Intervention of the Communist Party of Canada

By Elizabeth Rowley, member of the Central Executive Committee and Ontario Provincial Leader, Communist Party of Canada

It is a great honour and a privilege to speak from a platform in the homeland of the great Communist internationalist and theorist Comrade Alvaro Cunhal. Would that he were with us now to give us his thinking on the very difficult problems facing the international working class and the Communist and Workers’ Parties today. No doubt he would counsel unity of the international Communist movement as an essential ingredient in the struggle against imperialism, war and reaction, and for social advance and socialism.

Last spring, our 37th Convention determined that our Party Program which outlines our strategy for socialism in Canada should be reviewed and updated prior to the 38th Convention in 2016. The central question is the transition to socialism, the phases of transition and the objectives of each phase, and the alliances necessary to achieve those objectives.

In addition, the national question in Canada and the national rights of the Québécois(es) and of Aboriginal peoples across the country, is a central factor that affects all aspects of the struggle for socialism, and for a united mass resistance to imperialism and war abroad, and austerity and reaction at home.

As we prepare for this discussion, which is about the role and objectives of our small revolutionary party in non-revolutionary conditions, we reiterate our conviction that we are in the epoch of the transition from capitalism to socialism and that there is no other rung on the ladder of social and human history but socialism. We also reiterate that the transition to socialism occurs in each country according to a timetable determined by the objective and subjective conditions obtaining in each country, including the strength and unity of the working class and its allies, the strength and influence of the Communist Party, the development of class and political consciousness among the people, and the development of a revolutionary situation.

More than twenty years after the fall of the USSR and the socialist bloc, we can say that the greatest damage to our revolutionary cause, in Canada, was the widespread conclusion that socialism doesn’t work and is therefore not the alternative to capitalism that working people are searching for in increasing numbers today. This is the consequence of the ‘end of the history’ proclamations, which while they are quite wrong, have had widespread effect in the advanced capitalist countries, including Canada. We have an enormous job to do politically and ideologically to counter the state sponsored anti-communist campaigns, and to recreate the magnetism of socialism – working class power – that galvanized workers for socialism in the past. Developments In Cuba and Latin America have sparked the hopes of millions of people that imperialism can be defeated and that a new world order, based on democracy, sovereignty, peace, environmental security, and socialism, can be achieved through the people’s struggle.

We are confronted with new problems, including the environmental catastrophe that is engulfing the whole world; the result of unbridled capitalist greed and development. We must become the champions of peace and the environment, linking these issues to the need for profound and fundamental change, to the Communist agenda, and to socialism.

In this same time, we have seen the crisis of social democracy play out internationally and in Canada, where the New Democratic Party has abandoned all responsibility and accountability to the working class and the organized labour movement, and has jettisoned its progressive policies in favour of neoliberal dogma – all in pursuit of government power and corporate approval.

The CPC has long since abandoned its 1971 policy of seeking cooperation with the NDP when the NDP leadership abandoned socialism as its stated goal; all references to socialism have been finally purged from that party’s program and constitution earlier this year.

Yet there are many socialist-minded members of the NDP with whom we work closely in the labour and people’s movements, who are horrified by the NDP’s positions in support of war and against the best interests of the working class and working people. The NDP’s electoral gains in the last election could easily melt away in the 2015 election, as those votes were mainly against the Conservative austerity policies; not in support of social democratic policies of austerity.

As austerity bites deeper into wages and living standards, as unemployment and social conditions worsen, and as the attack on labour and democratic rights sharpens, there is also a growing demand for an organized economic, social and political resistance lead by labour and its social and community allies.

A sharp struggle has opened up in the labour movement between left and right social democrats over the direction of the trade union movement, their view of mass independent labour political action, and their relations with the NDP. The central issue is class struggle or class collaboration.

Communists in the trade unions and people’s movements are fighting for escalating mass independent political action that will put tens of thousands of people in the streets against austerity and anti-labour, anti-democratic attacks, including Conservative efforts to break the trade union movement and eliminate the right to strike with US styled, right-to-work laws. We fight for a people’s agenda of jobs, rising wages, incomes and living standards, for strong public services, affordable housing, quality public and post-secondary education, universal public healthcare, expanded labour, social, civil and democratic rights, for peace and environmental security, for sovereignty, and for the right of nations to self-determination up to and including the right to secession.

While we do not advocate secession, and in fact warn against secession in the current political context, we defend and uphold the right to nations in Canada to choose secession, in the same way we defend and uphold the rights of men and women to divorce if that is their choice.

In upholding these rights, we create the essential conditions for unity on an equal, voluntary basis in a socialist Canada. We also create the conditions for unity of the working class in English-speaking Canada, in Québec, and among Aboriginal Peoples, in the struggle to resist capitalist globalization, austerity, war, and reaction today, and for socialism tomorrow.

Our objective is to build a broad-based People’s Coalition which, with labour at its core, is an alliance that can launch an extra-parliamentary counter-offensive against the corporations and their right-wing governments. We anticipate that this will lead to new forms of cooperation and alliances that will have a political parliamentary expression, able to curb corporate power, and introduce far-reaching and fundamental social and economic reforms. This will not unfold without the strong, revolutionary leadership of the Communist Party.

Canadian Communists recognize that the specific conditions in Canada, as an advanced capitalist country deeply integrated into the US economy and being rapidly integrated into the US war machine, will not be the same as in other countries where objective and subjective conditions are different. Lenin looked for the weak link in imperialism’s chain, reflecting the dialectics of the class struggle nationally and internationally.

What is universal is the transition to socialism as a historical necessity, based on the specific conditions and alignment of forces in each country. We recognize and respect those specificities, while also expressing our strong support for more coordination and unity of the World Communist Movement and of the international working class movement.

In conclusion, we would like to thank the Portuguese Communist Party for generously agreeing to host this important meeting.

Thank you.