For one hundred years the only people who could ever close Stelco were the workers. Now carrying the new (and still odious) name U.S. Steel, this giant steelmaking works will grind to a halt by April when the coke ovens cool and cease to produce. This is not because of a labour dispute. Hamilton and Nanticoke are to be closed by a capitalist system trying hard not to implode and fall on its own sword.
The city of Hamilton, home of this mill, is one of the birthing sites of Canadian industrial trade unionism. The wordsmiths of capital and the sirens of despair will be working overtime with finger pointing and behind the hand tales of “working class greed”, too fat pensions and too rigid unions. The “community leaders” and the entrepreneurial vultures who slaver after the ruins of manufacturing will talk of retraining and diversification. Balderdash.
For the last thirty years, the plans for the destruction of Canadian manufacturing, the transfer of everything of value to foreign ownership and the corresponding loss of sovereignty have become daily news. Cautiously at first, with all the guile of a false suitor, Tories and Liberals lied us into free trade. The bourgeoisie sold us by the pound, not for wealth, but for the promise of wealth. For the opportunity to become junior partners in the plunder of the world, they opened us up to “deep integration”, NAFTA, TILMA, Atlantica and other fancy names for treason. There are other workers suffering as well. Beyond our borders the victims are stacking up in the millions, victims of the same capitalist class, of imperialism and its built-in cycles of suffering and impoverishment.
In a country where trees grow, where the rivers run, where the earth offers up everything needed to sustain and develop life, where one of the world’s most capable working classes lives, where science and technology is world class: why must we be poor? Why must our factories close because of decisions made in a foreign country? Why must Canadian cities and their people wither and die because we lack the authority in our own land to take back our resources, to use our factories to manufacture vehicles, appliances, trains and the material for schools, housing, and hospitals?
The experts will spew out predictions full time, and the right-wing think tanks of capital will overheat with feverish activity. Don’t be fooled. They were the paid musicians of courtship that wooed us into this dilemma, and they only know one song.
What we need is a whole new symphony, one that leads to a better future. We need to take these industries and resources, in fair and mutual agreement with Aboriginal peoples, and put them to work under public ownership and control, for the restructuring of our manufacturing and infrastructure, for the good of our people. We can produce anything for our domestic market, and anything the rest of the world needs, forging fair trade agreements with others. This is the only way we can provide a future for our youth and support the same efforts in other countries for a more equitable world.
This is the only sustainable way to rebuild our manufacturing, our transportation, our extraction industries. Otherwise, even if they’re rebuilt, it will not be for us and we will not benefit. We must own and control, and this means public ownership and control.
Does this sound like socialism? Well, take your choice.