On the Economic crisis and the Conservative Action Plan
The economic crisis has hit like a Saskatchewan thunderstorm: loud and powerful, breaking out from the contradictions of capitalism. Now, as the Canadian poet says, “With the long roar of elm-trees swept and swayed … Column on column comes the drenching rain.” In middle of this storm is the Harper Conservative government – and all the pro-business governments – functioning to transfer the shock and disaster directly into our communities, our class, our generation and our environment all while generating profits for “the Masters of the Canadian Capitalist Universe.”
NO AID TO YOUTH. As our May Central Committee noted, Harper’s budget provided no aid to students, young mothers, young workers, aboriginal youth, racalized youth, or young farmers. The effects of these policies are now obvious. The federal scenario has percolated like sour coffee through all levels of the bourgeoisie state, provincially and municipally, as well as into school boards and university administrations.
The Globe and Mail announced today that even in the supposedly robust economy of British Columbia, “the government deficit has exploded, from $495-million budgeted in February to nearly $3-billion now.” (This is the context of the new “Harmonized Sales Tax” corporate hand-out condemned recently by the YCL BC. The Harmonized Sales Tax combines two taxes, the Provincial Sales Tax and the federal Goods and Services Tax, into one federally administered sales tax. When this takes place, almost everything which PST does not apply to will see a 7% increase in cost.)
Alberta is also running a billion dollar deficit, even though it is illegal for the province to run a deficit! Toronto’s CUPE strike, sparked when City refused to take100 pages of concessions off the table or to meet the 3% plus wage increase already paid to other unionized city workers, placed the union as scapegoat for the economic crisis. And these are just two examples.
Turning to the YCL’s main focus, the youth, May to August saw the general failure of youth summer jobs programmes (youth unemployment is the highest since Statistics Canada started tracking in the 70s). It is hard to get concrete facts here, but for example at the Saanich, BC, Service Canada Centre for Youth saw “triple the number [of inquires] seen by the centre the year before,” but “only about half walked away with jobs.”[i] BC has the lowest minimum wage in the country. (Reportedly, 75 % of Youth Skills Link funding went to Conservative ridings.) The unemployment rate among returning students aged 15 to 24 in Canada jumped to 20.9 per cent in July, the highest rate recorded since Statistics Canada began collecting data on the subject in 1977, and a 51 per cent increase from the same month last year.[ii]
The number of youths under 25 years old receiving regular Employment Insurance benefits has more than doubled in the past year up 108.6%. This despite specific regulations in EI that frustrate youth collection like the number of hours worked before collection. This especially hits all part-time workers, Aboriginal youth and farm-worker youth. The YCL should also, despite its flaws, demand that the Conservatives not shut-down the Katimavik programme as is rumored.
Frosts and snow of winter will be accompanied by more cold economic winds: continued inaccessible childcare, employment insurance, post-secondary education, as well as cut backs to public education and no break in terms of housing costs, car insurance, cell phones, the price of food and home heating – let alone recreation.
THE BIG LIE. Over this darkening night, a great bold-faced corporate media lie has risen like a full moon: the claim that Canada has exited the economic crisis. For example – the headline says “Ontario sees second straight month of job growth.” The reality: “Ontario saw a slight gain in the number of people working in August [but] 23,000 full-time jobs disappeared.”[iii] The lie illuminates only what the cheer-leaders of capitalism want us to see, like claims of 0.1% growth. The claim that there is a recovery obscures how the crisis is really caused – the tendency for the rate of profit to falling. Therefore capitalist recovery can only be temporary. Deep in the shadows are crowds of unemployed. Can we remain there? What kind of recovery do we as the youth demand?
Our current issue of Rebel Youth contains a special focus on the economic crisis, drawing from the Communist Party’s assessment. We can contrast the reaction of youth in Canada with that of youth in Europe, for example France, where there has been notable resistance. And there is resistance here also. For example, in Hamilton young people are organizing the unemployed. But prior to the crisis many youth across Canada could not get a job. Some youth still don’t think they are directly hit. We are “generation credit,” we are sent letters at the age of 18 requesting we purchase credit cards, and we are encouraged not to think of heavy personal debt as a major problem – when in fact this is insanity.
Is the outlook of our generation polarizing? More people are discontented. New thinking ruptures with previous assumptions and it’s the challenge of the young left activists to bring progressive content into that debate.
Dangerous, renewed attack on the student movement
The August crash in youth employment is the context of September’s student loans. Currently, when a Canadian student applies for financial assistance, it is assumed they’ll contribute a portion of their summer employment income toward their education – whether they earned any money during the summer or not, and regardless of how much they earned. (We should note in passing that this is being raised by the tepid Canadian Alliance of Student Associations). Not surprisingly, as CFS freedom of information requests have exposed, there is already a 10-12% increase in student loan requests at Toronto university campuses.
In Ontario the CFS is campaigning against the economic crisis with the slogan “Drop Fees for a poverty-free Ontario.” In BC, the CFS is focusing on student debt (about $27,000 per student). In Manitoba the CFS is equating drop fees with poverty. These efforts are positive because they draw the big picture about the link between student’s struggles and the impoverishment of the working class. CFS Manitoba will be continuing its campaign against the 4.5% annual tuition fee increases of the NDP.
We reaffirm our long standing position that student campaigns must go beyond “communications” and “media hit” strategies combined with lobbying and mobilize the masses of the students into the struggle in a growing, broad campaign that unites with labour unions, community organizations, and working families. This is a universal fight, but also a class struggle, which must lead towards battle for the complete elimination of tuition and beyond.
The Quebec national student movement organization ASSE is continuing its fight against Bill 38 (forced privatization of post-secondary institutions). The Federations (FEUQ et FECQ) have criticized the call by the young ADQ to deregulate tuition. Both organizations (FEUQ, FECQ and ASSÉ) are campaigning to reform student loans and bursaries (open only to the most impoverished students but profiting banks). Now in Quebec there is a big increase of the tuition fees for the international students. Furthermore, a “third voice” organization representing a few significant student unions in Quebec has emerged that claims to hold a more militant outlook than the Federations. We view descent from the strict and limited campaigns of the Federations as positive, and will have to see where this organization stands in practice on the question of mobilization of students.
Finances are the main obstacle to access to education – which is a right, not privilege or a commodity. Yet recent OECD numbers show that rising tuition has caused a decline in the number of people getting degrees: one-fifth of 15 to 19 year-old Canadians are no longer pursuing an education.
It is in this context that we should view the developed attack by the Harper Tories on the youth and student organizations. These attacks include:
- Organizing late-spring workshops across the country, brining together Conservative Party youth with Party activists and sitting MPs, local student unions the CFS, setting up front groups, and working with ultra-right forces like Zionists and anti-Abortionists;
- The interference of MP Peter Kent’s office, with the collusion of senior university administrators, in the York Federation of Student’s elections;
- Continued attacks on student groups in solidarity with Palestine.
We express our strong condemnation of these actions which should signal a high alert to all democratic student organizations.
REGARDING HIGH SCHOOLS – This meeting of the Central Committee of the Young Communist League of Canada also expresses extreme concern at the recent announcements of provincial governments across Canada regarding public secondary school funding and legislation.
In British Columbia the Campbell Liberals are again pressuring school boards to make massive cuts, forcing them to pay for an increase in Medical Plan service rates, and over $122 million in cuts, plus cuts to sports. This includes cuts to school board funding, cuts to seismic upgrades, and cuts to parent-teacher groups. In Alberta the province has recently imposed a wage settlement on teachers and is implementing $56 million in cuts.
We also express alarm of recent announcements in legislation.
The province of Alberta is putting forward legislation under the Alberta Human Rights code for parents to opt-out of lessons on religion, sex and sexual orientation (which parents already have the ability to do under the School Act). Education on sexual health and countering homophobia, as well as faiths other than the Christian faith, is a right of the youth and can not be taken out of their hands.
In Ontario the province is proposing the Student Achievement and School Board Governance Act and has only allowed email consultation. This draconian legislation attacks the local democracy and autonomy of school boards, limiting their ability to fight a coming wave of cuts.
We note that nowhere in Canada are our schools adequately funded, which will require billion s of dollars. That money is in the corporate purse. We declare that teachers working conditions are students learning conditions and call for youth and students to stand with educators in opposing these attacks! These issues should be brought to the attention of our conference calls of post-secondary and high school activists.
Regarding Migrant workers
Another area of sharpening struggle has been over migrant, immigrant, status and non-status workers. Our upcoming issue of RY will present a special article here.
If you are a person of colour, a Roma, a young queer person, or anyone from Mexico or the Czech Republic seeking refuge status in Canada -- forget it. But if you are a young white-skin South African, the refugee board apparently has one word for you: welcome!
The acceptance of Brandon Huntley’s refugee claim on the basis of “persecution” by his fellow black citizens has again shamed Canada to the world, weeks after closing its doors to all refugee claims from the Czech Republic and Mexico. But by taking this disgraceful decision not only does the Refugee Board expose its racist double-standards It also implicitly states to the world that, in eyes of Canada, black people can not run a country.
This is not the viewpoint of the Canadian people. This decision is so blatantly racist even the bull-dog Jason Kenney and the Harper regime have been forced to challenge it. The Young Communist League of Canada denounces this decision, draws to the attention of the youth and students the political and ideological nature of appointments on the board that made the decision regarding Huntley. We re-asserts our demand for immediate equality-based immigration reforms, abolition of the forced-labour Bill C50 and further call for the Harper Conservatives fire the current racist board and issue an apology to South Africa.
There can be no peaceful co-existence with racism and with the violence it invariably spawns. In that hard struggle, justice will inevitably triumph and the Harper Tories and their refugee-denial boards will be left in the bio-hazard quarantine bin of history.
Peace and solidarity, elections
It is now becoming clearer that the Harper Tories are maneuvering again to extend the date of Canada’s war in Afghanistan, past 2011. The evidence includes: pressure on Canada from the US to extend the mission; negotiations to exclude Canada from Obama’s Buy America scheme supposedly including extending the mission; a re-styling by the corporate media of an extension as the troops remaining in a supposedly non-combat role; and opinion poll surveys to this effect. At this time we are dismayed that the Canadian Peace Alliance has not called for another cross-Canada day of action. A Canada-wide conference on the necessity of a visible and re-energized peace movement, like that which the Ontario CFS hosted but much bigger scale and involving organized labour, would seem to us a very relevant proposal. Certainly public opinion has not shifted away from its criticism of the war.
The important tri-lateral meeting hosted by the Canadian Peace Congress in Toronto, Oct. 2-4, is endorsed by this meeting was supported to our full capacity. We are proud to announce that on this occasion the YCL-LJC joined the Peace Congress as an affiliate organization.
We also note with support the recent publication of a special edition of “Vents Croisés” on “le recrutement militaire et nos écoles” being circulated among the Quebec peace movement. We should make efforts that this material reach English-speaking peace activists.
The Harper Tories have again shifted Canadian foreign policy this summer to more aggressively acting as a diplomatic prop to various reactionary creations of US imperialism with their support of the coup in Honduras, but also continued backing of apartheid Israel, Colombia, and others.
We express our total solidarity with the youth and students of Honduras, now approaching 70 days of consistent mobilization and with the emerging anti-coup National Front in their demand to boycott the fake elections and immediately return democratically elected President Zelaya. We condemn the Canadian government’s support of the bloody coup, the role of Canadian corporations, and also denounce the US Obama administration’s role in this coup, the first in 25 years in Latin America, as Dr Frankenstein experimenting with a horrible monster to roll-back the gains of the people’s forces in Latin America.
Rebel Youth blog is maintaining a special focus on Honduras.
Against a backdrop of Canada’s ghoulish diplomatic support of reactionary regimes, there’s growing campus-based international solidarity including with Palestine, Cuba and Honduras. As we have noted before many times, including in our open letter to the National Post condemning their red-baiting of the Toronto Student’s School group High School Students Against Israeli Apartheid, the attack on Palestine solidarity is particularly acute. We welcome the actions of prominent artists in critique of the Toronto International Film Festival’s City-to-City spotlight on Tel Aviv as well as the upcoming Toronto conference on Academic Freedom and Palestine solidarity.
The executive is proposing the YCL-LJC contribute to the WFDY-endorsed campaign to Free Ahmad Saadat, the General Secretary of the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and in defense of the lives, health and rights of the over 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners held inside Israeli occupation jails. We have already written to Stop Israeli Apartheid, Can Pal Net, Stopwar, Jews for a Just Peace and International Solidarity Movement Vancouver regarding Sa'adat's case.
We will also use our magazine to promote this campaign.
Regarding the World Federation of Democratic Youth, the next WFDY meeting will be in Paris and although we will not be sending a representative we look forward to learning more about their timely discussions. Our participation in the Havana meeting this summer, and full paying of YCL dues to WFDY, was an important step forward in our international solidarity efforts with anti-imperialist youth organizations.
Also in relation to WFDY, we are very happy, comrades, to announce the successful victory of the Communist Union of Czech Republic. The Supreme Court of Czech Republic has, as of Sept. 3rd, decided to cancel the ban. This meeting sends warm and militant congratulations to the KSM, an issue we worked on here in Canada!
RUMOUR OF A FEDERAL ELECTION – Every few months it seems as if we are on the edge of a big pan-Canadian discussion which could be an opening for labour, youth and people’s movements to push a frank public debate about the crisis hitting youth, the attack on students, and the imperialist foreign policy of Canada: the Federal election.
We note with dismay that both Ignatieff’s Liberal’s and Layton’s NDP show a marked shift to the right, especially with their position on the war in Afghanistan. Commentators suggest Ignatieff “shows sign of a recovery in the hands of the Liberal Party in accordance with the ambitions of the most reactionary elements of the Canadian ruling class who want that Canada plays an active military role alongside the United States. In this scheme, there is a need to marginalize Quebec, considered too anti-war.” Our long-standing position has been that the Harper Conservatives must be removed by a mass-upsurge of people’s forces calling for a genuine alternative – not the Liberal Party.
The Forum jeunesse du Bloc Québécois have announced election mobilization. The Green youth are launching a new website. So too have the NDP youth at their recent rather bland convention. (To nobody’s surprise, the YCL has not received a response from the YND to our open letter calling for united action in combat against the economic crisis, but it caused debate in left and progressive circles of youth).
Sadly these youth organizations lack much engagement in the real politics of youth. Our organization is of a different type. This meeting of the Central Cmte re-asserts our organizational autonomy and deep and warm ideological and political unity with the Communist Party of Canada and work to add a dynamic youth component to Communist campaigns, including high school student vote campaigns and high school youth parliament debates.
The YCL in action!
Lastly we turn to the question to our organization and highlight some good news.
CADRE & EDUCATION – Clearly the biggest achievements of our YCL-LJC, are in the area of education having successfully brought together three schools across the country with the possibility of another in the East Coast. In BC we saw over 20 young people gather for an excellent summer camp with sessions on current debates. The process of organizing this camp re-established the YCL BC Provincial Cmte and lifted the morale of the League. On behalf of the YCL CEC I have written to the comrades in congratulations.
In Ontario almost 30 youth came together for an intense school on fundamentals. Work done at this school has resulted in the re-establishment of the Hamilton YCL. It has further connected the clubs in Ontario, and highlighted the good work done by Guelph club in the occupation of the Guelph Busness Park development which has resulted in victory.
In Quebec the LJC-Q did a joint school with the Party. Almost 20 people came, including 7 LJCers. This has also helped the work of the League in Quebec, which will be doing a presentation at the Forum Social Québécois in October, a major event for the left in Quebec.
In preparation for the convention process, we have circulated small constitutions in English to membership, and have finished translating over half of the Constitution into French. We are still planning to re-print the Declaration of Unity and Resistance.
We are also planning to distribute membership cards as well, and more people are paying dues in the League.
PRESS AND AGITATION – The next issue of Rebel Youth has been printed. Our discussion high-lighted the need to produce another issue in January 2010 and set a deadline goal of December 1 for articles. An open letter will be circulated calling for an increase in subscriptions. The second issue of Jeunesse Militant published by the LJC-Q been printed and 100 issues sold or distributed. This is a really outstanding achievement.
Our website development has seen several setbacks but a new site will be online soon.
Since our last Central Committee we have issued a number of statements educating our members and showing our positions: on the attack on Aboriginal youth; Quebec; in support of the Cuban Revolution; solidarity with Colombia, and on the Nova Scotia election of the NDP. We have posted most statements of the World Federation of Democratic Youth, with a few exceptions.
Comrades, we are the Little Engine that could. We will need to keep saying as militants – Yes I can, Yes I can, Yes I can – not like the charlatan Obama did last November, but in the true spirit of that people’s slogan.
We will need to fight. The dynamic that the youth and students play within the broader people’s struggles can be effected by our League. The dynamic of our League is shaped by the leadership of this committee. Lets get out their and do it comrades!
[i] VicNews.com, “Youth employment centre job vacancies plummet,” Aug. 12
[ii] Winnipeg Free Press, “Worst year on record for students seeking work,” Aug 14
[iii] CTV News, “Ontario sees second straight month of job growth,” Sept. 4