Capitalism's Global Crisis Kills

Only the Working Class Holds the Solution for Humanity

Comrades and friends,

Ontario workers, employed or unemployed, are presently under attack. The all-out state offensive against the living and working conditions of our class has no recent precedent and is sowing growing poverty, insecurity and death amongst us. Today's demonstration representing mainly unemployed and homeless workers will be an important occasion to express our anger and disgust with a system that treats working class people like cattle or unwanted trash.

Following its 1995 21.6% welfare cut, the provincial government has created great hardship amongst hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers and, in addition to the federal government's cuts to unemployment insurance, has helped the bosses drive wages down in factories, mines and services. Proceeding from this, the state has now adopted even more repressive policies such as the lifetime ban from welfare of anyone found guilty of making an incomplete or "fraudulent" declaration to government officials. Similar attacks on rent control and social housing in addition to the 1997 passing of the pro-landlord so-called "Tenant Protection Act" have wreaked further havoc across the province. This has created a state of affairs where more and more people must makethe inhuman choice of paying the rent or buying food, while those made homeless by this situation often pay for it with their lives. Toronto is now the epicenter of a spreading homeless epidemic with official estimates putting the number at anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000 people. Every winter people freeze to death on the streets of Toronto. In order to corral these masses of distressed and abused human beings spilling over into the streets, the state has also reinforced its repressive apparatus. It has thus passed a "Safe Streets Act" making panhandling and sqeegeeing a crime. The city of Toronto has also developed a program called Targeted Policing in view of driving the poor and the homeless out of town or into the ground.

A state of war

Far from limiting its attack against the unemployed, we are witnessing an all-out war against the whole working class; a class war where the ruling class is certainly making tremendous gains at our expense.

Public sector spending has been reduced drastically.

Even though Ontario's economy has been growing at a rate of more than 3% a year, spending in this sector has been cut from 15.1% of the GDP in 1995-96 to 12.2% in 1999-2000; a whopping 20%! Major cutbacks and mass lay-offs have been imposed on every service of any use to the working class. A partial list of these include:

  • an enormous $1.307 billion less for hospitals with a scheduled 35 hospitals being closed province-wide and 10,000 workers being laid-off in Metro Toronto alone;
  • huge cuts to public schools amounting to $1.5 billion to which must be added an additional $400 million to colleges and universities with tuition fees rising from 10 to 20% and thousands of teachers being removed from the education system;
  • a minimum of 13,000 employees have already been or are on the verge of being fired from the Ontario Public Service and Premier Harris has admitted that up to 22,000 jobs are at risk;
  • the Workplace Health and Safety Agency has simply been disbanded which will increase workplace accidents and occupational disease.

Finally, the Walkerton tragedy has revealed to the world the deadly consequences these reactionary policies have for the day to day lives of the working class and the future of humanity as a whole. In this small town, many lives have been lost due to the presence of E-coli bacteria in the public water supply and the absence of any clear regulations establishing immediate action and adequate public information in such a situation. This, after the provincial state apparatus had all but eliminated funding for building and repairing water and sewage treatment systems. In addition to this, the Ministry of Environment has been decimated as its budget was cut 36% with 752 workers axed.

Truly, getting rid of the capitalist system is a life and death issue that is getting evermore critical as capitalism's crisis of capital accumulation deepens worldwide.

A global offensive

Internationalist Notes supports this demonstration. We know many of the comrades who have worked hard to organize it and we respect their integrity and will. (1) But we do have important political differences on the strategy determined by this "anti-poverty movement" and think it is useful to criticize what we consider certain of its serious limitations. As the whole History of the workers' movement teaches us, a simple willingness to fight, however "radically", is unfortunately just not enough to win. If that were the case, we probably would not still be caught-up in this barbaric hellhole. Besides its outrage and fighting spirit, the working class must clearly identify the enemy and its nature, as well as the basis and scope of its attacks and the general way towards a new and better society. In 1848, Marx and Engels put it this way: "understanding the line of march, the conditions and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement" (The Communist Manifesto). This is where our class and this anti-poverty movement is principaly lacking. We don't affirm these principles in a sectarian way to simply differentiate our particular grouping from the organizers or some so-called left-wing circles; for internationalist communists these principles are practical and indispensable tools for revolutionary change.

Workers must draw the historical lessons from the past struggles and build an organisation to point the way forward to practical activity that seeks to bring about the final downfall of capitalism worldwide. In this spirit we put forth the following criticisms.

1. This battle is not just about Mike Harris

Despicable, ignorant and petty as Mike Harris is, this battle is much larger than just getting rid of his personna.

Ontario has perhaps cut some programs a bit more than other provincial governments, but this administration is not out of tune with cuts and lay-offs being administered by the federal state and every single provincial government in Canada and elsewhere in the world. Everywhere, Conservative, Liberal, Nationalist, Labour, Stalinist, Democratic, Green and Social-Democratic governments are applying with increasing unity, essentially the same capitalist program: beating up on the working class in view of attempting to keep up the profit rates.

Ask yourselves this question: Is the "Conservative" Walkerton tragedy any worse than British "Labours' " railway line massacres? Are "right-wing" Harris' welfare cuts any worse than "left of center" Clintons' poor-bashing? Do we absolutely need to minutely measure and differentiate the shades and hue of capitalist horror? Aren't these specific campaigns about getting rid of this or that Party, of this or that politician, the basis of bourgeois democracy and its lies. Putting the accent on "getting rid of Harris" or "getting rid of Chrétien", depending on the subject of the demo and its location, is subject to every parliamentary recuperation operation in the book.

Unfortunately, despite radical and emotionally eloquent speeches and albeit loud and combatitive street demos, our anti-poverty activist friends usually put a lot of time talking about the crimes of this political misleader or that corrupt party. Whatever and however anti-capitalist the intentions of this leftist type of activism, one that is usually justified by tactical considerations, it only spreads illusions on the need for electoral alternatives rather than a clear and united revolutionary one.

It's a tactic that refuses to tell the whole truth to the working class. In Ontario, it clearly plays into the hands of the New Democratic Party (NDP), the Liberals and every single capitalist left racket hanging on to their coat-tails.

General and practical conclusions must be made in relation to the absolute defeat of the parliamentary tactics adopted by revolutionaries decades ago. Elections are useless for gaining any kind of leverage or meaningful results. Moreover, "the working class cannot win political power by electing a majority in parliament. In the first place it is an illusion of "parliamentary idiotism" (Marx) to believe that the ruling class would peacefully allow socialism to be legislated in. Further, Parliament is merely a fig-leaf which hides the bourgeois dictatorship over society. The real organs of power in democratic capitalist societies lie outside Parliament with the state bureaucracy, its security forces and the controllers of the means of production. Parliament is no longer even "the executive committee of the ruling class". It is more useful to the bourgeoisie as a means of giving the illusion that elections provide a choice in capitalist society. In the polling booth, cut off from the awareness of their collective interests, workers can only choose which capitalist faction they wish to submit to." (2) Harris, Chrétien and Bouchard are merely conveniently replacable henchmen; fig-leaves. For real progress we need to definitly get rid of the whole bourgeois state structure. There is no other way...

2. This battle will not be won with the trade-unions

Uniting the whole class in struggle is essential if gains are to be made. The unemployed can't win the battle themselves.

Iron links must be made with the workers in factories, mines and services to forge a formidable chain of solidarity. The huge potential of a unified working class in action was evident in the Ontario Days of Action. Whole cities were closed for a day, hundreds of workplaces shut down. The Toronto strike was accompanied by the largest political demonstration in Canadian history. And then... What happened? The unions that had militantly postured that they would shut down the province, effectively shut down... the struggle. Should we be surprised? Wasn't the historic two week protest of 126,000 Ontario teachers against Bill 160 also killed by the unions? Every major struggle worldwide from the Québec Common Front of 1972 to the French strikes of 95 were all ultimately axed by the trade-unions. They cannot be trusted and should not be invited to speak at our actions! Though initially useful tools of workers' struggle for better conditions, the unions under imperialism have tended to become part of the capitalist state's planning apparatus. Confronted by workers in struggle the unions have their own agenda and always attempt to control the struggle. More and more, workers are becoming critical of the unions but the great majority of militants think that all that is needed is a better leadership. "Those who argue that all we need to do is change the trade union leadership in order to change the unions don't understand that it is the function of the unions today rather than their leadership which determines their reactionary policies. They should ask themselves why even the most militant or honest shop-floor union members begin to be transformed as they rise up in the union apparatus." (4) In life there are fairy tales and there is reality. The reality of the unions is that they have become an essential tool in the politics of conserving capitalism. They are in fact state organs. However "radical" the speeches and the postures, the unions should not be trusted.

So how then do the unenployed reach other workers? We certainly don't need the unions for that as they are increasingly discredited. Plantgate leafleting is the best way for direct contact and a good place to organise collections to finance the struggle. Every picket line is an occasion to renew the links that modern capitalist society has smashed.

Every working class neighborhood street corner is a good place for holding public meetings. Of course this implies a lot of work, but results will be in consequence and a better garantee of success than any bureaucrat's promises or donations.

Comrades and friends,

Capitalism is ruining our lives and threatening the existence of everyone and everything on this planet. We urgently need to organise to overthrow it. As we wrote in our MayDay 2000 statement: "Serious reorganisation of class action has to start from the bottom through elected and recallable delegates from workplaces and neighbourhoods; and with the creation of mass organs of struggle, in the struggle itself." But History teaches that this is not enough to win. We also need a world revolutionary party that will fight inside these class bodies, giving voice to the revolutionary program, struggling against compromises and leading them in a revolutionary direction to ultimately smash this rotten and murderous system that is capitalism. The job of this future party will not be to take power in anyone's name as the stalinists, trotskyists and maoists would argue, but to fight for complete workers' rule through workers' councils (soviets).

We urge all workers fed up with this life of wage-slavery and misery to join us in this fight for a better future for our class and indeed for all of Humanity!

Internationalist Notes / Notes Internationalistes

(1) One of the strengths of their mobilizing efforts has been to conciously try to encourage participation of workers from different cultures and regions, notably Mohawks and Québécois, to join their Ontarian comrades in today's demonstration. The capitalist class, aided by reformist and nationalist forces, always tries to set the workers of one land against those of another, in a sick and bloody game of "Divide and Rule". The internationalist aspect of this demonstration is a step in the right direction.

(2) Socialism or Barbarism, Communist Workers Organisation, U.K., 1994.

(3) Ibid.