. This was seen recently at a demonstration of daycare workers in Montreal where they went so far as to invite him to speak to the workers!
The present situation cannot last forever. Sooner or later the radicalization of the masses must find a political expression. So far, the leadership of Québec Solidaire has been incapable of making the party a political focal point for the mass discontent in society. It is possible though, in spite of the leaders of the party, that QS could become a conduit for the anger in society. This could be the case heading into the next provincial election of 2018.
After four years of struggle, the movement has suffered a defeat. We have entered a period of learning and reflection where the best elements of the students and workers seek to understand why the movement has not yet been successful. In such an environment, the clear explanations of the Marxists can have a big impact. The capitalist crisis will continue to make the lives of millions of people worse and worse. Nature abhors a vacuum. The discontent of the masses created by their worsening conditions of life will mean that at some point or another we will be faced with a new social explosion. The task of revolutionaries in the coming period is to grow and be prepared to provide workers and youth with the necessary answers in order to aid them to win the struggles of the future. The fact that we have built a united Marxist movement in French and English Canada means that the potential is immense.
The Rise and Fall of Tom Mulcair
Twelve months ago we asked ourselves the question of whether the modest left turn of the Federal NDP would be enough to reverse the erosion of support provoked by removing socialism and social ownership from the party constitution. The answer to that question was temporarily yes. Universal childcare, $15 minimum wage, opposition to the mission against ISIS, and opposition to the erosion of civil liberties in the name of fighting terror, combined with the victory of the Alberta NDP, shot the party into first place with about 35 per cent support at the start of the election. Unfortunately, once the election began the party bureaucracy again turned rightwards and the result was a humiliating defeat.
From winning 103 seats and 30.6 per cent of the vote in 2011, the party was reduced to 44 seats and 19.7 per cent. They lost every seat in the Maritimes and every seat in Toronto. The Liberals successfully managed to present themselves to the left of the NDP with a commitment to infrastructure spending financed by budget deficits. On the other side, NDP leader Tom Mulcair made balanced budgets the cornerstone of his campaign, with much applause from the corporate media. Under the balanced budget plan it was revealed that the reforms that had previously shot the party into first place would not be implemented for eight years or more. In this context polls revealed that Trudeau was viewed as representing “ambitious change” while Mulcair was seen as representing “moderate change”.
We have explained above how the progressive face of the Liberals is a sham, but the electorate did not see it that way. What this tells us is that Canada’s “natural governing party”, is run by much more intelligent opportunists than the bureaucracy at the top of Canada’s labour party, which has contempt for the working class. The NDP tops swallowed the Blairite dogma that the only way to win is by turning rightwards – the Liberals on the other hand had a much better ear for the anti-austerity desires of the population. In a very candid interview with Global News, Trudeau even revealed that his main worry was that the NDP “would pitch an even more ambitious program,” than the Liberals. But when the NDP came out for balanced budgets they understood, “that’s probably the election right there… we’ll look back at this as the turning point of the election campaign.” Mulcair even reacted positively to Liberal leaks of a video where he was praising Margaret Thatcher as a “wind of liberty and freedom” as he thought it would bolster his economic credentials!
Subsequently, it has been revealed that if Mulcair had won the election we would be faced with an NDP government going back on all of its promises, or instituting massive austerity, or both. The NDP’s plans were based on the Harper Conservatives’ estimate of oil at $65 a barrel – maintaining balanced budgets with oil at $35 could only be attained with wide-scale cuts.
In the aftermath of the election Mulcair and the top bureaucracy tried every maneuver to save their skins. Firstly, Tom went into hiding and did not appear until he released a ridiculous “Hotline Bling” video. In his stead the party apparatchiks pedaled the line that it was the NDP’s opposition to the niqab ban that led to the defeat (despite the Liberals defending the same position), and everybody should be happy, as this was the second best result in NDP history. In essence, they were blaming the defeat on the racism of the working class and not their own inability to put forward anything to enthuse workers and youth. They said that anybody raising opposition would be “quite publicly slapped”. This insulting and delusional approach backfired and served to provoke opposition. Toronto NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo came out publicly for a leadership review and was followed by Sid Ryan. Federal MPs were reticent to come out against Mulcair, which shows the weakness of the left, but they were also reticent to support Mulcair, which shows the weakness of the bureaucracy.
In a final opportunist roll of the dice to save his leadership, Mulcair attempted to turn left. Mulcair was clearly “feeling the Bern” in a February 13th op-ed where he said that “the economy is rigged” against working families. In a February 23rd message to members, he wrote, “when it comes to income inequality, we know that over the past generation, economic growth of more than 50% has not been of any benefit to the vast majority of Canadians who built that economy. Canada’s CEOs can make 200 times the salary of a worker while families see their purchasing power decrease. I believe this is grossly unacceptable. In an era where banks can eliminate thousands of jobs while at the same time paying their executives $12 billion in bonuses, our task is clear.” However, it has been pointed out that this type of language was nowhere to be seen in the party’s 2015 election manifesto. The idea that Tom Mulcair, the former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister, has had a socialist epiphany on his own personal road to the new Jerusalem.” is even more ridiculous than his Drake video.
Whither the NDP?
The leading clique at the top of the party had no choice but to rally around Mulcair at the April 2016 party convention in Edmonton. They did this precisely out of fear of losing control to a socialist movement like Jeremy Corbyn’s or Bernie Sanders’. There has never been much love in the party for Mulcair; he was elected to win and he failed. The low poll numbers of the party, combined with the fake left turn of the Liberals, continue to undermine the right wing of the NDP. But while Sanders and Corbyn are growing points of reference that in themselves change the political equation, we should also understand that no movement is repeated identically in different countries.
In Britain, the victory of the Conservatives in May 2015 came as a shock to many workers and youth. A wave of anger swept the country with spontaneous demonstrations of thousands of people erupting in many cities. This anger found an outlet in the Jeremy Corbyn campaign, who got on the Labour leadership ballot by the accidental miscalculation of the Blairite bureaucracy. Hundreds of thousands of workers, and especially youth, joined and registered with the party. This was the leading force that propelled Corbyn to victory. But in Canada, there have been no such expressions of anger. Precisely the opposite is the case with wide-scale illusions in Justin Trudeau. A revolt against the NDP apparatus would probably not be able to rely on as much support outside the party as Corbyn enjoyed. There is however significant discontent in the rank-and-file of the party, but the left is disorganized and the Liberal honeymoon would condition the character of any opposition movement.
For example, some of the lefts are uniting around Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis’ “Leap Manifesto”. This would be a significant mistake as this manifesto is far too vague to provoke the same response as the more open socialism of Corbyn, who defends free education and nationalization, and Sanders, who wants a revolution against the billionaire class and calls for universal healthcare and free education. Leap’s stated aim is to put pressure on the Liberals when what is needed is a movement to overturn this Bay Street government. To be successful, and create a movement, clear demands and straight language are required. Unfortunately, Leap has neither of these.
From the founding issue of our paper Fightback, the Marxists in Canada have defended an approach of presenting positive demands on the NDP leadership. We explained that if the NDP wishes to win and make any difference it must adopt socialist policies. This has been the best way to expose the leading bureaucracy in practice and win over workers and youth who look to the party. Sectarian groups instead took the approach of merely denouncing the “bourgeois” NDP, and got barren results as they cut themselves off from the base of the party that can be won to Marxism.
However, Marxism is not a dogma and we must always reappraise our conceptions and perspectives on the basis of experience to see if they are still valid. In Greece, the social-democratic PASOK has been practically destroyed and the radicalized masses used SYRIZA as a vehicle. In Spain, no left opposition arose in the social-democratic PSOE and instead the masses created a totally new formation Podemos. In Italy, all the old workers’ organizations have been either destroyed or their link to the consciousness of the working class has been severed. Could one of these scenarios occur in Canada?
One variant to consider is the rise of a new spontaneous mass formation that sidelines a diminished NDP. This would be analogous to Podemos and PSOE in Spain. While theoretically possible, we believe this is unlikely in the short to medium term in English Canada. While left opposition has been muted within the NDP, there is even less of an expression outside the NDP. The abject failure of the lefts to unite into anything lasting shows how “left-refoundationism” is a dead end. There is no clear figure such a new political formation could unite behind, and it appears to go against the traditions of the movement – especially in English Canada. Conceivably, there could be some sort of youth revolt, along the lines of the Spanish indignados movement, but it would be difficult for such a movement to penetrate the electoral sphere.
Any mass formation can die, including the NDP. It is theoretically possible that the leadership of the NDP could continue on a rightward trajectory to make the party indistinguishable from the Liberals. The unions could either be kicked out or, in a mirror image to the rightward turn of the party bureaucracy, the union bureaucracy could just drift away to support “strategic voting” between the Liberals and NDP. If the Blairites had remained in control of the British Labour Party it is possible that they could have finished the job and turned Labour into a thoroughly bourgeois party.
However, Canada is not Greece, or Spain, or Italy. Each country and each organization needs to be investigated on its own merits. While it is theoretically possible that the NDP could die, we do not believe that this is the most likely perspective. There are still mass reserves of support for the party in the working class, including important sections of the advanced layer. The “orange wave”, and then the more than 20,000 that came out for Jack Layton’s Toronto funeral in 2011, expressed a link between the NDP and the consciousness of workers. It is symptomatic that even opposition elements like the Leap Manifesto still address and direct themselves to the NDP, and at least a dozen riding associations voted to send the manifesto to the federal convention. Even the fact that a crass opportunist career politician like Tom Mulcair is forced to wear the clothes of Bernie Sanders to save his bacon tells you a lot about the pressure of the working class on the party. On the technical/legal side, the independence of the provincial NDPs would mean that the party would have to die eleven times in order to be truly dead. Additionally, there appears to be an interesting development in the Nova Scotia NDP that is more along the lines of our traditional perspectives and orientation.
The Nova Scotia NDP, under Darrell Dexter, won power for the first time ever in the 2009 election. The electorate was looking for change against generations of Conservative and Liberal rule. The party brass misread the reasons for their victory and thought it was “moderation” that won the day. In power they attempted to appease the bosses, implementing $772-million in cuts with 10,000 public sector jobs lost. They removed the right to strike from paramedics and increased university tuition by five per cent. Having betrayed their base, and left the workers worse off than when they were elected, the Dexter NDP were kicked out of office and found themselves in third place after the 2013 election. Even Dexter lost his seat.
After over two years without a permanent leader, the Nova Scotia NDP elected Gary Burrill in a decisive result against the candidates of the party establishment. He received 59 per cent of the votes on the second ballot, with a high turnout of 74 per cent of party members. During the leadership campaign party membership jumped by 70 per cent. The party apparatus was in such a shock that they didn’t update the NS NDP webpage for over a week after his victory – and now there are three open positions in the party staff due to either firings or resignations. Burrill has been likened to Bernie Sanders and even adopted the hashtag, #FeelTheBurrill. He won on a platform of a $15 minimum wage, tax the rich, free education, and the possibility of public ownership of strategic industries. He is a United Church minister and considers himself an “anti-capitalist Christian socialist” on the same social gospel path as NDP founder Tommy Douglas. This is obviously not a full Marxist platform, but it is symptomatic of underlying processes and opens up important possibilities for Marxists to engage the newly recruited membership in a discussion about how to really fight capitalist austerity.
All this goes to show that the Marxists were correct to maintain an orientation to the NDP. And it is still correct to maintain this orientation at this stage. However, an orientation does not mean that revolutionaries must spend all their time in routinist and boring party meetings. At base, an orientation is just how you address yourself to a political formation (by positive demands, not shrill denunciations), and how you educate your supporters on the perspective for a party and how the working class views it. In periods when there is active involvement and enthusiasm of new workers, and especially youth, such as the run-up to the 2011 federal election or possibly now in Nova Scotia, it is useful to engage with such enthusiasm. But if the most radical elements that are open to a revolutionary appeal are disgusted by the rightward turn of the party, as our Toronto activists witnessed during the 2015 election, then it is better to go to wherever the most radical youth are. It is necessary to keep an eye on developments in the NDP to see if a Sanders/Corbyn type movement can develop and attract the best elements of the workers and youth. Even with the removal of Mulcair, it is not guaranteed that a left opposition will arise. Carole James and then Adrian Dix were kicked out of the BC NDP leadership, but the left was too disorganized to put forward a credible candidate. Without such an opposition movement it seems likely that the federal party will continue in the doldrums for the next few years and the main arena of struggle will be outside the party.
After the NDP Convention
The first draft of these perspectives was written in mid-March, before the momentous rejection of Tom Mulcair by 52 per cent of the delegates at the federal NDP convention. This event, together with the opening up of a discussion on the Leap Manifesto, opens up a new stage in the evolution of the NDP. After a generation of moving rightwards, there is now an opportunity to reverse this process of degeneration. But as Hegel explained, what is potential may not become actual.
On the leadership front, a clearly left-wing candidate modelled on Sanders and Corbyn would be hugely popular amongst the rank-and-file. This in turn would prepare the party to turn out to new layers. But the existing lefts have been educated in the tradition of equivocation and compromise. There is no figure that has been advocating socialism through thick and thin for the last 40 years. Niki Ashton seems the most promising candidate, but even she would have to move significantly to the left compared with her 2012 leadership run in order to spark off mass enthusiasm. What is needed is an unapologetically socialist candidate that is not afraid to go on the offensive against capitalism and the capitalists.
The development around Leap is incredibly contradictory and complex. On the one side, the 60 per cent vote to open up a discussion on Leap was clearly an expression of the desire of the rank-and-file to make a left-wing and anti-establishment statement. Even sections of the bureaucracy were forced behind Leap in an attempt to appear left and save their own necks. However, as we explained above, the document itself is very confused and frankly utopian on a capitalist basis. Austerity is not “a fossilized form of thinking”; it is the logical consequence of capitalism in crisis. The opening up of a two-year period of discussion in the NDP presents an important opportunity to present clear Marxist answers to the problems posed in the manifesto. The proponents of Leap immediately butted their heads against the Alberta NDP that has adopted a “pro-pipelines” position. This was quite shocking to the petit-bourgeois environmentalists who are not used to taking into consideration the opinions of 100,000 laid-off oil workers. Marxists explain that capitalism cannot solve the jobs crisis or the environmental crisis. Mass unemployment will continue while industry remains in private hands, and pollution will continue while industry remains in private hands. Only public ownership of the land, major industries, oil, mining and logging companies, energy and transport, under democratic workers’ control and a socialist plan of production will ensure full employment for the workers and a sustainable development of the means of production. Only a socialist approach can unite workers and the environment.
The NDP leadership election may be delayed for up to two years, and candidates will probably not declare their intentions for twelve months, so these processes will develop over a period of time. The right-wing backlash to the rank-and-file revolt at the convention has been vociferous, both inside and outside the party. This shows the fault-lines of future party splits on class lines. But this is the beginning of a process and not its end. It is a mistake to confuse the first month with the ninth month of pregnancy – but it is an even bigger mistake to fail to recognize that conception has occurred! The Marxists will intervene in processes that engage the attention of politicized workers and youth, always putting forward the clear banner of revolutionary socialism. It is notable that Fightback was seen as “the Marxists” at NDP convention. This is a conquest, and allows us to stand apart from the confusion of the 101 different varieties of “socialist”. Lenin advised his supporters to “patiently explain”, and we intend to follow his advice.
The Alberta Oil Barons vs. the NDP
The defeat of the 44-year Alberta Conservative dynasty represents an earthquake in Canadian politics. The right-wing “red-neck” nature of the oil patch was taken as a given by all parts of the political establishment. Only the Marxists explained, for decades, that an overturn such as this was an inevitable consequence of the class struggle. Even Alberta NDP Premiere Rachel Notley admitted to not believing they could win until the final week of the campaign. This should be a lesson to anybody who believes that change cannot happen. The social and economic conditions of the province made change inevitable at a certain point, and everybody recognizes that now. But it is all too easy to be wise after the event – it takes Marxist perspectives to understand that eventually the political superstructure of a society will catch up with its social and economic base.
It is interesting to note that the NDP recently made breakthroughs in the regions where it has historically been the weakest, such as Quebec in 2011 and Alberta in 2015. In the regions that are traditionally NDP strongholds – BC, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario – the party has fared poorly. This is due to the contradiction between the class memory of what the NDP is supposed to represent (an anti-establishment party of the workers) verses the reality of the reformists in power. The Alberta workers have not yet experienced the school of social democracy and there are many lessons to be learned.
The reaction of the Albertan ruling class, especially the arrogant oil barons, has been vitriolic. Their red-baiting is relentless and seeks out any point of weakness. They are accustomed to having absolute control of their political representatives and never having to think about the opinion of the working class. This contrasts with the more mature sections of the ruling class in central Canada who are accustomed to unionized workplaces and political representation and have perfected a more gentlemanly (and gentlewomanly) process of co-optation and control to achieve the same ends. In Alberta, the politics is still “red-in-tooth-and-claw”.
The economic crisis in Alberta means there is no room for compromise or half measures. The reformist idea that it is possible to balance between the classes is sharply exposed. It is either with the workers and youth or with the bosses. Every compromise is insufficient to placate the ruling class, while on the other hand demoralizes the progressive elements of society. Already the cracks are beginning to show. Faced with the fury of the oil barons the NDP government capitulated on raising oil royalties. Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan spoke out against this. McGowan called it “shocking” that the report didn’t note that the public share for royalties averaged about 28 per cent of industry revenue when Peter Lougheed was premier, falling to 15 per cent under Ralph Klein and stands now at a “historic low” of in the last 12 months
In addition to the defeat on oil royalties, the NDP has succumbed to pressure and increased the phase-in period for the $15 minimum wage. After having failed to get more money from the oil sector, the present Alberta budget deficit is set to be $5.4-billion this year, over $10-billion next year, with no hope of a balanced budget this decade. Public sector contract negotiations are beginning and the corporate media is baying for blood. The question is, who pays? Will the Alberta NDP side with the workers or will they do the dirty work of the oil bosses? And in the event of a betrayal like that of Darrell Dexter in Nova Scotia, or Bob Rae in Ontario, will the unions and rank-and-file revolt against the NDP leadership? All we can predict is that developments will not be peaceful.
Build the Revolutionary Forces!
Canada has entered a new contradictory stage of the class struggle. On the one side there are thousands upon thousands of youth that are being individually radicalized by the crisis and by world events. On the other side there are illusions in the Liberals and an absence of leadership or focal points for this radicalization to be expressed. It seems likely that the main processes will occur under the surface for the next one, two, or three years. This of course does not rule out the possibility of spontaneous explosions, or opposition movements, and revolutionaries must be prepared to turn to new formations if and when they occur.
However, we have entered a period of preparation for when mass events will occur. Young people have not been this open to a revolutionary appeal since the 1970s or perhaps the 1930s. The forces of genuine Marxism in Canada, organized around the International Marxist Tendency, have never grown this fast. This is not accidental. Marxism is becoming a point of reference for the most advanced elements, as seen by the fantastic success of the Montreal Marxist Winter School.
The task ahead of us is to reach the radicalized youth, and the best workers, and train them in the ideas of revolutionary Marxism. The mass movement will come, but it makes a huge difference if the revolutionaries approach such a movement with 100, or 200, or 500, or 1000 militants. With 100 activists we can write excellent analysis and educate the most advanced elements. With 1000 activists we can make the difference between defeat and victory and begin to make revolutionary socialism a viable option for the working class.
Even if a radical left movement modeled on Corbyn and Sanders arose, that would not be the end of the issue. Their anti-austerity phraseology has amazingly connected with radicalized youth, but when you look closely at their programs they do not provide a fully worked out plan to replace capitalism. In the final analysis, austerity is the logical conclusion of private ownership of the means of production, and the only way to end austerity is with a socialist society. SYRIZA showed us the limits of radical reformism in power, and movements like Sanders, Corbyn, Podemos, and others will inevitably be faced with similar dilemmas. Only by expropriating the 1%, and placing the productive forces under the democratic control of the workers, will we be able to end the crisis in society. Youth and workers politicized by these movements can be won over to this position with a patient, friendly, and positive approach of the Marxists.
More and more people are looking for a Marxist explanation for the crisis of capitalism. Progressively, the hard reality of austerity and the failure of middle-of-the-road reformist solutions, will burn away the illusions present in the working class. We must make use of this time to prepare for that eventuality, which will come sooner than we think. The question is posed bluntly, “who pays!?!” The reformists cannot answer this question and end up siding with the capitalist class. The opportunities for the growth, education, and development of the revolutionary tendency have never been better. To quote Lenin, “those who have the youth, have the future!”
Fightback Editorial Board
First draft, mid-March 2016