Miguel Figueroa, 
Communist Party of Canada, at the 12th International Meeting of Communist & Workers’ Parties, December 3-5, 2010, South Africa

Esteemed Delegates,
Dear Comrades,

Our Party joins with all others in expressing our gratitude to its organizers and especially our hosts, the South African Communist Party for convening this important meeting of our international movement. And we pay tribute to this beautiful land and its resolute people, and especially to its many revolutionary leaders and martyrs – past and present – who have helped to forge a pathway to a brighter future, to a socialist future.

Our party shares the analysis of the current global economic crisis that has been expressed repeatedly over the course of this any other exchanges since its onset in 2008: that it did not arise as a result of errors, mismanagement or inadequate mechanisms of regulation, but rather as an inevitable consequence of the dynamics of this rotten, exploitative system itself, that monopoly capital is using this crisis not only to protect its interests, but to squeeze even more advantage out of this situation at the expense of the working class and the people; that the struggle of the workers and their allies to defend their jobs, living standards and social/political rights from the impact of the crisis objectively constitutes a challenge to the capitalist system as a whole, even if they are not always or completely conscious of that fact; and finally, that therefore the revolutionary leadership role of the Communist parties in each country is absolutely consequential and decisive.

It is true, as the comrade president of COSATU said yesterday, that in general the working class response has not been sufficiently united, militant and purposeful to seize the initiative, and as a result the ruling classes have so far been able to recover and steer developments to serve their interests. But the crisis is far from over, comrades. Rather, it has entered its second stage of maturation, one likely to be far more protracted and painful than its opening round. If this assessment is accurate, then it follows that it is still possible to change the outcome of this crisis, to shift the balance of class forces against international finance capital and in favour of the working class and working people on both the national and international levels. But for working class resistance and fightback to grow, and for fresh advances and victories to be achieved, this will in turn require a most unremitting struggle against all shades of reformism, opportunism and class collaborationism which still dominate within the leadership of the trade union movement in most of our countries, and certainly within the leading imperialist states themselves. This is the most important and urgent task facing the Communists today, in our view.

Allow me now to turn to the related question of alliances, and their critical importance in our work. Some might be inclined to think that conducting a persistent ideological struggle against reformism and opportunism is incompatible with our efforts to build and strengthen alliances with other social, class and political forces within and among the labour and popular forces. On the contrary, comrades, both unity and struggle are absolutely essential and dialectically inter-connected. The struggle will never advance without the highest level of unity in action within the ranks of labour, and together with its closest social allies. And yet the achievement of such unity requires an unremitting “battle of ideas” against those forces and currents which fear militancy and seek instead accommodation and outright collusion with the class enemy. So we must battle on both of these fronts simultaneously in our political work.

How should we approach the struggle for alliances? Our Party considers it quite wrong to pay ‘lip-service’ to alliance-building, and then to proceed as if we are the ‘only game in town’, so to speak – to believe that we alone are privy to the truth, and to behave in a narrow or sectarian manner, as President Zuma reminded us yesterday.

It is equally if not more impermissible however for the Communists to enter into alliances in a self-effacing way, making unprincipled political and ideological concessions for the sake of maintaining unity, and jettisoning the independent role of the Communist Party in the process. This is the route to tailism in the short run, and to liquidationism over the longer term. We go down that road at our peril, comrades.

A few words about anti-imperialist solidarity at the international level. In September of 2009 at an international gathering in Caracas, President Hugo Chavez came forward with an interesting, if also somewhat bewildering proposal for a “New International”. Our Party decided to publicly withhold comment on this proposal, as did most other parties around the world. We felt that it was first necessary to learn more about the thinking behind this idea, what its proposed programmatic basis would be, its structure and membership rules, and so on, before taking a formal position.

It is now obvious that the idea was not fully thought through, and has been quietly shelved or abandoned. If the intention was to form an International in the spirit of the First International led by Marx and Engels, or of the 3rd Communist International, then the proposal was grossly premature and hopelessly muddled. But what if President Chavez had something else in mind? What if he was thinking about the need to build a structural vehicle for an international democratic and anti-imperialist front instead? What would have been our attitude in that case?

This poses a larger question, comrades. Our Party, and many others sitting in this hall today, have long spoken of the necessity for such a global democratic and anti-imperialist front of struggle, to defend national sovereignty, to maintain regional and world peace, and to counter imperialism’s economic and military aggression around the world. But what have we Communists concretely done to breathe life into this idea? Is it not time, comrades, for our parties to jointly consider this matter in a serious way, and to come forward with some proposals to give a political and organizational expression to the formation of such a front?

Allow me to conclude with some brief comments about our own process – the International Meetings of Communist & Workers Parties. Over the past twelve years, this process has developed both politically and organizationally. The agreement to establish a Working Group several years ago was an important step forward. The Working Group has played a decisive role not only in preparing for our annual meetings but also in taking some limited but valuable initiatives between meetings, such as drafting and issuing joint party statements on critical regional and international issues.

The Communist Party of Canada has been a strong proponent of this process from the very beginning, and we continue to support its work today and into the future. That said, it is our view that this process is rapidly approaching a crossroad in its development. Like any other social or natural process, our process must either grow and develop, or else it will wither and die. This may sound rather harsh, comrades, but we believe it to be true. While the Working Group has taken some important initiatives, our annual meetings themselves leave much to be desired. Every party has an opportunity to express its perspective (and quite briefly, at that), but there is neither the time nor the format on our agendas to permit a genuine exchange of views, discussion and yes, even debate, on the most pressing theoretical and practical issues that confront our movement. Nor is there any opportunity to discuss and agree upon joint projects, campaigns or actions. Some parties have resisted such a deepening of our process, and while it would be inappropriate to speculate on the motives of these parties, the fact that those parties which have been the most vociferous in their opposition do not even attend these meetings any longer speaks for itself, in our view.

Comrades, we realize that as a small Communist Party, we are not in the position to contribute many new resources to our collective efforts to deepen our process, but we urge all parties to seriously reflect on this question over the coming period, and leading up to our next meeting. Let us grow and develop, comrades; it is far better than the alternative.

December 3, 2010