For a Labour Summit Now! Government is failing the People! Labour Must Lead!
March 4, 2009
Don Currie, Chair, CPS

The full negative consequences for millions of Canadian workers and their families of private-foreign ownership of the major industrial, manufacturing and resource sector industries of the country is now fully exposed. From coast to coast to coast, the de-industrialization of Canada is in full swing. Liberal and Conservative governments that invited foreign investors to take over the country, now meekly declare that they only have limited power to deal with the disastrous consequences of their irresponsible actions. All that workers can we are told is to wait until the depression becomes another boom.
That is not true. They are lying!
Governments now in power have everything they need now to act for Canada and its people, but they refuse to do so! That is because a capitalist depression is not considered to be a disaster for finance capital. It is considered by banker-politicians to be a “buying opportunity” and the aim is to be a winner in the game of profiting out of economic chaos and misery of the people. Governments exist to grease the skids for the investor classes. Such is the amoral stance of every investor and status quo defender of the capitalist system.
Such cynical and crass reasoning can never be the stance of workers. Workers have a different vision of the country that arises out of their common experience and solidarity in fighting for a decent life. It is the opposite of the greed of banker-politicians. A working class leader worth his/her salt today is one that steps up and says what that working class vision for Canada should be and organizes the struggle to achieve it.
As the minimum labour leaders are called upon to say publicly and without fear that Government’s are accountable and that includes NDP Governments! Governments that fail the people are failed governments and the people have the right to replace them and to consider an entirely new type of government of their own making!
It is not a matter of good intentions!
Failed governments must be ousted and replaced by one that can and will speak and act for the majority who rely on wages, farm income and small business to live! A government amenable to pressure is better than one that is not. But the lesser of the evil is never the answer for labour’s immediate or long term interests. Labour now confronts the need for gaining an imposing position of power in real politics if it is to alter its victim status in boom and bust capitalism.
That is pretty basic but is rarely talked about in the ranks of organized labour. The reason for that is that it would involve bringing labour leaders into direct and open confrontation with big business. Labour politics is all about the differences that arise between those who argue that the situation for workers can be improved by persuading and pleading with the bosses and government to be less exploitive and those who have moved beyond that bleak assessment and are saying there is something new and better that can be considered.
Workers that take that stance realize that the situation today has gone past the point of presenting government with rational arguments and persuasion. It doesn’t work. The banker-politicians that dominate Parliament and the Legislatures have gone deaf. Their response to every reasonable proposal from organized labour and the democratic movements of the people has been silence. We should never forget that Prime Minister Stephen Harper wouldn’t even meet with the CAW.
What the powers that be have offered the working people is a wall of silence, indifference, inaction and contempt. It has been going on for a long time. The differences that have arisen in politics between labour and capital are irreconcilable. The stark reality is that labour can only make gains today by superior organization that mobilizes massive united public action around its own program. The senior levels of governments have abandoned the people and concentrate on ensuring their political base of wealth and privilege that their interests are secure. The workers and their needs come last.
That is why it is deplorable to hear Ken Georgetti President of the Canadian Labour Congress talk about a “healthy private sector” in today’s economic condition. What is a healthy private sector? When have worker’s health and the private sector in all of its meanings ever gone together? What has the private sector done for workers except to pay wages when workers are needed and then throw them out the door when they are no longer needed! The private sector gets healthy by making workers sick; literally and figuratively!
Clash collaboration rhetoric is the equivalent of what the youth call “trash talk”. It is time for labour leaders to drop it. It was never true and it is particularly harmful to hear it in the midst of the collapse of the economy. Workers did not create the crisis and are not in the business of helping capitalism get out of it. The working class and its leaders should also consider the crisis an opportunity; the opportunity to get rid of capitalism and replace it with a superior system, socialism.
Workers who have yet to draw the conclusion that socialism is an urgent need, will nonetheless be receptive to discussing that idea as they learn from their own experience that the so-called “social contract” is now dead. It has been replaced by a government-big business “contract” that exists to convince workers that their only option is to accept or reject big government decisions, but never to aspire to be the government that makes the decisions.
That is what Ken Georgetti needs to start thinking about. A leap in class struggle politics must be made from where it was in the 80’s to where it must be in the 21st century. There is too much at stake for millions of workers to have a tentative labour leadership with a business a usual approach in charge at this juncture.
Look what is happening in steel!
Only a year ago the McGuinty Liberal Government of Ontario advised local 1005 United Steelworkers to support the takeover of Stelco by US Steel. McGuinty said it was the best deal for the workers. The union was not convinced. The USWA warned that government approval of another foreign takeover was risky for the steelworkers because it placed corporate decisions outside the country. The union was right and McGuinty was wrong!
Will McGuinty now admit he was wrong and the union was right and as a minimum do what Danny Williams did when he confronted Abitibi Bowater and told the US owned company that they could not abandon their responsibilities to Newfoundland and Labrador and attempt to profit out of publicly owned leased lands and lucrative hydro power? The Ontario Federation of Labour must demand that a stiff warning be issued now from Queen’s Park that US Steel cannot just walk away from Hamilton and transfer its production to the USA from Canada and Mexico. What consideration did US Steel get from the federal and provincial government paid for by the people of Ontario? Plant closures, as the Communists are saying are just not on. There are retaliatory measures the provincial government can take including expropriation if necessary.
What is happening in steel is happening everywhere!
What has just happened to steelworkers in Hamilton and Nanticoke has happened to smelter workers in Trail BC, Alcoa workers in Quebec and Sudbury, forestry sector workers in Quesnel BC, trades construction workers in Vancouver, energy sector workers in Fort McMurray and Fort Saskatchewan Alberta, textile, manufacturing and service workers in Quebec, auto assembly and parts workers in Windsor and Oshawa, service, retail wholesale and service workers everywhere, and severe hardship among self-employed workers without any benefits.
What must change? Workers demand a bail out!
Accompanying the campaigns for EI must be the demand for a debt moratorium for laid off workers and the burden of that debt born by the banks that have just received billions of loan guarantees from the federal government. The banks are doing very well and can afford it. Every time the Bank of Canada lowers interest rates it widens the spread between lenders and borrowers and pours billion more into bank profits. All banks are reporting increases in quarterly profits.
Shouldering worker debt would be a real test of bank “credibility”. If the banks truly believe in their own propaganda, they should feel secure about a moratorium on worker debt for the duration of the depression. Mark Carney Governor of the Bank of Canada has assured Canadians that we will all be out of the crisis by 2010 with a 3.8% increase in GDP no less. Good times are just around the corner. Given that rosy assurance the banks should demonstrate their love and devotion to Canada and step up and shoulder worker’s debt until things improve. Workers have been asked to shoulder bank, Caisse, GM and private corporate debt of all types.
We are being facetious of course.
The banks have no intention to help workers or expand the productive sector of the economy. That is not their purpose. Their purpose is to make the whole economy “usury” dependent. To make Canada as Lenin once remarked in Imperialism into a “rentier” state. The banks won’t help workers because the banks derive monstrous profit from exorbitant interest payments on mortgages, car payments and credit cards.
Workers know from their own experience what the banks do. But what prevents the Government from telling the banks what to do, instead of the other way around? It is because government and the state it serves is for the banker-industrial-rentier capital class and only needs the system to continue doing very well. Changing the system is not on the agenda of the banks.
If perpetuation of the system is finance capital’s agenda then changing the system must become labour’s agenda. To continue on the way things are now will condemn millions more to unemployment and the decline of the whole country as a modern and advanced industrialized state. That is unacceptable to the working class and its organizations. We are opposed to, and will not participate in the restructuring of capitalism that results in fewer jobs, intensification of labour the decline of our communities and the dependency of the whole country on continued private investor speculative schemes and whims.
What to do and where to start?
Leo Gerard and Ken Neumann of the USWA will be in Vancouver on April 4th to talk about the crisis in steel. They need to be joined by Ken Georgetti, and the leadership of every provincial federation of labour across the whole country, including Quebec to issue a stern warning to Ottawa including the opposition parties, that a slide to double digit unemployment and mass impoverishment is not on. The warning should be issued with a call to all of organized labour to conduct a mass lobby on Ottawa on May Day!
The labour movement needs to move forward with a labour and people’s summit scheduled for the spring/summer to launch a people’s campaign for a people’s economy.
This is 2009 not 1929. Organized labour has resources and potential for mass organization. It must be used. District Six of the USWA, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Alberta Federation of Labour, the British Columbia Federation of Labour, the CAW and the entire CLC leadership is called upon to immediately take the Manufacturing Matters campaign, the Buy Canadian campaign, the campaign to stop the export of raw bitumen, the Steelworkers campaign to stop the export of raw logs, the campaign of the CAW to save the auto sector, and the CLC campaign for expansion of EI payments, all in themselves supportable efforts, to the next level. Feel good rhetoric without country-wide mobilization and organizing cannot win.
The steps to power today are for organize labour to mobilize mass pressure at Ottawa to demand that the Harper federal pork barrel of a budget be scrapped and that all of the $40 billion allocated in the budget be spent on genuine infrastructure projects to create demand in Canada for products Canadian industry can supply in abundance if called upon to do so. There is no other group more powerful force in the country than labour, organized, motivated and militant.
Now is the time. Next year will be too late.
Canadians for Peace and Socialism

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