THE CANADIAN BOURGEOIS DEMOCRACY: A SINGLE PARTY SYSTEM
To boycott is to fight!
Translated from Le Drapeau Rouge 
No. 49, published before the 2004 federal elections.
On many walls and posts through proletarian neighbourhoods, we can read since a few days, handwritten or printed on modest posters, in the spirit of the activist tradition, three clear words, simple and obvious, precise and percussive like a shout: BOYCOTT THE ELECTIONS!
Not misleading words. Not confusing words. Not these usual hesitant words, weak and resigned, which form the same sentences-hollow or with double meanings-that had been pronounced for a century by hostile or manipulative mouths. No! Words that are unlike bourgeois discourse and don't convey any illusion: BOYCOTT THE ELECTIONS!
In politics, the language of the bourgeoisie is now an old language, petrified, that doesn't have meaning anymore and that fewer and fewer workers listen to with respect and submission. The proletariat needs more than ever to speak and act by itself. Today, it is sickening to vote for the bourgeoisie's "single party".
Whether this "single party" has two or three heads, is composed of a large obese liberal-conservative body and two sides: a left side and a more or less visible or discrete right side according to the times and circumstances, that doesn't matter very much in the final analysis. What really counts is that the same interests (those of the capitalists) reign at the same time in the government and in the opposition. Thus, when the parliamentary representation changes from one election to another (and it must change to give the system a fake credibility), the nature of the Parliament still remains the same.
The actual bourgeois society seeks its breath, that's obvious. But it's certain that the bourgeoisie cannot find much air on the side of the democracy. Its parliamentarism seems more and more a work of the past, discredited in the present, and deprived of any utility for the future.
Today's activists intend to renew the participation of the exploited and the poor in a radical social transformation. This is what is called revolution. By boycotting the elections, they clearly tell us two things. First: that there are no poor nor revolutionary workers in the Parliaments, and that it is useless to seek them there. We can certainly find there a lot of bourgeois, petit-bourgeois and labour-lieutenants, but not a single poor nor revolutionary worker.
That, in self, is significant. But still, more significant is the revolutionary poor and workers do not seek to enter at all to the Parliament! Their interest rather go in the direction of destroying it, and with it, the other apparatuses of the bourgeois state which are, considered as a whole, the tools used by the ruling class to ensure the continuation of workers' exploitation.
But then, if the poor don't seek to enter to the Parliament, who are all those candidates who want to "overthrow" the government and install an alternative on the benches of the House of Commons? In fact, they only offer to replace the bourgeois, petit-bourgeois and labour-lieutenants who preceded them and were pushed aside by the circumstances. It is an offer of substitution, not of transformation, even less of revolution.
The communist movement (since 1920) disqualified these substitution attempts of organic parliamentarism. The movement back then severely criticized that practice and rejected it completely, but, with passing years, was mistaken on the way to fight it.
Organic parliamentarism is the fusion-through the working and popular members of Parliament-between the working class and the bourgeois democracy. It is the bourgeois Parliament which assimilates and digests the representatives of subordinate classes. It is the reclassification of the proletariat as a simple wheel attached to the mechanism of bourgeois society.
Organic parliamentarism is the liquidation of any revolutionary action. No wonder that all the opportunists and social-democrat reformists are literally obsessed, in Québec and everywhere in Canada, by the idea to penetrate the Parliament and to be molded there like formless polymers. In truth, they are especially afraid of the poor, afraid of the street, afraid of justice, afraid of change. Afraid of conflagration! They pretend to be unaware that only the proletarian revolution, like a fire which regenerates a forest, can regenerate the democracy.
The activists who campaign for the elections' boycott, like those from the Revolutionary Communist Party (Organizing Committees) (RCP[OC]) don't hide for one second that the options offered to the electorate for June 28 would alone be enough to justify the radical slogan and guideline: proletarian boycott of the electoral circus!
The "single party" will take the power again! Big surprise! Its two wings, the Liberal Party and the new Conservative Party are, among all the bourgeois parties in Occidental and imperialist countries, among the five or six parties at most which built the most durable bonds. Their lasting bond is based on their implantation in capitalist backgrounds and the defence of the bourgeoisie's common interests.
If each monopoly has its reserve, then in Canada the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party are the safe protecting the bourgeoisie's politic monopoly on the Canadian society. And this is a safe the proletariat really needs to blow up!
Besides them, the opposition consisting of the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois, as well of two translucent ghosts which hopelessly try to be seen as credible alternatives-the Green Party of Canada and the "Communist" Party of Canada-are each in their way confused parliamentary derivatives of the real struggles lead by the workers and the poor. Even the more progressive among them are also obstinate electoralists and are harming the people's struggle. Paradoxically, the successes of these oppositions (NDP and Bloc Québécois) serve as a guarantee for the single party monopoly and periodically force the bourgeoisie to focus on political interests common to its class-as ruling class-rather than on interests of the fractions.
Never the coloration brought to the House of Commons by a party like the NDP (and this would be the same with a new socialist party or any progressive or citizen alliance, etc.) produces anything but this: much-needed help for the bourgeoisie to assume its functions and to govern, officially in the name of the entire society (!), while remaining comfortably inside its general guideline which is to ensure the best conditions for the capital's reproduction.
The reality of a thing, including the reality of an unpleasant thing, is always what it is objectively and it's useless to embellish it by means of artifices or speculative chimeras, especially if it's only to modify the impression produced by this reality rather than the reality itself.
Within this context the reality of the Canadian electoral domain is so sinister that it can't create any illusion. The illusion rather comes from the recurring temptation to embellish the ugly impression produced by this reality.
What tells us this reality? That democracy is stability since the power never changes. That capitalists are always on top. That politicians speak all the time even if they don't have anything to say. That elections are 36 days of publicity. That democracy is to watch television and to go vote. That there is apathy and democracy. Apathy is when the young, the poor and the proletarians shout, fight and demonstrate but don't vote; and the democracy is when they vote but don't shout, nor fight nor demonstrate!
This sinister reality makes less and less illusion. All the bourgeois in the country were astounded after 2000's elections to note that only 61.2% of the electorate voted, the lowest result since 1926's election (with a 62.9% participation rate). Studies were ordered by politicians to help them understand what occurred, more especially because disaffection has been constant for the past several elections.
Mandated by Elections Canada, professors Jon H. Pammett of the Carleton University and Lawrence LeDuc of the University of Toronto, with help from Decima Research, said in March 2003 to bourgeois politicians (and their quite as anxious little friends from the Bloc and the NDP): ...caution, the voters slip between your fingers like sand.
Questioned by Decima's investigators on the reasons of their abstention, 59.4% of the non-voters questioned gave as reason a negative attitude toward politicians, government, candidates, parties and/or chiefs of party. 24.2% mentioned apathy and indifference; 14.5% the uselessness of their participation and 8.6% lack of competition. In addition, only 5.0% gave as reason a lack of knowledge or information, 1.2% an administrative problem and 0.5% a unsatisfactory electoral system.
We saw these last days that statistical data command bourgeois politicians to lead a battle to reconquer the Canadian youth (Cuckoo Bono!-specific Bloc's campaign targeting the youth) and to give the illusion that a major renewal of the political practices is already moving in Canada (this topic is important for the Conservative Harper, the Liberal Martin and also the New-Democrat Layton).
So, it is to say that apart from the battle inside the Parliament between the parties, the bourgeoisie's various wings, another battle takes place, perhaps more important, deeper, more complex, more dangerous, which is explained by the historical tendency under the bourgeois democracy of separation between the Parliament and the masses, e.g. the problem for the bourgeoisie of its political isolation.
Then, shall we fight or encourage this tendency?
Which attitude must the proletarian activists adopt? We do not speak here about organic parliamentarism partisans, which, it is well known, feel sick about this situation, because it threatens their wish to encrust at the Parliament like fleas in a carpet. But for others, the sincere activists, anti-capitalists, who have the workers and oppressed people's liberation in the horizon?
Pammett and LeDuc showed the progression of the non-voter attitude.
Normal rate of participation since the Second World War: .................................... 75.0%
Rate of participation in 2000:
- of Canadians who became voters between 1974 and 1980 ....................... 66.0%
- of Canadians who became voters between 1984 and 1988 ....................... 54.2%
- of Canadians who became voters in 1993 .................................................. 38.2%
- of Canadians who became voters in 1997 .................................................. 27.5%
- of Canadians who became voters in 2000 .................................................. 22.4%
Stages of the formation of the single party of the Canadian bourgeoisie
Let's quickly review the characteristics of the three stages in the bourgeoisie's single party formation.
A) From 1867 to 1921
It's the formation of the Canadian state. It went up from a colonial entity to knock on the door of the imperialist countries' club. The bourgeoisie needed more than 50 years, in absence of a true powerful revolutionary impulse, to constitute its two main parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals, starting from scattered and contradictory political, religious, national and regional tendencies which existed prior to the Confederation.
Fifty crucial years during which the bourgeoisie forged its political hegemony, not in democracy but in oppression. During this first stage, only property owners were enjoying electoral rights. Universal ballot was installed only in 1920, with the adoption of the Dominion Elections Act (two years after voting rights were granted to women). And still, it was not until 1948 that Canadians of Asian origin could vote and 1960 for the Native people.
Between 1867 and 1920, the voting right was based on the property of a minimal value (established in 1867 to $400) and on the profession (for example, it could apply to monks, teachers and professions). The women, the Native people, the poor workers and peasants were simply deprived of the right to vote.
At the beginning of the Confederation (1867 to 1872), only approximately 15% of the population constituted the electorate entitled to vote. In 1882, it was less than 20%; 22% in 1891; 25% in 1911; 30% in 1917; and about 50% in 1921. Participation rate in the elections' (more or less 70% for all this period) must with moreover applied to these reduced electorates to comprehend well which particular share of the population forged the only two government parties in the history of Canada.
It has been a crucial period during which the Parliament (and its parties) established their (fake) legitimacy throughout Canadian society, despite the fact that they were the emanation of a minority of rich people. It is nevertheless during these 50 years that Canada carried out its industrialization, developed its railroads, constituted its commercial and financial bourgeoisie, unified its internal market towards the West and on First Nations territories, established new relationships with the British capital and the American capital, forged its main institutions, etc.
B) From 1921 to World War II
What was at stake was quite a different matter. It is a question of literally "assimilating" the other classes, e.g. to adapt the party system that was constituted under the bourgeoisie's solid guidance, to the other social classes that were beginning to show up on the political scene: the agricultural petite-bourgeoisie (farmers) and the working class.
This adaptation will be done as well by the integration (stopping all autonomy) of these classes in bourgeois parties, by disciplining the leaders and the popular classes' organizations, and by repressing the working class, its struggles, its strikes and its party, the Communist Party of Canada (CPC).
At that time, Canada was at the gates of the imperialist world (in September 1929, in a letter to the Communist Party of Canada, the Executive Committee of the Communist International will assert that the Canadian bourgeoisie played more and more an obvious imperialist role). After the First World War and the revolutionary thrust that followed the October Revolution, the Canadian working class also initiated important struggles: Winnipeg's general strike in 1919, creation of the Communist Party in 1921, struggles against repression, 1929's crisis, great thirties strikes. In addition, at the beginning of the twenties, farmers from Ontario and the West constituted the National Progressive Party (which had 63 deputies elected back in 1921) and the United Farmers succeeded in forming governments in several provinces.
The bourgeoisie dealt with these challenges in the following way:
It allowed the emergence the right drift of social-democracy in the parties system (the CCF at the beginning of the thirties, followed by the NDP in the sixties).
It also quickly dispersed the farmers' political activism during the mid-twenties through its own Conservative and Liberal parties, and later within the CCF in the thirties.
Thirdly, it repressed in a very significant way the Communist Party and the working class' revolutionary organizations. As early as September and November 1918, the Cabinet's decrees adopted under the War Measures Act prohibited most of the proletarian political organizations (the Socialist Labour Party, IWW, Social-Democrat Party, etc). Therefore, since its foundation in 1921, the Communist Party was illegal. It existed legally under the name of Workers' Party of Canada.
After the War Measures Act decrees were cancelled in 1923, in April 1924, the Communist Party of Canada exist legally, but for only a few years. In 1931, in the middle of an economic crisis, the government of R.B. Bennett, by means of Criminal Code Section 98 declared the CPC an "illegal association". In August 1931, nine CPC leaders were arrested. Eight went to trial for illegal association and seditious conspiracy. While in prison in Kingston, Tim Buck, the Party leader, was a victim of a murder attempt.
In June 1936, the new Mackenzie King's government withdrew Section 98 from the Criminal Code. But right after, in March 1937, the Maurice Duplessis' nationalist government in Québec adopted an Act to Protect the Province Against Communistic Propaganda (also known as "Padlock Law").
In September 1939, the War Measures Act was promulgated again. All the publications and organizations of the CPC were subjected to repression. On June 6, 1940, the Communist Party and 15 other organizations were officially prohibited.
All this second period shows well that for the Canadian bourgeoisie, the apparition and persistence of a left side in its parties system, in its Parliament, made up of social-democrats, of humanist monks, of farmers and petit-bourgeois intellectuals, is an acceptable thing, even very useful. The more its imperialist nature matures, the more this bourgeois or legal socialism becomes compatible with the advantageous situation of the bourgeoisie.
On the other hand, the revolutionary action of the Communist Party in the twenties and thirties, its struggles and its successes, constituted an unacceptable act for the bourgeoisie, followed by a systematic repression.
As the revisionism progressed and settled in the CPC, it answered to its quasi exclusion from bourgeois democracy by the state, by submitting to the bourgeoisie's diktats and by confining its political horizon to organic parliamentarism.
C) From post-war period to now
The bourgeoisie could benefit from its after-war favorable conditions to reinforce its parties' position. It is the bourgeoisie's single party golden age. And that's not contradictory at all with the government alternation (unequal and irregular) between Canadian Liberals and Conservatives, from Louis St-Laurent (Liberal) to John Diefenbaker (Conservative), from Pearson-Trudeau to Mulroney, from Chrétien-Martin to...
It is, in first place, the parliamentarism as an institution, decorated of this false pretension of being an institution produced by the whole society, by all classes and all groups that constitute the "single party".
In second place, it's also the fact that government parties defend quasi identical interests and govern in conformity with the same general guideline, which moves in time and according to conjunctures more than from one party to another.
It's, in third place, the ceaseless assimilation into the Parliament of more secondary or marginal electoralist movements (social-democrats, ecologists, socialists, etc), thus contributing to bring back fresh forces that are essential to every bourgeois Parliament.
It's all that which constitutes the current "single party", one of the most powerful assets for the bourgeoisie, but at the same time, by its own success, a factor which reinforces the separation between the Parliament and the working masses.
The very powerful Liberal organizer of the sixties and seventies, Keith Davey, has summarized in some way this golden age of the Parliament. What he says concerning the Liberal Party applies in fact to bourgeois parliamentarism as a whole, including the institution's wily character: "[TRANSLATION] We succeeded, to a certain extent, to lead the cities to think that we were for them and the countryside that we were for them too, and even with being at the same time the workers' and the businessmen's party-that was a pretty turn!"
It appears obvious, in the way the RCP(OC)'s activists talk about the boycott of the elections, that this is the introduction and the development of a major impulse contesting the almighty bourgeois power in the country's politics.
It's not only an answer to the insufficient offerings of the existing parties (like... there is no satisfying alternative!). That is still to remain both feet in cement, well inside the agreed limits of organic parliamentarism.
Elections' boycott rather seems like a coherence found again in action, a clear and powerful class perspective. It is a new will in Canadian politics to start the inexorable march of the poor and exploited towards the people's and revolutionary power in the country.
It is a content change instead of a simple form change. But at the same time, it also causes change in the means of the struggle because of the renewal of their revolutionary content!
The proletariat exists only towards and against its own exploiters.
To boycott is to exist! To boycott is to fight!
1) Le Drapeau Rouge is the RCP's French newspaper. Go to pcr-rcp.ca/fr/dr for more info.
(paru dans the People's War Digest magazine n° 2)