First it was a settlement imposed by the Harper government on postal workers in June. Remember that they were not on strike: the employer locked them out. The government thought it would be clever, however, to legislate a wage settlement less than the last offer by Canada Post. It was precisely the sort of thing one could expect from the Contempt Party of Canada: a little foretaste of the Iron Heel.
Now the focus of the Executive Committee of the bourgeoisie—and there’s no need to shrink from the latter term—has turned to workers in private corporations. Back-to-work legislation, imposed or threatened. Twice. Once before a strike even happened.
Air Canada is not an essential service. But this isn’t about Air Canada. It’s not about our allegedly “fragile economy.” It’s about smashing workers’ organizations. It’s a core part of the Harper agenda, which was never really very hidden when you come to think about it.
The Charter and the Supreme Court are in the way, at present. But that’s easily dealt with: Harper gets to stack the court, and he will. And an adroit usage of the “notwithstanding clause” will permit any and all attacks on labour.
In the short term, however, there seems little recourse other than fighting this abrogation of human and civil rights in the courts. Robed individuals will ponder the question: Is there a constitutional right to strike?
Who gives a damn? The right not to work was upheld with the abolition of slavery. The right to refuse is a human right, and a civil right. It will be up to the workers of this country to reclaim that right. If they have to write their own constitution, they will.
Stephen Harper and Minister of Labour (and class traitor) Lisa Raitt will learn the lessons of the past in due time. If schooling them requires another bloody general strike like the Winnipeg one, but across the country, workers facing the thugs and mercenaries of the state, so be it.
By no coincidence whatsoever, it appears that Canadian military intelligence has been conducting espionage against Canadian Aboriginal groups. The fact that our military is way out of its jurisdiction has been no barrier.
This should remind progressives that there is never just one struggle. If working people are to rise up and be successful, it will be because of successful partnerships and alliances. The government and its corporate backers know this: it’s time for us to learn it as well.
The Aboriginal cause is our cause, their claims are our claims. Ditto the claims of the women’s movement, the anti-racist movement, the human rights movements. Progressives may appear to be divided sometimes, and too often we do fight among ourselves, but there is only one enemy. And that alone should be enough to unite us.
How do we join together and move forward? One crucial lesson we may draw afresh from #OccupyWallStreet is that the old organizational models—a programme of demands, a vanguard, etc.—are things of the past. OWS is brought together by common values, not a manifesto. So should we all be.
And existing dissensus institutions—like our unions—need to adapt and take to heart the bitter lessons of the past. There can be no separate peace: we’re all in this together.
If we remember that, we’ll win—by any means necessary.