May 1st is a day that we pay respects to the centuries of struggles of the working class and position ourselves as the contemporary torch-holders of this struggle. Thus, this day is not only necessary to pay tribute to and celebrate the successes of the international struggle of the proletariat, but also to firmly place ourselves at its forefront as the most vocal and active enemies of Capitalism, Imperialism and Colonialism. These the three primary contradictions within Canada that place a minority class of dominating workers’ at home an abroad, Indigenous Nations that have been colonized into a prison house of Nations, as well as those workers and Indigenous peoples abroad that Canada’s finance capital and military might consistently aims to subordinate to their drive for profit and power.
May Day has particular importance to the working class and revolutionary movement here in Canada this year as it coincides with the centennial anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike. In this action, over 30 000 thousand workers walked off of there jobs in Winnipeg on May 15, 1919, to combat unemployment, growing inflation, and degrading living conditions after the Inter-imperialist First World War. This General Strike shook the foundations of the city of Winnipeg, and its growing industrial basis, as nearly 20% of the population filled the street for over a month to protest the growing inequality between workers and the power concentrating within a minority capitalist class. It was only by the means of the Canadian State to intervene with non-local forces of the RCMP that the strike was violently suppressed in the interests of the capitalist class.
The Winnipeg General Strike is a historic example workers’ power in the class struggle in Canada. It should be seen both as a beacon that provides us a legacy of our struggle against capitalist domination as well as an experiment that we should give great scrutiny to in defining its strength and weaknesses.
Perhaps the greatest strength of the Winnipeg Strike was its means of utilizing the banner of creating One Big Union. Thus, nearly 2/3rds of those workers involved in the strike were not in traditional labour unions but were brought into collective action by a central organization that aimed at organizing the whole of the working class. This level of organizing was a practical necessity to overcome the spontaneous outbursts of workers and unite them in action – an example of a vanguard party leading the whole of the class in struggle. A party that possesses the most politically advanced elements of the revolutionary working class that will guide collective action, rather than the individual actions of workplaces or individual workers. A type of organization that does not fall into tailing the interests of individual trade unions, but one that seeks to organize the most oppressed members of society in the hard-core of the proletariat, whether they are not formally organized into unions, face precarious employment or chronic unemployment, and seeks to unify them in action.
The necessity for such an organization was paramount as large sections of the working class in Winnipeg at the time were non-citizen immigrants that faced the backlash of deportation, a sort of extra-judicial disciplinary measure that was used against them. Many of these workers came from Eastern European countries, where First World War saw many of them face persecution as Nationals hailing from territory of the Central Powers and thus seen with suspicion in an Allied country. There lack of stability made them prime targets by employers for deportation, and they possessed no ability to individually combat the injustices they faced in the workplace, from their landlords or in society at large. A situation not dissimilar to much of the immigrant labour today in Canada that is deemed as temporary and thus is subject to receiving support from their employers to progress towards gaining the status of being Landed-Immigrants or citizenship itself, and one that requires our conscious efforts to unify with immigrant labourers against our bosses and against the reactionary xenophobic elements that wish to pit fellow workers against each other.
Unfortunately the heroic efforts of those workers of the Winnipeg General Strike were not as prepared as their heroes involved in the Bolshevik Revolution. While the fallout of the First World War saw the general degradation of working conditions in industrial centres, this was also met with the growing influence of the great Soviet revolutionaries who had turned the conditions of the predatory war to fight the class war at home – rather than falling in line with the interests of their National ruling class and to fight against fellow workers from other countries. Though this influence was tangible around the world, the preparation politically and practically for the General Strikers in Winnipeg was not as equipped at engaging in a political struggle against the Canadian State and the counter-revolutionary forces of the RCMP that were sent in to violently suppress them. As a result, they struggle faced defeat only six weeks after it began.
From this failure, we should not fall into believing that a general strike and explosion of an insurrection will topple the political class that rules over Canada. If anything, the State’s power is more consolidated than it was a hundred years ago: with police and military forces becoming more distinctly professionalized, the increases of the surveillance state, and broader counter-insurgency techniques. But this in itself should not be a means of us losing hope in a revolutionary project, but instead requires accepting that if we are to succeed we must have a strategy of developing the forces of the working classes and the oppressed Nations, the majority of people, to combat an at present better organized and armed Canadian State. Vague expectations of an eventual and spontaneous revolution, some point of people naturally coming to terms that the system does not work for everyone, or some hope that violence against the oppressed will create disillusionment in the military and police forces that commit this violence and they will eventually turn to the side of progress are all wishful thinking. They are dependent on rejecting the work of building power in struggle for some future saving grace – in the end renouncing empowerment.
Instead we must act accordingly to our conditions of organization and power. This requires upholding a strategy of a protracted process of struggle, that will require the training and armament of progressive forces as a piecemeal means. One that incorporates all forms of struggle – increasing the militancy of our labour struggles, rebuilding a fighting labour movement, building organizations of community defence and support, opposing the development of pipelines and actively advancing guerrilla activity to take the fight to our enemies.
The necessity of this fight becoming evermore obvious as the ruling class become again more comfortable with direct Fascist repression in dealing with all three of these contradictions.
In terms of direct capital relations, many sections of the working class face increasing precarious work and unemployment; several industries are subject to back-to-work legislation that undermines collective action and makes the workers those industries directly subject to the Canadian State; while across the country their are turns towards aggressive policies of austerity to strip welfare security nets and to enshrine stronger class distinctions. All of this is bolstered by increasingly militarized police forces, and legislation that prepares for their utilization.
In terms of colonial relations: the Canadian State continues to be capable and willing to invade and remove Indigenous people from their territories for the advances of capital, most notably their use of state-police at Wet’Suwet’en; Settler-colonists are regularly protected from committing violence against Indigenous peoples, whether it is committed by civilians or state forces, with several of them being acquitted of wrong doing after being responsible for murder; as well as a continued growth in support for petro-populism and developing Canada’s oil industry, that is willing to support White Nationalist elements in their means of suppressing Indigenous peoples and pushing for pipelines and increased intervention on Indigenous land. All of this, while the Canadian State continues to espouse its fake commitment to reconciliation, and veiling its violent control over Indigenous territory.
In terms of Canadian imperialism: Canada continues to benefit from coups throughout South and Central America. Notably their desire for overthrow of the legitimate government of Venezuela shows the explicit interests of Canadian finance to have access to large oil reserves, and they are willing to support destruction and devastation to claim it. Often times by playing into anti-Islamic sentiments, both in South America as well as in their violent interventions in Northern Africa and the Middle East. The ravaging of these countries displacing millions and setting the stage for violently xenophobic policies at home that, beyond already fuelling many shootings and attacks against immigrants or racialized groups, sets the stage for fallout of ecological displacement that the next century promises to provide.
All of these show a ramping up of force for the ruling class, and their implementation and preparation to defend a system of exploitation that must see its dying day.
It is from this position of the necessity of this struggle that we wish to both celebrate the lineage of workers’ power, and the power of all oppressed classes that have combated against class rule and domination. We must contextualize our history as an incomplete project of the total emancipation of the world from class society, that we must accept revolutionary action and actively thrust society into the future by organizing to overthrow class rule and oppression. We are indebted to the lessons those heroes of the Winnipeg General Strike have given us, and must learn from the errors in their attempts. The fight is not over, and we must concretely prepare the way for a revolutionary war of the people against the Canadian State, and the reactionary Capitalist class that utilizes the State to inflict violence against workers and colonized people here in Canada and in the world abroad for their own private gain.
This preparation necessarily means going beyond lazy endorsements of spontaneous action, disorganization or loose decentralized movements, and preparing a strategy and implementing it to prepare progressive forces to engage in a protracted peoples’ war to overthrow Capitalism, Colonialism and Imperialism. This being a protracted war of the people that aims to remove the big capitalists to bring power to the workers that produce the basic needs of society, overthrows the Canadian State that claims sovereignty over Indigenous territories and subordinates Indigenous Nations to its own interests, and liquidates the financiers and resource extractors that aim to carve up the rest of the planet and its peoples for the spoils of their Imperial plunder.
Unite Against the Enemies of the People!
Down with Capitalism, Colonialism and Imperialism!
Build for Revolution!
Hamilton – Gore Park – 3:30PM
Saskatoon- Friendship Park – 5:30PM
Toronto – 100 Queen Street West – 5:00PM
Vancouver – Holland Park – 6:30PM