We would like to begin by expressing our gratitude to our hosts, the Portuguese Communist Party, for facilitating this year’s meeting. We are indebted to the KKE for its generous and consistent internationalism in hosting such annual gatherings over many consecutive years. At the same time, we consider that the formation of the Working Group, and the selection of new venues for our annual meetings are encouraging signs of the advance and maturing of mutual efforts to rebuild our international communist movement.
Unprecedented dangers confront humanity today, dangers arising from the political, economic and social offensive of imperialism to extend and tighten its global domination, to trample on the sovereign rights of the peoples, and to criminalize and punish all expressions of protest and resistance. Militarism and war, economic plunder, vicious attacks on democratic and social rights, and increasing environmental destruction – this is the heavy price being exacted by this barbaric system as it strives to satisfy its voracious appetite for profit, while simultaneously attempting to overcome its inherent, systemic contradictions at the expense of the great majority. This situation makes the fight against war and reaction, to save our environment, to defend democratic rights, and for social advance the imperative task of our class and our movement; a task inextricably linked to, and in many respects the prerequisite for the struggle for the revolutionary transformation from capitalism to socialism.
The widespread class, democratic and anti-imperialist struggles which are emerging today, despite their still largely defensive character, are drawing millions upon millions into political organization and action. The task of the left forces and particularly the Communists is to help build these mass struggles, to unite them in common action, and to infuse them with a revolutionary perspective and content, opening the door to the socialist alternative.
The fightback against imperialist domination and aggression finds clearest expression today in Latin America. Inspired by the example of socialist Cuba, and driven to struggle by the consequences of the imposed “Washington consensus”, popular resistance is mounting virtually everywhere across that continent. The deepening of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, the democratic and progressive initiatives of the Morales government in Bolivia and the Frente Amplio in Uruguay, the recent election victories in Brazil and Nicaragua, the growing insurgency in Colombia led by the FARC-EP, and the spread of mass labour, indigenous, democratic and social struggles in Mexico and elsewhere – all these unmistakably point to a rising tide of anti-imperialist resistance and change.
Anti-imperialist struggles are growing elsewhere as well, reflected not least in the heroic resistance of the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples against U.S. imperialism and Zionist aggression and occupation. The Congressional elections in the U.S. this week show that even in the belly of imperialism, working people are increasingly rejecting the reactionary policies of the Bush Administration.
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Allow me here to say a few words about Canada’s changing role within the imperialist system in general, and in particular about the accelerated drive for all-sided subordination of and ‘deep integration’ with U.S. imperialism.
Since January 2006, the Canadian people have been saddled with the most right-wing, militarist and pro-U.S. imperialist government in our history, in the form of the minority Conservative Party Government of PM Stephen Harper.
In less than one year, the Harper government has doubled the military budget, attacked equality rights, ripped up agreements with Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, and reneged on our country’s commitment to the Kyoto emission targets. At the behest of the Bush Administration, Canadian military involvement in the bloody, unjust occupation of Afghanistan has been beefed up and given even more aggressive front-line assignments in the Kandahar region, resulting in heavy casualties. The Tories have also transformed Canada’s Middle East policy, shamelessly endorsing Israel’s war crimes against the peoples of Palestine and Lebanon.
All of these dangerous developments reflect an underlying process which is relentlessly drawing Canada into lock-step with the interests of U.S. imperialism and accelerating the erosion of Canadian sovereignty in favour of all-sided integration into ‘fortress America’, despite broad opposition and resistance from the Canadian people.
For much of the last century, the relations between Canadian monopoly circles and U.S. capital were characterized by what we termed an “antagonistic partnership” wherein Canadian monopoly was prepared to cede large sectors of the domestic economy, especially in resource extraction and some areas of manufacturing, to U.S. penetration, while maintaining Canadian monopoly control over the financial sector, transportation, utilities, services, and so on. But since the late 1980s, when the Canada-US free trade and later NAFTA treaties were imposed, the dominant sections of the Canadian ruling class are now prepared to sell out what remains of the country’s economic and political sovereignty, so long as it is permitted a reasonable share of the plunder of Canada’s natural resources and domestic market, while expanding access to the U.S., hemispheric and global markets.
As a result, negotiations aimed at “harmonizing” and integrating Canada’s foreign, defence, immigration, energy and social policies with that of the U.S. have been intensified, while the penetration of U.S (and to a lesser extent European and Japanese) capital into all sectors of the national economy has increased exponentially, giving Canada the dubious and unwanted distinction of having the highest level of foreign ownership of any ’developed’ imperialist country in the world.
Consider energy. Canada is the tenth-largest producer of conventional oil and third-largest producer of natural gas in the world, more than 60% of which is exported, primarily to the U.S. market. Canada is also a large exporter of coal, and of huge amounts of hydroelectric power – all of which makes Canada by far the single largest source of U.S. energy imports. Under the terms of NAFTA, our country is locked in to maintaining these massive exports forever, even when domestic supplies are exhausted. Now, the Bush Administration, with the collusion of the Harper government, is seeking to impose a new continental energy ‘perimeter’ which will further alienate control of our energy an natural resources.
This is why our Party firmly believes that the struggle against U.S. domination and for genuine Canadian independence is both a fundamental democratic issue and a necessary and integral component of the Canadian revolutionary process, and contributes to the worldwide struggle against capitalist globalization, imperialist aggression and war.
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Concerning the prospects for socialism, we are confident that the socialism of the 21st century will distinguish itself from the “first wave” of socialist construction insofar as the revolutionary forces are drawing the appropriate lessons from both the achievements as well as the failures and distortions of those previous experiences. In this sense, the ‘new socialism’ will be better, stronger, and more enduring than the previous wave of socialist construction.
But we also know that in some quarters, the expression ‘new socialism’ is advanced to differentiate it in an opportunist way from the ‘old’, to disassociate itself not only from the errors and failings, but indeed to negate all that was attempted and achieved in the past, and to present in its place a denuded, vulgarized and impoverished conception of socialism, stripped of its essential content. We must categorically reject such an approach.
Our Party places special emphasis on our conception of socialism, particularly with respect to the democratic content of socialist construction and development. But we are also convinced that the essential features of the socialist alternative must be reaffirmed, namely: (1) that although socialism can and must involve all social forces that can be united in its construction, the process must be led by the working class; (2) that the socialist alternative must be deeply imbued with the principles of equality, social justice and internationalism; (3) that the working class and its state have the democratic right and also the responsibility to defend socialism in the face of resistance from its class enemies – domestic and external; and (4) that the economic foundation of socialism must be based on the systematic transformation, by degrees, of ownership relations from private to social.
The crisis and subsequent overturning of socialism in the USSR and Eastern Europe and the accelerated drive by international finance capital and the imperialist states to impose a new ‘economic architecture’ regionally and globally have sharpened the ideological debate over transition and even the possibility of socialist transformation under the new prevailing conditions.
In recent years, a loosely-defined ‘school’ of left social-democrats, post-modernists, development theorists and disheartened “post-communists” have advanced the thesis that the construction of socialism, although the preferred alternative, is simply not attainable today and therefore that the working class and the progressive forces must restrict their efforts to mitigating the worst affects of the dominant neoliberal agenda of capitalist “globalization”.
This reformist ‘school’ points to the ever-expanding power and reach of the largest transnational corporations and financial institutions, the increased mobility of capital, the impact of financial and currency speculation, and the absence of a large bloc of socialist countries (such as the COMECON) to justify their conclusion that socialism has no prospects at the national level, and that only when the entire imperialism system collapses or is somehow transcended will “another world be possible”. Such an analysis negates the struggle for political power at the national level and disarms the working class.
Clearly, as Communists, we must take stock of the changed international economic, political and military environment in which revolutionary change proceeds in any given country, but it would be a fatal error to concede any ideological ground to such defeatist, reformist conclusions which are rooted in an exaggerated assessment of the power of finance capital, and a gross underestimation of, and disdain for, the capacity of the working class and revolutionary forces to advance.
This is an essential front in the “battle of ideas” – a critical theoretical and ideological challenge with immediate practical consequences for the class struggle today.
It is precisely because of the need to counter the demobilizing effect of bourgeois and reformist ideology about the pre-eminence of finance capital and of the powerlessness of the masses to defeat that power and forge a fundamentally different, socialist society, that it is vital for the Communists to strengthen our movement internationally, both in terms of our unity in action, and in a qualitative sense, based on our Marxist revolutionary convictions and analysis. That is why we welcome the recent initiatives which we have collectively taken to strengthen coordination and joint action among our Parties through these forums, and are fully prepared to contribute to their further development.
Miguel Figueroa, Leader