No. 23June 22, 2019

Important Anniversaries

National Indigenous Peoples' Day Celebrations


June 24
Quebec's National Day Established in 1834

The Significance of a Historic Declaration

June 23
29th Anniversary of Defeat of Meech Lake Accord

Democratic Renewal Continues to Be an Urgent Need of the Times

May 1-June 25
100th Anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike

Canadian Workers' Proud History of Organized
Resistance and Defence of Rights

- Dougal MacDonald -

June 19
Emancipation Day in the U.S.

Congressional Hearing Held on Reparations

Reparations Means Full Repair: For 400 Years of Terror,
and Other Egregious Crimes

- National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA) -

Important Anniversaries
June 24
Quebec's National Day Established in 1834

The Significance of a Historic Declaration

On June 24, the people of Quebec officially mark their National Day, established in 1834 by the Quebec patriot and elected representative Ludger Duvernay and the members of the Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera Society ("God helps those who help themselves"). Duvernay was also publisher and editor of the patriot newspaper La Minerve. The Society had been founded on March 8 that year with the aim to "provide a designated place for thought to discuss the country's state of affairs" and "to rekindle the burning desire of love of country, either by shedding light on the deeds of those governing us, or by paying fair tribute to the eloquent and brave defenders of our rights."

The Society organized a banquet on June 24, 1834 in the garden of the lawyer MacDonnell to institute a national celebration for Canadiens of all origins (today, the term Quebeckers is used). It was the first celebration of the people of the nascent Quebec nation in which Duvernay, the patriots, their elected representatives and their party, the Patriot Party, recognized the people as "the primary source of all legitimate authority," and in doing so also recognized their sovereignty.

 June 24, 1834: Ludger Duvernay and the members of the Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera Society institute June 24 as Quebec's National Day. (

This national celebration established by Duvernay and the elected members of the Patriot Party fell on the same date as Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day but was not the same. In fact Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day had been introduced long before by the King of France and the Catholic high clergy in the colonies of the French empire in opposition to the June 21 summer solstice celebrated by the Indigenous peoples.

The Church, through the Council of Trent (1545-1563), attempted to Christianize the solstice festivities -- a celebration of light around a joyous bonfire -- by replacing it with a portrayal of submission in the person of Saint John the Baptist, "the lamb of God." In the same vein, in 1702, Monseigneur de Saint-Vallier in his Catechism for the Diocese of Quebec, intended for the Canadiens, noted that the Catholic Church in the New World (i.e. the colonies of the French empire) considered the solstice ceremony acceptable so long as the "dances and superstitions" of the Indigenous peoples were banished. It was not until 1908 that Pope Pius X -- advocating the division of the Canadian people into so-called French Canadians and English Canadians, which the British empire was so determined to impose -- named Saint John the Baptist the patron saint of "French Canadians." Sixty years later, on June 24, 1968 and 1969, at a time the resurgence of Quebec's movement for independence and people's sovereignty was in full swing, this symbol of division and submission was swept aside and, once again, the National Day celebration saw the people joyfully dancing around a bonfire.

It is noteworthy that today on June 21, National Aboriginal Day, a "Solstice of the Nations" also takes place. It is "an expression of exchange and friendship amongst nations living in Quebec." The Fire Ceremony is held by the Indigenous nations "to encourage closer ties amongst the peoples living on Quebec territory," so that "the coals of that fire light up the bonfire of the Great Show of Quebec's National Celebration, on the Plains of Abraham."

On National Day the people of Quebec celebrate the patriots who fought in the mid-19th century for independence from Britain and to establish an independent homeland and a republic which vests sovereignty in the people: Nelson, De Lorimier, Côté, Chénier, Duvernay and O'Callaghan, amongst others. They celebrate too all those who have espoused and continue to espouse the cause of the Quebec Patriots, in particular all those committed to elaborating a nation-building project commensurate with the needs of the times.

Haut de


June 23
29th Anniversary of Defeat of Meech Lake Accord

Democratic Renewal Continues to Be an
Urgent Need of the Times

Demonstration against Meech Lake Accord outside the Manitoba Legislature, June 21, 1990.

On June 23, 1990, the Meech Lake Accord was defeated. It was a set of amendments to the Constitution of Canada negotiated behind closed doors in 1987 by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and the provincial premiers. The failure of the Meech Lake Accord marked a deepening of the constitutional crisis which has now become an existential crisis due to Canada's all-sided integration into the U.S. war economy and state arrangements.

The Meech Lake Accord was signed as a result of the crisis which accompanied the 1980 Quebec Referendum on the place of Quebec within Canada and the refusal of Quebec to sign onto the Pierre Trudeau government's patriated Constitution of 1982. Trudeau had promised that he would draft a new constitutional agreement after the Quebec referendum was defeated. His promise was realized in the form of the addition of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and an amending formula to the British North America Act of 1867 (BNA Act 1867). Called the Canada Act, it was passed by the British Parliament on March 29, 1982 and, on this basis, it was claimed that the Constitution was "patriated." While the claim is made that this ended Canada's formal dependence on Britain, the fact is that the Queen of England remains Canada's Head of State.

Canada's Constitution Act (1982) was the "Canadian equivalent" of Britain's Canada Act and its text was included in the Canada Act along with an amending formula and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, it did not recognize Quebec's right to self-determination and Quebec refused to sign it. This created a constitutional crisis which the Mulroney government attempted to resolve by commencing constitutional negotiations in 1985. These negotiations culminated with the Meech Lake Accord two years later on June 23, 1987.

Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa said the Constitution needed five modifications for Quebec to sign. On this basis, the following changes were laid out in the Accord:

- constitutional recognition of Quebec as a distinct society;
- a constitutional veto for Quebec over constitutional change;
- a role for Quebec in the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court of Canada;
- a constitutional guarantee of increased powers in the field of immigration; and
- a limitation of the federal spending power.

The causes of the constitutional crisis clearly require attention. These include: the need to guarantee nation-to-nation relations with the Indigenous peoples so as to end colonial injustice and provide redress for all the wrongs committed against them; the need to end all notions of rights based on privilege and so-called reasonable limits; the need to vest sovereignty in the people and not an artificial person of state, let alone one who is a foreign monarch; and the need to enshrine equal rights for all citizens and residents. Finally, it requires recognizing the right of the people of Quebec to self-determination, including secession if they so decide -- something the Meech Lake Accord refused to do.

Instead, the Meech Lake Accord sought to maintain the status quo by declaring Quebec a "distinct society" within Canada; it gave Quebec a constitutional veto; increased provincial powers with respect to immigration; extended and regulated the right to reasonable financial compensation for any province that opted out of any future federal programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction; and provided for provincial input in appointing senators and Supreme Court judges.

Because the Meech Lake Accord would have changed the Constitution's amending formula and modified the Supreme Court, all provincial and federal legislatures had to consent to it within three years. The 10 provincial premiers soon agreed but, as the three-year deadline for consent of all legislatures drew near, the consensus began to unravel. To try to save Meech, a First Ministers' Conference was held 20 days before the signing deadline, resulting in an agreement for further rounds of constitutional negotiations. During that conference, Newfoundland Premier Clyde Wells attacked the secrecy of the whole process of decision-making. On June 23, 1990, the deadline date, Elijah Harper, a First Nations Member of the Manitoba Legislature, signaled his refusal to give approval by holding up an eagle feather. This blocked the motion required for the Manitoba Legislature to vote on the Accord. Wells then cancelled a proposed vote in the Newfoundland Legislature and the Meech Lake Accord was officially dead.

A main feature of the Meech Lake Accord was its failure to clarify what was meant by "distinct society" when referring to Quebec. When it stated that Quebec was a "distinct society" it also declared that the role of the Legislature and Government of Quebec was to "preserve and promote the distinct identity of Quebec." The term "distinct society" remained undefined in the documents and the "distinct" features of Quebec were not enumerated, nor were any guidelines given by which these features could be preserved and promoted. "Distinct society" was subject to many interpretations, but the predominant one that emerged was the old fiction that Quebec was distinct simply because the people spoke French. By making language the only issue, the Meech formulation of a "distinct society" denied that the Quebec people comprise a nation that has historically evolved with a common economy and territory, language, culture and psychology that have the imprint of this development. Further, it denied the Quebec people the right of self-determination. Telling the Quebec Legislature what it was to do did also not go over well.

Another significant feature of Meech Lake was its overall promotion of national disunity and inequality. Defining a nation by language alone leads to the theory that Canada is populated by a large number of different "language-nations," all of which should or could supposedly have independent status, but only two of them -- the "English" and "French" -- are given pride of place.

Meech Lake also created disunity by devolving federal powers to the provinces, suggesting the existence of 10 small nations (the provinces) and one big one, the federal government. The two territories (Nunavut did not yet exist) were not invited to Meech (they participated by video conference) because Mulroney considered they had insufficient power to affect any decisions. This was seen to imply that the regions of Canada each had different status. Meech also gave each province a veto to block legislation and it was clear that each province would use its veto to promote the narrow interests of its own regional economic and political power-brokers rather than to advance an overall national interest or aim.

A third main feature of Meech Lake was its failure to affirm or even address the hereditary rights of the First Nations, which amounted to a suppression of those rights. The rights of the Indigenous peoples are not a peripheral issue but should be enshrined in the Constitution of Canada. They have a rightful claim to the territories of their ancestors and to the determination of what must be done with them. As sovereign peoples they have the right to determine not only their affairs but to participate in determining the affairs of Canada as a whole. In the proposed modifications to the Constitution, the Meech Lake Accord did not deal with any of this. Indigenous leaders also raised two other issues. One was their exclusion from the entire Meech proceedings. The other was the potential transfer of federal services to the provinces implied by the clause calling for compensation to provinces for opting out of federal programs. This could have led to the dismantling of programs very important to the well-being of the Indigenous peoples.

A fourth main feature of Meech Lake was the anti-democratic nature of the proceedings. All consultations were held behind the backs of the people. In fact, people referred to the process as 11 white men in suits dealing with the future of the country behind closed doors. Once the Meech agreement was reached in secret, the 11 First Ministers then tried to impose it on the people without any discussion or deliberation. There was no broad consultation of the people at any time, the agenda was not set according to what the people wanted, and the items discussed and included in the Accord were only those that the First Ministers wanted.

The people's extreme displeasure with the Meech proceedings was captured by the 1990 Citizens' Forum on Canada's Future, commonly referred to as the Spicer Commission. Mulroney, who was forced to convene it just after Meech was defeated, claimed that his government wanted to hear the opinions of Canadians. The Spicer Commission published its findings in 1991 with many Canadians expressing their acute awareness that something was lacking in the Canadian political process, that politicians were not to be trusted, and that mechanisms were required to empower the people. Many called for the formation of a constituent assembly which would enable the people to deliberate and decide on their own constitution.

All of the proposals and recommendations of the Spicer Commission were subsequently ignored by the Government of Canada.

The significance of Meech Lake today is that in this era the people want to be the arbiters and decision-makers. It is the work for democratic renewal which will open society's path to progress, not reordering the status quo in the name of change, modernization or making every vote count.

Meech Lake confirmed that a form of political power has emerged in Canada with absolute power resting in the hands of the financial oligarchs and their political representatives. The suggestion that the Prime Minister and the 10 provincial premiers should be the only ones to propose the Constitution, and that the people should be excluded from the process was resoundingly rejected because the times demand that power be transferred to the people acting in their own interests. People want to take politics out of the hands of the vested interests and place them in the hands of those who would deal with the real problems that the people face, such as the economic insecurity that is the number one worry and the deepest concern of the people.

The failure of the Meech Lake Accord also led to the eventual demise of the parliamentary configuration of the Liberal and Conservative "party-in-power" and "party-in-opposition," with the virtual decimation of the Conservatives in 1993. This was followed by the sorry state of the Liberals as a result of the "sponsorship scandal" in 1995 which they used to concentrate more and more power in fewer and fewer hands. Since then, the political parties with seats in the House of Commons have formed a cartel to keep the people disempowered and political parties are all about getting elected on the basis of maintaining data bases to micro-target voters while the divide between those who govern and those who are governed widens with each passing day. Today no government has the consent of the governed and the need for democratic renewal is more urgent than ever.

Haut de


May 1-June 25
100th Anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike

Canadian Workers' Proud History of Organized Resistance and Defence of Rights

Rally in Victoria Park During Winnipeg General Strike.


This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike which took place from May 1 to June 25, 1919. World War I had ended but it did not end the greed of the power-hungry men who had started it in the first place. In Canada the war was a pretext to suppress resistance to imperialist war and conscientious objection to participating, as well as to attack organized labour and revolutionary politics. The War Measures Act remained in effect for over a year after the end of the war and was used against organizers of the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919. After the War, Canadian forces along with troops from 10 other countries, at the instigation of Britain and France, were also sent to invade Soviet Russia in a vain attempt to maintain the privileges of the Czarist regime negated by the establishment of the world's first socialist state. Meanwhile, soldiers who survived the experience of trench warfare, many of them suffering injuries and the unrecognized effects of mustard gas and post traumatic stress, were discouraged by post-war inflation and unemployment. Thousands more died following the war of the Spanish flu.

In these circumstances, Winnipeg's metal and building workers went on strike, demanding higher wages and shorter hours. They were joined by iron workers who were fighting for company recognition of their union, the Metal Trades Council. On May 15, with the overwhelming support of its 12,000 members, the Winnipeg Labour Council called a general strike. Thirty thousand union and non-union workers walked off the job. Among the first out were the city's telephone workers. Winnipeg had no phone service for a week. Sympathy strikes were organized in Edmonton and Calgary in support of the Winnipeg General Strike.

The context for this strike was the grave economic crisis in which Britain and, by extension, Canada found themselves following World War I, as well as the unconscionable treatment the workers received when they returned from fighting the trench warfare in which thousands were used as cannon fodder in the euphoria for empire which preceded the war. The war quickly smashed that euphoria, leaving Canada at a crossroads, not only flailing in the throes of an economy whose old basis had been smashed by the war but also without an aim rooted in the former empire building. The service of governments to alien interests and the moloch of capital with which the workers definitely did not identify put a severe strain on the ability of governments to maintain labour peace.

Mass rally in Victoria Park, June 10, 1919.

The Government of Canada, along with the provincial government, also clearly feared a revolution similar to the one that had just happened in Russia. They spread lies that claimed "immigrants" were behind the strike. The Government of Canada amended the Immigration Act so that even British-born immigrants, who in those days were automatically granted citizenship rights, could be deported. It mobilized the police forces against the striking workers and resorted to violence to crush the strike. The response of government to the terrible plight the workers were in at that time clearly revealed the role of the state in suppressing the struggles of the workers who had just sacrificed so much in the trench warfare of World War I.

In June, the federal authorities officially resorted to deportation threats to suppress working class politics, even though they attempted to deceive the public by avoiding the word "political" in their accusations. Amendments to Section 41 of the Immigration Act defined "a prohibited immigrant" as "anyone interested in overthrowing organized government either in the Empire (at the provincial level in Canada too) or in general, or in destroying property, or promoting riot or public disorder, or belonging to a secret organization trying to control people by threat or blackmail."[1] After nearly a month, Winnipeg's mayor called out special constables whose presence fueled the strikers' fire. Their leaders were arrested. The North West Mounted Police (which became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1920) and special constables fired on the workers, killing two men. An additional 34 people were wounded and 80 arrested. A few days later, the strike ended with a protest march organized by war veterans on June 21.

One of strike leaders, Roger Bray, speaks to mass rally in Victoria Park during strike.

The Winnipeg General Strike became known as the largest social revolt in Canadian history. It is the subject of many studies as concerns not only the role of the government and police forces but also the role played by unions, communists, socialists and the traditional political parties. The strike remains of great significance to the subsequent development of the Canadian working class movement for emancipation.

Labour Day 1919 protest against trials of Winnipeg General Strike leaders arrested June 16, 1919.

Women workers played strong roles in the strike. They acted as strikers and supported other striking workers. They set up the food kitchens and simultaneously tried to look after their families. Women telephone workers on strike unplugged the telephone lines, took to the streets during protests, and confronted scabs. Women were members of the Central Strike Committee as well as members of the Women's Labour League. On May 20, the Western Labour News announced an all-day organizational meeting for all women workers. In fact, women began the general sympathetic strike in support of the already striking metal and building trades workers on May 15, 1919. When 500 telephone operators, 90 per cent of whom were women, clocked out at the end of their shifts at 7:00 am, no other workers came in to replace them.

Pertinent Notes

The causes of the Winnipeg General Strike were multiple. Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier had declared to the Canadian people that the twentieth century would "belong to Canada." From 1898 to 1912 economic growth was rapid and the population of the Canadian west was growing. There was an air of optimism and the ruling class promoted euphoria about empire. Winnipeg was a major industrial centre in Canada's heartland, the depot of three major railways: the Canadian Pacific, the Canadian Northern, and the Grand Trunk Pacific. The movement by rail of new immigrants from east to west and of grain from west to east generated a great deal of wealth for the owners of capital.

Winnipeg rail workers began organizing themselves in the 1890s. Machinists and toolmakers were the first to organize and other workers followed. A Trades and Labour Council was organized to unify workers, a labour-oriented newspaper called the Western Labour News was created, and a labour candidate won a parliamentary seat. Several militant strikes were fought in the railway system, including where workers faced off against machine guns and imported strikebreakers. At the same time, the local economy continued to grow and unemployment was kept at bay by the large number of available jobs, especially in construction.

The situation changed when Britain began to shut down some of its production facilities. By the time World War I was declared in 1914, Winnipeg was in a virtual depression with many unemployed workers walking the streets. Those employed worked at low wages for long hours in poor working conditions and inflation ran rampant. Winnipeg began producing war materials and munitions in 1915 but the amount was comparatively small. Many workers opposed conscription, viewing the war mainly as a scheme to send workers to their death to increase capitalist profits. It was well-known that certain individuals were making huge profits supplying war materials. Farmers faced high tariffs and falling grain prices. When the war ended, soldiers came home, not to a world "safe for democracy," but to unemployment, poverty and neglect.

During the war, the number of organized workers in Winnipeg grew by one-third. The main focus of labour activity became the Metal Trades Council, formed in 1918 to represent machinists and toolmakers. Workers in the three railway-owned shops worked for wages. The non-union contract shops were owned by Manitoba Bridge (Deacon), Vulcan (Barrett brothers), and Dominion Bridge (Montreal capitalists). They paid workers less than the railway shops using a piecework system. One of the Metal Trades Council's main goals was to enforce wage parity in all six shops. The Winnipeg General Strike essentially grew out of the May 1 strike of the building trades union and the May 2 strike of the metal-trades workers at the three contract shops. The strike lasted 41 days and an estimated 25,000 workers participated.

Greatly inspired by the 1917 victory of the Bolshevik Revolution, a May 22, 1919 editorial in the Western Labour News said: "The fight is on. It overthrew the government in Russia, Austria, Germany, etc." In Winnipeg, accused strike leader William Pritchard during his courtroom defence vigorously highlighted the contributions of Marx and Engels to the labour movement. On the other side, the "Committee of 1000," the anti-strike organization of the local and national capitalists, including the Canadian Manufacturers Association, the Bankers Association, and Imperial Oil, claimed that the strike was the start of the Bolshevik Revolution in Canada and that all the workers were dangerous radicals who were determined to wreck the existing institutions and establish a Soviet government.

Strikers fill the streets June 4, 1919. Building in background is headquarters of the anti-strike "Committee of 1,000."

On June 22, 1918, Prime Minister Borden had approved sending Canadian soldiers to Siberia to join the ultimately unsuccessful reactionary crusade of 14 countries which sought to crush the Bolshevik Revolution. On December 22, 1918, a mass meeting in Winnipeg condemned that intervention.

Conditions at the Time of the Strike

World War I and the post-war crisis had radically undermined Britain's monopoly position among capitalist states. The post World War I period was characterized by various powers manoeuvring for greater market share, mainly at the expense of Britain. The war had shaken up the pre-war relations and new forces were entering the market including not only the United States but also Germany, Japan and other countries as well as Britain's own dominions and colonies, including Canada, which had managed to further develop their own economies during the war. The new competition and loss of market share made it more difficult for Britain to extract profits by plundering of markets and sources of raw material, including in Canada. In response, British capital endeavoured to restrict production, or at any rate not to expand it indiscriminately.

As profits in Britain and its colonies declined and the few crumbs which fell to the working class dwindled even further, workers began to resort more and more frequently to direct struggle against capital. Canada was still mainly under the control of Britain. The aim of the British and the capitalist ruling elite in Canada, Manitoba and Winnipeg itself, was to secure the maximum possible profit by exploiting labour irrespective of the needs of the workers and society. In the conditions of the war and post war, such intense exploitation inevitably led to resistance on the part of the workers and to their fight for higher wages and better working conditions, among other things.

Crowd, angered by state attacks on strikers June 21, 1919, partially overturns a streetcar.

Contrary to the myth that the Winnipeg General Strike was an "anomaly" because the working class movement in Canada has been "well-behaved" throughout its history, even a cursory look at labour history verifies that there had been decades of organized struggle against capital, including numerous strikes. The Halifax General Strike and other strikes in Nova Scotia were also taking place at that time. Just prior to the Winnipeg General Strike, Winnipeg civic employees, supported by other public service unions, had won a strike. The General Strike was only one of many such strikes, albeit one of the larger, longer, and more significant ones in terms of advancing the fight for workers' rights and laying the claims on society which belonged to the working people by right. The workers heroically faced the intransigence of the owners, whose contempt for the workers, bullying and use of the state to protect their interests were without limit.

The expansion of Canadian capitalism included the capitalists' continuous striving to reduce costs of production in their industry. The fact that the metal workers were the target of the main blow in this case was no accident. They were skilled workers with a high level of expertise and experience who knew their worth in the process of production. Their work generated large profits for the railway capitalists who were one of the most powerful owner groups in Canada. Also, as the first large group of workers to be organized in Winnipeg, the metal workers represented an advanced detachment of the working class. It was the strategy of the ruling elite to crush them in order to lower their wages and lengthen their working day, and secure the compliance of the rest of the working class. Everyone must toe the line. But the result was the opposite of what they wanted. Instead of being cowed, thousands of other Winnipeg workers and other workers in Canada, such as in Toronto, Vancouver, Regina, Edmonton and Calgary, eagerly supported the metalworkers with strikes of their own.

In 1919, Canada was governed by the Robert Borden-led Conservative Party which declared itself a most bitter enemy. This was the same Borden who, in June 1918, had helped draft the British resolution asking for "immediate Allied armed assistance to Russia" with the aim of crushing the workers' revolution there. Two months later, Borden called for the dispatch of Canadian troops to Siberia. During the Winnipeg General Strike, the Borden government violently attacked the strikers and their allies while the monopoly press in the service of the owners of capital repeatedly blamed the strike on immigrants and Bolsheviks.

Hands Off Russia meeting in Victoria in 1918 opposes sending Canadian troops to Siberia.

As the course of the strike showed, the Canadian capitalists and the government formed by the Conservative Party, proved to be more experienced, more organized, and therefore stronger, than the Winnipeg workers and their leaders. They entered the conflict fully armed and prepared to crush the workers.

On May 22, the federal government sent battalions of soldiers armed with machine guns to Winnipeg. On June 6, the government amended the Immigration Act to permit deportation of immigrants accused of "sedition." On June 10, "special police" recruited from among scabs and thugs attacked a peaceful demonstration. On June 16, some of the strike leaders were arrested and imprisoned and placed under threat of deportation. They then organized for compliant labour leaders to step into the vacuum to undermine the strike.

June 21 has gone down in history as Bloody Saturday. Armed Mounties and soldiers viciously attacked a peaceful protest by unarmed workers and killed two strikers and injured 30 others. The leaders of the Canadian labour movement seemed to have been caught somewhat unawares and unorganized. Only a week before the conflict those leaders were expressing their conviction that there would be no conflict.

North West Mounted Police ride into crowd in Winnipeg, June 21, 1919, a day which came to
be known as Bloody Saturday.

On June 23 the president of the Canadian Trades and Labour Congress stated that the strike was "officially over" and the time had come for the workers to put their energies into winning elected positions on the Municipal Council. The fact was that the Strike Committee was already organized to keep the city's essential services functioning, showing the ability of the working class to organize the society according to its needs.

J.S. Woodsworth, future leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, forerunner of the New Democratic Party, took over the Western Labour News, organ of the strikers, when its editor was arrested. His every speech and editorial were filled with reformist illusions and promotion of a peaceful parliamentary path to victory for the workers.

Several leaders of the Winnipeg General Strike received their schooling as labour leaders in Britain, during that period when British capital was raking in super-profits and could shower favours on the labour leaders and use them to obtain compromises with the British working class. Many such leaders were blinded by the glamour of capitalism and became divorced from the workers. Instead of fighting for the workers, they took up capitalist ideology and became enamoured with "getting ahead." Engels called such leaders bourgeoisified. Ramsay MacDonald, who was the first British Labour politician to become Prime Minister, is one example. After 1931, MacDonald was repeatedly denounced by the British Labour movement as a traitor to their cause, although some of his critics were certainly no shining examples of working class leadership themselves.

The Borden-led Conservative Party realized the major political importance of the Winnipeg General Strike, that such a strike could be seriously fought only by a combination of political measures, such as the changed immigration legislation, and military measures, and the mobilization of police and troops to crush the workers. The Strike Committee was not experienced enough to recognize the political importance of the general strike and limited the action to exclusively economic demands, the fight for fair wages, better working conditions, and a shorter working day.

The general staff of the capitalists understood that wide-ranging union support of the Winnipeg General Strike would be dangerous to their cause. This fueled their anti-communist, anti-immigrant propaganda. The federal Minister of Labour, who was a former vice-president of the Typographers Union, agitated strongly against the workers and called for the detention of their leaders. The One Big Union, known as the Wobblies, supported the strike but did nothing to organize or lead it. Other international union leaders openly opposed the strike under the hoax that its real agenda was not to advance the cause of the workers but to put an end to international unionism.

Public statements were even made that the strikers did not intend to turn the struggle into a political struggle and that the Strike Committee had no intention of raising the question of political power. As history has shown, a general strike which is not turned into a political struggle will leave the working class to face the organized political power of the capitalist class unprepared.[2]

Crowd gathers outside City Hall during Winnipeg General Strike.

The situation facing the capitalists and their government was made even more serious by the fact that many soldiers who returned from the war played an important role in the strike. To deal with this, the government and capitalist media played on their loyalties to split their ranks. To this end, the executive of the Great War Veterans Association (GWVA) attempted to foment racism by propagandizing that while the soldiers had been overseas fighting in the war, "alien" workmen, i.e., immigrants, had been taking their jobs and that these "aliens" were those who had gone on strike. For its part, the Western Labour News, in a May 20 editorial, urged the workers who were also veterans to help remove the reactionary executive of the GWVA. Overall, soldiers with a labour background supported the strike while others were indifferent or opposed. Pro-strike soldiers were the main organizers of what they called "parades" which brought the workers out into the streets in protest. Anti-strike soldiers organized counter-demonstrations.

Several workers' organizations that were active at the time, such as the Independent Labour Party (Winnipeg, 1895), the Socialist Party of Canada (1904), the Manitoba Labour Party (1910), and the Social Democratic Party (1911) held meetings and conferences, including the big Western Canadian Labour Conference which was held in Calgary in March 1919. That conference adopted strong resolutions in support of socialism and in defence of Soviet Russia and even "full acceptance of the principle of the 'Proletarian Dictatorship.' The Canadian Communist Party was subsequently founded two years later and held its first Convention June 18-19, 1921 in Guelph, Ontario.

Some Lessons Learned

The first-hand experience of the strike showed the workers that the chief obstacle to the workers achieving their goals was the political power of the capitalists, in this case exercised by the Conservative Party government. While the Canadian Trades and Labour Congress seemed afraid of admitting the inseparable connection between the economic struggle and the political struggle, the workers gained through their struggle the increased understanding of the fundamental question of which class holds political power and that the state is not neutral in the struggle between capital and labour. The strike tore the veil off the political power showing it is indivisible and that the struggle of the workers must target it so that they can deploy the strength of their numbers and organizations in their favour so that it cannot be effective as a weapon wielded by those in power against the workers.

The course and outcome of the strike showed the workers the unsuitability of those labour leaders who were infected with the bourgeois striving for personal wealth, power and privilege. The strike showed that such leaders must be replaced by revolutionary leaders who do not espouse such things. The strike also showed the Winnipeg workers and workers elsewhere in Canada that it was critical for the entire working class to support individual strikes in order to ensure their success. The strike brought home to the working class the truth of this important lesson.

Last and most importantly, the strike showed the workers, especially in its most difficult moments, that the existing parties were incapable of boldly and resolutely upholding the interests of the working class, which needed its own political party expressing its own independent politics, tactics and demands. The subsequent formation of the Communist Party of Canada in 1921 was intended to provide this problem with a solution which it did until it lost its bearings in the early 1950s when, in the throes of the Cold War, it created illusions about the bourgeois democracy.

That situation has changed, however, since March 31, 1970, at which time the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) was founded on the basis of the Leninist organizational principles to carry out those tasks required to open the society's path to progress. In this endeavour, CPC(M-L) is constantly carrying out all political and ideological tasks on the basis of organizational work which serves the fundamental task of furthering the cause of people's empowerment.

On March 31, 2018 on the 48th anniversary of the Party's founding, it once again succinctly summed up its mission and how to achieve it: "All the activities which CPC(M-L) has carried out for the past nearly 50 years have a common thread -- to further develop the leading role of the working class in society. The strength of CPC(M-L) lies in its revolutionary theory, its political line and its organizations at various levels which are always paying attention to the particular tasks facing the society to open the path for progress. The cutting edge for this period is to wage the ideological struggle and engage in political work to determine the practical politics required to build the political movement against nation-wrecking. Practical politics are required to mobilize the working people and the youth and students to take up nation-building on a modern basis.

"The emphasis on organizing work is to activate the human factor/social consciousness so that responsibility is taken to turn things around. By building committees which take their own independent political stands, the working people and the youth and students can make serious advance. These committees must be established at places of work, in the educational institutions and neighbourhoods and amongst seniors where their members can take responsibility for their decisions and the actions of their peers. They can address matters of concern to themselves, the society and the world. By developing the independent politics of the working class they will provide themselves with the key to depriving the international financial oligarchs and the governments in their service of the power to deprive the people, who depend on the society for their well-being, of what belongs to them by right."[3]


1. Barbara Roberts, Whence They Came: Deportation from Canada (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1988), p. 84.

2. A pointed example is the British General Strike of 1926 which involved 1.7 million workers and lasted nine days but failed to result in any permanent power gains for the workers.

3. TML Weekly, March 31, 2018.

(Photos: Manitoba and Canadian archives.)

Haut de


June 19
Emancipation Day in the U.S.

Congressional Hearing Held on Reparations

June 19, 1865 is celebrated across the United States as the day on which all the people still enslaved when the Civil War ended gained freedom. The system of slavery was such that while hundreds of thousands of enslaved people rebelled against enslavement and fought in the civil war to end the system, many remained enslaved even after the end of the civil war. On June 19, 154 years ago, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform all the people still enslaved that the slave system had been defeated. Since then it is considered emancipation day by many African Americans. People of all nationalities join in celebrating this day, also known as Juneteenth.

This year on Juneteenth, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing with the stated purpose "to examine, through open and constructive discourse, the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, its continuing impact on the community and the path to restorative justice."

Congressional hearings have not been held since 2007. This is despite Representative John Conyers of Michigan, the longtime sponsor of House Resolution 40, who first proposed the measure calling for a study of reparations in 1989, reintroducing the bill every session until his resignation in 2017.

Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, the resolution's new sponsor, introduced it earlier this year and pushed for the hearing. This is in part because various African American organizations have been fighting on the issue, including holding town hall meetings. As well, in 2016 the UN called on the U.S. to pay reparations for slavery. Its report brought out that "compensation is necessary to combat the disadvantages caused by 245 years of legally allowing the sale of people based on the colour of their skin." It warned that the U.S. has not confronted its legacy of "racial terrorism." The report also specified that reparations can come in a variety of ways, including educational opportunities, psychological rehabilitation, debt cancellation and formal apologies.

The issue of reparations has become part of the 2020 presidential race, as several of the more than 20 Democratic presidential primary candidates signaled their support for compensating the descendants of slaves, though not in the traditional sense of direct payments to African Americans. Most have remained vague on the issue, as has long been the case with elected officials.

It remains to be seen if any of the presidential candidates or Congressional members will actually provide concrete proposals for reparations. This has not been the case up until now, even though African American organizations active on this issue have presented comprehensive demands for reparations.

For Your Information

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1864, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the civil war had ended and that the enslaved people were now free.

General Granger read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which begins:

"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer."

This was two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation -- which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on Texans in part due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April 1865, and the arrival of General Granger's regiment on June 19 that year, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

Later attempts to explain this two-and-a-half year delay in the delivery of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labour force on the plantations. And still another is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln's authority over the rebellious states was in question. Whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

(Voice of Revolution)

Haut de


Reparations Means Full Repair: For 400 Years of Terror, and Other Egregious Crimes

2019 marks 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans on the shores of the Virginia Colony in 1619. This began the American period of enslavement of Africans and their descendants. The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA) has themed this anniversary 400 Years of Terror: A Debt Still Owed.

From the very beginning, terror or psychic trauma was the reality for these perhaps three dozen stolen Africans. Not only was the Middle Passage a terrifying experience of its own, but history tells us that the ship that brought these Africans here was not the ship they initially embarked upon. Nor was it just 36 of them that left Africa on that voyage. It was 350.

In route to its destination of Vera Cruz Mexico, the original ship -- the San Juan Bautista, was met in the Gulf of Mexico by not one, but two, pirate ships -- the White Lion and the Treasurer. At the end of the attack, the White Lion delivered all of its pirated cargo from the attack -- "20 and odd Africans," and the Treasurer, a "half dozen" of the 40 Africans it seized, before it sailed to Bermuda.

How did these sixty or so Africans make it upon these pirate ships, as the San Juan Batista was destroyed in the attack? Were they pulled from the sea? Were they forced by gunpoint or at the end of a sword.? Did they choose any vessel other than the one that was sinking and offering them certain death? More importantly what happened to the nearly 300 others that were on the San Juan Bautista? Were they still chained together in death as they were in the frightening last months of their lives through the horrific Middle Passage?

This began our existence in what was to become America -- a terror that has yet to cease and has yet to be redressed. This scene would be followed by 256 years of brutal enslavement of Africans and their descendants. [...]

The period of enslavement was followed by 100 years of legal apartheid, called Jim Crow Segregation -- social separation backed by tremendous force, unjust laws and deadly violence. After the Civil War, former Confederate Army soldiers, officers and their offspring created highly organized terrorist groups that sprang up everywhere. Their reach went all the way to the White House. These groups -- the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camellia, White Citizen's Council and their copycats were responsible for thousands of murders and assassinations, unjust imprisonment of tens of thousands, continued theft of labour, theft of millions of acres of land purchased by Blacks post-emancipation, and at least 4,743 recorded lynchings. This, in addition, to the destruction of scores of Black towns and communities and the banishment (racial cleansing) of their inhabitants. In a matter of hours, these towns and communities, some with residents numbering in the thousands, were erased from existence. [...]

After 1965 and the passing of civil rights laws, even though "segregation" ended, the violent intimidation and forcibly controlled limitations of the Black community did not.

Although white mob action declined, the deadly racial violence of the police remained steady and harsh. "Police brutality," as it was named, sparked the creation of the Black Panthers Party for Self-Defense and other Black nationalist groups. These groups rose to address the criminal behaviour of police terrorism, and the social, political and economic domination and control that the police enforced. After the Panthers and others were illegally and unconstitutionally suppressed, police departments like the Chicago Police Department obtained, what amounted to, free licence to terrorize African descendants through torture, forced confessions and murder of innocent men and women. These summary executions continue to this day across America -- Ayana Stanley-Jones, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Mike Brown, Philando Castile, and Laquan McDonald, are just a few of the thousands who have met this fate post-1965.

Throughout this entire 400-year period, Africans and their descendants fought against this inhumanity and put forth demands that these crimes be redressed in the form of reparations through the means of securing freedom, land, repatriation, pensions, compensation, and restitution.

In the latter part of the 20th century international charges of genocide were levied twice by Blacks with the United Nations Human Rights Commission -- once in 1957 and again in 1997. (In 2014 and 2016 a new generation of activists repeated the charge.) In 1969 James Foreman presented his Black Manifesto to the white Church community demanding resources for economic development and various structural and institutional acts of restitution. Mass-based organizations rose in the 1980s to create a grass roots demand for reparations. N'COBRA, at one time, had membership in the thousands.

At the beginning of the 21st century, with assistance from N'COBRA, the December 12th Movement -- D-12, and the National Black United Front -- NBUF, led nearly 400 delegates to Durban South Africa to the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances. Over 14,000 participants attended the conference including governmental delegations from 195 countries.

For the D-12 and NBUF-led delegation, reparations was their focus.

The conclusion of the conference reaffirmed some fundamental human rights for people of African descent -- particularly the right to be repaired from criminal and injurious acts of one's government. In the official outcome document of the Conference -- the governmental delegates declared that the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, slavery, apartheid and colonialism were crimes against humanity. Further, that there was an economic basis to these crimes -- that are evident to today -- the injuring nations are wealthy and "the effects and persistence of these structures and practices have been among the factors contributing to lasting social and economic inequalities [poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization, social exclusion] in many parts of the world today." And even further, that there is an obligation on the part of those nations that were enriched by these crimes to engage in redress for the inequities that exist and injuries caused.

This historical victory by those in the global reparations movement marked a new phase and new mode of reparations struggle by people of African descent. Everywhere, those of us in the reparations struggle, began speaking the same language -- that the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, slavery, colonialism and apartheid, were not just bad/immoral acts -- they were in fact crimes against humanity, "the most egregious crimes a government can commit or allow to be committed against a civilian population."

Globally we became aware that crimes against humanity have no jurisdictional statute of limitation. We became aware that the enormous economic theft is still accruing value to the nations and corporations that usurped the productive output from our ancestors; we also became aware that the wealth that sits in the accounts of many extremely wealthy white westerners was also wealth passed down generationally from the original criminal usurpers; we all became clearly aware that the dysfunction that is seen in African and African descendant populations globally have their initial causation in the crimes committed against the humanity of their ancestors and that are compounded by continued harmful acts done today. We all further became aware since Durban, that the number one global issue for Africans and people of African descent world-wide is the repair from centuries of theft, abuses, terror and lies regarding our humanity and our primary and substantial contributions to the human family long before the advent of the West.

Now today, there is an uptick of public figures and others that are acknowledging either the need for reparations, or the rightness of reparations or both. This is good.

Particularly, 2020 presidential candidates Marianne Williams, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Corey Booker, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, in addition to former White House cabinet member Julian Castro. Even Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who was said to have blocked the congressional discussion of reparations during the Obama presidency, has now offered support for a reparations study.

Where some err, however, is in their attempt to tell us -- Descendants of Africans Enslaved in the United States -- DAEUS, what form and to what extent reparations are and should be. They should support the demand for reparations. In addition, they should seek to understand the full extent of the crimes of enslavement, Jim Crow and post Jim Crow America, and how these crimes have benefited America. [...]

The forms and to what extent will be determined by us. This has already begun, in part, with N'COBRA's 21st Century Reparations Manifesto and Five Injury Areas. [These include Criminal Punishment System; Education; Wealth and Poverty; Peoplehood and Nationhood; Health]. Also, this has begun with a series of national town hall meetings already held, and more to be scheduled, to introduce, assess and debate the Reparations 10 Point Program compiled by the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC). [The ten points include: 1. A Formal Apology and Establishment of a Maafa/African Holocaust Institute; 2. The Right of Repatriation and Creation of an African Knowledge Program; 3. The Right to Land for Social and Economic Development; 4. Funds for Cooperative Enterprises and Socially Responsible Entrepreneurial Development; 5. Resources for the Health, Wellness and Healing of Black Families and Communities; 6. Education for Community Development and Empowerment; 7. Affordable Housing for Healthy Black Communities and Wealth Generation; 8. Strengthening Black America's Information and Communications Infrastructure; 9. Preserving Black Sacred Sites and Monuments; 10. Repairing the Damages of the "Criminal Injustice System"] [...]

[...] It is in fact the work done post-Durban that has created a climate that demands that these presidential candidates (and others) make such pronouncements. Post Durban, it was N'COBRA's keeping this issue alive after the New York Trade Towers attack that had the effect of silencing the reparations movement's momentum that had been built in Durban. Then there were Caribbean political leaders through their group -- the Caribbean Community of States (CARICOM) that created the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CAR). CAR has initiated the process to bring a case of crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court against the European nations that participated in the slave trade and slavery in the Caribbean. The charges: native genocide and enslavement of Africans and African Descendants in the Caribbean islands.

Further, CAR sparked the creation of the NAARC. In 2015 NAARC held an international summit in New York attracting many of the CAR commissioners and delegates from 17 nations. NAARC inspired several of these groups to establish reparations commissions in the nations where they resided.

Black People Against Police Torture (BPAPT) called for a reparations campaign for the victims of police torture in Chicago. That success led to a new generation calling for reparations, culminating in the Movement for Black Lives adding Reparations as a major policy plank in their platform. Ta-Nehisi Coates' essay, The Case for Reparations had major significance in shaping this climate. Finally, we can never forget Congressman John Conyers' longstanding perseverance to hold this government accountable, with the bill HR 40, The Commission to Study Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act, which he revised, at NAARC's and N'COBRA's suggestion and with their input, before his departure from Congress.

Again, it is from all these actions, and much, much more that those who now speak have the presence to do so. But most are doing so from an extremely limited base of knowledge and action on where this movement and their current support rest. Post-Durban we look to international bodies and law to understand reparations and to base the structure of our claim.

For us in the movement, we understand that reparations, under international norms and law, means "full repair." [...]

The Permanent Court of International Justice laid out the "general and foundational rule" for reparations in the Chorzow Factory Case of 1928. In that ruling, the Court held "that reparation must, as far as possible, wipe out all consequences of the illegal act and re-establish the situation which would, in all probability, have existed if that act had not been committed."

The extent of "all consequences" was fleshed out as full reparation in the International Law Commission (2001) Draft Articles on Responsibility of States for International Wrongful Act. In Article 31." ... the responsible state is under an obligation to make full reparation for the injury caused by the internationally wrongful act."

The International Law Commission and other established international guidelines lay out what is considered full and comprehensive reparation. These include:

Cessation, Assurances and Guarantees of Non-Repetition -- a state responsible for wrongfully injuring a people "is under an obligation to a) cease the act if it is continuing, b) offer appropriate assurances and guarantees of non-repetition ... "

Restitution and Repatriation -- "re-establish the situation which existed before the wrongful act was committed." To restore the victim to the original situation before gross violations of international law occurred. How includes restoration of freedom, recognition of humanity, identity, culture, repatriation, livelihood and wealth.

Compensation -- The injuring State is obligated to compensate for the damage, if damage is not made good by restitution. Compensation is "any financially assessable damage suffered ..." Proper compensation is such that is "appropriate and proportional to the gravity of the violation and circumstances."

Satisfaction -- "as a means for reparations for moral damage, such as emotional injury, mental suffering, and injury to reputation."

Rehabilitation -- rehabilitation consist of mind, body, emotional and spirit healing -- [of] the lasting effects of the trauma of enslavement and segregation.

It was in utilizing this structure, that in 2017 Congressman John Conyers introduced a revised HR 40 in the 115th Congress that called for a commission to develop programs, policy and practices with these elements and intended outcomes -- The Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has introduced it currently in the 116th Congress. When one examines N'COBRA's Manifesto -- and NAARC's 10 Point Reparations Platform in detail, these outcomes are fleshed out.


(March 16, 2019)

Haut de


(To access articles individually click on the black headline.)



Website:   Email: