Around 250 revolutionaries gathered in Toronto on May 20-22 for the 2023 Congress of Fightback and La Riposte socialiste, the Canada and Quebec section of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT). The latest congress took place as global capitalism faces unprecedented crisis on all fronts, from rampant inflation and debt to the war in Ukraine to the accelerating climate emergency. In the face of intolerable conditions which the ruling class has no solution to, the masses are rising up and putting class struggle back on the agenda at a level not seen in decades. As class war heats up around the world, revolutionary workers and youth are increasingly looking to Marxist ideas for a way out.
The diverse regions from which comrades travelled to attend congress was itself a testament to how the forces of Marxism are expanding across Canada. Participants included workers and youth from Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria, Halifax, Ottawa, Waterloo, Kingston, Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Gatineau, Rivière-Rouge, Regina, Sudbury, Barrie, and Grand Prairie. Meeting amid intensifying class struggle, the comrades displayed a seriousness of purpose and eagerness for the ideas needed to win in coming revolutionary upheavals, which was felt in the reports and discussions throughout congress.
Inflation leads to class struggle
Fred Weston, editor of the In Defence of Marxism website, opened with a presentation on perspectives for the world revolution. In every country the same process is taking place to one degree or another: increasing instability, a ruling class that jumps from one crisis to another, and conditions pushing workers into class struggle. The bourgeoisie had already racked up massive debt by bailing out banks and corporations after the 2008-9 recession. Then COVID-19 struck, and large-scale money printing was used to prevent further crisis, triggering rampant inflation. The ruling class solution to inflation has been to raise interest rates and force the working class to spend less, which has created the worst of both worlds for workers: inflation combined with a rise in unemployment.
Inflation is promoting class struggle around the world. In the discussion, comrades described how the global crisis of capitalism is manifesting itself in different countries. From disasters in Pakistan and Turkey to mass movements and strike waves in Europe, to the violent disintegration of Sudan and Haiti, capitalism is failing everywhere. The world is seeing the breakup of the global capitalist order established after the Second World War. Comrades highlighted the need for working class political independence and revolutionary leadership.
While Canada has been somewhat calmer than many countries in the world, things are starting to heat up here too. As Julien Arseneau of the editorial board of La Riposte socialiste explained in his introduction to the session on perspectives for Canada, here too, the combination of the rising cost of living and stagnant wages is battering workers and creating massive anger against the establishment. Workers are in a situation where they either have to accept deteriorating conditions, or fight to defend their standard of living—and workers are increasingly choosing to fight.
First was the historic CUPE education workers’ strike in Ontario, which forced the repeal of back-to-work legislation for the first time with the threat of a general strike; and more recently the PSAC strike of federal workers, one of the largest strikes in Canadian history. In Quebec, a common front of public sector unions is on a collision course with the CAQ government, which is offering a pathetic nine per cent wage increase over five years, while the workers are asking for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Quebec comrades, Julien said, will have to prepare for a “Hot Autumn” and win the most radical workers to Marxist ideas.
In Canada and Quebec as in the rest of the world, we are presented with a picture of a world in absolute crisis. Faced with this situation, the mood of the youth in particular is changing radically. As some participants underlined, this is taking the form of both a rise in “doomerist” feelings, but also revolutionary sentiments. A recent poll by the Fraser Institute, a right-wing Canadian think tank, said 29 per cent of young people in Britain thought communism was the ideal economic system. In Canada, the same poll said that 1 million Canadian youth want communism. In this context, Marxists have to intervene boldly to reach these youth and offer them revolutionary ideas that can solve this crisis.
As Fred explained in the final session on the work of the International Marxist Tendency across the globe, our comrades in Britain in particular have been reaching these radicalised layers directly with a bold appeal: “Are you a communist? Then get organised!” This campaign has helped our British section to grow fast. But the forces of Marxism are growing around the world, as Fred explained. More people than ever before are looking for a revolutionary answer to the crisis of capitalism. Each year, the IMT is spreading, establishing footholds in more countries, and strengthening its sections.
In Canada as well, the forces of Marxism have been growing. As Joel Bergman, editor of Fightback and La Riposte socialiste, explained in the session on organization, we went from a single comrade in the 1990s to hundreds today thanks to our uncompromising defence of genuine Marxism. While many groups succumbed to the various pressures of identity politics, nationalism, reformism, with some of them disappearing altogether, we have patiently focused on educating the youth in Marxist ideas. It is thanks to this and this only that we have been able to build.
These ideas give us confidence and a revolutionary optimism. But this revolutionary optimism of Marxists is different from mere “positive thinking”, and based on an understanding of the long view of history. Marxists recognize that there are no shortcuts, but that the crisis of capitalism is an inevitable process that is pushing people toward Marxist conclusions.
But as Marx said, the ruling ideas in a society are the ideas of the ruling class. Therefore, we have to fight for our ideas. The ideological plane is a crucial front of the struggle. This is why we insist so much on the importance of developing our press, as Fightback activist Donovan Ritch explained during the session on the press and finances. Our press has made important strides in the recent period, with our English-language paper Fightback becoming a fortnightly in 2021, and adding four pages in each issue dedicated to theory this year.
It was also announced during the congress that the subscription campaign for La Riposte socialiste and Fightback had reached its goal of 350 new subscribers. Attacks on striking federal workers by the bourgeois media during the PSAC strike have shown once again the importance of workers having their own media. This successful subscription drive is another step forward in building the revolutionary press in Canada and Quebec.
Ted Grant, the founder of the IMT, used to say that without enthusiasm, you can achieve nothing. The comrades of the IMT in Canada have taken that advice on board. Boundless enthusiasm pervaded the congress—as illustrated by the constant political conversations in between sessions, where comrades from across the country shared their experiences and thoughts about our political perspectives. The literature table was constantly busy with comrades buying their share of Marxist books—we sold more than $7,600 of them over the weekend! On Sunday night, we held a financial collection amid an electric atmosphere. In a show of internationalism in practice, half of the money collected will help fund a new international centre in London.
Comrades left buzzing with revolutionary optimism, and a sense of urgency to build the forces of Marxism. As the capitalist crisis throws society back into barbarism, the result has been incalculable suffering, misery, and threats to even our future on this planet. But as our perspectives show, the working class is starting to move and fight back. Class war is on the horizon. To lead workers to victory in this battle, an organization—a revolutionary party—is needed. Fightback/La Riposte socialiste is building this party. No task is more important, and we urge you to join us in this struggle.