May Day 1998 Statement from the Central Executive Committee,
Communist Party of Canada
(This article is from the May 1998 issue of People's Voice,
Canada's monthly communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted
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Labour and working people across Canada greet May Day this year
with renewed hope that neo-conservatism can be defeated across
Canada, and with renewed determination to make the labour and
people's movements powerful and united enough to achieve this
central task. Around the world, working people are fighting back.
>From the Maritime Union of Australia battling the bosses on the
waterfront, to the Lubicon Cree against the multinational Daishawa
in Alberta, working people are struggling.
From Bonavista to Vancouver Island, workers are fighting back.
The stubborn battle against forest giant Fletcher Challenge in
BC lasted nine months before an agreement was finally reached in
April, ratified by a scant 59% of the members. Given that more than
40% voted NO, neither Fletcher Challenge nor the other forest
industry corporations can take comfort. The pattern is now firmly
set for more battles in the west coast pulp and paper mills, with
workers fighting the companies every inch of the way.
In Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, determined food workers
fought for seven months against the transnational Maple Leaf,
before finally settling in late winter, in one case after another
hairs-breadth ratification votes by angry UFCW members. With a 40%
wage cut and a plant closure in the agreement, the pattern here too
is for a continuing dogfight on the shop floor.
In Ontario, the unity of the public sector, education and
municipal unions against Bill 136 forced the Tories to back off key
sections of the legislation last summer.
Last November's historic two week work stoppage and protest by
125,000 Ontario teachers against the Tories' vicious Bill 160 ended
abruptly, without either consultation or agreement of classroom
teachers who largely opposed the return to work. The inexperienced
and conservative leadership of the majority of the Teacher
Federations, combined with the inaction of the OFL at the crucial
moment, ruptured the common front of teachers unions and ended the
strike, despite mass public and membership support.
The short strike of Canada's postal workers, forced back to
work in December without a contract, but with militant anger
brimming over into the workplace, has guaranteed that "the struggle
continues" as the workers face binding arbitration.
In Quebec, the teachers' union decided to pull out of a
one-sided agreement with the PQ government, in which labour's
cooperation at the public sector bargaining table had been promised
in exchange for government cooperation in pressing Ottawa to
recognize Quebec's right to national self-determination.
And in Montreal, half a dozen young people who successfully
organized a franchise of the powerful McDonald's hamburger chain,
found out just how powerful these corporations are when the
franchise was closed as part of a strategic corporate
In Cape Breton last year, the anger and frustration of
unemployed, unionized building trades workers led to the torching
and burning down of a construction site operated by non-union
Everywhere, the evidence points to working people struggling,
striking out, fighting back, searching for the way to battle and
win, with or without militant labour leadership, and despite the
And the reason is simple. Working people have no choice:
either fight, or fall under the wheels of neo-conservative economic
and social policy, and corporate globalization.
The fuel of social explosions is burning across the land: the
gutting of medicare, the privatization of public education, the
robbing of public pensions and public unemployment insurance, the
decimation of public institutions, the elimination of labour and
democratic rights and protections, the destruction of the
environment, the attack on the poor, women, and People of Colour,
and the ongoing genocide against Aboriginal Peoples.
The unevenness of the struggle across Canada is less a measure
of those conducting it, than of the strength of their
neo-conservative corporate opponents, and of the weakness of
right-wing labour leadership, whose narrow vision, limited goals,
and extreme caution are today the main obstacle to a united,
militant, and successful fightback.
Strong words? Indeed they are, and reserved in the first place
for the left in the labour movement, which has the first
responsibility for uniting the working class in struggle for new
policies and a new direction.
May Day 1998 must mark a new stage in the fightback, where a
strong left in the labour movement begins to cast its shadow on
events, advancing a class struggle program, pursuing militant
tactics, and forging a strong chain of solidarity with its social
partners and allies, in Canada and the world.
Such a left imprint on today's fightback would strengthen and
advance the fightback Canada-wide, becoming the crucial factor in
helping labour to move onto the counter-offensive against
neo-conservative governments and policies.
If ever there was a time for strong left leadership in Canada,
and in the Canadian trade union movement, it is now.
That's the leadership needed to fight the MAI, NAFTA, the FTA,
and other global corporate "constitutions", to fight for full
employment policies, especially the 32 hour work week with no loss
in pay, for job and social security and rising living standards.
Such left leadership is needed to win a new constitutional deal
that can unite the working people of Quebec and the rest of Canada,
and to win self-government and justice for the Aboriginal Peoples.
And on a global scale, such leadership is needed to achieve
peace, disarmament, environmental protection, social progress, and
international solidarity against global corporate destruction.
This May Day, these are the things that bind us.
- Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada, May