75th Anniversary of the Stelco Strike of ’46
July 15, 1946
Salute to USW Local 1005 and the Spirit of ’46
The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) sends its warmest greetings to USW Local 1005, to all its members, leadership and retirees on the 75th anniversary of its founding. Located in Hamilton in the heartland of industrial Canada, Local 1005 has played and continues to play an important role in the working class movement.
Right from the beginning in 1946, the leaders, activists and supporters of Local 1005 proved to themselves and others that organizing a defence collective of, for and by workers themselves could be done. They did not seek the permission of any authority in power; they demanded their recognition as a defence collective of workers as a matter of right. They held high the banner of the actual producers with concrete demands and claims arising from their social and working conditions. They proved in practice the importance of having a workers’ defence organization independent of those who own and control the facilities and state, a union of, for and by the steelworkers themselves.
The steelworkers of ’46 had a special spirit arising from the times. They were part of the international contingent of the working class that had defeated the anti-worker anti-people hordes of Nazis, fascists and militarists led and manipulated by those who owned and controlled the monopolies. Workers and their allies throughout the world had united with the Soviet Union in a great flow of revolution to defeat those in power who were committing atrocities against the people.
The flow of revolution and Spirit of ’46 captured the imagination of millions of industrial workers. Today this spirit is upheld by those who see the necessity to engage in actions with analysis, think for themselves and organize independently of the ruling elite. This is the key to defending our rights and the rights of all in Canada.
From the Spirit of ’46 arose the struggle for public health care, education, unemployment insurance, pensions for all and the realization that these social programs are not gifts from the ruling elite but rights and a way of life that must be fought for and defended with organization and actions with analysis. From the Spirit of ’46 arose as well the contention that only through eliminating class privilege and by empowering and bringing the working class into the centre of control over Canada’s economic, political and social affairs can a modern country be built that guarantees the rights of all and stands for the same internationally.
Steelworkers pose in the present an important question: What is the use of producing all this steel, all this value if the actual producers have no say or control over its production and how the social wealth is used and distributed? The workers’ claim on the value they produce both individually and socially is their right as workers, and that claim is for a lifetime not just while they are healthy, uninjured and in the prime of life. The state has the social obligation to uphold the workers’ claim throughout their entire lives on the value they produce. If the state refuses its social obligation to the working class then it loses all credibility and raises the necessity of its replacement with a modern state that guarantees the rights of all.
Life itself since ’46 has proven concretely that without constantly renewing the organized battle for rights and the broad public interest, those rights can be crushed under the relentless pressure of those who own and control the socialized productive forces and state. They use all their social wealth, connections, class privilege and power to push their narrow private interests and monopoly right and refuse to address the economic, political and social problems that are the conditions of recurring crises and war.
The essential kernel of the Spirit of ’46 is the resolve to solve the problems of organizing the working class to defend its rights in the face of all obstacles. The key today is to further develop the independent thinking, theory and organizing of the working class in opposition to the interference of the ruling elite and their state.
Today the power of the monopolies and state has increased exponentially strengthening the resolve of the class to organize to defend its rights and meet the challenges of the day. To its great merit, Local 1005 spearheaded the work demanded of the labour movement in Canada to renew itself to meet the obstacles and power of the ruling elite when it started using the fraudulent bankruptcy protection to get rid of its social responsibilities to the workers and attack their union, wages and pensions. Under strong leadership dedicated to resolving the crisis in favour of the workers, not the owners, members and retirees developed new methods which involved everyone in discussions to debunk self-serving disinformation, look at the facts, consider their options, decide the course of action to be taken and mobilize the people of Hamilton to stand with them. Thursday meetings were held open to all, where all issues were put on the table and hashed out together. Everyone had the right to speak and everyone was encouraged to formulate their own views on the matter at hand, not lobby for or against this or that view. No attacks of a personal nature were permitted thus it was possible to speak freely with no fear of sounding foolish or being inadequate. Everyone’s role was appreciated to get to the heart of the matter and make sure everyone’s interests were taken into account. This mass democratic method based on recognizing that all members are equal and have a say made the union itself and its leadership accountable to the membership and created a force the company had to reckon with every step of the way.
The experience of Local 1005 proved once again that no matter what difficulties modern workers face in production, in defence of their rights, in life or politics, they are more than capable of finding a solution by organizing their peers through actions with analysis using their own thinking and guided by modern definitions which accord with the needs of the times.
On behalf of CPC(M-L) and all those Canadians engaged in nation-building, we salute the fight waged by Hamilton steelworkers faced with the brutal use of the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). We salute all the steelworkers, pensioners and the people of Hamilton who took bold stands in defence of workers’ rights and the rights of all. By renewing the democratic processes, they made sure workers could speak freely and get to the heart of the matter in front of them. They consulted with all interested parties, took bold stands and successfully organized to achieve inspiring successes. They wrote a glorious new chapter in the history of Canadian labour. Congratulations!