The Third International after Lenin

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Canadian election post-mortem

The Fight Against Capitalism Won’t Happen in the House of Commons:
Our Struggle Will End This Unjust System!

Taken from No. 3 of the Partisan newspaper. Other articles are temporarily available at Interested in circulating Partisan? Write at or call 514 563-1487.

The federal election is finally over, and the Canadian bourgeoisie had the result they wanted: a majority government, which will help stabilize its power over the next four years. The collapse of the Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois and the emergence of the New Democratic Party as the Official Opposition is a sign of both a realignment of power relations within the ruling class and of the fact that the parties traditionally used by the bourgeoisie to win the support of the masses no longer have enough political capacity.

For five weeks, the electoral circus was paraded throughout the country. The main parties seeking our votes made their usual and more or less similar promises for “helping Canadian families,” according to the same formula they all used. Even more than in the previous exercises, this election was presented as the pinnacle of democracy and a mandatory exercise by which we could supposedly decide on the kind of society in which we want to live. Beyond all the empty promises, this was certainly the biggest lie that we have been told in the days preceding the May 2 election.

In the capitalist system, elections have generally two objectives: First, to renew the team that leads the state apparatus according to the interests that predominate within the ruling class. Second, the polls seek to obtain the “consent” of the lower classes, at least some of them, who are dangled the illusion that they have something to say about the policies the ruling class will implement thereafter. In this regard, the election of May 2 was no exception.

The collapse of the Liberal Party, which had been correctly considered as the “natural governing party” in Canada and the election of a Conservative majority government reflect the changing balance of power within the Canadian ruling class and the growth of bourgeois sectors from the Western part of the country. The industrial and financial capital concentrated in Ontario that has traditionally supported the Liberals finally rallied behind the Conservative Party, partly because the Harper government’s economic policy during the recent crisis has already served them.; secondly because it became clear that the old and discredited Liberal Party no longer had the ability to channel the discontent of some of the masses dissatisfied with policies of the outgoing government.

The election of a majority government was seen as the best option by the big bourgeoisie. A similar result to the last two elections, with a minority Conservative government and an opposition divided in similar proportions between the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois, and the NDP, would have introduced instability at the head of the state because of the possibility of a coalition forming.. The scenario of a Harper government again defeated after presenting the same budget as the previous one, just a few weeks after being reelected, would have then made plausible the formation of a coalition government by the two main opposition parties. That would have provided a greater stability in the medium term..

Since Confederation, Canada has been led alternately by the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party without the bourgeois power never been shaken; in fact, one can say we have always lived under a “single party” system made up of two almost interchangeable wings. The New Democratic Party remained in the hall for 50 years, hoping the bourgeoisie will finally need its services to replace one of its tired horses. Clearly, this year was the time for such change: the bourgeois system was due to make us “try something new,” as the NDP and the bourgeois media repeated us during the campaign.

Basically, nothing distinguishes the NDP and the Liberals. And contrary to appearances, there are not so many differences between these parties and the Conservatives. Have we heard any of these parties challenging the idea that “the prosperity of Canadian families relies on the prosperity of Canadian corporations?” All of them promised tax breaks to capitalists, to varying degrees. Have any of these parties yet challenged the Canadian imperialist military intervention in Libya? No, they all supported this intervention before the dissolution of Parliament. Have any of them questioned in any manner whatsoever the colonial domination of the Canadian state on indigenous peoples? That fundamental characteristic of Canadian politics was not even discussed during the election campaign.

With its promises of hiring 2,500 additional cops, maintaining military spending at current levels and hardening of the Criminal Code provisions on sentencing, Jack Layton’s NDP has clearly demonstrated that it was ready to govern on behalf of the Canadian imperialist bourgeoisie. Shame on those who supported them by falsely claiming the NDP represents the interests of workers!

In Québec, the spectacular collapse of the Bloc Québécois, which saved only four of the 47 seats it held at dissolution of the House, is part of this same phenomenon of rejection of the traditional parties. Because they held the majority of seats in Québec for 18 years, they came to represent some form of status quo. The national bourgeoisie in Québec is now fully integrated into Canadian imperialism and Québec independence doesn’t appear to be feasible at least in a foreseeable future, so the Bloc Québécois no longer had good reason to exist. It remains to be seen whether this decline of the sovereignty movement will result in a lasting weakening of nationalist ideology among the Québec working class.

Despite an unprecedented campaign to address the decline in electoral turnout, workers have once again massively declined to participate in the elections. The rising participation rate (from 58.8% to 61.4%) proved to be negligible, despite the efforts and the massive propaganda operation carried on by the bourgeois media and blaming and shaming of the non-voters. The rejection of the bourgeois parliamentary and electoral system remains deep among the working class. Even if it is expressed in a passive way, this rejection is still highly significant.

Supporters of this newspaper have struggled to use this rejection as a starting point towards a revolutionary action that would challenge the power of the bourgeoisie. The boycott campaign we conducted targeted the hypocrisy of bourgeois democracy and brought to the forefront the idea of a social organization radically different than capitalism, based on proletarian and popular democracy.

In the coming months and years ahead, the deepening crisis will cause the bourgeoisie to renew its attacks against the working class and peoples oppressed by Canadian imperialism. No doubt the Harper government will be a faithful servant in this process. But contrary to what some would have us believe, opposition to the Harper government and the bourgeoisie will not happen in Parliament. The real proletarian opposition will have to be organized and waged in the streets, our workplaces and neighborhoods; only such an opposition will destroy the old and unnecessary institutions that exist only to serve a system that has had its day!

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First Meeting of the Revolutionary Workers Movement:
15 Questions on Social Classes and the Trade Unions

Wednesday, May 25 at 7pm
1710, rue Beaudry
Montréal (métro Beaudry)

Information: 514 409-2444 •

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