Marxists in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver were active in intervening at May Day rallies this past weekend. We publish here reports and pictures from the three cities.
On 1st May, there were two demonstrations organized in Montreal. One was called by a range of anarchist, Maoist, and anti-imperialist groups and the other by the four main unions: CSN, FTQ, CSD, and CSQ, along with the participation of Quebec Solidaire. The two demonstrations took place around the same time, the first one being held in the west side of downtown (Square Cabot), while the one organized by the unions was held in the working class neighbourhood of Hochelaga.
The so-called “Radical” May Day protest was smaller than last year’s, with about 500 people assembling at Square Cabot at 5:30pm. The most visible groups this year were the Revolutionary Communist Party, groups of anarchists, and a group of Tamils that had assembled in the square. There were many speeches denouncing capitalism and its crisis, and there was certainly a mood of anger amongst the crowd. The International Marxist Tendency, intervened by selling the "Manifesto on the Capitalist Crisis", explaining the causes of the crisis and the socialist solution.
The police presence was again heavy. Cops in full riot gear and others mounted on horses and bicycles had surrounded the place a lot earlier than the protest started. There were fears that the brutal repression of last year's protest would be repeated.
The march started at 6:30pm, with a lot of slogans such as "Revolution the only solution" and a lot of music. It was headed towards the offices of the Caisse de Depot et Placement, Quebec's pension plan manager, which lost tens of billions of dollars during the last year as a result of the crisis of capitalism. At the same time, the managers of the corporation are paid millions of dollars, which the workers of Quebec have to pay for, along with the billions of dollars lost. So after a march through downtown, the protest ended in front of the Caisse de Depot, with a replica of a capitalist being burnt.
The radicals of Montreal chose once more to distance themselves from the working class. They went so far as to organize their own march at the other side of the city, just so they won't be infected by the 'reformism' of the workers. This shows the bankruptcy of the leaderships of those organizations. The communists should be in the forefront of the workers' struggles, agitating within and reaching out to the active working class, not separating themselves from it.
In the main working class neighborhood of Montreal, Hochelaga, the demonstration called by the unions assembled around an hour later. It was a lot smaller than last year's demonstration, which had the participation of 50,000 workers. This year, only around five thousand workers participated in the protest. The major factor for the low turn out was that, while last year the demonstration had the theme of struggle against the privatization of health care, this year there was no connection made by the organizers with the need to fight against the capitalist crisis that has hit Quebec workers very hard. Thousands of jobs have been lost in Quebec since the beginning of this crisis, with Bombardier - one of the biggest companies in Quebec - just recently announcing 3,000 job cuts. Wage cuts are constantly on the order of the day, as well as dwindling living standards.
The most visible political party represented was Quebec Solidaire. The PQ - which has historically dragged the unions behind it - was only represented by a PQ Youth bloc... of 5. The International Marxist Tendency passed a thousand leaflets calling the unions to join Quebec Solidaire. Even though Quebec has arguably one of the most militant working classes of North America, there is no mass workers' party here. Quebec Solidaire - a left formation which recently elected Amir Khadir to Quebec's National Assembly - needs to link up with the unions in order to become the workers' party of Quebec. The fact that the Montreal Central Council of the CSN endorsed the party is a step in the right direction. But the connection between the unions and Quebec Solidaire should not just be a formal one, but an organic connection. The unions need to have their members represented in the party and playing a role in the formation of the party's policies. The IMT’s leaflets that put forward these ideas seemed to be very well received by workers.
The march ended two hours later, with no speeches concerning the crisis, indicative of how poorly the demonstration was organized compared to last year. Yet our comrades left reinvigorated and firmly convinced that the future is ours.
In Toronto, about 2,000 activists gathered on 2nd May to celebrate May Day. The demonstration was mainly organized by No One is Illegal and centred around the Conservative government’s recent attacks on migrant workers and other immigrants who lack “legal status” in the country.
Supporters of Fightback and the Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network were at the protest. The presence of the IWSN was particularly welcomed by a number of Iranian activists representing several different groups active in the city. They were all very eager to help the work of the IWSN, that seeks to raise solidarity between Iranian workers and their counterparts around the world, as well as increase awareness of the oppression faced by workers at the hands of the Iranian regime.
Unfortunately, aside from the UFCW, there was no visible union presence at the May Day demos. Aside from one speaker, there appeared to be little attempt to link the struggles faced by immigrant workers with those faced by the general working class in Canada, especially given the fact that last week, Chrysler announced it was seeking bankruptcy protection and shutting down all production, laying off over 20,000 workers in Ontario.
Finally, in Vancouver, Fightback supporters intervened at a couple of May Day socials, including one organized and hosted by Fightback. They also set up a literature table at a social hosted by the Vancouver District Labour Council that attracted the attention of radical youth attending the event. The following day, Fightback had organized a day-long Labour School. There, workshops were given on a variety of topics including how to fight back against the current economic crisis, and lessons of Operation Solidarity, a mass labour movement in the 1980s that nearly brought down the Social Credit government of the day. A workshop on the “Revolutionary Art of Walter Crane” led into a very in-depth discussion on Marxists’ approach to art.