Montreal: ‘Workers need to build our own political party’

By John Steele
October 4, 2021

MONTREAL — “More workers here in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere are using their unions to defend what we have won, against the drive of the bosses who are attacking our wages and working conditions,” Michel Prairie, Communist League candidate for Parliament in the Bourassa constituency here, told over 20 people at a campaign meeting two days before the Sept. 20 Canadian federal election. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have to form a minority government. He had called the election hoping to win a parliamentary majority for his government, but failed. His Liberal Party received only 31.8% of the vote, the smallest amount of any winning party in Canadian history. Less than 59% of eligible voters bothered to vote, down 8% since 2019.

“Building solidarity with workers who are fighting back is the necessary place to start,” Prairie told the meeting, “like striking hotel workers at Doubletree and Marriott here,” members of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN). He described how Olymel meatpackers strengthened their union, the CSN, through a recent four-month strike for better wages and against the bosses’ attempts to impose a 10-hour workday. 

“Working people need to build our own party that can organize millions to replace the power of the ruling billionaires with a workers and farmers government so we can begin to reorganize society to end exploitation and oppression once and for all,” he said. 

Also speaking was Gerald Symington, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist League in the U.K. 

The meeting was chaired by Beverly Bernardo, the CL candidate for mayor of Montreal. To applause, she announced that Radio-Canada carried reports confirming she would be on the ballot. The CL is also running Philippe Tessier for mayor of the Montreal borough of Ville Saint-Laurent. 

Prairie said fighting workers need to discuss what we can do to emulate the two great socialist revolutions of the 20th century — the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the 1959 Cuban Revolution “where working-class parties with Marxist leadership were built and led millions to overturn capitalist rule, establish workers power, and begin to forge, as Cuban communist leader Che Guevara explained, the ‘new man and woman,’ with different values,” than those imposed on us by the dog-eat-dog capitalist system. 

He pointed to the interest CL campaigners find among working people to get books explaining how Cuba’s socialist revolution was made. 

“I was struck by similar discussions you are having with workers here and those CL members in the U.K. are having,” Symington reported, pointing to discussions with striking bus drivers and other working-class fighters in the U.K. The day before, Symington and campaign supporters attended a rally to support workers at 20 Montreal-area hotels on strike for 23 hours. 

The rulers’ drive against our unions is driven by the crisis of the capitalist system, Symington said. It’s rooted in the “long-term decline in their profit rates.” 

Workers’ increasing resistance, and efforts to use unions to extend solidarity, offer opportunities for communists to work together with fellow fighters. As we do so we can build the party workers need, one that can “halt imperialism’s march towards fascism and war by taking political power,” Symington said.

“That’s why the Communist Leagues here, in the U.K. and elsewhere exist. We invite fighting workers who want to be on the right side of history to join us.” 

Prairie and campaign supporters visited the small port town of Sorel north of here Sept. 19. 

“We start with the need to build solidarity with workers standing up for their rights,” campaign supporter Katy LeRougetel told Josee Cote on her doorstep.

“I agree with that,” Cote said. “No one can live on minimum wage. Everything is going up, but not our wages.”

Cote quit working as an orderly in a seniors residence three years ago. “I loved the job but I took it to heart too much. You can’t sit down and chat with the lady who is all alone. No, you have to keep working and move on to the next resident.” She now works in a high school cafeteria.

“We can fight to change which class rules — the rich or working people,” campaign supporter Steve Penner told her. “In Cuba, the revolutionary government organizes for health workers and students to knock on people’s doors every week to see if they need help with groceries or medical care. We can fight for a revolutionary government here that makes it a priority for the elderly to have company from people like you.”