In this brief little treatise I will argue that we must look beyond party politics in order to fully understand the struggle for control of the state being waged by the corporate elites and the working class. I have a broad definition of the working class which includes students, academics, waged workers, union representatives, and so on. I owe my thinking to the ideas I have been exposed to so far in my university studies at the University of Windsor (Communication, Media and Film Studies), and at Laurentian University (Communication Studies) in Sudbury, Ontario. Also, in 2000 I attended theLabour College of Canada and never saw things in the workplace and society in general the same way again. Most recently I have been influenced by certain lines of anarchist thought regarding the concept of the state and am becoming more convinced that direct democracy needs to be implemented in political and economic decision making. This requires a huge sea change on the part of the working class as we will need to abandon the idea of voting in experts to look after things while we continue to fight among ourselves in a political and economic system that exploits and kills.
The much anticipated election has produced a most undesirable outcome. Many are putting the best spin on it by suggesting that at least the NDP is in opposition rather than the Liberals. This is true as far as it goes and it doesn’t go very far. Mr. Harper, with an absolute majority, doesn’t have to give Jack Layton the time of day. In fact,Layton may come in handy if Harper calculates a need to show magnanimity and so will throw the NDP a scrap or two. It will be hard to watch as Layton will then go on about his successful proposition rather than opposition tactic. However, we are where we are, and looking at Ontario and Quebec results we can see that the NDP and Liberals split the vote right down the middle allowing the Conservatives to win 73 seats with 44.4% of the vote. Out goes the cry for electoral reform. However, in Quebec, the BQ, Liberals, and Conservatives split the vote in the six figure range each, leaving the NDP to win 58 seats with 42.9% of the vote. So, as long as the ‘right’ side wins in this ridiculous electoral sham it works for someone but rarely for the working class. What are we fighting over in elections, especially this one? Stripped to the core, the working class and corporate business elites are fighting for control of the state. The business elites, backed by the power of the banks, media, and energy conglomerates, see the state as useful for a minimum of regulation to keep the wolves from completely devouring each other and, most importantly, the state apparatus for bureaucratic and physical violence to coerce and control the population if the media propagandists cannot do the job. The working class wishes to see the state apparatus used to redistribute wealth in order to provide the services needed to keep the population healthy, productive, and useful to each other.
With the ascendancy of Harper and his thugs to a majority, the working class has suffered a major and dangerous defeat. We cannot sugarcoat this. Perhaps if Harper managed a majority a decade or so ago it would be easier to say we’ll get to work and be ready in four years. However, today, we live next door to a country with a president who is a celebrated assassin and who easily accepts torture as routine and legal. President Obama long ago abandoned his supporters who thought he meant it when he pledged change. Our Prime Minister is a slavish admirer of the criminal regime in Washington and this changes everything for the hopes of the Canadian working class as surely as it has in the US.
The NDP will be focused on consolidating their gains in Quebec and continuing to build on the theme of standing up for working families. Good for them. Their victory is a victory for the party not Canada. The disconnect between party politics and the battles of the working class should be clear to anyone now. The real issues the working class face are war and occupation here and abroad, First Nations aspirations and poverty, the ransacking of the state apparatus to dismantle social programs leading to greater social inequality, the G8/20 debacle, the Afghanistan detainee report, and the general authoritarian bent of the Harper regime. Sticking up for working families is a shallow attempt for redress of grievous wrongs committed and about to be committed by the capitalist controlled state. Party politics have become hopelessly corrupted, and representative democracy no longer functions since we do not have an electoral system that is adequate for proper representation. The only bright spot is that the working class has four years in which to build an effective opposition and alternative. We cannot continue to allow ourselves to remain divided as suburban middle class consumers to whom poverty is something other people suffer in urban cores or on First Nations reserves.
As I mentioned, when I use the term working class, I am including unions and district labour councils, university students and faculty, community activists, religious leaders, and socialist leaders. The latter is a term I use to include anarchists, communists, and so on, each with their own competitive take on how to counter global capitalism – the real target and subject of study and resistance, the real object of transformation. The goal of the working class should be transformation; transformation of ourselves, society, and how we organize our politics and economy. The working class has the means, ability, and very soon the motivation to make the transformation possible. So called extra-parliamentary actions such as mass strikes will be necessary, not just to withhold work for wages and working conditions, but to hold teach-ins and popular education sessions so people can understand the moment we are living in and what is necessary to change it. We will have to reject the capitalist debt machine by withdrawing from banks and investing in credit unions. We will have to organize community gardens on a scale comparable to what the Cubans did after they experienced the loss of Russian oil imports. We will need to rally and organize neighbourhood councils that can stop, for example, the closure of neighbourhood pool facilities in Windsor and directly challenge city council which is simply a creature of developers and a political stepping stone for those who wish to prove their mettle by putting the boots to ordinary working people. In fact the Windsor/Detroit area is a potential model, along with Wisconsin and Ohio, where, by economic necessity, citizens need to come together to pick up the pieces after capitalist exploitation has wrecked the environment and the lives and communities of working people.
The struggles to come are not unique to Canadians. When left commentators talk of the capitalists consolidating their power, Harper’s ascendancy is an example as is the ongoing fake war on terror. Authoritarian technocrats like Harper are in power in all major “democracies”, and if they aren’t bludgeoning a fallen sycophant like Gaddafi, they are pillaging their own people, and these days they are doing both simultaneously. It is important for us to see that the uprisings in the Middle East, while certainly subject to interference from the West, are working class fight backs against global capitalism that wishes to enforce low wages in politically weakened, yet armed to the teeth states so as to maintain for as along as possible a criminal regime of exploitation that is overheating the planet, increasing violence, and perpetuating a fake war on terror. Mr. Harper has fumed for a majority so he can be a complete member of this sick club and he no doubt has every intention of fulfilling every part of his agenda, of which we got a small taste over the last five years. He may throw a crumb our way if it suits his calculations and for that Mr. Layton will be useful. However, the working class must struggle on all the harder, for the political system no longer serves us, the economic system enslaves us, and in fact both will be used to further suppress and oppress the working class even as it struggles towards a transformative model of participatory democracy.