by Comrade Amil K. – February 2013
Despite the unprecedented mobilization of Indigenous peoples against the Canadian state under the banner of Idle No More (INM), this mass movement has been unable to achieve even the very limited and modest objective of having Bill C-45 Omnibus Bill repealed, which was only the most immediate cause for the two-months of mobilizations. However, despite its inability to move the Canadian state on any fundamental issues, there are definite victories to be claimed for Indigenous people’s struggles. These victories include some of the important observations and conclusions that can be drawn from, and that have been made possible by, the upsurge and of Idle No More.
The first observation is the unwillingness – or inability – of the Canadian state, and the big capitalists it serves, to make any substantial concessions to Indigenous peoples. In the face of the most extensive mass mobilizations by Indigenous people ever, Canadian imperialism is aggressively pushing ahead with the next stage of colonialism in Canada. This next stage of colonialism in Canada is what Russell Diabo, Mohawk policy analyst, has carefully analyzed and termed the “Termination Plan” in analyses published prior to the emergence of Idle No More (discussed further below). The inability of Idle No More to budge the Canadian government one bit suggests how limited the options are for Canadian imperialism. The extermination of Indigenous peoples as such is the best option available for Canadian capitalism to mitigate the economic crisis and strengthen Canada’s monopoly capitalists.
The second observation, for those paying close attention to the internal dynamics of INM, is the further exposure of the neo-colonial elites within Indigenous communities (AFN, many Band Councilors, and the “Oily Chiefs”), and their reliance upon Canadian colonial system. Rather than using the upsurge of INM and all the latent energy that had yet to express itself – in part because of these neo-colonial elites’ own balking – they often distanced themselves from the militant grassroots actions.
The third observation that can be taken from INM is the existence of a strong national consciousness amongst Indigenous peoples. This is a national consciousness that is both assertive of its Indigeneity, but also of the specificity of the national identity of any given nation of Indigenous people. This fact sharply contradicts Canada’s attempts to strip Indigenous peoples of their specific national identities and reduce them to an undifferentiated “Aboriginal” ethnicity. Even the “allies” of many Indigenous struggles are ignorant to the national specificity of any given Indigenous people, either viewing Indigeneity in some generalized romantic fashion, or erroneously confusing the concept of the nation with the nation-state. This article argues that what we have seen through INM in particular, and the resurgence of Indigenous peoples’ struggles in general, is the reassertion of nationhood as a matter of fact.
A fourth observation that can be made from INM, but was apparent to anyone who was paying attention to Indigenous people’s struggles prior to that – is that Indigenous liberation must be viewed as the sum of all the particular struggles for national self-determination of any given Indigenous people. There is not merely a generalized “Aboriginal,” nor solely an Indigenous struggle. There is a Haudenosaunee struggle, an Algonquin struggle, an Anishnaabe struggle, a Dene struggle, a Cree struggle, an Innu struggle, a Miq’mak struggle, etc; and all these particularities entail a resurgence and reclamation of their particular nationhoods. Therefore, the fourth observation is that these struggles constitute national liberation struggles. We must recognize these for the national liberation struggles that they are, and draw the correct conclusions for the liberation of all oppressed and exploited peoples in Canada.
Based on these observations, and in the context of the general analysis of Canadian society that Revolutionary Initiative has been developing and that I am trying to advance in this article, I believe that two important strategic points for proletarian revolution become clear at this period of time. (1) Proletarian revolution in this period requires the Indigenous liberation movement; and (2) that the Indigenous liberation movement also requires the proletarian revolution. The question of what particular form an alliance can take between Indigenous peoples and other oppressed and exploited classes and social groups in Canada is a question to be answered in the actual process of building a revolutionary united front against our common enemy, Canadian imperialism. But it is the very necessity of this revolutionary alliance that we must be clear about that will inspire our drive to build it in the coming years and decades. To put it in the clearest of terms, this is the unity between the struggle for communism and the Indigenous national liberation struggles.
Let us now turn to analyze in greater depth each of the four observations that can be made coming out of INM, as well as the two strategic points that can be made upon these observations (when considered alongside RI’s developing strategic formulations and working understanding of the crisis of imperialism); and a few immediate tactical considerations that follow:
- Canadian Imperialism Must Exterminate Indigenous Peoples
- Neo-colonial Indigenous elites and Canadian Imperialism
- National Consciousness and Indigenous Liberation
- The Indigenous Liberation Movement as a Converging Unity of Many National Liberation Movements
- The Proletarian Revolutionary Movement Requires the Indigenous Liberation Movement
- The Indigenous Liberation Movement Requires the Proletarian Revolution
- Immediate Tactical Considerations
1. Canadian Imperialism Must Exterminate Indigenous Peoples As Such
How can we ask a government to abolish a colonial relationship that has been foundational for Canada’s capitalist economy, an economy that is only becoming increasingly reliant upon its plunderous resource extraction in the context of a broader crisis in the whole capitalist-imperialist world system? Abolishing colonialism will not occur by the stroke of a pen; it actually requires the dispossession of the ruling classes of all the productive wealth it has gained through colonial theft and capitalist exploitation.
In the current period of economic stagnation in the world economy, especially in the manufacturing sector, the Canadian state and its oligopolistic strata of capital has turned to a sure-fire approach to profitability: pump the world economy with its abundant supply of natural resources and energy, and get rich. The Harper government has told us that he is making Canada into an “energy super-power”. Demanding of the Canadian state to put an end to colonialism is actually to demand that they abandon the most optimal strategy for the accumulation of capital and profits that the imperialists have at their disposal in the current period. This they will never do because the colonial relationship between Canadian society and Indigenous nations is driven by the need to exterminate Indigenous peoples as such. This extermination plan will literally “pave the way” for the coming years and decades of survival of Canada’s biggest corporations, even if that survival means the destruction of whole nations and the land, life forms, and water upon which we all rely.
What Russell Diabo has called the “termination plan” would consist of forcing First Nations bands and communities into land claims and self-government agreements that liquidate their claims to self-determination over their lands by transforming their communities into municipalities and their lands into “fee simple” private property.1 This would rapidly accelerate the assimilation of Indigenous peoples and effect the complete dispossession of their lands in all “finality,” leaving a small elite of Indigenous people quite rich and most others dispossessed. This phase of colonialism in Canada, if it comes to pass, will remove the principal barrier to the plunder of the natural resources by monopoly capital: Indigenous nationhood. To do this, the Canadian state and monopoly capitalism requires the collaboration of a class of bought-off and structurally-compromised Indigenous “leaders” who can divert the resistance and opposition of the masses into compromises with Canadian imperialism.
2. Neo-colonial Indigenous Elites and Canadian Imperialism
These neo-colonial elites consist principally of most of the Band Council leadership, who are controlled and contained by the Indian Act, Canada’s apartheid-like racist and colonial legislation. This particular section of neo-colonial elites can be thought of as bureaucrat capitalists, since they derive their wealth by serving the colonial bureaucracy. This includes the Band Councilors and Chiefs who have much to gain by selling off their lands to resource extraction companies. Current provisions within Bill C-45 will make it possible to drastically lower the threshold required for voting on reserve land surrenders. Instead of a majority of all Band members being required to participate in an election, new voting rules will allow for a simple majority of only those who show up to vote to constitute the passage of a land surrender. This new legislation will make it far easier for corrupt Band leaders to alienate reserve lands.2
The other stratum of the neo-colonial elites consists of the comprador capitalists, which have a great degree of overlap with but are distinct from bureaucrat capitalists. Comprador capitalists get rich and secure their position with imperialism by directly working for the big capitalists, and often in turn becoming capitalists. But these capitalists are still subordinate to the interests of Canadian imperialism, as the expressions of capitalist accumulation and investment that they are able to develop are ones that are articulated to serve the imperialists. So while collaborating with pipelines, developing gas and oil fields, and participating in mining projects are all ways in which a comprador bourgeoisie is developing within the neo-colonial Indigenous elite, any forms of investment that would come into competition with Canadian monopoly capital would be met with resistance.
The bureaucrat and comprador capitalists have a high degree of overlap between one another, as often one passes from one category to another, serving the bureaucracy for some time and then becoming a capitalist, and vice versa. Take for instance Phil Fontaine, who went from being the head of the Assembly of First Nations to taking on a plum position with the Royal Bank of Canada as a ‘Special Advisor’ on how to deal with natives.
Prior to the emergence of INM, Russell Diabo had analyzed how the government’s strategy for pushing First Nations communities into land surrenders and “fee simple” agreements would be to starve their national and regional organizations, as well as Tribal Councils and band councils, of resources. Starving these organizations of resources would drastically limit their ability to advocate and litigate, thereby ratcheting up the pressure to surrender lands as a means to acquire resources.
Since the very start of INM, Kwakwakw’wakw blogger and warrior Ziz Zag has been warning about the AFN “snakes in the grassroots” who had a very different set of interests from grassroots protestors and who would use the mass mobilizations to their own advantage to secure more funding.
Zig Zag has also perceptively pointed out how many grassroots people have become frustrated with the direction of the presumptive leaders of a supposedly leaderless movement and the actions of the neo-colonial elites. As Zig Zag wrote in his January 30, 2013 piece, “Idle No More starts to idle…”:
Many Natives may have also felt frustrated by the circular trajectory the movement had taken, that after weeks of rallies, flash mobs and blockades, the end result was another government meeting with the chiefs…. In addition, there were mixed messages coming out of Idle No More. While it was proclaimed that INM was a grassroots movement with no official leaders or spokespersons, the “official” founders of INM continually issued statements about how the movement was to conduct itself, and distanced themselves from any “illegal” actions (such as the symbolic blockades).
Yet it was these militant actions – the road and rail blockades – that caught the imagination of Indigenous and many non-Indigenous people. It is these actions that haunt the Canadian state. When in early January 2013 Grand-Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs warned the Canadian state that “The Idle No More movement has the people and the numbers that can bring the Canadian economy to its knees. It can stop Prime Minister Harper’s resource development plan and his billion-dollar plan to develop resources in ancestral territories,” this was not so much of a threat as it was Nepinak brandishing the sword of grassroots Indigenous militancy as a way to bolster his legitimacy and gain leverage in the chiefs’ own bargaining with the Canadian state. Yet, it was this grassroots militancy that made the huge success of the cross-country day of action on January 11, 2013 what it was.
Yet, for years now the AFN officials have been collaborating with the RCMP in surveilling and targeting Indigenous militants and activists, as the AFN knows the power that the grassroots people have to derail the lucrative deals that the neo-colonial elites benefit from. This collaboration between the AFN and the RCMP is what has made possible the vast surveillance program put in place by the Conservative government shortly after coming to power in 2006. Russell Diabo and Shiri Pasternak exposed the vast spying program in early 2011, which they revealed to be a massive surveillance operation targeting Indigenous activists taking action outside of official negotiation processes.3
The collaboration of the neo-colonial elites with the frontline armed agents of Canadian imperialism attests to their stance on the Indigenous liberation movement. Their role is to broker compromise with Canadian imperialism, not defeat it. They have not and will not form the leadership of the Indigenous liberation movement, which has persisted in spite of their efforts to derail and subvert it.
3. National Consciousness and Indigenous Liberation
The hundreds upon hundreds of land claims that cover the majority of Canada are not just about the land. They are about preserving the nationhood of the peoples who have lived through those lands for thousands of years.
Land – and all the cultural, linguistic, and spiritual connections that arise therefrom – is at the core of national consciousness of any given Indigenous nation today. The question of the ancestral territories of Indigenous nations is not merely some academic matter for historians or anthropologists to think on. Ancestral territories are a driving force of Indigenous Peoples’ struggles as nations today. Many land-based Indigenous peoples know that the land, the waters, and everything that lives through them, constitutes the lifeblood of their nations. This is what many Indigenous people are fighting for. The upsurge of the INM movement has confirmed this point, which the casual observer would have noted from the flying of flags previously unknown to them. The energy under the INM movement was characterized not by a homogeneous Indigenous or ‘Aboriginal’ people, but a multitude of distinct peoples, or nations, who understand themselves as Indigenous in relation to colonial society, but who uphold their own national identities.
Isn’t ‘nation’ a Eurocentric concept?
Some argue that Indigenous people are not nations, viewing the concept of a “nation” in a rather Eurocentric way. As the argument goes, the concept of the nation is inextricably bound up with the rise of capitalism and the creation of the nation-state. The nation-state arises through the violent process of subjugating and assimilating whatever subject peoples happen to live in a given territory by the rising capitalist class to create an integrated domestic market for the goods produced by the capitalists. This nation-state is then given unity by clear and definite borders and defended by the growing state bureaucracy and all its repressive apparatus.
But is capitalism the only economic system throughout history to have given internal coherence to a set of people sufficient enough to be able to call them nations? I would argue not (see map of the Stó:lō Nation of the Fraser River Valley).
All Indigenous peoples were defined by forms of national coherence that developed on the basis of the economic modes of production that allowed them to thrive long before the arrival of Europeans. Examples of these include: the Algonquins of the Kiji Sibi (Ottawa River), the Haudenosaunee around Lake Ontario and parts of the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York; the Wendat on the southeastern shores of Georgian Bay; or the Sto:lo Nation in the Frasier River Watershed. All these peoples constituted internally coherent societies, with distinct languages, customs, technologies, and political structures that developed upon the basis of united economies. Further, many of these societies, traded and interacted with one another, as the Wendat did with the Haudenosaunee to the south of them and the Anishinaabe peoples to the north. What is incredible is that after hundreds of years of genocidal violence by the European colonizers that these nations still exist and are still struggling for national self-determination, even in places were independent economic livelihood has been destroyed or disrupted by colonialism. Most Indigenous resistances, and certainly every land-based resistance, demonstrate strong national consciousness. And since each of these expressions of national self-determination understand themselves to be part of a larger Indigenous Liberation movement – as INM has demonstrated – we can say that there exists a unity of these struggles at an ideological level, a subjective outlook whose material foundations is Canadian imperialism.
So the question that follows from this observation is: Do these struggles constitute a movement for national liberation?
4. The Indigenous Liberation Movement as a Converging Unity of Many National Liberation Movements
One way of dismissing the question of national liberation of Indigenous peoples is by erroneously associating them with the national liberation movements of colonized peoples throughout the world in the 1960s and 1970s. By arguing that Indigenous peoples’ struggles lack certain features of the Third World’s national liberation movements decades ago – particularly the aspiration for independent statehood as part of an overall project to break the hold of the imperialists – one can presumably reject the concept of national liberation. Some also object to formulating Indigenous people’s struggles in terms of national liberation lest we encourage Indigenous peoples to fall into the trappings of neo-colonialism that most national liberation movements were pulled into. But this is a sweeping historical generalization that suffers from the error of empiricism – i.e. it can only see the historical outcome of national liberation movements in superficial terms without analyzing their inner contradictions and what conditioned the development of neo-colonial regimes. The national liberation movements that went the furthest to achieving genuine self-determination and substantial materials for the broad masses of people were those that actively mobilized and empowered the combined force of the peasants and workers and placed them in a position of leading the movement. These were mostly movements led by Marxist-Leninist and Maoist revolutionary organizations. However, arguably this particular form of national liberation – i.e. independent statehood – is not what Indigenous peoples’ struggles are fighting for today.
It is erroneous to assume that anational liberation movement must have as its objective the nation-state formation with its own defined borders and seats at the U.N. It is understandable that many national liberation movements took this path to “decolonization” after the Second World War. Although most Third World countries were internally composed of many subject peoples – many of which were arbitrarily divided by colonial borders – the anti-imperialist nation-state was a legitimate object of political conquest for colonized peoples. The colonized vastly outnumbered the colonial agents and their small retinue of settlers. National liberation movements often united many peoples or sub-nations by giving them a higher cause for unity over the fractious divisions that colonialism has always used to divide them. But the struggle for statehood need not necessarily be considered an essential criterion for national liberation of Indigenous nations within Canada, at least not if there is a unity with a broader revolutionary movement… but more on this question further below.
The argument is also sometimes made that First Nations “communities” are too small to be nations. This view, even when it acknowledges that the current state of precariousness and fragmentation of many Indigenous communities is the result of a deliberate genocidal plan by Canadian colonialism, would argue that this is an historic fait accompli that cannot be reversed. Yet, the assertion of national consciousness and identity continues in many of these communities.
The essence of national liberation is genuine self-determination, the specific form of which will be determined by the various Indigenous nations in the course of their own struggles. All Indigenous nations and confederacies had political formations prior to the colonial invasion and occupation, but these political structures did not constitute State structures, which is to say private bodies of armed men, police, judiciaries, prisons, and the whole bureaucratic apparatus that protects the economic ruling class. They did not have states because they did not have the class divisions that necessitate a state to protect the “haves” from the “have-nots”.
Therefore we should not assume that the national liberation struggle of Indigenous peoples in Canada would necessarily aspire for the constitution of statehood. This does not seem to be the aspiration of Indigenous peoples today, which is perhaps structured by the fact that Indigenous peoples constitute less than 5% of the population in Canada. However, it should be noted that this numerical minority is spread across the vast and vastly different territories claimed by Canada. This persistence of these distinct nations all across Canada renders Canada’s claim to sovereignty over these lands tenuous at best if not wholly illegitimate. Political legitimacy aside, there is a military-strategic aspect to this land / national question as well. When OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis publicly acknowledged in early January 2012 that “First Nations have the ability to paralyze this country by shutting down travel and trade routes,” he was conceding that Indigenous people have this strategic advantage over the Canadian state. This is a fact that the masses on reserves and Indigenous militants have already known for some time; and it’s a fact that the Canadian state has known well since it’s concerted attempt to colonize and settle all lands west of the Red River and drive Indigenous people onto reserves from the mid nineteenth century onwards.
As Canadian imperialism grows increasingly reliant upon resource extraction to drive capital accumulation, it becomes increasingly urgent to liquidate Indigenous peoples as such; that is, to do away with their distinctive nationhoods by separating them from their lands into a generalized ‘Aboriginal’ ethnic group.
Ever since Samuel de Champlain commenced his military reconnaissance of the St. Lawrence River in the early seventeenth century to make way for French military conquest and to open up trade routes, the colonizers of northern Turtle Island have been trying to reduce Indigenous nations to an easily defined and contained entity: “Les sauvages” in Champlain’s day, “Indians” later, and “Aboriginals” today. But despite the racist framing and reduction of Indigenous nations broadly into singular ethnic categories, Canadian imperialism and its French and British parents were never stupid enough to overlook the fact that in reality they were dealing with distinct nations.
But becoming an ethnic group is something that most have always fought and resisted. The assertion of Cree, Anishnaabe, Algonquin, Innu, Stó:lō, Dene, and Haudenosaunnee national identities today – to name just a few – attests to the strong national consciousness in existence.
The rise of grassroots Indigenous Peoples under the banner of INM has surely demonstrated this: the persistence of Indigenous peoples’ nationhood. This nationhood has haunted Canada’s ruling classes for centuries, and that it refuses to go away demands recognition of the importance that the Indigenous liberation movement will bring to bear on the struggle to bring down Canadian imperialism. If it was not clear before INM – for those who could not read the countless Indigenous struggles developing across Canada as an expression of a developing Indigenous liberation movement – it should be clear now, after the unprecedented convergences of late 2012-early 2013, that Indigenous peoples within Canada’s colonial borders are fighting to protect and defend their nationhood.
We revolutionary communists in Revolutionary Initiative, who have since our founding upheld the creation of a multinational revolutionary communist organization, absolutely support this struggle for Indigenous nationhood and should encourage its development. It is not the place of non-Indigenous comrades to interfere in the precise national configurations that the Indigenous liberation movement will give rise to. It is our responsibility, however, to fight alongside Indigenous nations for a form of “decolonization” that realizes a genuine self-determination, which is to say, fundamentally anti-imperialist and in harmony with the development of a broader socialist liberation project.
The strategic points that follow from the observations above pertain to the question of how and why revolutionary united front can be developed.
5. The Proletarian Revolutionary Movement Requires the Indigenous Liberation Movement
First of all, we should emphasize that the Indigenous liberation movement – the sum of all the national liberation struggles within Canada’s colonial borders – is fundamental to socialist revolution in Canada. Genuine self-determination of Indigenous nations would dispossess the imperialist bourgeoisie of major sources of its capital accumulation in the world today. Furthermore, the dispersal of Indigenous struggles throughout all of “Canada” are strategically advantageous to resisting a strong, centralized army like the Canadian Armed Forces, and the other repressive arms of the Canadian state. The proletarian revolutionary struggle of the urban centers require the unification with this movement to succeed in defeating Canadian imperialism.
Furthermore, as the Leninist aspect of our Marxism-Leninism-Maoism informs us, the working-class is and has always been divided between those sections that are corrupted by the profits and “good jobs” reaped through colonialism and imperialism – what we call the labour aristocracy – and those sections that are super-exploited, racially/nationally oppressed and/or marginalized in some way. Without the Indigenous peoples’ struggles achieving a genuine form of national self-determination, the Canadian state will still be able to lure a strata of the working class (usually white) to colonize native lands and dampen class contradictions. This is the process that has been playing out in the Tar Sands for years, as some of the country’s most marginalized workers from the Maritime Provinces have been lured to Alberta with the promise of “good jobs”. The promise of good jobs (on stolen land and with plundered resources) is also the program being taken up by the PQ Premier of Quebec, Pauline Marois, a program known as ‘Plan Nord’ under Marois’ Liberal predecessor. ‘Plan Nord 2.0’ is being held out as a 25-year project that will assure $80 billion in investments and will create 20,000 jobs. The government scheme is being used to turn working-class people in Quebec – especially in rural and northern regions – against indigenous people’s struggles and those concerned with the ecological damage of such a massive resource extraction project. To oppose Plan Nord, the Tar Sands, and all other expressions of plunderous extraction is to also resist the fragmentation of the working-class into bought-off pro-imperialist sections and the super-exploited and marginalized rest.
Acknowledging the existence and necessity of Indigenous nationhood leads to the conclusion that a new society will have to take the form of a multinational socialist confederacy that upholds and defends the genuine self-determination of Indigenous nations as equal partners in a new society. Production for profit will have to be abolished, and any and all economic activity will prioritize the health of the people, aim to meet everyone’s genuine social and physical needs, halt the destruction of land, water, and life, respect Indigenous self-determination, and find all possible means to reverse the course capitalism has set us upon. None of these goals are in contradiction to one another, but can only be realized when the masses of people who do not have a future in capitalism bind themselves together for revolutionary struggle for a society that abolishes production for profit and all class distinctions that have historically arisen on that basis.
Finally, the strength of Indigenous people’s struggles and their success also constitutes a tremendous ideological contribution to the articulation of the communist view of the world and history. Indigenous societies prior to the arrival of the colonizers were communist societies. Revolutionary communists must be clear about this amongst Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike: that what we are fighting for is the development of an egalitarian society like those of Indigenous peoples prior to colonialism, albeit in our contemporary context of the forces of production that will be at our disposal after we eliminate capitalism. Non-Indigenous comrades who do not fully appreciate this should do more to study and understand the ways of life and values of Indigenous people prior to colonization and up to the present. The social equality in almost all Indigenous societies prior to and persisting for centuries after European colonization stands out as a concrete expression of “human nature” based upon solidarity and egalitarianism, which contrasts sharply with the bourgeoisie’s mythical view of human nature as universally greedy, selfish, and individualistic. Hence, the defence and restoration of each nation’s ways of life and culture will be more than a strong compliment to the struggle for communism; it is a struggle for communism and it is essential for advancing the communist struggle on Turtle Island.
6. The Indigenous Liberation Movement Requires the Proletarian Revolution
For some of the reasons already mentioned above – small populations dispersed over very wide and diverse territories – the Indigenous liberation movement also requires the energy and force of the proletarian revolutionary struggles in the urban centers and small towns, in the unions and schools, in the rest of Canadian society at large. A decisive victory for the Indigenous self-determination struggles is only realizable if the rest of the proletariat is also making a revolutionary offensive, and is united with the Indigenous Liberation movement in a revolutionary united front.
So who are these allies exactly? Certainly not the Council of Canadians, the NDP, or the current leadership of the ‘labour movement’, who, like the Assembly of First Nations chiefs, have pretended to be friends of INM, but who are just looking for a new division of the spoils within the overall capitalist system. But other allies are out there.
Potentially, these could include:
- The growing proportion of the working-class with little or no prospects of a decent, stable job, let alone social mobility;
- The rest of the working-class that is coming under attack by the austerity offensive of imperialism;
- The hundreds of thousands of students with no job prospects and tens of thousands of dollars in debt;
- The millions of working-class immigrants who are seeing their own ancestral lands plundered by imperialism overseas while they slave away in Canada with bleak prospects for themselves and their children; and
- All others who in some way, shape, or form, are also a victim of this imperialist world system in decline and can or can come to understand their relationship to imperialism.
But these allies have yet to be organized, they have yet to break with the hegemony of the bourgeoisie in their day-to-day lives and in the organizations that are supposedly there to defend them. This, we believe, is the role of a revolutionary communist organization. It is the task of a genuine revolutionary communist movement to break the hegemony of the capitalists over the lives and political struggles of the people, and reorganize ourselves for genuine liberation. At this stage, we must demonstrate not only that capitalism is unsustainable, or that colonialism will not be abolished by a decision in Parliament; we need to form concrete alliances amongst all (potentially) revolutionary sections of the population.
R.I. does not presume to know, as of yet, precisely what configurations such a revolutionary united front should or will actually take. When we feel we have confidently attained this understanding, we will present our Programme for revolutionary struggle and hold a Founding Congress to constitute ourselves as a multinational revolutionary cadre organization – “a Party”. But our understanding on this question is advancing. Up to just before the upsurge of INM, it was the position of Revolutionary Initiative that:
- Internal colonialism is one of the basic problems of Canadian society, which is to say one of the basic fault-lines, with the struggle for Indigenous nationhood in an antagonistic contradiction with Canadian imperialism;
- Indigenous nations have the right to self-determination; and
- The national struggle must be united into a common project of universal emancipation within Canada for all oppressed and exploited people.
Theses points – # 1 being a point of analysis, #2 being a point of principle, and #3 being a point of strategy – have been confirmed or strengthened INM. But INM has also provided us with the historical opportunity to clarify certain additional strategic points, which is that the proletarian revolution requires Indigenous liberation movement (which is not distinct from it, but part of it) just as much as the Indigenous liberation movement requires the support of the broader revolutionary movement of non-Indigenous proletarians.
This strategic point should not be interpreted as an interference in the self-determination struggles of Indigenous peoples by non-Indigenous peoples, like a bunch of solidarity activists flooding a front-line Indigenous struggle and then moving out after a week or so.
Quite to the contrary, the role of non-Indigenous proletarian revolutionaries is to primarily develop new fronts of militant mass struggle that can begin to approach the militancy and strength that Indigenous peoples have been able to muster for the better part of two decades. This is part of the work that Revolutionary Initiative has been advocating for and involved with for more than six years, which includes:
- The construction of militant mass struggles; and
- The accumulation of revolutionary communists and their consolidation into a strategically-united revolutionary cadre formation.
As the crisis of the imperialist world system deepens, this work becomes ever-more urgent and necessary. As we advance this work, non-Indigenous communists must both humble themselves to learn from Indigenous brothers and sisters while sharing our perspective that we can find common liberation in the struggle for communism. Such exchanges are not missionary acts, and any comrades with this mindset should check themselves. Our task is not to “teach Marxism” to native folks, but share with one another the lessons, experiences, and examples in the struggle for liberation, as well as to come to an appreciation of the extensive overlapping of values between what we call communism and what many Indigenous peoples know to be the original values of their societies.
7. Where do we go from here? Some Immediate Tactical Considerations
If the liberation of Indigenous peoples and the liberation of all those non-Indigenous people in Canada under attack by imperialism is bound up in one another’s struggles, as the above points have argued, then what tactical considerations follow from the points and arguments made above?
It stands to reason that our members and supporters across Canada should be linking the mass struggles of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, wherever and whenever possible. While this has to a certain extent been our practice until now, the emergence of INM has certainly broadened the scope of possibilities for concrete solidarity and reciprocity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people’s struggles. We must seize upon these opportunities to the best of our abilities and as energetically as possible.
While non-Indigenous comrades have the important work of building militant mass struggles along anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-colonial and pro-socialist lines in non-Indigenous working-class communities, workplaces, and schools, non-Indigenous, comrades now have a “golden opportunity” to find concrete expressions of solidarity between their sectors’ / communities’ struggles and Indigenous peoples’ struggles. The emergence of INM has facilitated the ease of raising and confronting Canadian colonial policy. Concrete expressions of solidarity when such opportunities arise or where they can be created will make way for invaluable opportunities for ideological and political struggle towards higher levels of unity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples’ struggles in the coming years.
Indigenous comrades, on the other hand, have the equally important task of imparting their own experiences and knowledge onto non-Indigenous comrades, especially as it pertains to their first-hand experiences in confronting the genocidal policies of the Canadian state, but also the knowledge of their traditional cultures – which we see as expressions of communism and from which we all have much to learn.
While the strength of the INM movement has subsided, we know that the militancy and activity of Indigenous people’s struggles at the grassroots will not. Therefore, revolutionary communists must continue to advance the unity of Indigenous and non-Indigenous struggles that can be united for a common program of liberation. Day by day the urgency is increasing to pose these problems in a revolutionary way, and to challenge the dead-end options of looking to the enemy for solutions. Finding concrete forms of solidarity, reciprocity, and ideological struggle are the immediate tasks that can be taken up to unite Indigenous and non-Indigenous comrades today and pave the ground plant the seeds for a strong revolutionary united front in the coming years and decades.
From rez to rez, building to building, hood to hood, and town to town, we can bring Canadian imperialism to it’s knees by building a proletarian revolutionary counter-power today for a revolutionary offensive and a new society tomorrow.
-Comrade Amil K., February 2013
1See Russel Diabo’s article “Harper Launches Major First Nations Termination Plan” in First Nations Strategic Bulletin, Volume 10: Issues 7-10 (June-October 2012). Available at: http://intercontinentalcry.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/FNSB-July-Oct-12.pdf/ For the same analysis from Diabo alongside Mi’kmaq lawyer and professor Pamela Palmater listen to the podcast “Russell Diabo and Pam Palmater on the Canadian Government’s Suite of Bills Targeting First Nations” on IndigenousWaves.com (December 4, 2012).
3See Russell Diabo and Shiri Pasternak in “Canada has had First Nations Under Surveillance” in First Nations Strategic Bulletin Volume 9, Issues 1-5 (January-May 2011).