Commentary on the Question of Labour and the Environment
November 25, 2008
Don Currie; Chair CPS, Editor FOS

The following is a discussion on labour and the environment that is the result of an email string sparked by an item carried in Political Affairs the theoretical journal of the Communist Party of the USA. Such discussions are breaking out in Canada among some left progressives triggered by the current global economic crisis of capitalism and the fight back of labour in our country and in North America.
It is an important discussion and we in CPS believe it should be the property of a wider audience of Communists, progressive thinkers and labour and peace activists. It arises from an exchange between some members of CPS. The FOS contribution is below. The discussion needs to go further. CPS and FOS will have more to say. We invite comment through our website at (FOS).
Don Currie

Dear Paul, John, Comrades and Friends:
First of all thanks to Paul and John for initiating this discussion. It is absolutely crucial that it not only be introduced as you have done, but continues and involves more people. That is why CPS established and it must be utilized more effectively as a forum where more and more workers and farmers can participate. The FOS Editorial Board remarks are preliminary and leave much more to be said. Consider it only as an opener.
Paul points to the statement of brother John Case writing in Political Affairs CPUSA about the auto sector in the USA and the prospects of bailout and nationalization which brother Case concludes with the stunning statement that “Once retooled and re-focused, it's possible the government could resell (FOS emphasis) the industry in whole or in part back to private producers if that proved to be more efficient”.
Paul countered; “This constitutes a larger question - what would a communist's solution be to an industry that has bribed politicians and undermined policies which through struggle were made to 'protect the environment and people's health' with higher gas mileage, all electric cars and lower emissions?” Paul’s full riposte is below.
What is posed by these comments is the purpose and limitations of struggles to save workers jobs as the current capitalist crisis severely impacts working people. Workers will fight for their jobs even when it cannot be shown to be at the expense of capital. The struggle to defend wages and income is a necessity and does not unfold in ideal conditions. No consideration will stop the farmers who depend on the Wheat Board for their income from defending its purpose. The underlying economic imperative is very powerful and just in both cases.
That is why FOS will attempt to broaden the question and not confine it to one industry and focus on some bigger questions of theory first, that embrace the whole question of what Communists in Canada should be advocating for our industries threatened by the onset of a major global depression.
Programs for economic reform under capitalism around which the labour and farm movement can wage struggles and protect themselves and make progress towards socialism are the order of the day. They are not abstract. They are urgent and concrete. We in CPS have been writing for some time on themes of the crisis of Canadian economic development as they relate to energy, de-industrialization and the environment in Canada. We would be the first to recognize the inadequacy of those efforts and the need to further deepen our understanding of what is happening to our country and what to do about it.
The Communist Party of Canada has a low level of theoretical output on such questions, and pointedly bans the work of the CPS from the Communist press. While we provide a link to their website they do not reciprocate. The People’s Voice republishes work from other sources including the CPUSA but ignores the work of CPS. We can live with that and do not depend on it to decide whether or not to speak our mind.
However it is not a small question for us non-member supporters of the Communist Party as to the fate of the Party because it carries the name and the prestige of the Communist movement that upholds the cause of socialism today and the future, and also the prestige and experience of the past. The fact that the Communist Party has a weak theoretical output and does not strive to organize a discussion among its supporters on major theoretical questions as they relate to the class struggle in Canada today, weakens the entire left and in particular the cause or socialism that requires constant attention to theory.
Reviewing past articles of Spark will reveal that its editors are pre occupied with the “failures” of socialism. The number of serious articles dealing with contemporary Canadian class struggle, Canada-US relations, studies on labour and the state, labour and sovereignty, Parliamentary and electoral politics, federal provincial relations, militarisation of the Canadian economy, Canada’s role in NATO, SPP, NAFTA and economic development are missing. There is a total blank on discussing new trends in the economy and politics such as changes in the energy sector, the politics of western Canada, Communist commentary on theories of environmentalism, corporate agriculture, the impact of technology on the productive forces and the composition of the working class etc.
The last issue of Spark, #$20 Summer 2008, had no in depth analysis by the CPC on the balance of class forces, the programs of the political parties and the issues confronting labour and farmers as the country moved toward a federal election.
The CPC website is static. It continues to post its federal election material six weeks after the election has taken place.
In the absence of serious theoretical work by the CPC it is no wonder that the theories on environmentalism and labour policy that emanate from Political Affairs CPUSA carry an inordinate amount of influence among Canadian Communists and becomes a substitute for independent theoretical work by the CPC. A case in point is the work of PA contributor comrade Marc Brodine on the subject of environmentalism that reveals a disturbing uncritical acceptance of the main tenets of modern environmental theorists and is indistinguishable in its essence from Canada’s own, “eco-socialism” which Brodine calls “environmental socialism”. The Communist Party of Canada seems to have no point of view on these theories. If it does they are well hidden.
Theoretical positions stated in contemporary Communist literature as to what constitutes a correct Marxist Leninist program to cope with global warming has evolved into two distinct lines. One is an uncritical acceptance of the main theories of environmental theorists and the other is an effort to apply Marxism to this complex problem. It would not be an exaggeration to say that one is Leninist and the other is revisionist. The denial that these two lines exist is centrist evasion and equivocation and falls into the revisionist category.
The revisionist line can be summed up as an assertion that since global warming is the result of human activity, there is an above class solution to the problem, resolvable without the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism in the imperialist era. The solution is posed as largely a problem of education and enlightenment that can be resolved with the appropriate pleas and adaptations of science and technology to reform capitalism in the era of imperialism. It is an above class, evolutionary view that refers to Marx for its economic assertions, Engels for its dialectical assertions and leap frogs over Lenin’s teachings on Imperialism in particular as it relates to the theory of revolution in the imperialist era.
It is not a small question for Canadian progressives to discuss this issue particularly because its simplistic appeal resonates among student youth who are attracted to petty bourgeois radicalism. In Canada the eco-socialists are dominated by Trotskyist theorists, the most prominent being Professor Ian Angus, long a militant Trotskyist opponent of the Communist Party of Canada. He was a critic of “Yours In the Struggle” the Reminiscences of Tim Buck and for those who study such things, there was a striking correspondence of views between Angus and the CEC of the CPC of the day in criticizing Tim Buck’s alleged “errors” and “mistakes” in his account of the history of the CPC in particular Buck’s struggle with Trotskyism and other advocates of American Exceptionalism. Angus is now becoming the new oracle of eco-socialism in Canada.
Focus on Socialism has been writing for some time on the energy issue. FOS has been pointing out that the current theories of environmentalism are an invitation to return to idealism in the theory of class struggle and are a departure from the Marxist Leninist teachings of historical materialism as it relates to economic development. FOS welcomes and encourages workers and farmers to consider writing more and not just react or circulate material. FOS welcomes Paul’s comments on the material from PA that has been circulated. FOS takes the view that if something is circulated without comment it can be assumed the person circulating the item agrees with it and is prepared to uphold that standpoint. Otherwise why circulate it?
The point of entry of my remarks on all of this is the fact that Marxism-Leninism is once again being challenged by an assortment of “left” petty bourgeois theorists claiming Marxism and in particular Leninism is inadequate to analyze and solve today’s problems. These theorists, and they are promoted inside the Communist movement as well, assert that today’s problems are exceptional and unique to our time and that in the interests of coalition building require tolerance by Communists as “new” theories that borrow from Marx and Lenin but postulate an entirely new goal for the “left” revolutionary forces defined as “eco-socialism”, “environmental socialism”, “red-green revolution” and variants of the same, that promote a fusion of the environmental and labour and peace movements in which environmentalism is supreme and labour is subordinate.
The other manifestation of petty bourgeois radicalism affecting the Communist movement relates to our understanding of Marxist-Leninist political economy. One can read endless theoretical commentaries that describe the global crisis as it affects the USA most of which stand in awe of it’s seemingly Teflon imperviousness to economic collapse. This is the new form that American Exceptionalism is taking in our time.
American exceptionalism was rejected by Canadian Communists under the leadership of Tim Buck in 1929 on the eve of the Stock Market crash and again rejected by Buck and the Canadian Communists when it took the form of Browderism at the end of WW2.
Such theories assert that US imperialism is so pre-eminent within the imperialist system that it can manage its way out of any crisis and emerge stronger from a major collapse of the global system of capitalism at the expense of its imperialist adversaries. The danger of theories of US exceptionalism for Canada is that they are seized upon by Canadian finance capital and in particular Prime Minister Harper, to reinforce the view of Canadian finance capital which asserts that Canada cannot exist and flourish independent of US imperialist oversight. Such a theory upholds the mistaken idea that Canada is incapable of independent economic development. The fact that Canadian finance capital has self-interest in doing so would require a much larger discussion. However there are few on the left that deny that is so.
Moreover US Exceptionalism is used by US imperialist ideologists to justify the notion of entitlement to Canada’s resources, relegating Canada to the role of supplier of cheap raw materials in the first place natural gas, electricity and oil including unprocessed bitumen, destined for processing in US refineries by US workers, as well as a steady supply of minerals and forestry products as they are required or not.
The latter is something the CPUSA seems to take as normal and that rarely merits a comment in any of their commentaries on their Party’s proposals for energy and environmental reform. In a discussion with comrade Halabiof the CPUSA Economic Commission and a contributing editor to PA responding to a comment by FOS that Canadian energy resource exploitation involved the question of who owns the resource said that “sovereignty was a capitalist or bourgeois construct.”
The CPUSA has condemned the environmental damage caused by Canadian developments in the Alberta Oil Sands but are silent about US refineries processing Canadian bitumen, supplying it to the US military and providing US consumers with cheap Canadian natural gas, even when such an arrangement threatens Canada’s long term needs. The US enjoys the benefits from the integration of Canadian produced hydro electrical power without which many US cities would be in a permanent state of brownout and which is done at the expense of the growing needs for energy particularly in Eastern Canada. While condemning the production of electrical energy by nuclear power, it seems to be impossible for our American friends to see the connection between US consumption of Canadian power and Canada’s lack of it.
Much more needs to be done by the Communists on North American economic integration that also includes Mexico. Internationalism needs more than proclamation it requires deep study and joint action.
In practice the theories of US exceptionalism and eco-socialism coalesce in arguments for Canadians to give up on their country and its future as an independent sovereign homeland and to dissolve our future in the global movements for economic and social justice and global environmental responsibility. The practical effect of such theories on organized labour is to “harmonize” and subordinate its struggle for the independent economic development of Canada, upon which Canadian workers depends for jobs, to the global movements that declare their main objective to be to save nature from the threat of global warming even if it means to condemn Canada to a state of permanent underdevelopment.
This is promoted as a form of “new” environmental internationalism, transcending and replacing the “old” internationalism of the working class in the anti-imperialist anti-monopoly revolutionary struggle for peace and socialism led and inspired by the Communists. In fact the global social reform movement develops parallel to and often in conflict with the rising anti-imperialist, anti-monopoly, working class based movements such as the World Peace Council and the World Federation of Democratic Trade Unions.
We are now confronted with a “new” international eco-socialist movement that neo-Trotskyism, Professor Angus and others aspire to lead.
Such theories are not new, and promote the idea that liberation from capitalism is not possible in one or a group of countries and awaits some great world revolution to achieve progress. Environmentalism has become the cause to achieve the world revolution. These theories serve to divert and weaken Canadian resistance to energy sell out to the USA, uphold calls to shut down economic development of Canada’s energy resource sector including the production of fossil fuels. These theories support the idea of Canadian economic underdevelopment as desirable.
Such theories also imply that labour is indifferent about nature and the fate of the planet. They imply that labour must be helped to understand by enlightened intellectuals not to object to the necessity of voluntarily muting and subordinating its class interests whenever the choice is defined by environmentalism to be between labour and nature.
There is an invitation in this approach to hand over to environmentalism the definition of what constitutes the main contradiction in society. It not only invites, but demands that Marxism revise its theory as to what constitutes the main contradiction in society and the motive force for socialist revolution to conform to the new eco-socialist theories.
The eco-socialists declare the main contradiction in society is not the contradiction between the private ownership of the means of production and the social form of production and its present day manifestation, the contradiction between state monopoly capitalism and the working class and all working people. The Marxist definition as to what constitutes the main contradiction it is asserted is inadequate and must be revised and re-defined by the new eco-socialism as the contradiction between man and nature.
Having elevated this contradiction to the main one it is but a step to postulate that labour must voluntarily accept a new relationship to production that environmentalism assigns to it and which it defines as necessary and which must become labour’s obligation to help to save the planet. Workers (and also farmers it is presumed) according to eco-socialism must accept voluntarily giving up employment, support deindustrialization and the decline of manufacturing and support a complete revision of all sectors of the economy that it is alleged contributes to global warming, such as auto, energy, logging, mining, transportation, agriculture (We will not go on because the list is endless) until new “green” jobs are found.
Today the “carbon footprint” is measurable everywhere, down to one’s own domicile and we are all enjoined by earnest environmentalists to “reduce” that footprint no matter what it takes. Presumably that would mean for modern farming a return to horse drawn implements, removing half of the land each year for summer fallowing, cattle manure as the principal fertilizer (hog manure is out), returning irrigation systems to their original stream flows etc…and abandonment of all agriculture of scale. Certainly huge combines and cultivators, that pulverize the soil, high yield crops dependent on the latest in pesticides and herbicides, the use of fossil fuels, coal generated electricity, (Alberta 80%) or nuclear energy (Ontario 20%) must stop forthwith. Every farm will have its own wind powered generator, solar panel and thermal heating power, off the grid and not dependent on polluting forms of energy. And of course all of this will be done now and under capitalism.
There is a serious disconnect, if one approaches such problems by production sector and attempt to solve them industry by industry. The obligations set for labour by the environmentalists to “reform” cannot be applied for example to energy sector workers and not also to auto workers and farmers, but it is done all of the time.
The Council of Canadians is (C of C) campaigning in Alberta for no more oil sands approvals even as energy sector workers are being laid off in the thousands and new construction halted. Why not advocate the permanent closure of all auto plants since they too contribute to global warming? If eco friendly cars can be produced why is it not possible to open up a scientific discussion of the how to reduce the CO2 emissions from fossil fuel production to enable its further expansion in a more eco-friendly way to meet the needs of industry and consumers?
One can only imagine the reception the C of C would get if they attended an auto workers rally in Oshawa and called for the shutting down the whole auto industry. But C of C supporters some of whom are Communists seem to consider it perfectly acceptable to mount demonstrations in Alberta to shut down oil sands development and throw energy sector workers out of their jobs. Such above class, reformist approaches to the problems of economic sustainability bear scrutiny.
It is a peculiar thing to read the commentary of the CPC Labour Secretary in People’s Voice commenting with sound and fury about the working class of Ontario suffering catastrophic job loss in manufacturing but somehow falling silent when it concerns energy sector workers who labour in the Alberta oil sands, the Saskatchewan oil fields or in Northern British Columbia or for that matter in Newfoundland-Labrador or for Irving Oil in New Brunswick.
These workers, as loggers were in the past, are defined by misguided environmentalists as the apostates of labour lumped in with their employers as despoilers of the environment. And this passes for Marxism. It is unacceptable and it demands a deeper analysis to be considered even remotely connected to Communism. The motto of one for all and all for one, solidarity forever, and class solidarity cannot be set aside so easily because it is offensive to our environmental friends.
It is not an option for labour to abandon struggles to maintain employment because such employment is not eco-friendly. Communists cannot and must not support such theories. It is even asserted by the new environmentalist theories that it is counterproductive to the goal of reducing global warming for workers to struggle for higher standards of living, and they must defer such struggles to a “new” eco friendly struggle to “revise” the productive forces downward to provide new “green jobs” based on entirely new industries, that do not as yet even exist.
The 100,000 US and Canadian auto workers confronting job loss today must move to the sidelines and into the breadlines and wait for a “green job” tomorrow. The energy sector workers of Alberta, next on the chopping block will “just have to find other jobs” as one ardent C of C spokesperson asserted in a recent meeting planning a march to the Alberta Legislature to shut down oil sands production all for the “common good.”
The demand by environmentalism that all forms of energy extraction, production and consumption must be altered, to eliminate fossil fuels, nuclear energy, coal fired electrical generation and to halt further hydro electric construction and decommission those that are now in service and establish, right now, and under capitalism, alternative renewable energy systems that will carry the productive forces of capitalism into the 21st Century, into a newer more eco-friendly form, is all defended as necessary to save the planet.
Close scrutiny of such ideal solutions is beyond the scope of this short essay but when it is done and subjected to the reality of the needs of modern capitalist production it dissolves into nothingness as it runs into the objectively real productive forces that exist and that will exist for some time, and the impossibility of affecting their progressive development without confronting the question of which class holds political power over decisions affecting the further development of the economy.
In other words, according to the new theories of eco-socialism, the main responsibility of the working class is no longer to overthrow the capitalist system and replace it with socialism but to defer that struggle and participate in a grand coalition led by enlightened eco-socialists in a new struggle, to avert environmental Armageddon. In this theory is the implicit suggestion that looming environmental disaster transcends class contradictions, that they can be made to disappear or put on hold, as labour engages in a grand coalition, with enlightened capitalists (Al Gore) and environmentalists (David Suzuki), in a joint effort to save the planet. The class struggle presumably is capable of being placed on hold until this grand task is completed. That is not reality.
Such theories, taken to their ultimate conclusion state that the overarching threat to all human existence is no longer the threat of imperialism and nuclear war, but the threat of environmental extinction. The “left”, it is postulated, must become involved with the environmental movement in a grand crusade to save the planet, all else is secondary and anyone who does not accept this “fundamental truth” is reactionary and worse, counter-revolutionary.
It is with the above in mind that we venture to restate some Marxist economic fundamentals and assert that it remains the framework within which further discussions need to take place. If these fundamentals are not valid and have been replaced by a new eco-socialist blend of Marxism and environmentalism it is incumbent upon those who believe so to say so and defend that conviction as we are required to defend our understanding of Marxism.
Marx in Volume 1 of Capital P 177 defined labour. He said:
“Labour is in the first place a process in which both man and nature, participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates and controls the material reactions between himself and Nature. He opposes himself to Nature as one of her own forces, setting in motion arms and legs, head and hands, the natural forces of his body, in order to appropriate Nature’s productions in a form adapted to his own wants. By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the same time changes his own nature.”
Further on (page 178) Marx says:
“The elementary factors in the labour-process are 1, the personal activity of man i.e. the work itself, 2, the subject of that work, and 3, its instruments.”
When discussing a Communist answer to present day problems of economic crisis overtaking the capitalist system of production and in particular how it impacts workers, nature and society we have a scientific method to use and apply. We need to remind ourselves of that method. What are some of the basics of that science that can help us develop strategies and tactics and programs that unite all working people? What is primary and what is secondary?
The “left” is awash with theories and treatises that deny Marx’s teachings on the primacy of labour. They imply that labour is the problem rather than the solution and further, that because imperialism can be said to represent the end of progressive capitalist development, human development itself has ceased to be progressive. These theories then infer that humans are the problem and in mortal conflict with nature and in danger of destroying it, implying that man threatens nature and must consider returning to some alternative retro-development regressing to some pastoral time that never was and live a life that never existed.
Let’s review some basics to remind ourselves that the growth of the productive forces, including fossil fuel energy that is the main source of energy that is used today to permit work to be performed has developed objectively and exists objectively and it will be replaced objectively not so much as an act of will as the result of necessity.
If one throws up one’s hands and looks on with despair at an objective process and concludes that it is leading to the imminent extinction of human kind then there is nothing left for us Communists to do than advise our fellow human beings to assume the lotus position, chant a mantra, turn our faces to the dying sun and resign ourselves to the end.
That is not a Communist view of the future. We take a different view; that the problem is not that human development which we contend is inherently progressive, but the seemingly insoluble contradiction between the form of the development and the content of the relations within which it takes place. Marxism answers that dilemma and asserts that it is not only possible but necessary to create the conditions, not to end economic development but to create conditions for its further progressive growth, by freeing it from the constraints imposed by outmoded relations of production.
Marx was the first to assert and prove the following:
The means of production are the aggregate of the objects of labour and the means of labour employed in material production. The means of labour comprise the objects of production taken from nature and acted upon by human labour utilizing the instruments of production, i.e. tools and equipment, factories and all modern forms of production.
The means of production create relations of production defined in the era of capitalism as to where humans stand in relation to the means of production either as owners of the means of production or as workers who are dispossessed and own only their labour power and must sell it to the owners of the means of production to live.
Labour power is a commodity that the capitalist buys in the marketplace. He buys it because it contains the ability when set to work in the production process to create a value much greater than what he paid for it. When a worker sells his or her labour power to the capitalist, he/she labours part of the day for wages enabling him/her to exist and replenish strength and provide housing and food and reproduce the family so they can continue to labour.
The portion of the day that a worker works for his/her needs is less than the entire work day. The capitalist has purchased labour power to work for the whole work day. The portion of the day beyond which the worker labours for his/her own needs the worker labours for the capitalist for nothing and the capitalist appropriates the value of that labour in the form of a surplus of value that the worker creates and that is now embodied in the commodities that are produced. The capitalist sells these commodities into the market place where the unpaid labour time embodied in the commodity is realized as the capitalist’s profit.
A portion of that profit he reinvests as capital, part he consumes and the remainder he reinvests in what Marx called relative capital, or in the purchase of more labour power. The capitalist can no more do without labour power, than the worker can do without work. The source of all capital is surplus value created by the working class and the suggestion by the environmentalists that the working class can be made to disappear from polluting occupations is absurd. It is not what workers do that is bad it is the way in which their labour power is used to create capital that is appropriated and used to expand capitalism that bears scrutiny.
The capitalist cannot exist without labour power. That is the basis for the expansion and growth of his capital that is used to recreate the means of production and that results in the process of recreating the working class and in its absolute growth. The form of the growth of the working class is another subject, but the fact of its growth and that it constitutes the overwhelming majority of society is indisputable. The working class is the product of the objectively real productive forces. Today the employed working force in Canada is about 17 million. 2% employed in agriculture, 60% in service and the remainder in the productive value added sector broken down in heavy industry, manufacturing, transportation, communications, utilities, resource sector including energy, mining and forestry etc.
Goods are produced dependent on the level of development of the productive forces constituting the modern means of production and by people equipped with production experience and habits of work. Historical materialism is the study of the relations of production at each stage in the development of human society.
We live in the era of the final stage of capitalism, imperialism defined as the era of the dominance of finance capital or monopoly. Finance capital and monopoly in our time are merged with the state. While the state and monopoly are not the same, they operate in practice as one organism. We live in the period of state monopoly capitalism that Lenin defined as imperialism. Imperialism is the last stage of capitalism beyond which as Lenin said there are no other rungs in the ladder. Beyond imperialism there is socialism. There is no super imperialism, hybrid imperialism, ultra-imperialism and certainly no eco-friendly imperialism to be observed or conceived.
As the productive forces develop to the stage as they have today, in contradiction to the existing relations of production i.e. the way producers, workers and farmers, stand in relation to the means of production, an insoluble contradiction prevails until the relations of production are brought into correspondence, or harmony with the productive forces - Marxism 101.
When does that happen? When the contradiction reaches the point where the productive forces cannot develop further without a change in the relations of production, the contradiction can only be resolved in either a destruction of the existing productive forces or a revolutionary change in the relations of production permitting further progressive development of the productive forces - Revolution 101.
Communists are not interested in, nor do we support, the destruction of the productive forces as an answer to the question of development. Capitalism is in the midst of its most serious crisis of development since the Dirty Thirties. It is incapable of further progressive development. It cannot reinvent itself to ensure its further progressive development. All expansion of capitalism can now only occur at the expense of the working class and the productive output of farmers, by the intensification of their labour, by lowering wages and farm incomes, by a monopoly rise in prices, and by the active intervention of the state with monopoly to divert the federal treasury to the cause of the profit system.
The political parties of capitalism are lying to the people that their future interests correspond with a finance capitalist renewal of the capitalist system. It is not the task of the working class to save the system of capitalism, but to overthrow it in order to rebuild it as socialism. Lenin advised that in such a period as ours, it was the task of the Communists, to seize upon the demands that workers and farmers themselves are placing upon the capitalists, to champion those demands support them and proclaim them in programs that when fought for, constitute what he called approaches to the revolution.
Such an approach demands, in our time, the nationalization of energy, the rebuilding of the productive capacity of the country, the preservation of the public health system, the abrogation of NAFTA the withdrawal from NORAD and NATO, the defence of the Wheat Board, upholding the sovereignty of the country and its unity in the cause of peace, and resolving all unsatisfied and lingering demands for self-determination and freedom for all oppressed First nations and aboriginal peoples and the people of Quebec; the duty to defend and provide for the peace and happiness of children and youth, for women’s full emancipation and the rights of labour. The foregoing is a partial list of such approaches.
The approach to revolution also involves the defence of the productive capacity of the country that is after all the result of the labour, past and present of millions of Canadian workers. That is why we defend the auto sector, protect the plants, and oppose the dismantling of equipment and its transport to low wage areas of the USA. This process is occurring in Alberta now as US oil companies are buying up drilling equipment at discounted prices due to currency differences and shipping it south to the US. That is why we also, defend the productive capacity of the energy sector including its infra-structure and capacity to extract, process, refine and transport energy to market first of all to satisfy the energy needs of our own country.
Communists must get past that question and begin to discuss how the productive capacity of the country is to be defended in the interests of the working class, its future and the needs of all of the people of the country in need of goods to ensure a rising standard of living, and to produce for export an expanding range of goods needed by the whole world. We Communists are not modern day Luddites that applaud the dismantling of one sector of the economy while demanding it remain intact in another. The economy is a single integrated system of production and dismantling one sector weakens all sectors. We Communists defend all workers and all sectors of the economy.
Should Communists support nationalization? Nationalization is a state capitalist reform and is not socialism. Its progressiveness depends on what class is demanding nationalization and in whose interests it will be used and under what conditions will it be implemented. Nationalization even as a state capitalist reform that primarily is of benefit to capital, may be supportable if it serves to conserve and protect the productive capacity of the country so it can be used to build socialism. Such a situation is always concrete and requires definition and should not be set aside in frustration as inconsequential when deciding should labour support state capitalist nationalization.
Workers have a right to demand that nationalization be used in their interests on terms defined by labour and at the expense of capital. That is part of the struggle to give any reform a progressive content. As workers we do not leave that question to the capitalist to decide for us. We fight to have an outcome that is in our interests and the interests of the country as a whole. That is what Tim Buck meant when at another time he coined the term “Labour Must Lead the Nation.”
Finance capital has another purpose today in so-called nationalization of GM and the auto sector. It seeks to co-opt unions into collaboration with corporate power in schemes to temporarily enact forms of nationalization designed to perpetuate the profit system and to subvert the interests of labour which in the final analysis is concerned with the maintenance and expansion of jobs. The Big Three want to drive down wages and escape from their pension obligations. They want a reduced work force with the same or higher productivity.
The reality is that organized labour under capitalism is never independent of the capitalist class and is linked to it in hundreds of ways. To condemn it for existing in a state of dependence on capital is ridiculous. The working class has no choice and the struggle for its relative independence is always progressive. To be free of capital requires its overthrow, and replacement with collective ownership of the means of production. To wiggle and dance around that fundamental question when discussing capitalist nationalization with workers is inexcusable.
Demands posed by workers for state control of the auto industry, or the energy industry, that includes a demand for presence “at the table” that is, a demand to have a say over protecting its vital interests in the councils of state monopoly capital need careful attention. Sometimes it works and more often it ties the hands of labour. It is always a concrete issue and should not be elevated to a principle unless it becomes an abject form of capitulation to capital. If labour goes to the table it can leave the table. The issue is not to become a prisoner of some sort of corporate-labour cabinet solidarity. So long as capitalism exists that contradiction of the mutual dependence of capital and labour will exist. To characterize its objective character as class collaboration is not supportable. Class collaboration is the conscious voluntary act of giving up labour’s independent class position in favour of capital. It happens in the course of struggle and it always leads to defeat.
Communists are concerned with struggles that alter power relationships between labour and capital that result in an expansion of production in labour’s interests, that defend the right to work or sustain income through EI, and that are achieved through independent class political action and struggle. Such struggles are fully supportable, and in fact are inevitable and can be a step in the process of workers coming to realize that they must not only have a say over the industry but ownership and power over industry and the state. In this period of the last stages of capitalism it is difficult for capital to evade demands by the people to curb its power. The capitalists fear such demands and that alone is reason to pose them. That is what the Communist Party has meant for decades by its demand to put monopoly under control. It is a demand that fulfills Lenin’s advice on finding the approaches to the revolution to a tee.
It is in the posing of that question and in the struggle for it that workers and farmers begin to understand what they already suspect, that none of their vital interests, and all of those of society as a whole including environmental degradation, can only be realized if the system itself is changed and they by their organized actions bring about that change.
What those elements of working class power are, that Communist should be advancing today, is becoming a crucial question for Marxist theorists and should be part of our discussion. That involves the question of the relationship of reforms to revolution in the modern era. When we in CPS say that the working class is to the left of the politicians it can also be said that the working class in its current temperament, beset by job loss and the abandonment by the state of its vital interests is moving to the left of the “left” and that is a serious matter for us all. The Communists have some catching up to do.
The limitation of the environmental movement and all such reform movements is their stance suggesting that necessary reforms to save the planet can be fought for and achieved under capitalism without the leading role of labour. We agree with them that such reform most decidedly can be fought for under capitalism and some ameliorative changes made, but those changes are only profound and lasting when they are combined with the power to defend them, and that is guaranteed by the working class and ultimately occurs under socialism. That and that alone forms the basis of an enduring and profound unity on the left.
Don Currie,
Chair, Canadians for Peace and Socialism,
Editor, Focus On Socialism

Sent: Saturday, November 22, 2008 9:26 PM
To: John
Subject: Re: FW: Economic Stimulus: Fierce Urgency of Now
This constitutes a larger question- what would a communist's solution be to an industry that has bribed politicians and undermined policies which through struggle were made to 'protect the environment and people's health' with higher gas mileage, all electric cars and lower emissions?
The NA auto industry is as backwards as their medical system, at 3rd world level. Because of this they have lost market share big time and caused health problems for millions- who have no health care. Over the last century auto and oil have stopped real progress (like the AMA and drug companies have stopped health care for all not alone provide preventative health care for all) in fuel efficiency and regenerative electric trains and buses. Instead they have worked at brainwashing consumers into becoming ignorant armed SUV maniacs ready to vent their self induced frustrations on fellow motorists. Hell, let us be honest, they made autos less efficient and tore up rail lines!
The motivation for this vent is because of the note to PA readers 'handwringing' over auto and thought prudent to read the auto article for fairness. All it did was confirm why I quit subscribing to PA. He spends the first half of the article putting forward the anti-working class arguments! Then side steps the problems to solve with just "energy, and transportation policy [is] 40 years behind." The complete article is not about policy but about how big auto works [don't all capitalists work that way] and its workers. Transportation policy is at least
60 years behind where it should be, some argue that it got diverted over 100 years ago.
His solution is shallow- since big auto is corrupt (along with the politicians) we must nationalize it to “re-tool” (doesn't say for what) and treat labor fairly. Then we can sell it back to the capitalists who are more efficient!
Newton's third law states: The forces of action and reaction between contacting bodies are equal in magnitude, opposite in direction and collinear. Newton, as far as I am aware, did not apply this to economics, but I believe that we must. We must balance people's needs with the world's needs as neither can be developed [exploited] for long without reacting.
This is a much needed debate among 'progressives' that is long, long overdue.
So you do not have to look up the article I have included it following the 'original message.'
John wrote:
> [J1] <#_msocom_1>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: []
> On Behalf Of Political Affairs
> Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2008 2:20 PM
> To:
> Subject: Economic Stimulus: Fierce Urgency of Now
> Dear Reader,
> As the economy worsens, Republicans have begun to play the
> obstructionist role. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt
> Romney even callously stated that he hopes the auto companies do go
> bankrupt, throwing thousands out of work. It's clear the ultra right
> hasn't gone away and the fight has just begun.
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