Many bourgeois ideologues claim that social classes do not exist, or do not exist anymore. Seemingly, the capitalist society would only be a collection of individuals, some being richer than others, at best advantaged, or just “lucky.” Because we are “the creators of our own fate” (who hasn’t heard this cliché!), it ensues that we can climb to the top if we really want to…
As being the ruling class, it is in the Canadian bourgeoisie’s interest to smother the existence of social classes. When it comes down to its antagonistic relation with the proletariat, it becomes even more needed. In fact, it is in its interest—and it works around the clock to achieve this—to hide, or even deny its very own existence. To do this the Canadian bourgeoisie often relies on its allies, phoney socialists. Unable to recognize our main enemy, we can’t wage true struggle.
In this way, elements of this so-called “Left wing,” influenced by Canadian nationalism (and strangely enough, by Québécois nationalism) claimed that there was no big bourgeoisie in Canada; that the country was nothing more than an American colony. The revolutionary perspective was hence to unite all Canadians, or Québécois, regardless of class distinctions, to fight against this common extra-territorial enemy.
Others, more realistic, admitted the existence of a big bourgeoisie, but curtailed it to about “two dozen families.” Here again, overlooking class distinctions, a harmful unity, made up of let’s say 99.9% of the population, was sought to be attained.
Nowadays, with the growing reality of trade and the strengthening of trans-national corporations taking place with “globalization,” it is a common idea that the enemy is “elusive;” that we are ruled by some kind of a “mysterious” force, one that we can not pinpoint, nor fight against.
The common fact with all these point of views is that they concur in negating the existence of an upper class, and therefore, prevent us at best in engaging in any serious analysis, or worse in any criticism. In final analysis, the proponents of such thinking—whether they are nationalists, revisionists, or anti-globalization activists—promote falsehoods and prevent a real proletariat’s struggle. As a good example of this, we can see how they always target an external enemy. After the threat of Yankee imperialism, who will be the enemy? German or Japanese imperialism? Or maybe Chinese social-imperialism? They rely on a Canadian national unity basis, regardless of class distinctions. Another example is to claim that our problems will be solved by getting rid of a “deceitful” statesman or one known to be a “back stabber” (those who are ready to give in or sell “our country” to a superpower). Still worse, that the state should be given more power, seemingly embattled by neo-liberalism and globalization (which is the opposite of what is really happening). The state should be, according to them, a rampart against… capitalism.
Not only do these points of view deceive us in not seeing our enemy and in steering us away from our target, it enlists us in supporting and reinforcing the struggle that the Canadian bourgeoisie wages against its main competitors in its economic war. It only helps the bourgeoisie to better protect its position and to bring us in supporting the wars that it wages in order to spread its domination. Capitalism means war.
We affirm that the enemy does exist! That it is assuredly in our midst and that it is against this very same foe that we must engage in battle if we are to free ourselves. This enemy is the Canadian imperialist bourgeoisie, the very class that controls the federal state and its provincial counterparts. It is a powerful class that cannot be reduced to a handful at the top, or to a strata of millionaires or a group of ultra rich families. To believe this would once again steer us away from our target.
The Canadian bourgeoisie would be nothing without the existence of the exploited proletariat and without the people of the oppressed countries from whom it draws super profits. The Canadian capitalists, like all bourgeois, produce nothing on their own. Their whole fortune is based on the surplus values they extort from us. All of the power they wield, that of the state apparatus, is based on the same foundation. In this regard, the Canadian bourgeoisie is nothing but a “Paper Tiger,” as Mao Zedong said at the end of the Sixties—a paper tiger that the proletariat can and must cast in history’s waste paper basket.
The Canadian bourgeoisie is a minority. It is hard to estimate its exact size. Statistics Canada and the like define the population in terms of job categories or sector of activity. Data on ownership or social rank (status in society’s chain of command) do not appear. However, we can safely say through a comparative study of various data that the Canadian bourgeoisie comprises about 5% to 7% of the population. Thus, they are few and at the same time quite numerous. We are roughly talking about 1.5 million to 2 million people who have vested interest in maintaining this system and that will most probably fight to defend their way of life. In short, a paper tiger, yet a very combative animal of a fair size.
When we talk about the Canadian bourgeoisie, of whom are we speaking?
There is a hard core of big imperialist bourgeois who control most of the financial capital. This capital is one of the most concentrated in the world. The five biggest Canadian charter banks control 80% of the market. Moreover, barely 1% of all Canadian companies (which total less than a thousand) control more than 80% of this country assets.
In 1992, 42 groups out of the 988 biggest Canadian corporations were controlling two thirds of all Canadian direct investments abroad. Seven years later, these investments add up 240 billion dollars. In the last quarter century, the Canadian monopolist bourgeoisie made considerable gains. The assets of big Canadian corporations abroad surpass domestic assets (i.e. investments in Canada from abroad). Among the 250 biggest corporations in Canada, 70% are under Canadian control, 19% are under American control and 10% are under European or Asian control.
To this core, small and middle-sized capitalists are to be added. They do possess means of production and hire wage earners. Also to be added to this nucleus: top executives; owners, CEOs, board members of professional administrative firms; associated lawyers of big law firms; judges; CEOs of big communication outfits; administrators and top executives of government-run corporations (Loto-Québec, Hydro-Ontario, Hydro-Québec, the Société Générale de Financement, Atomic Energy Canada, etc.); big bureaucrats of the federal, provincial and municipal public offices; the high brass of the army and of the police forces; diplomats; political leaders and organizers; leaders of the big trade-unions integrated to the state apparatus.
What is important for us proletarians is to consider—while bearing in mind that we are essentially dealing with a parasitic class destined to extinction—that we are truly dealing with a class, i.e. a “vast group of men and women” united through the relationship they exercise amongst themselves and with the proletariat. A class made up of real people that have at their disposal vast power, even though their power remains relative.
In no way are we denying that inner conflicts occur between them. This is the very essence of capitalism. It thrives on competition at every level, as well as between capitalists themselves. This strife may hit individual capitalists. It can also oppose whole sectors or groups of them who wage bitter struggle against one another for their survival (their profits).
With regards to the debate on free trade, for example, the capitalists who export a great deal of their commodities will most likely be in favour of measures that will give them access to overseas markets. While those who benefit from the domestic market will be in favour of border taxes or importation fees.
Capitalists from different regions or provinces can also be at odds. This reality takes on a political form, like in the squabbles between the federal government and the provinces, or between provinces. These divisions or conflicting interests between some sectors of the upper class are reflected in some of the differences between bourgeois parties.
However, it must be understood that these conflicts are of relative impact. The bourgeoisie has all the more reason to expose them to prevent any challenge to their rule. In certain circumstances, it allows some to enlist certain workers to side with them like it did during free trade talks. An example of this was when the bosses of the garment industry convinced seamstresses and tailors to abet protectionist measures. These policies were intended to limit the importation of garments from abroad.
The unity of the ruling class is apparent when the proletariat decides to act as a class and fight. The Canadian bourgeoisie has at its disposal quite an arsenal of arms and methods to maintain its rule.
First, there is the state, highly powerful and sophisticated in an imperialist country like Canada. Its army, police force, data and monitoring services, as well as its judiciary system are very efficient keepers of law and order. The state is also a powerful source of propaganda (education system, cultural industries, communications…). It allows it to shape our minds and ensure the prevalence of bourgeois ideas.
The electoral and parliamentary system is also a tool in the hands of the bourgeoisie. It serves to fool the proletarian masses in believing that things can be changed through these institutions, uprooting the desire for an uprising and political take over.
The state also serves to put into place a whole slew of mechanisms that have contributed and still contribute to integrating and exploiting the majority of proletarian and petty bourgeois organizations to ensure its control over the masses. Let’s mention, among others:
- The generous subsidies granted to trade-union organizations aimed at “training” and “educating” their members. As a matter of fact, the sole purpose of this scheme is to teach them capitalist thinking.
- The proliferation of committees of all shapes and sizes that are supposedly “highly democratic” and into which are lead literally thousands of trade-union officers and “civil society” representatives who waste their time managing capitalist affairs. Thus they end up acting and thinking like capitalists.
- The policies in regard to subsidy hand-outs to community organizations, women’s groups, youth groups and student associations, etc. which gears them to contribute to the “missions” chosen by the state to serve the needs of the bourgeoisie.
- The direct or indirect creation of groups or organizations that will compete with, and eventually replace those that have chosen to be self-sufficient. Enormous amounts are handed out to these groups and organizations.
One characteristic about the Canadian state is that 10 provincial state apparatuses are attached to it. These governing bodies wield a great deal of power and have at their disposal potent means of social, economic and political control, which make the rule of the upper class more efficient. However, this type of state forces the bourgeoisie to deal with the contradictions that sometimes develop more openly amongst its various sectors. For the most part however, this inner bickering enables it to divide the proletariat and to prevent us from challenging its rule. Not only does this prevent us from recognizing our adversary, but these provincial governments serve the upper class with their specific knowledge of the people they claim to represent: this helps them to snuff out any form of opposition.
The past decade clearly bares testimony to this as illustrated by the federal government’s cuts in transfer payments to the provinces. In response to these fiscal measures, the provincial governments followed suit by copying the federal budget. This greatly impoverished the most exploited workers. Slave labour wages and an overall lowering of wages ensued. Many struggles have been waged against this. In Ontario, it was against the Harris government; in Québec, against the Liberals, then the Parti Québécois. However, the bourgeoisie per se was never targeted and no co-ordination, or very little, ever occurred. There is no better example of a perfectly orchestrated and co-ordinated attack from the ruling class.
We are forced to admit that in many respects the Canadian bourgeoisie is a powerful class. This does not mean that it is invulnerable or unassailable—quite the opposite. But we will never be able to win victory without resorting to the required amount of force. Against the impressive capital that is at its disposal, its bureaucracy and state, we will have to come together as a class, conscious of its historical responsibilities and ready to push the struggle through.