June 16, 2021 - No. 57

2021 Virtual Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress --
June 16 to 18

The Workers' Movement Must Provide Canada With a Pro-Social Political Aim

The CLC Convention Gets Underway
Some Thoughts on the Basic Thesis of the CLC Convention - Pierre Chénier

2021 Virtual Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress -- June 16 to 18

The Workers' Movement Must Provide Canada
With a Pro-Social Political Aim

Workers' Forum enthusiastically greets the delegates attending the 29th Constitutional Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress being held virtually from June 16 to 18. We congratulate the workers from coast to coast to coast who have shown through their deeds that their fight for the rights of all is a fight for the lives of all. The last year of pandemic has shown above all else that Canadians depend on the deeds of the workers for their health and safety in all fields of life. It is thanks to their actions in every cell of the society, from healthcare, to the mines, mills, factories and forests, to agribusiness, transportation and communications, the educational institutions and in the communities, that safety needs are met because the workers put the well-being of the people in first place.

There is no use asking governments or the cartel parties whose very aim is to block the people from coming to power themselves to put their words into deeds. It is precisely their deeds which reveal what they stand for. They have used the pandemic to devise new ways to pay the rich, with the needs of the workers an excuse to funnel billions of dollars in pay-the-rich schemes.

As delegates meet to address the most important issues of concern to the workers' movement, they must necessarily address the fundamental need of the working class to provide itself and the country with a pro-social political aim. Even a cursory review of the events of the past year, past few years and past two decades, shows that irrespective of which political party is in power at the provincial or federal levels, they all pursue the same anti-social aim which has contributed to nation-wrecking and the devastation of the natural and social environment in a big way. Without considering the aim set by the rich for society, the view is peddled that this or that agenda of a governing party is responsible for the devastating effects of the economic crisis and the workers can entrust their fate to the agenda of another cartel party to do better.

There is no use to pursue attempts to turn the workers into a voting bank for another political party which allegedly has a better agenda. The workers already know they cannot afford to mark time. While they are the victims and scapegoats of pay-the-rich schemes, their conditions of life and work deteriorate along with those of their families and communities, their regions and the entire country and all its integral parts, including the Indigenous peoples, women, children and the elderly and every other identifiable interest with legitimate claims on society. The workers are sure to become increasingly hostile to continued attempts to divert the workers' movement in defence of their interests into becoming a reserve of the rulers' pay-the-rich schemes while all individuals and collectives are forced to fend for themselves in evermore difficult circumstances.

The world view of the rulers is that the workers constitute a mere productive force and are expendable. They have no role whatsoever in participating in arriving at the decisions which concern their lives or the lives of the polity of which they are members. The workers have even been deprived of their right to participate in setting the policy of their own collectives as a result of the imposition of an agenda which beats around the bush, bypassing the need for their own agency to bring about changes in their favour.

The current system of unrepresentative democracy permits the workers to produce and the rich to rule. One of the main justifications for the vicious anti-social offensive which has destroyed social programs was that resources are "scarce" and this is why the working people had to make sacrifices. The rulers managed those "scarce resources" right into their own ever-expanding pocketbooks. Life experience has shown that the problem is not "scarce resources" at all and that the workers must set an aim for society which puts their claims and those of all Canadians in first place. The working people are deprived of political power and all efforts must be put to resolving this problem.

Resources are not "scarce" in Canada. It is one of the countries of the world most richly endowed with natural resources, advanced means of production and an educated work force in abundant supply. The only role given to the working class and people is to submit to the dictate of the rich and those whose job it is to pay the rich.

The role of the democracy and the "democratic process," including the electoral part, the legislatures and other institutions is to make the entire thing credible, as if the rule serves everyone. Of course, the more the dictatorial features of this rule are revealed, the less credible and legitimate the system becomes. This is precisely what has happened during the past year of pandemic and since the anti-social offensive was unleashed in the early nineties. It is inevitable for governments at various levels to become increasingly desperate, irrational and cruel as they attempt to get the working class and people to toe the line and accept the massive restructuring and destruction which the rulers are carrying out.

The rulers are guided by the non-negotiable demands of the oligopolies which dominate the U.S. war economy, the health care sector, infrastructure projects, mining, agribusiness and everything else including what to do about the degradation of Mother Earth.

While all of this points to the necessity for the working class to establish its own political aim, the attempt is made, once again, to keep it chained to the political aim of this or that party whose words and promises are designed to cover up that they have a hidden aim. The experience of all Canadians is that whether an agenda has been touted as right-wing or left-wing, it is corporate. End of story.

The fight today pits those who espouse a new way of doing things against those who demand they stick to the old. The working class must resolutely take up its own political aim and end the situation whereby it is marginalized as a result of diverting its struggle into electing this or that representative of an increasingly corrupt and decadent ruling class, no matter what they may call themselves.

In this regard, the question delegates to the CLC Convention must pose themselves is: Can the workers' movement expect any positive resolution and new direction from those political forces and parties responsible for what the CLC correctly calls "the profound shortcomings in our society and economy," from those political parties and social forces that impose on working people and the country the priority of reinforcing the power and priorities of employers?

The answer to this question is found in the response to the pandemic of the federal Liberal government and provincial governments which have callously continued marshalling public resources to pay the rich, using the workers' needs as excuses. Through their actions they have blocked the workers' movement from discussing, conceiving and implementing a new pro-social direction that puts working people and their needs at the centre of any measures taken under all conditions and circumstances.

Workers' Forum encourages all working people to implement alternatives to the nation-wrecking of the ruling class. Opposition to the destruction of social programs and to the elimination of standards agreeable to the working people settles scores with the old arrangements. The ruling class wants the workers to harbour illusions according to which the dangers which lie ahead can be averted without the working people taking over the decision-making power. It is not so. It is by vigorously laying the claims on society which they must as a matter of upholding the rights of all to save the lives of all, that workers establish the alternative and open society's path to progress.

Canadians depend on the deeds of the workers. They cannot afford to get diverted by calls for the rulers to put their words into deeds. Canadians have seen the deeds of the rulers and reject them. Canadians have seen the deeds of the workers and accept them. That is the crux of the matter.

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The CLC Convention Gets Underway

The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) is holding its 29th Constitutional Convention from June 16 to 18. The theme of the Convention is "Defining the Future." The Convention will be virtual over the three days, held between 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm Eastern Time. Prior to opening, the number of registered delegates and observers was 4,224: four CLC officers; 3,726 delegates from affiliates and union locals; 120 delegates from Federations of Labour and Labour Councils and 374 observers.

A video and President's address will open the Convention June 16. The Canadian Council of the CLC will then deliver its report followed by discussion and adoption of resolutions and four policy papers.

The four policy papers of the 29th CLC Convention are presented under the title "Defining the Future: From Pandemic to Promise."

The four papers are entitled:

1. A Democratic Agenda
2. A Good Jobs Agenda
3. A Climate Action Agenda
4. A Human Rights Agenda

The second day will feature an election forum for candidates seeking the positions of President, two Executive Vice-Presidents and Secretary-Treasurer. The elections will take place on the final day June 18.

Current CLC officers are:

Hassan Yussuff, President
Marie Clarke Walker, Secretary-Treasurer
Donald Lafleur, Executive Vice-President
Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice-President

CLC President Hassan Yussuff is not running for re-election and is retiring. Secretary-Treasurer Marie Clarke Walker is also not running for re-election. 

Larry Rousseau is running for re-election as Executive Vice-President.

It is important to note that UNIFOR, the largest private sector union in Canada with a membership of 310,000 does not have any delegates at the CLC Convention. In January 2018, UNIFOR announced that it would cease its affiliation to the CLC. UNIFOR was founded in 2013, through a merger of the Canadian Autoworkers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP). The CEP was originally created in 1992 through the merger of the Canadian Paperworkers Union, the Communications and Electrical Workers of Canada and the Energy and Chemical Workers Union. The 29th Constitutional Convention of the CLC is the first Convention that does not have any delegates from UNIFOR which at previous conventions made up at least 10 per cent of the total delegates.

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Some Thoughts on the Basic Thesis of
the CLC Convention

The CLC policy papers criticize the neo-liberal policies of the existing governments. In the same breath, they call on the union movement to strengthen the existing liberal democratic political institutions responsible for the attacks. They say that the very institutions that are anti-worker should be supported so as to prevent the rise of right-wing extremist currents bent on even worse attacks. In the final analysis, they end up calling for support for the Trudeau Liberals, which they consider a non-extremist Party, a Party of fairness. They do not elaborate how the Liberal Party deserves their support when it has been an avid activist of neo-liberal policies attacking working people, social programs and public services and paying the rich for decades.

They consider the pandemic a pivotal moment for the preservation of the system of liberal democracy and liberal institutions and prevention of societies turning to extremism. The fact that liberal democracy and its institutions right from the beginning have been dedicated to protecting private property and not human rights does not appear to be a concern for the writers. They gloss over the issue of making human rights a pivotal aim of society rather than property rights. They want the labour movement to ensure workers are mobilized as a force to strengthen the institutions that defend property rights and not human rights.

The authors of the policy papers avoid any talk of seeking and fighting for a new direction for the economy that puts an end to the pay-the-rich economy that serves the global oligarchy and views human rights as an impediment to property rights or something that can be manipulated globally to serve their interests. They put emphasis on workers not becoming political themselves and seeking empowerment for themselves and an agenda independent of the ruling elite and their political institutions. Workers are encouraged to put their faith in the very same people who are the architects of neo-liberalism.

The policy papers consistently call on workers to hand over their politics and voices to those in the cartel political parties. Workers are to reduce themselves to pressuring the ruling elite into doing the right thing. This emphasis negates any discussion of working people becoming decision-makers themselves and exercising control over economic, political and all the affairs that concern them and affect their lives.

The papers argue against being militant and taking a firm line in defence of rights and claims, which they say damages the image of unions. Rather, workers should advocate for fairness and equity and show that unions are those who are providing society with fairness and equity, etc., in opposition to all that is bad in society. The papers ignore the reality that workers are in a contradiction with their employers. They face a social force that buys their capacity to work to exploit it for maximum profit. Fairness and equity are not possible, only organized struggle in defence of rights and claims within which a certain equilibrium of opposing forces may be achieved that favours working people.

The papers suggest the pandemic has revealed the workers as essential and in response the ruling circles have put austerity on pause with money flowing, mostly borrowed from the rich themselves. They warn that there is danger ahead of an increase in right wing extremism, which means workers must rise to the occasion and come to the defence of liberal democracy and its institutions instead of strengthening their own defence organizations and preparing consciously to go on the offensive to defend their rights and claims and build the New.

The authors seem to think that Parliament and other institutions have not lost any power or control to the narrow private interests of the global oligarchy. With this view, unions should continue their role as an extra-parliamentary pressure group. They appear to propose a line of march that has already disappeared. As such the policy papers are holding on to a status quo that has already collapsed. In this way they are not useful to open a path to the task of democratic renewal which reality itself is proving to be necessary. 

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