October 14th Canadian Elections Not a single vote for capitalism!

We are publishing this on the Canadian elections of last October.

The October 14th federal elections are taking place in a particularly serious and complex political context. The financial meltdown that has been shaking the whole world shows no sign of letting up. During the past week, the stock markets have experienced their greatest devaluations of share prices since the 1929 Crash. While the bourgeois economists are unsure of whether we are already in a recession or not, it is the shadow of a depression that looms on the horizon of this casino economy. In contrast to the crisis of the 30’s, the present tremor is leaving no part of the planet unscathed.

Even if we don’t know what the effect that the emergency meeting of the G7 will have on the situation, it is obvious that the bankruptcies, the takeovers and the mayhem of the last few weeks are the product of an exacerbation of the already profound crisis of the cycle of accumulation of capital that has been going on for the past few decades.

Today, the Saudi Arabian Stock Exchange, the most important in the Arab world in terms of capitalization, fell by 6%. Yesterday, the Hang Seng Index of Hong Kong fell by 7.2%, the CAC-40 of Paris by 6.8%, the DAX 30 of Germany by 7% and Toronto’s TSX by 7.9%.

The last of the great banks of Iceland has now collapsed and had to be nationalized just as the two preceding ones, while its stock market had to suspend trading as was also the case in Austria, Italy and Russia.

In the last week alone, the Nikkei Index of Japan lost 24% of its value, while the Composite Index of Shanghai dropped 14%.

Sign of the times: the great Asian steelworks such as Nippon and JFE Holdings Inc. of Japan are suffering enormously due to fears of an economic slowdown and the Chinese steel giant Baosteel has lost 63% of its value in the last year. In the United States, the Dow Jones Index has lost 18.2% this week, a number higher than the one from the week of July 22nd 1933, at the height of the Great Depression. The MSCI World Index, that evaluates the value of world stock market exchanges, puts the loss of value during the last week at 19%.

The international political situation is no better than the economic one. The war continues in Iraq and in Afghanistan (1) and it is quite possible that it will extend itself to Iran. In the month of June, the State of Israel completed a preparatory military exercise with this in mind. Acts of provocation between the US and Iranian air forces are multiplying all along the Iraq border. We shouldn’t forget that history teaches us that economic and financial crises tend to exacerbate inter-imperialist tensions and encourages the push towards global war.

The bloody confrontations of the month of August in Ossetia and Georgia and the threat of their future extension to Crimea are but further proof of this.

Furthermore, the quest to find new paths towards the valorization of capital has created a fictitious demand on the strategic resources and the staple food product markets. Consequently, this has led to an artificial rise in the cost of gas and the price of food. Food riots have broken out in many countries and have often been brutally suppressed. (2) These riots bear witness to the increasingly intolerable misery in the countries of the capitalist periphery. But now the difficulties are also increasing in the heartlands of the imperialist centers. Here in Canada, rising consumer prices are being felt harshly. The crisis of fictitious capital is having a very real effect on Canadian workers. This impact is expected to get worse. The difficulties and the crises of capitalism always produce cutbacks to the social wage (social programs), real wages and a rise of the rate of exploitation. As always, the ruling class intends to make the working class pay for its crisis.

Crises, poverty and war, that is the present context of this electoral period. And we must not forget the continued degradation of our very means of existence through the environmental crisis. It is in this context that we are called upon to take part in the democratic “game”, to support the parliamentary process by giving a vote in favor of a program or a person, or at the very least try to ward off the greater of evils by keeping the least desirable people out of the corridors of power. The latter is what is now called strategic voting. What follows are our thoughts on the different electoral options as well as the parliamentary process itself.

The Conservative Party is historically one of the twin parties of the Canadian ruling class. During its mandate (that it ended prematurely against the letter of its own law), as a bourgeois party leading a minority government, it has loyally served the cause of our masters, both domestically as on the international level. Thus, it has fought to defend the interests of and assure an advantageous geo-strategic position for the Canadian bourgeoisie - complementary but distinct from the US policies - in the Middle East as well as the Canadian North. Even though the nuance of some of its ideological positions repulse us particularly, be they on the treatment of criminality, cultural issues, the question of contraception or its positions on environment, we think this party must be fought ferociously, not for this or that particular policy, but because it is a party of exploiters and vultures that weighs very negatively on the balance scales of the future of humanity.

The Liberal Party is the other historical twin party of the bosses. In this campaign, it benefits from the demonization of its conservative alter ego. However, giving them the credit of a strategic vote in certain ridings, as suggested by the press release of the “left nationalists” of Québec Solidaire and by quite a few ecologists, is to demonstrate an incredible historic ignorance and a fundamental incomprehension of the historical and societal stakes at play. We need only remember the War Measures Act imposed by this party in 1970, the wage freeze the Liberals had promised it would not support, only to do so once in power in 1976, or Chrétien’s broken promises on the Free Trade Agreement and the GST.

Have these people already forgotten that it was the Liberals that sent the Canadian Armed Forces to Yugoslavia in 1999 and in Afghanistan during the autumn of 2002 - two imperialist interventions in three years!?

Have they also wiped the board clean on the Axworthy reforms and the so-called struggle to eliminate the deficit, that produced the largest cutbacks in social program expenses in the history of Canada and that took away the right to unemployment benefits from the majority of unemployed workers, even if all the workers must pay contributions? Fighting the Conservatives by supporting the Liberals is like boxing with an adversary while punching oneself in the face.

Finally, what can we say about the two other parties aspiring to govern the capitalist state in Canada - the NDP and the Green Party - and the Bloc Québécois, that wishes a renegotiation of the terms of Confederation in favor of the particular interests of the Québec bourgeoisie? Firstly, we must point out that in every case, the exercise of power by green and social-democratic parties these last few years have been particularly enlightening in so far as to what their real intentions are and the narrow limits of their quest for true change. Be it the ultra-militaristic policies of the Green Party in Germany and their enthusiastic support for all the austerity programs aimed at the working class, or the similar practices of the British Labour Party, all the instances of reformist parties in power have demonstrated without exception that they are loyal and competent managers of their respective capitalist states. Moreover, the Green Party, the NDP and the Bloc (3) have all pledged themselves to maintain balanced budgets and we all know what that means, especially in times of crisis. To take on the administration of the capitalist state is to assume responsibility for running the system of capitalist exploitation; in effect, stoking the fires of the capitalist inferno.

On Afghanistan, we should recall that the Bloc and the NDP both supported intervention from the beginning and that their differences with the Conservatives and the Liberals lie only on the length of the mandate and its tactical transformation, not on the underlying mission, which remains a “noble cause” to quote Bloc leader Duceppe.

We should also recall that these are the nuances put forth by bourgeois political parties that are in the opposition, subtleties that are rapidly forgotten once these parties are in power. As for the Green Party, their 3 D approach - diplomacy, development and defense - varies little from the rhetoric of their political rivals and is in step with the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc in their preference to cover the future Canadian gunboat expeditions under the UN banner, that “den of thieves”.

Finally, on the environmental question, the only political debate in this electoral campaign is on the usefulness of carbon exchange and carbon taxes. Hence, the competing parties either refuse to act rapidly on this question for reasons of economic competitiveness as do the Conservatives, or they just rely on capitalist methods that are acceptable to the ruling class (see Conference Board of Canada on the carbon tax), in view of “regulating” certain symptoms of the environmental crisis. However, at the root of this crisis lies the actual ultra-productivist nature of capitalism itself. We need to break with the profit motive, which expresses itself by the fierce rivalry of the imperialist blocs who fight tooth and nail for the control of markets, resources and even human capital. As long as the profit system remains unchanged and we do not replace it by a system based on social need, the environment will continue to deteriorate. By focusing on the shortterm and deluding themselves with treating the symptoms (with capitalists methods - taxes and exchanges - by the way), rather than intervening at the root level and attacking the causes, all the parliamentary parties demonstrate that they are very poor ecologists.

So what is to be done? A vote in favor of the candidates of the parties of a Stalinist heritage (CPC and MLPC) is not an option.

They understand nothing about the crisis of capitalism or how to fight it, because they have yet to understand the defeat of state capitalism in Russia, China or elsewhere to which they were closely associated.

The “Communist” Party of Quebec, some anarchists and a few Trotskyist groups are calling for a strategic vote for the Bloc or the NDP. We have just demonstrated how this vote makes no sense and can only foster illusions on these so-called “progressive” parties. Must we remind these people that historically, this slippery slope is a fast track to nowhere? Some comrades and close contacts have questioned on the advisability of spoiling their ballots. They are preoccupied with the idea of losing their vote or having it stolen from them in some sort of fraudulent electoral maneuver.

As internationalist communists, even though we respect the comrades who are planning to spoil their ballots, we do not share their fear because a vote cast in the capitalist electoral framework is always a vote wasted and a waste of workers’ time.

Because the whole electoral machinery is based on the sham of “bourgeois democracy”, it seems evident that votes stolen by one party or another don’t really matter, because it is the election itself that is contrary to our interests and that all the political parties are part of the problem, not the solution. We are convinced that neither critical support for a reformist party, a strategic vote, a vote for a post or crypto- Stalinist sect, nor even spoiling the ballot leads anywhere. In fact, we should underline that the question of state power is not limited to a government, a party or a coalition of parties that represent it. A state is composed of much more than that, notably its nonelected components.

In a world dominated by property relations and by daily exploitation and oppression, we believe that the only positive solution to the crisis of humanity lies in the overthrow of the inhumane, backward and destructive capitalist system and all the institutions on which it is based, notably parliamentary cretinism in all its forms and all of its parties.

We call for the complete boycott of the October 14th elections, as well as we call on all Canadian workers to fight back. Indeed, in this very grave world situation with which we are confronted, we need to rapidly organize a serious resistance to the crisis measures that the ruling class will inevitably try to impose on us, whichever party takes office and whatever the government may be, minority or majority. We also need to call for the international fraternization of all workers against the war drive, i.e.

proletarian internationalism. At the same time, we will need to build new organizations of unified struggle and an international political workers’ organization capable of overthrowing the system of wage slavery that is the source of wars, the generator of oppressions and a lethal threat to our mother Earth.

On October 14: Not a single vote for capitalism! Rather than vote, assemble with comrades in the workplaces, in the neighborhoods and in your homes to discuss these perspectives. This is a call not to abstention and indifference, but an appeal to struggle!

Internationalist Workers Group - Canada October 11th, 2008

(1) Canada is an active participant in the war in Afghanistan, which is now estimated to cost between 14 and 18 billion dollars, if the mission ends as it is supposed to in 2011.

About 100 Canadians have been killed so far in a war that has devastated the country and massacred tens of thousands of its inhabitants.

(2) We must not forget that the police that shot at the hunger driven crowd and who killed many in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is for the most part trained and led by a contingent of 100 Canadian police officers, of which a good number occupy important posts in the hierarchy of the Haitian repressive apparatus. Not a single one of the main parties contesting these elections, including the “progressive” ones, had a word to say about this tragedy.

(3) In the case of the Bloc, it is worthwhile noting that though it has always criticized cutbacks to unemployment insurance in Ottawa, it has always remained mute when similar cuts were made to the welfare roles and “benefits” in Québec. In the same way, it protested the Axworthy reforms in Ottawa, but not the Zero Deficit operation in Québec.