Leaflet distributed by Klasbatalo during the CPE daycare workers' strike in Quebec.
The present situation is one of deep capitalist crisis, wherein every worker faces a decimation of their real wages, brought on by a higher cost of living. Speculation in the housing market has seen rent shoot up 20% in the neighbourhood of Verdun alone, and this is no isolated incident. Decades of stretching supply chains to their limit has seen a shock to commodity prices, including at the grocery store which workers enter with no increase in their paychecks. The state’s response to the crisis was to protect capital at the expense of the working class.
In response to capital’s continued need to attack the conditions of our class, workers’ struggles have intensified in quantity and quality over the past year. Next to the 11,000 CPE workers, who have rejected a ridiculous “concession” by the province, the workers of 20 hotels across Quebec took strike action in September. Unfortunately, despite the initial size of this struggle, the workers at DoubleTree hotel in Montreal now find themselves striking alone and combatting scab labor. A strike wave has become felt across Canada and the United States. Nonetheless, whether it’s Kellogg’s’ workers in Pennsylvania or nurses in Alberta, our class has only faced this generalized crisis on an isolated, sectoral basis rather than a generalized struggle, as a class as a whole facing capital as a whole. Without a generalization in the struggle of our class, each sector will face the state and the bosses with a stark disadvantage.
The union structure prevents class-wide action, since they negotiate solely sector-by-sector. This can be witnessed by the fact that workers under the same union but in different industries are striking at different times, thereby lessening the impact of the strike. For decades, bosses have counted upon workers struggling in isolation, which allows them to defeat one part of our class before moving on to the next. CPE workers under the CSN union were on strike at the same time as CSN-affiliated hotel workers, but there were no efforts to combine their struggle. The consequence of this is a diminishment of the real power of the working class.
In contrast, it is useful to reflect upon the Quebec General Strike of 1972 and the student strike of 2012. In 1972, the workers of Quebec rallied to defend a strike faced with police repression, and extended it to their own workplaces- not as different workers with different demands, but as members of a single class. Likewise, in 2012, workers across Quebec recognized the tuition hikes as an attempt to attack the social welfare of workers as a whole. These struggles were not only generalized, but also moved towards the organization of the struggle by the workers themselves. It was in the mass meetings of both 1972 and 2012 which produced an energy and initiative that physically shook the auditoriums in which they took place.
With the quantity of the ongoing strikes, it is clear that across the wide working class there is a real desire to fight against the bosses’ attacks, opening up the possibility for the emergence of a generalized struggle. But this initiative must be seized. It must come now. And it must come from the initiative of the working class itself. The result of a lack of generalization and sectoral isolation can be seen in the Montreal port workers’ strike. In 2020 the CUPE union surrendered the initiative and stalled the strike for seven months. This gave the bosses and the state time to prepare their attack and the strike was defeated.
The CPE strike today is a reference point for the whole working class. The demands of the CPE workers are demands we see across the whole working class. The conditions we see the CPE workers facing both inside and outside of the workplace are conditions we see across the working class. It is the same struggle 22,000 public sector workers in New Brunswick are facing as they prepare for a strike by the end of the month. It is the same struggle of the millions of workers in every sector who are seeing skyrocketing rent prices. The struggle against the decline of real wages must be expanded in response to an expanding crisis.
Nonetheless, the attacks of the capitalist class will not stop if and after concessions are given. A victory of the CPE workers in the long term can only be a temporary and defensive victory as the crisis of capital will continue, deepen, and always push down on the livelihood of our class. To this, the only real solution to the attacks of capital can be found through a total political struggle against the existence of capital itself. Such a political struggle will require a political party fighting on its forefront. This does not mean the creation of an administration ‘in waiting’ but rather an organ of working-class militants reflecting on and fighting for the historic-task of our class inside the wide struggle. This historic-task is not the reorganization of the current order, but the creation of a new one; a society directed towards the real fulfillment of human needs, not one of exploitation through wage labour for profit. Ultimately, this means that the struggle of our class will have to move beyond the demand for “fair wages” and towards the abolition of wage labour itself.
Klasbatalo (Internationalist Communist Tendency)