People's War Digest №2
THE ABORIGINAL PEOPLES AND THE NORTH:

We must overthrow imperialist domination!

Translated from Arsenal magazine, No. 3, June 2004. Arsenal is the voice of the RCP(OC).

The Europeans arrive to seize the territory! To “liberate it” from the obstacles which resulted from its occupancy by the First Nations, and from the modes of existence (scale of production, social relationship and political powers) that they had established. On the basis of primitive accumulation (at the same time violent, and falsely legal e.g. the policy of treaties), the Europeans set up a nation – Canada – which would be synchronized perfectly with the development of capitalism, the constitution of a bourgeoisie, possibly rich, and the development of imperialism until today. This is what persists in the relationship between the Canadian bourgeoisie and Natives, including the First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

And this is the reversal:

To retake the territory! To liberate it (without quotation marks!) from the obstacles that resulted from capitalist domination and imperialist exploitation of the resources by the large multinational corporations; and on the basis of this revolution, to set up a new democracy (e.g. the concept of New Democratic Revolution from Mao Zedong). This revolution would establish the sovereignty of the First Nations, would put an end to national oppression, expel the multinationals and all the imperialist interests – Canadian as well as international – and will join the worker’s fight for socialism everywhere in Canada.

In this reversal lies a great part of the prospect for revolution in Canada. Indeed, one cannot consider socialism in Canada without revolution and national liberation of the First Nations and consequently, without completely transforming the Canadian state, including the way in which it maintains political unity of his territory. We will not crown a new king on an old throne; nor will we slip a new puppet into the old dress of the Prime Minister. Even more, we will not give the oppressed and popular classes the control of the old bourgeois state.

In this regard, it’s possible and necessary to take inspiration from the Maoist revolutionaries of South Asian nations like Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Bhutan, which, through the particular ways their revolutions unravel, fight for the common perspective to create a soviet-type federation of South Asian republics, despite decades of unequal relationships, domination and subordination.

These parties struggle through the people’s war to set up a revolutionary model of unity. This is one of the most glorious and noble of possible objectives. We will also fight to replace the factitious and imposed unity of the capitalists (the bourgeoisie of Canada), with the revolutionary unity of the First Nations, Canadians and Québec people, in a federation never before seen.

This reversal is ahead of us. It is to be built. RCP(OC) in its Programme talks about a struggle that will have an extended character: “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.

It should be understood that the revolutionary fight of the First Nations of Canada is a fundamental aspect and a deciding factor which contributes to the wider character of this fight. It is, for the needs of this article, how we name the reversal: to dispossess those who dispossessed us; to destroy the system that tried to destroy us!

However, we do not believe that all characteristics and all the stages of this New Democratic Revolution by the First Nations of Canada are already entirely known by us. Many things will depend on the conditions, circumstances, struggles and their results, possible setbacks and probable victories. All these things together will certainly create gigantic transformations. But the necessity is obvious as all former Canadian imperialist policy towards the First Nations demonstrates.

The imperialist interest in the North

Lately, the bourgeoisie and the government of Canada have begun to worry about the possibility of the weakening of Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic territories. As reported in La Presse newspaper, Canadian military actions will take place this summer [2004] in the Arctic, involving the army, navy and the air force. The goal will be to simulate a military intervention in northern parts of Canada. Next year, drones (recon planes without pilots) will be tested with the aim of being used for the air monitoring of this territory. In addition, the recent budget of the Martin government envisaged $70 millions to scientifically support Canadian territorial claims against the USA, Russia and Denmark’s complaints (La Presse, May 2, 2004).

This preoccupation with Canadian territorial integrity in the Arctic can appear caricatural to us or purely symbolic. It is neither one nor the other. Recall that in 1953, the government moved in a purely authoritative way 17 Inuit families of Port-Harrison in the Nouveau-Québec (now Inukjuak) more than 2,250 kilometers north to Resolute Bay’s and Grise Fiord’s communities, to secure sovereignty claims in Arctic.

Today, it is known that 40% of Canadian’s natural gas and oil reserves are located in the far North. Moreover, with the partial thaw of parts of the ice-barriers, the North-West passage will become a privileged and economic maritime lane (side-by-side with South America’s skirting via Argentina) for the megatankers and megacargo liners from the whole world which will no longer need to use the Panama Canal anymore, in addition to other extraction and transport activities, the development of economic activities and creation of a new administrative power.

This current preoccupation of the bourgeoisie and the governments is not confined to the Arctic. It’s rather a token that testifies to the strategic interests over all the Northern territories of Canadian imperialism. Moreover, it is a demonstration of Canadian bourgeoisie’s current project to strengthen its grip over the north of the country, from the 50th parallel to Ellesmere’s Island.

These last ten years have seen the development of what now seems to be the final phase of colonization of the First Nations territory by the Canadian bourgeoisie. This process of “seizure” started several centuries ago and results in the total assertion of Canadian ruling class sovereignty (in opposition to First Nations self-determination rights). This sovereignty is a first order guarantor for Canadian imperialist bourgeoisie against its international markets competitors, because of its relatively modest size.

These current years are crucial, of that we should not be mistaken. The Canadian bourgeoisie (this designation includes in this article the imperialist partnership between Québec and Canada) deploys an intense activity to manage the political problems posed by the legal contradictions of the Canadian state: contradictions between the constitutional impossibility of denying the rights of the First Nations and secondly, the political refusal from the bourgeois state to recognize de facto self-determination rights of Native people.

This politico-legal pincer, once understood for what it is, that is to say a contradiction between capitalism and the bourgeois state in Canada, if it were worked out (i.e. taken as a point of struggle) with lucidity and sound judgement by a fighting leadership within the First Nations, by a unified militant current and not by merchants of territories and resources, would lead without a doubt to a quasi-revolutionary situation and truly a movement of liberation.

However, this is not the case. Presently, such a unified militant current does not exist. Taking advantage of this absence, the bourgeoisie re-asserted itself after 25 years of First Nations resistance. It loosed, in as far as it can be, the harness which encumbered its movements. For bourgeoisie, happiness is just around the corner; billions of dollars will undoubtedly go in its coffers. The indigenous people will continue to inject misery into their veins. The Aboriginal workers will continue to dig its mines, to open its roads and to run its pipelines from North to South. The imperialist bourgeoisie will keep for themselves and their friends the largest part of the workers production in order to maintain the luxury of their palaces.

A continuing record of dispossession

The current imperialist domination of the Northern Canadian territories is deeply entrenched in the bourgeoisie’s historical record. The bourgeoisie’s past was constituted and developed with the initial subjection of the Aboriginal peoples. The bourgeoisie then took all of richnesses and goodies from them, doing so in being largely supported by the colonizing state’s violence.

In the time of the fur trade, a commercial bourgeoisie was constituted (during what is called the stage of primitive accumulation stage) thanks to the superiority of the European armaments and with English and French military victories and also by the early colonies settling who allowed for bourgeoisie to acquire furs via unequal exchanges. In 1760, after the British victory that resulted in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the political heart of commercial capitalism came to reassure the Aboriginal peoples because the proclamation allegedly showed “respect” for their rights. These rights were granted by the Proclamation, unless, as they were told, they were otherwise yielded to the British Crown – exclusively – by means of agreements.

The commercial bourgeoisie did not foresee it’s own destiny of becoming an industrial capitalist bourgeoisie. The bourgeois did not foresee the need to possess land for agriculture, neither for immigrant populations to settle, nor for industry, etc. The bourgeoisie was by then simply satisfied to be “safe” in its relationship with First Nations by guaranteeing their rights (with the powerful authority of the British Crown), to consolidate its network of transportation and collecting of furs.

This commercial economy quickly came to the end of its rope. The development of agriculture, the demographic growth (via immigration and natural growth) and the first signs of industrial development had already transformed Canada’s future.

The true process of primitive accumulation (which is, according to Marx, the passage of the non-capitalist relations to capitalistic production relations, and that Lenin characterized, in the case of Russia, as “clearing the land for capitalism“) occurred at this time, in the process of monopolization of Aboriginal lands by the state (the Crown first and then the Canadian state) for the profit of private owners – farmers, railroad companies, factories and eventually various industries of extraction. Here we find the origins of the treaties policy. They began a little before the second half of the 19th century and have remained to this day, in spite of being obscured by official political speeches which currently hides the true nature of the so-called “agreements in principle” and other “Peace of the Braves”-like agreements with the Aboriginal nations. [1]

The 1763 Royal Proclamation, which was a protective cushion for the commercial bourgeoisie and the trade of the furs, became irritating and a constraint: it made compulsory the passage through a policy of the treaties to “liberate” the lands.

The Canadian bourgeoisie adapted itself without difficulty to this legal constraint. Many so-called negotiated and signed treaties of this time were nothing more than theft, systematic deceptions and/or state terrorism, leading to Aboriginal peoples’ migration and eventually to their containment in Indian Act reservations. The historian Stanley Ryerson wrote: “The fact of the matter is that the Indians were dispossessed of their lands by a colossal operation of fraud, misrepresentation and legalized theft.” (The Founding of Canada, Progress Books, 1972, p. 241) In a document entitled “Changer le Canada!” published in 1991 by the Action Socialiste group, we have summarized this process as follows:

[TRANSLATION] “These treaties were very clearly linked to the wishes of the ruling class to monopolize the natural resources, the important transportation routes, and as such to dispossess the Natives from them.

The very first treaties signed in Canada around 1850 were like that, commonly called Robinson-Huron and Robinson-Superior Treaties, signed with the Ojibway Nation. These treaties coincided with the rich mineral veins found north of the Great Lakes (in particular Lakes Huron and Superior) and on which the future economic power of Ontario was built. The current industrial and mining centers of Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins are all located on the ancient territories of Ojibway.

It was unthinkable for the rising bourgeoisie to leave these vast territories and the resources contained in them to the Aboriginal peoples. The colossal resources since accumulated from those were in fact usurped from First Nations.

Also the Treaty No. 8, from 1899 in Yukon, is another example: it coincides with the gold rush and allowed for their intensive exploitation. It was all the same when oil was discovered in Canada’s North-West, quickly followed in 1921 by the signature of the Treaty No. 11.

This monopolization of the territory was initially used for agriculture, then after internal market expansion to the State itself, and finally for the private companies – of which some became multinationals – in forest, mining and the oil industries.

The theft of lands, this legal fraud for the profit of the bourgeoisie, was also a bloody swindle! All this process was possible because the new Canadian State charged its courts, its agents with the application of the Indian Act (since 1876), it’s police force – the RCMP – and its military to mute Aboriginal peoples. The rebellion of the Métis and their Indian allies was repressed in a bloody and legal persecution.

The Canadian and the provincial governments took care, by means of extensive legislation, to prevent the Aboriginal peoples from creating a nation within Canada. The government was warned to divide these “conquered people”. It held them divided on separate territories. The Pass System was established at the time of Riel’s northwest rebellion in 1885 and maintained until the 1950s. This system prohibited Native people of the Prairies to move between reservations without authorization of the Indian Affairs’ agents. It also prohibited Aboriginal peoples from raising funds to argue their case in front of the courts to protest their oppression (curiously, the 2001 “Peace of the Braves” agreement between the Crees and the government of Québec had also as an aim to eliminate legal lawsuits!).

According to the historian E.B. Titley, the Indian Affairs department controlled a vast network of spies and advisors, including missionaries, police officers, spies inside the Indian Act reservations, in addition to the RCMP, to supervise and sabotage the Native’s political activities. The Mohawk leader F.O. Loft, founder at the end of World War I of the League of Indians of Canada, became a true organizer. He fought against divisions which overpowered the Indians from one end to another of the “Dominion”. Superintendent of the Indian Affairs of the time, Duncan Campbell Scott accused him of being a Bolshevik and a threat to Canada. He did all that was possible, with the assistance of the RCMP, to disorganize Loft’s movement (Geoffrey York, The Dispossessed, McArthur & Co., 1999, p. 246-247).

It was thus for hundreds of activists, leaders and members of organizations which sought to gather Aboriginal peoples to organize their political struggle. It should be known: for each move made by the bourgeoisie to increase its domination and to extend its tentacles corresponds a state’s move to destroy, disorganize, disperse whatever obstacle the bourgeoisie encounters.

The current phase

Today, although we’ve seen a new phase in the exploitation of the northern territories by Canadian imperialism, the development, by powerful Canadian multinationals or from other countries and helped by the governments, of immense mining projects, hydroelectric, oil, ports, gas and others, which imply a high concentration of capital (including small indigenous capital), the Canadian bourgeoisie (or American or other bourgeoisie) literally order the state to clear the ground of all obstacles under the capitalists foot (to “clear the land“, as Lenin would have said), in political or legal prevention which can harm the extraction of the capitalist profits.

We must ask ourselves under these conditions: has the relationship between the imperialist Canadian state and the First Nations changed, during these last 10 years, by the concluding of territorial agreements (and by the negotiations still in progress) which are quasi treaties and/or texts, which bind the Native Bands to this new phase of “clearing” of the territory (i.e. to liberate it with the profit of capitalist exploitation) in exchange of royalties, of annual installments, and of portions of territories for their own use?

Let us explain the things differently. When in 1975, John Ciaccia – a Minister in Québec’s Liberal government – explained in front of the National Assembly the policy of the province in the North, and in fact the significance of the future James Bay Agreement as an opportunity for Québec [TRANSLATION] “…to extend its public administration, its legislation, its institutions and its services to the totality of Québec, in a word to affirm the integrity of our territory” (quoted in “Regard sur la Convention de la Baie-James et du Nord québécois“, Québec Amérique Ed., 2002, p. 153): does he then speak a language so different from those of the agents who spoke when they negotiated the treaties in 1850, 1890 or 1920? Did he speak such a different language than that of the Parti Québécois who concluded the so-called “Peace of the Braves” with the Cree in order to “liberate” the Rupert river for hydroelectric exploitation by Hydro-Québec?

The capitalist operations in the North, more often than not, are related to the most powerful sectors of the bourgeoisie, and are currently multiplying. Realized or projected, they constitute a big stake for the ruling class: Diavik and Ekati Mines (diamonds); Voisey’s Bay; the MacKenzie natural gas pipeline; hydroelectricity on the Rupert (Québec) and Lower Churchill Rivers (Newfoundland and Labrador); the Bathurst port project in Nunavut; oil and the natural gas in the basin of the Queen Charlotte Islands (British Colombia); oil sands with the Millenium Project, Syncrude north of Fort McMurray, True North Energy at Forth Hills; the diamond mining developments in Nunavut, Wawa Bush, Snap Lake, the Mont Otish Mount in Québec; the Bell Allard mine (zinc) in Matagami, etc., not to mention the hundreds of other smaller operations.

These capitalist operations constitute right now the headquarters from which the decision of development of the indigenous question in Canada is taking form. At least, that’s the wish of the governments and the capitalists. The bourgeoisie bets (both ideologically and politically ) that the impressive scale of these developments will induce aboriginal leaders to believe that in the final analysis, their best policy consists in being the brokers between the iron fisted power of the capitalists and their communities’ needs.

We have to be in agreement with the Maoists when they say that without state power, all is illusion… The idea currently in vogue of economic “self-sufficiency” (an incomplete idea if ever there was one), that of community redistribution of the royalties of the capitalist exploitation, are also illusions. They are and will remain so if there is no revolutionary perspective, i.e. if the First Nations do not fight to overcome the political power of Canadian imperialism.

Marxism teaches us that capitalism only produces riches while simultaneously producing misery. On the MacKenzie, with the Dene, the Cree, to the Innus, water, copper, natural gas, gold, diamonds, used like goods divert the accumulation of riches to a few and produces misery for all others.

In five years, there will be two million aboriginal people in Canada, and the majority of them will be youth. The great majority are and will increasingly be proletarian. It is to say that they are experiencing what we call the three levels of the reality of our class:

  • the misery, the street, disease, of what we often call the lower-proletariat;
  • unemployment, occasional work, weeks on sites, of what is known as the reserve army of the unemployed;
  • industrial employment, mines, public works, services, wage-earning known as “regular salary”.

It is up to them, starting as of now, to form a unified movement of struggle. From one Band to another! From one nation to another! From one reservation to another! From one city to another! From the North to the South and from the East to the West! Unite and fight! It is necessary to aim at founding a new democracy, an indigenous political power in Northern Canada which can only be achieved by actively resisting Canadian imperialism and by breaking the domination of its powerful companies, monopolies and government agencies over Aboriginal peoples. The means of reaching this point is by a protracted people’s war!

Let’s build a unified movement of struggle!

Let’s support the struggle of the Aboriginal peoples!

Let’s prepare for the people’s war!

R. P. North
  • 1. The so-called “Peace of the Braves” was signed between the Québec government and the Grand Council of the Crees in 2002. In exchange for increased management of their economic and community development, the Crees’ representatives agreed at ensuring the completion of major hydro-electric projects within the James Bay Territory and to the continuation of forestry activities on their territories. The agreement also provided for the withdrawal of the multi-billion dollar law suits that were pending before the Courts. The Crees’ representatives also undertook not to seek other redress from Québec with respect to the past application of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement.
e p D T F s