May Day address: Build a workers’ opposition!

May 2019 Canada picket (Julius)
Socialist Action (Canada) members at the Gateway strike picket line in December 2018. (Julius Arscott / Socialist Action)


Federal Secretary, Socialist Action (Canada)

May Day is OUR day. “Labour Day” treats Labour like a commodity. May 1 honours workers as a class, as a conscious, fighting movement. We are a living, creative force with the power to change the world. On May Day, even in the pouring rain in downtown Toronto, we celebrated our achievements, and we renewed our struggle for socialism, feminism and workers’ power.

What do we see in the news? Public services are under relentless attack. Job security is vanishing. Wages are frozen. Pensions are being shifted to the stock market. The rulers have wads of money for oil pipelines, but not for clean water in Indigenous communities. They have resources aplenty for war in Syria and Mali, to attempt to overthrow the government of Venezuela, but not to feed the hungry. The rich have funds to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral, but not to house the homeless. Workers have no choice but to fight.

We are inspired by the ongoing struggle of the Yellow Vest movement in France and by recent victories of teachers across the USA. We honour the campaign to raise the minimum wage, and the actions of young workers fighting for job security and decent pay. We admire Swedish 15-year old Greta Thunberg, who started a worldwide school strike for climate justice. We were thrilled to see over 100,000 Ontario students walk out of their classes on April 4, and over 20,000 people rally at Queen’s Park on April 6 to demand No Cuts to Education.

We are inspired by Idle No More, by Black Lives Matter, by Ontario community college workers, and by New Brunswick home care nurses. When militant leadership emerges, people respond. Workers rise up to fight the bosses. So, we say it’s time that working people reject labour concessions. Let’s remove those union officials who keep the capitalist system going. It’s time to break the chains that bind us to a system that offers nothing but repression, war, environmental disaster and untold suffering. In the words of Solidarity Forever, let’s “bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old.”

Our theme tonight, and at our upcoming conference, is “Fight Imperialism.” Imperialism is a system, not just a particular policy or government. It is a ruthless machine that devours nature and humanity, for the sake of profit. It widens the gap between North and South. It deepens the scourge of racism, sexism and the displacement of impoverished millions. It is a wounded beast, prone to lash out in its death agony. That is why we must confront the greater danger it poses by stepping up our anti-imperialism and international solidarity.

When the Zionist state annexes the Golan Heights, threatens to annex the West Bank, and kills peaceful protesters at the Gaza border by the hundreds, our response must be swift and massive.  SA is the initiator of the Day of Action for BDS and Palestine on May 18 all across the country. There is a new majority in Canada for Palestinian rights and against Israeli war crimes. Let’s make it visible on May 18.

When Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland target democratic Venezuela, and back the regimes of fraud and repression in Central and South America, we must shout louder “Hands Off Venezuela!” Here in University-Rosedale, let’s target the war-monger Freeland for defeat on Oct. 21.

Welcome to class war Canada. The peaceable kingdom is no more. Another global recession approaches. The bourgeoisie is on the offensive, and the stakes are much higher than in the 1980s and 1990s. Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s reckless and brutal austerity agenda takes aim at social services that are much weaker than those of 20 years ago. So, the impact of the current cuts is far more serious.

Joined by reactionary provincial premiers in New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, and now in Alberta, Ford’s destructive work follows a decade of sluggish economic recovery, with a looming a global downturn. Doug Ford, who will never be accused of being too smart for his own good, is part of an international current, a right wing that is attracting a mood of anger and a rejection of the neoliberal centre. The line between his brand of mainstream conservatism and far right racism is rather hazy. He says he is part of a “blue tide.” It holds power in seven Canadian provinces and may soon take federal office. This development is linked to such monsters as Trump, Netanyahu, Bolsonaro, and Orban. The urgency of a mass, militant working-class response to this challenge cannot be stressed enough.

We should also note the changed political situation in the federal parliamentary arena. The Justin Trudeau Liberal government has lost much of its popularity, particularly in Ontario. A litany of broken promises, a deteriorating trade position, an obsession with pipeline construction, and the gross SNC Lavalin scandal signal its decline.

The labour-based NDP has yet to recover from its sound defeat at the hands of the Trudeau Liberals who outflanked Tom Mulcair to the left in the 2015 federal election. Sadly, there was no Jeremy Corbyn-like candidate for the NDP federal leadership. That helped Jagmeet Singh parlay his large social media following into a victory that reproduced the very problem that led to the party’s electoral setback.

Yes, the Liberal rose is wilted. Trudeau bowed to ruling class dictates on every front—climate change, electoral reform, child care, pharma care, Bill C-51, imperial intervention abroad, and austerity at home. Canada’s climate is warming at twice the rate of the world average. The world is teetering on the brink of climate catastrophe and nuclear holocaust. We should deepen popular discontent with the Trudeau government. This is not only to prepare the ground for a renewal of struggles, but also to inoculate against any notion of lesser-evilism, to stop any resort to a Liberal-NDP alliance to block Andrew Scheer’s Tories.

The fight to win anti-austerity and eco-socialist policies takes place on many fronts, including in the unions and the NDP. Inside the workers’ movement we face agents of the bourgeoisie. We face the labour lieutenants of capital, the union and NDP bureaucrats who collaborate with the bosses, vote for cuts and military spending, condone sanctions against Venezuela and Cuba, and prop up the capitalist system.

Look at how the Alberta NDP government stabbed the B.C. NDP government in the back over a dirty oil pipeline. And look at the ignominious results for Rachel Notley’s team. The bureaucrats put their personal careers ahead of the interests of the working class as a whole. They undermine the political independence of workers at every step, except when we force them to do otherwise. Pro-business bureaucrats must be replaced by classconscious workers. Workers will develop class-consciousness only in the fight against the bosses, and in the fight against the agents of the bosses inside the workers’ movement.

That is why Socialist Action is engaged in struggles inside the mass working-class organizations. You won’t find many groups that call themselves socialist doing that. Most stand on the sidelines, talking to themselves. For Socialist Action, building a disciplined working-class party inside our class is the heart of our strategy for revolutionary change. So, we fight for socialist policies and we run candidates for executive office in unions and the NDP.

I’m a retired teacher and my partner is a retired postal worker. The highest rate of injuries plague postal workers. Canada Post pays rural delivery workers, most of whom are female, less than urban staff. It rejected the union’s demand for conversion to electric vehicles. When the union began rotating strikes, Justin Trudeau ordered an end to the job action. Socialist Action helped to organize solidarity pickets that shut some major plants. That’s when the ranks of labour should have been unleashed on the lying Liberals.

When GM in Oshawa, which got billions from Ottawa in the past, announced it will close the plants, that’s when the UNIFOR brass should have spurred auto workers to occupy the line and demand expropriation of GM. Instead of a chauvinist boycott of Mexican-built cars, the union should project a different vision: Seize control of the wealth created by the sweat and blood of the working class, and build the green energy vehicles of the future!

Clearly, there is no market solution for the problems that plague humanity. Only socialist solutions will do.

And now that Thug Ford is cutting health services, increasing class size, slashing legal aid, and dumping environmental protection, what should we do? Isn’t it clear?  It’s time for escalating job actions. We must respond to every attack. Leave no sector of workers behind. Push aside the bureaucrats.  Scatter the spineless politicians. It’s time to Dump Thug Ford with a General Strike!

In honour of May Day, I want you to raise your hand, right now, and join me in making this pledge: We will build a class-struggle left wing that will shatter bureaucratic control of the unions and the NDP. We will fight imperialism. We will keep Chrystia Freeland’s bloody Hands Off Venezuela. We will Boycott Israeli Apartheid. We will campaign to expropriate the natural resource pirates. There will be No Reconciliation Without Restitution to Indigenous people.  Fight to win! The enemy is capitalism. Our banner is the world socialist revolution!

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