On Elections: RCP (Canada)

[From Call For A New Class Struggle in Canada:]

1. A Canada-wide boycott campaign during the next federal elections:

Boycott the Elections! is a slogan that is anything but passive. Driven by the forces of the militant proletariat, led by activists working for revolution and for the destruction of the exploitative capitalist system, this slogan is a call to fight
against apathy and indifference, and against what will be an inevitable defeat otherwise.

This slogan is a call for unity among the proletariat, whether they be young, old, unemployed, immigrant or refugee.

This slogan is a call to unite with the most militant layers among the Native nations who refuse to recognize the Canadian Parliament, except than to be the organizer of their own oppression. This slogan when carried forward by the most conscious forces among the proletariat, can offer the proletariat a real political perspective: the actions of the revolutionary proletariat to transform society. This action must be first and foremost the expression of the rejection of bourgeois politics in a conscious and unified way. By organizing actions, through meetings and protests, through the massive distribution and publication of leaflets and newspapers throughout the country, these revolutionary actions
represent a real threat to the apparatus of domination of the bourgeoisie. They reveal and expose to the eyes of many the deeply unfair nature of this system ruled by a tiny minority.

There will be those that will criticize us who boycott by saying that we are playing the game of the rightists. Some forces on the left often use this argument: “One can try to rebalance bourgeois parliamentarism by calling for proportional representation”. In either case, whether it be twoheaded or three-headed, it remains the party of the bourgeoisie. What really matters is that in all cases, the same interests prevail, both in government and in opposition. Regardless of parliamentary representation, the nature of Parliament itself remains the same.

[From the RCP Program:]

10. The path of revolution in Canada: Protracted People’s War

It is clear that in Canada the bourgeoisie has been utterly useless for quite a while. It does not play a positive historical role anymore. The Canadian bourgeoisie is for sure a powerful class, but it is above all a deeply reactionary and parasitic social class. It is only able to stay on top by tapping into all the resources it has at its disposal and by using them against the proletariat.

In Canada, we are now at the historical stage of preparing for a transition to socialism. The dictatorship of the proletariat has to be established. There is no need for a democratic or anti-imperialist stage that would justify delaying the struggle for socialism.

The objective of the proletarian movement is to destroy the bourgeois state and all of its institutions. It is also to liquidate the private ownership of property of the big bourgeoisie. Then society shall be organized in order to allow the proletariat and the masses to assume social leadership and make society move on to communism.

Such a perspective excludes straightaway any possibility of a pacifistic transition. The recourse to violence is unavoidable. The preparation of revolutionary struggle that will overthrow the bourgeoisie is what we must plan.

Currently, the bourgeoisie, which is in the minority, imposes its domination on the vast majority of the people, mostly on the proletariat. In essence, it does this by using violence. This is not always obvious because the bourgeoisie hides the reality behind a smoke screen it calls democracy. The bourgeois are able to do this because there is no true opposition to their domination for the time being. However, only a small event, even if quite isolated (like the uprising of the Mohawk nation in Kanehsatake in 1990), is enough to force the bourgeoisie to reveal its true nature.

It is mainly through the state—this political, ideological, bureaucratic, judiciary apparatus, and especially their police and military forces—that the bourgeoisie maintains its domination. To overthrow it, the proletariat must face this apparatus. We will have to confront it and destroy it. The proletariat will have to use revolutionary violence to fight against reactionary violence. The revolutionary violence will not only be necessary to face the repression of the exploiters, but it will also be necessary to destroy the old state apparatus, and to establish and defend the new state empowered by the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Historical experience has proven time and time again that the “peaceful transition towards socialism” dreamed up by the revisionists, is a bloody and harmful illusion. It is a fallacy that does nothing but set us up for a loss. The imperialist bourgeoisie will never cede power without a bloody fight!

By putting forth the idea that we can achieve socialism by adding an ever growing string of reforms and of “progressive improvements,” or by simply rendering capitalism a thing of the past through “sheer progress,” reformists are only spreading fallacies. But what they are mainly doing is preparing an alternate way of struggling for the bourgeoisie when they will be at their most desperate.

Concerning revisionist organizations, such as those of the Communist Party of Canada who think that they can wrest power out of the hands of the bourgeoisie and build the proletarian state by using bourgeois institutions (let’s say by getting the people to vote in a handful of communist MPs), the latter allying themselves with a few “socialists” and “enlightened Liberals” in order to form a progressive majority in parliament, well, history speaks for itself!

An ever-growing numbers of Canadian proletarians reject the parliamentary system. They see it as it is: a pitiful circus in which the only way people can participate is by helping create the illusion that it is a democratic process, but in which they are not able to bring any real change to society. Elections are nothing more than an occasion to choose our favourite bloodsucking oppressors.

We, revolutionary communists, declare: Boycott the elections! Down with bourgeois parliamentarism! We are not seeking to improve the conditions of our exploitation, but to end them as soon as possible, to end these conditions and all forms of oppression. We want to destroy the power of the bourgeois state. We do not want to improve it or make it more efficient. Our wish is to conquer political power—power to the proletariat! This is why we must wage revolutionary war. This is why we must prepare ourselves to confront the bourgeoisie.

In order to do this, the first thing we must do is free ourselves from the yoke imposed upon us by the bourgeoisie. This means to break free from the old tactic of the official Left who wants to keep politics within the bourgeois law. Whether it be the trade-union movement as a whole; the community movement; the network of Non-Governmental Organizations (the NGOs); the organizations who cater to the poor by claiming to help them with food and the like; the reformist parties; or those who claim to be revolutionaries such as the CPC, the CPCML, the Trotskyists but who will not transcend the limits imposed by the bourgeoisie: they all put their actions in the frame of the capitalist system and refuse, no matter what their real aims are, to come out of it.

In opposition to the official Left who sticks to bourgeois legality and who let its modes of action be tailored by bourgeois structures, we propose to boycott the state. We propose to boycott its institutions; all of its “administration counsels” and organisms of management by which we are incited to determine our conditions of exploitation. As well, we propose to boycott all co-operation bodies—between the state, the unions and the bosses—that are becoming more and more numerous and that have as sole purpose to make us think and behave like the bourgeoisie. We also propose to boycott the bourgeois rules, political parties and, of course, the bourgeois parliamentary system.

To have any real effect, such a boycott must be actively undertaken. It must be based on the will to clearly separate us from them and assert our existence as a social class. This differentiation is clouded by the nebulous term of “civil society.” By politically and socially isolating the bourgeoisie, the boycott of the state will help us to clearly outline the two opposing sides—the revolutionary side and the reactionary one.

To talk about socialism and revolution in Canada, as we have stated, means necessarily that we talk about violence, therefore about armed struggle between the two big social classes that will face each other. Above all, this must leads us to work hard and well to prepare this unavoidable confrontation.

Historically, the majority of revolutionary currents who have taken up action in the imperialist countries, including Canada (those who have at least recognized the necessity of using revolutionary violence), have generally estimated that this struggle would have gone through two phases. Those two phases would have been absolutely distinct one from the other. Firstly, there would have been a protracted legal struggle; then a phase of insurrection, followed by a civil war, that shouldn’t last too long, and that would end with the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.

By only emphasizing the legal struggle, “protracted and painstaking” (as it is commonly said), the communists in the imperialist countries contributed to maintain the proletariat in the frame of strictly bourgeois discipline. On the other hand, they prevented the proletariat from preparing for warfare. This conception spread a very harmful illusion within the masses by not allowing them to prepare themselves for revolution, or even for insurrection. If we take stock of the revolutionary experience in the imperialist countries, here is what we see. By sharply dissociating those two phases, the movement in general, with barely an exception, has come to totally neglect the preparation of the second phase.

Yet, since the start of the 20th century with the development of imperialism, Lenin had seen and analyzed the dangers of legalism and he tried to help communists who were active in the big imperialist cities to break with this approach: “It is generally agreed that opportunism is no chance occurrence, sin, slip, or treachery on the part of individuals, but a social product of an entire period of history. The significance of this truth is not always given sufficient thought. Opportunism has been nurtured by legalism. […] There is only one conclusion a socialist can draw, namely, that pure legalism, the legalism-and-nothing-but-legalism of the ‘European’ parties, is now obsolete and, as a result of the development of capitalism in the pre-imperialist stage, has become the foundation for a bourgeois labour policy.” (The Collapse of the Second International)

The socialist revolution can not be restricted to the moment of the seizure of power by the proletariat. It is at first a struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisie, followed by the actual overthrow of its power, then the work to build a new society; each of those steps prepares the one to come. It is a “protracted and painstaking” historical process, for which violence not only plays a key role at a given time, but is also part of it as a fundamental and permanent subject.

It is possible, at the end, that the proletariat will likely seize power after a phase of insurrection; at some point, capitalism would reach such a crisis that the bourgeoisie would be unable to govern society any longer; at which time the masses will rise to overthrow it and take power. But how can we imagine that the ruling class would not notice the progress of its inner enemy in a country like Canada, with such a powerful and modern state endowed with a high tech surveillance system and repressive apparatus, living beside the most powerful imperialist country in the world? How can we imagine that the upper class will be “taken by surprise” and that the revolutionary proletariat will succeed to get rid of it without at first being properly and sufficiently prepared?

To prepare for revolution is not only a question that we must think about once in a while, between two strikes or election campaigns. Nor something that we should simply write about to finish off an article. It is not something we should start thinking about when the bourgeoisie will have clearly declared war upon us. To prepare for revolution is to make concrete preparations. It is to start to wage struggle politically and ideologically right now. As our comrades from the Cellules communistes combattantes in Belgium wrote in an assessment that they put in circulation in 1994: “The role of communists is not to entertain the democratic functioning of bourgeois society, it is to prove the feasibility of the revolutionary path. This means to show the proletariat that it has the military capability to fight against the bourgeoisie and to be victorious in defeating it (even at a small level).” (La Flèche et la Cible—Our translation)

To successfully fight against the bourgeoisie, we must learn how to fight. Learning is also a practical process that we can know from experience. By practice, we do not only refer to a small or big professional army (something that is undeniably important but not sufficient in itself), but mostly to the fighting experience of the masses who will play the main historical part of the revolutionary process.

For all these reasons, we believe that in Canada, the armed struggle for socialism and for setting up the proletarian power will be necessarily of a widespread nature. We will make revolution in Canada through protracted people’s war.

Mao Zedong has systematically applied the principles of protracted people’s war during the Chinese revolution. The military line that he elaborated embodies, in our opinion, a universal character; i.e. it is applicable all over, in all types of countries, although in conformity with concrete conditions that prevail. Among these principles, let’s mention:

  • The role and the necessity of revolutionary violence to transform society and revolutionize social relationships.
  • Participation of the masses as a decisive factor in the war.
  • The principle of building base areas to be used for the beginning of gradual social transformation even before the seizure of power.
  • The building of a red army and the party’s leadership over this army (in opposition to Guevarist conceptions). This means that the military work must be link to the work of agitation and propaganda, led by the party.
  • “Every Communist must grasp the truth, ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’.”

These principles are to be applied differently, according to the concrete conditions of a given country, its social class’s reality and their forces. In countries oppressed by imperialism where the peasantry is still the main force to make revolution and where therefore, the heart of the revolutionary forces are to be found in the countryside (like in China, Peru, in India and the Philippines, just to name a few), protracted people’s war consists of the encircling of the cities from the countryside. Revolutionaries establish base areas that put into practice new proletarian life-styles at their inception. This new way of living prepares the masses for the upcoming realities of socialism.

In Canada, like in the other big imperialist countries, protracted people’s war will mainly take place within the cities and urban areas. It is there that the nascent proletarian power will appear. The support and the participation of the masses, once again, are of the utmost importance in this process. The revolution will be built around a vast and underground network led by the party.

The protracted people’s war will follow different stages. At the start, the legal activity will probably play a more important role than the illegal one. However, the latter will come into play in a more and more prominent manner until the day when the proletariat will be able to face the bourgeoisie massively.

In any case, whether we are talking about legal or illegal work, the principle that guides the communists is the same, that is to say to accumulate forces—not just for power’s sake, but for the purpose of building and strengthening revolutionary forces and eventually to weaken those of our adversaries. These two types of work to be combined must serve only one goal—that of advancing the revolutionary struggle.

At the current stage, if we are to seriously consider leading a revolution we must strive to build three important elements that will allow us to do so: create a revolutionary party, a revolutionary army, and arouse the masses to revolutionary action.

One thought on “On Elections: RCP (Canada)

  1. For those who want to have a more specific look at the RCP’s position on election boycott, there is this piece on “Le Drapeau Rouge” website: Boycottons les élections!. However, English speaking comrades will have to make an effort and read French…

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