By the Comrade Gilles Gauthier
The Canadian revolutionary movement must develop a solid class analysis based on the reality of the masses. This analysis must become a tool of the working class to identify its enemies and its allies in the struggle for socialism. It is also a tool for us communists at our low level of development, so that we may orient our work in the construction of the Party in the proper layers of the population and to avoid opportunist deviations. This text is meant as a first attempt in establishing an objective class analysis of Canadian society with the goal of guiding the work of all ready and willing communists in this country. We invite all good faith critiques from comrades in the hopes that we may advance towards a correct and common conception of the class structure in Canada.
THE CANADIAN COMMUNIST MOVEMENT AND ITS CLASS ANALYSIS
Let us first examine the class analysis of Canadian society undertaken by two organisations: RI and the PCR-RCP (pan-Canadian). Revolutionary Initiative published their analysis in their 7th edition of Uprising in 2015. Firstly, RI describes the makeup of the Canadian bourgeoisie which is divided into a monopolist segment as well as non-monopolist (the Lieutenants and small capitalists). The petty bourgeoisie is further categorised into three sub-sections: professionals (including the labour-aristocracy), businesspeople and management. RI then divides the working class into three sections: the worker elite, the exploited proletariat, and the super-exploited proletariat. The PCR-RCP undergoes a more simplified class analysis, emphasizing the hardcore of the proletariat against the monopolist and colonialist bourgeoisie and the crony labour aristocracy (making up large part of the proletariat). The PCR-RCP’s analysis is lacking in its dissection of the petty-bourgeois class; however, the text may simply be an abridged version of a more complex position. The following are excerpts from their respective analysis:
“Control major sectors of the economy, including criminalized industries, though increasingly they share corporate control in a complex web of ownership. They monopolize markets. They control prices. The Top 100 control 50% of assets; top 1% controls majority of corporate stocks and bonds (i.e. The Financial Post 500: a club of mostly men who control the corporate economy). The different sectors work in coordination with each other.”
Small capitalists and the lieutenants of the bourgeoisie
“Ownership in the means of production, but not at the monopoly size. Political and economic influence on a regional or provincial level. Power can be directly delegated from the big bourgeoisie: Board Chairmen, CEOs, Presidents, top managers. Includes those who wield central state power without great wealth or economic power: Prime ministers, members of Cabinet, directors of Crown Corporations.”
“We need to strengthen our analysis of the petty bourgeoisie and their role in reproducing the bourgeois superstructure and maintaining conditions of bourgeois hegemony. The petty bourgeoisie work within the system “designed to maintain the culture and reproduce the ideas that legitimate capitalism and help it survive” and with the purpose of “perform[ing] functions that make sense only within the structure of capitalism.”
Professionals (buffer class, including the labour aristocracy)
“Buffer between the bourgeoisie and the working class – what Marx called the “surplus class” that “perform functions that make sense only in within the structure of capitalism.”
“Mid-range corporate management […] or delegated state management authority (through legislation or policy). Insignificant economic power. Usually men.”
Small Businesses and proprietors
“Own businesses with insignificant labour force. Lack power or economic influence. “corner stores, beauty parlors, fix-it shops, cafes, truckers, carpenters, plumbers”. This is often the major avenue for income earning left open to people from oppressed nations. Administrators who work on salary for larger firms”.
The Working Class
Worker elite (buffer class)
“While we propose that the worker elite may be at some juncture a swing stratum that will be required to win the proletarian revolution, at this point we do not view the worker elite to be a revolutionary force. The worker elite are invested in imperialism, quite literally, through home ownership, pension funds and other investments. The worker elite are bound to the stability of capitalism by housing prices, oil prices, and the value of the Canadian dollar on the international market.”
“Also, a buffer class in their objective roles: they deaden proletarian struggle and protect bourgeois interests. Material interests become bound to capitalism through home ownership, pension funds, housing market, oil prices, value of the dollar, etc. Family wage (above the living wage). Political power: carry a social democratic line within working class. Ideological orientation toward petty bourgeoisie.”
“The proletariat can be divided into the exploited and super-exploited sections. The conditions of being proletarian rest on the dispossession of people from any form of self-sufficient and independent production (namely the land as the primary force of pre-capitalist production) and the freedom of workers to sell their labour power for a wage (i.e. not be slaves).”
“No material means of production (capital/skill), works for wages. Lives at the cost of reproduction but unable to build up savings. Examine relationship to substructures of imperialism. Has debt but also access to credit at the normal rate of exploitation.”
“It is important to state that rates of exploitation are a proxy for a deeper process, but they are a place to begin our organizing work. From looking at rates of exploitation in contrast with costs of economic survival, we can begin to organize those whose basic rate of reproduction is higher than their remuneration in the form of wages i.e., the super-exploited.”
“Lives below cost of reproduction. Precarious criminality/ citizenship status. Face racism and patriarchy in the labour market which increase rate of exploitation. Low education credentials/ access to credentials. Lack of job experience that can go on a resume. Access to credit only at a high rate of interest. Provides the bulk of reproductive labour/ unpaid labour.”
“societies, nations, or communities where communal land, other forms of communal property, and communal production forms the basis of some degree of subsistence survival. Recognizes that the process of class divisions and the development of the capitalist mode of production is not complete. Dialectic of material basis in pre-capitalist mode of production and political connection to Indigenous national struggle”
Here is how the PCR-RCP defines Canadian class structures and the ensuing contradictions:
“The class structure of Canada can thus be understood according to its existence as capitalist, settler-colonialist, and imperialist by the following vectors: i) the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie; ii) the contradiction between the colonized and the colonizer; iii) The contradiction between the hard core of the proletariat and the labour aristocracy. The first two contradictions are antagonistic; the third is sometimes antagonistic, sometimes non-antagonistic. The first contradiction defines capitalism in general, the second colonialism in general, and the third the way in which imperialist privilege produces a particular composition of the proletariat at the centres of capitalism that, in the case of Canada at least, might teach us something about the connection between the first and second contradictions.”
Next we find a short explanation on their conception of the labour aristocracy/worker elite:
“Part of the super-profits derived from imperialist exploitation are used to buy-oﬀ large sections of the Canadian working-class–permitting social democracy, legal union bodies, and a comfortable lifestyle–thus producing a labour aristocracy that has a conscious reason to align itself with the continued existence of the Canadian state. Even though the situation of these workers is insecure (being linked as they are to the highly competitive and shifting character of imperialism), they can eventually join the revolutionary camp–but for now they have a definite interest in defending the capitalist system and it would be a mistake to see them as the hard core of the proletariat.”
Finally, a definition of the hard core of the proletariat:
“As revolutionary communists we seek to organize the hard core of the proletariat. What is this hard core? at strata of the proletariat that have nothing to lose but their chains: the poor and exploited workers without union protection at the very bottom of the social ladder; the workers excluded from the labour market, who form the industrial reserve army; the new strata of proletarians that come from recent immigration; women who continue to massively integrate the labour market, overexploited through sexism and discrimination; the youth who are, more than in any other generation, confronted with precarious and underpaid work; the Indigenous workers for whom unemployment is the rule and who are subjected to the worst forms of discrimination. The big trade unions rarely look out for this stratum. For the most part, the worker elite defends the privileges of the upper sections of the proletariat and the salaried petty bourgeoisie; they do not represent the interests of the lower and most exploited strata of the proletariat. We, as communists, must devote our attention to these exploited workers. We must target our agitation and our propaganda towards them. They are the ones that, once in motion and unified, will be able to make the revolution we desire they will be the most determined and militant.”
In our opinion, the inclusion of the theory of Worker Elite, as developed by Bromma (disciple of J. Sakai), in both the RI’s and the PCR-RCP’s class analysis represents the theoretical stumbling block behind many of their practical errors. By adopting this position, RI and the PCR-RCP simply perpetuate the liberal and bourgeois myth of “the end of the working class”. This theoretical confusion leads communist organisations to organize outside of the working class. In the first case, we see a tendency to organize the very poor and hyper-exploited urban proletariat. In the second case, organizing attempts are at risk of being relegated to militant student movements, a primarily petty-bourgeois milieu. While the first deviation is obviously a less harmful one, it nevertheless has the same origin as the second: their class analysis. We don’t have the time in such a short text to deconstruct the whole of the Worker Elite theory. We will instead focus on exposing our own class analysis to lay out a constructive line struggle on our diverging positions. Another text is currently underway, wherein we will justify our rejection of the Worker elite as is presently understood and defined by the contemporary communist movement in Canada. Still, we will take the time to comment on the issue and clearly establish our position.
THE LABOUR ARISTOCRACY: IT’S ORIGIN AND HISTORY
At the beginning of the 20th century, Lenin sought out to explain the growing support for social-chauvinistic opportunism amongst a portion of the working class towards “their” bourgeoisie in imperialist countries. He determined that there was a small buffer class of privileged workers who were directly and/or indirectly bought off by and for Capital. This understanding made its way to the Canadian anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist movements of the 70s (namely the Parti Communiste Ouvrier and En Lutte!).
The PCO and EL saw in Lenin’s analysis an explanation for the growing popularity of the Parti Québecois and the rise of reformism in unions. In the early 2000s, the PCR-RCP and RI also adopted this analysis. However, we note a rupture (and in no way a continuation) with the former conception of the labour aristocracy among north American communist movements following the 2008 financial crisis. What was once a relatively small and privileged buffer class was now understood to be a large portion of the working class that was “unionized, white and male”, no longer exploited and served the interests of Capital. This thesis marks an important revision of Lenin’s conceptualization by importing postmodern identity politics into it. No longer is exploitation at the heart of the analysis. Political economy is totally left by the wayside or reduced to the analysis of imperialist-dominated relations of inequality, as well as an identity-based distinction of class (that of the Cis-Het white male). While not all comrades embrace this theorization, it noticeably and sufficiently influences many of them so that they (wrongfully) reject an important part of communist’s work among the working class and unions. The PCO of the 70s did not cease to invest in the working class following their inclusion of the labour aristocracy into their analysis. To the contrary, their members were very active in many industries that would today be characterized as belonging to the “labour aristocracy”: mines, paper mills, automobile manufactures, etc.
IS THE CANADIAN WORKING CLASS STILL EXPLOITED?
Some propose the idea that industrial workers are not only no longer exploited in the imperial core, but that they even profit from imperialism to the point of themselves becoming exploiters. This is a grave mistake. While super-profits from imperialism create less grueling conditions within ruling nations, this in no way means they are no longer being exploited. When making this claim – that unionized and “comfortably compensated” western industrial workers are no longer being exploited – one must reckon with some serious questions. For one, in what ways is the salary of a miner tied into the super-profits of imperialism? Moreover, why would capitalists hold onto factories that are no longer profitable? These are all complex questions which demand a serious analysis if one wants to prove that unionized “well paid” workers are no longer exploited in North America. The following exercise consists of examining a handful of Canadian industries and their respective rates of exploitation. Thanks to a relatively simple mathematic equation, it becomes increasingly evident that Canadian workers are still being exploited.
Let us examine first the Canadian automobile manufacturing industry, one that is archetypal of the white male “labour aristocracy”. In 2018 the automotive industry grossed $59,845,670,000. Of that sum, $50,693,721,000 was spent on constant capital, $3,052,357,000 on variable capital and 4,368,086,000 on unspecified expenses (most likely on rent or various upkeep). Therefore, the surplus value extracted by the automotive capitalists sits approximately around $1,731,506,000. This gives us a rate of exploitation of 56.73% for the year 2018, meaning that in a 9h day of labour, the average automotive worker labours 6hs for themselves and the remaining 3hs are purely for the capitalist’s profit. However, the year 2018 yielded a particularly low rate of exploitation for the automobile capitalists! In fact, in 2017 the rate of exploitation was of 84%, in 2016 of 130.2% and in 2015 of 115.3%! Between 2015 and 2018 the average rate of exploitation in the Canadian automobile industry was of 96.56%. Half of a Canadian automotive worker’s time spent labouring was dedicated to the capitalist’s profits. Generally, the rate of exploitation in other Canadian productive industries is of 21.63% for the year 2018 (or 1.6 hours in an 8h day). Canadian automobile industry workers are therefore, on average, more exploited than workers in other industries.
We must also avoid conceiving of these industries as a luxury for the working class as they are industries where the work is hard, where workers have been exploited for over a century and where wages and working conditions have only improved after being forced to by the struggle of the labour unions. However, unionism is no longer able to provide these victories and conditions and salaries have continued to stagnate since the 80s. Plant closures and mass layoffs have been the norm for many decades now. In 2019 the GM plant in Oshawa announced its closure and proceeded to layoff 2700 workers. A year later they announced their reopening, but only 2400 of those workers would be taken back on after a year of unemployment. The pulp and paper industry, as well as many of the timber related industries generally, are still struggling to recover from the 2008 crash. In Quebec, two rural towns (Baie-Comeau and Alma) are at risk of losing an important (almost a full half) of their economic activity if the Résolu factories go through with their closures. This is without counting loss of work that this would cause in the same sector in Sherbrooke (Kruger) and Amos (Résolu). Where are the communists in all of this? They are completely absent, disconnected from these important working-class sectors. The construction of a true communist parti must be done, from the start, among the working class. Of course, we mustn’t neglect the other sections of the proletariat, but rejecting all organizing of the productive industries and of the labour unions, based solely on vague and simplistic notions lifted from identity politics only serves to obfuscate and make harder our revolutionary work.
Let us look briefly at the rate of exploitation in the retail sector, known for its pittance salaries and undignified working conditions. In 2017 the gross income of the retail industry was of $584B. Constant capital costs were of $506.5B, and those of variable capital of $64.7B. The rate of exploitation was only of 13.91%, Despite lower salaries, workers labouring in the retail sector are still less exploited than those in manufacturing and production.
For reference, here are the rates of exploitation of the two other sectors of the Canadian economy – Construction: 87.32% (2018) and hospitality and restauration: 58.93% (2018). The point of this exercise is not to say that more a sector is prone to exploitation, more it is high on our list of priorities as communists, but rather to deconstruct this thesis claiming that the industrial working class is no longer exploited.
THE CENTRALITY OF PRODUCTIVE WORKERS IN CANADA
In opposition to the conception of an unexploited labour aristocracy which advocates building the parti amongst the poor urban proletariat or in the petty bourgeoisie, we present instead the Centrality of Productive Workers[i]. That is to say, the formation of the Party ought to center around the productive working class, so that it may apply its leadership among the rest of the broader proletariat in our fight for socialism. To properly understand the practical and theoretical implications of this, we must properly define what is the working class and the proletariat and examine in what ways the latter’s composition has evolved in recent times.
What is the working class? What differences are there between a proletariat and a worker? Communists have often used these terms interchangeably as if they referred to the same groups of people. There is, however, an important nuance. The proletariat is a modern class of labourers, extorted into selling their labour-force to earn a living – those who must do wage-labour and who do not own the means of production. The working class on the other hand is the fraction within the greater proletariat made up of productive workers. The working class is proletarian, but not all proletarians are part of the working class. Proletarians can be a part of the non-production elements of the proletariat. This confusion has existed for some time. It goes all the way back to the era when the proletariat was almost exclusively made up of the productive working class. In Principles of Communism, Engels writes: “The proletariat is that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labor and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends on the demand for labor – hence, on the changing state of business, on the vagaries of unbridled competition.” We find here a proper definition of the proletariat. However, Engels continues by adding: “The proletariat, or the class of proletarians, is, in a word, the working class of the 19th century.”.
What was true in Engel’s day (proletariat = working class) is not necessarily still true today. A radical shift has been taking place in the composition of the proletariat: a relative decrease of the productive industrial workers among the proletariat in imperialist countries. That said, their ranks continue to grow in absolute terms. It is therefore false to read off the eulogy of the industrial working class, for what the proletariat may have lost in homogeneity they have won in numbers[ii]. This radical shift has seen work which was once reserved for sections of the petty bourgeoisie be entrusted to an army of proletarians. The service sector and its explosive growth in the Canadian economy is a perfect example of this transformation within imperialist nations. What is more, the development of imperialism requires a massive bureaucracy to run and regulate Capital (finance, banking, insurance industries, marketing, welfare programs, etc.). All of these office jobs require massive numbers of proletarians – what are called “non-productive” proletarians. This therefore has a considerable impact on our class analysis of the proletariat.
The CCC (Cellules Communistes Combattantes) presents the Centrality of Productive Workers in the imperialist core as follows:
“Today in European imperialist countries, there can be without a doubt no class collaboration like there was a century ago, or as there must still be in colonized nations. This is for two reasons. First, the classes with which the proletariat could once ally itself have objectively lost their importance. Second, the stage reached within imperialist countries by the development of the capitalist mode of production (and most notably the proletarianization of an immense majority of the active population) no longer sets any objectives prior to the proletarian revolution. […] The centrality of the working can no longer be exercised vis-a-vis non-proletarian labouring classes (as was the case when “proletariat” and “working class” were one in the same up against the other intermediary classes) but must be applied within the proletariat regarding non-productive proletarian elements”[iii]
We must not however view the working class only in the strict sense of the “traditional” working class, despite it representing still today the backbone of the country’s economy. The working class is the class which produces the material wealth of our society and is comprised of those who suffer the extraction of their surplus-value by the capitalist class. It would be an error to not consider such a large portion of service workers who find themselves in this category. While they may generally produce less value than workers in resource extraction or processing industries, the tertiary sector is still a productive one. In this same way, we can find productive workers in office jobs, like in technological industries for example. Not all office workers occupy parasitic jobs.
We can summarize the Centrality of Productive workers in three points:
- The productive working class comprised and continues to comprise the core of class struggle in this country. From the Winnipeg strike of 1919 to the Front Commun of 1972 in Québec City, and all the way to the struggles against lock-outs in recent years. The history of unionism in Canada is the proof of this reality. Despite the nearly constant dominance of a reformist direction of the labour movements in this country, the “traditional” workers continue to be among the most combative elements of society.
- “The Centrality of productive workers amongst the proletariat is made evident by the simple fact that the contradictions between productive workers and the capitalist mode of production and the bourgeoisie are much more antagonistic than they are between the latter forces and non-productive workers. The non-productive proletariat are incontradiction with the capitalist mode of production because it finds itself harmed by the wealth created through social labour (wealth exploited and appropriated by the bourgeoisie) at the same time as they must trudge through austerity, unemployment, the “grands orientations de société”, etc., the harmfulness of capitalism has become an obstacle to the free development of the productive forces, to social progress, to culture, etc. However, the productive working class must face all of these contradictions, but with a heightened antagonism: for it is they who are the creators of the social wealth which the bourgeoisie seizes, sometimes giving them the character of additional capital, sometimes the character of income.
This factor cannot be understated. While the whole proletariat have their wealth – which is produced by social labour (proletarians only have as revenue the product of the sale of their labour force) – frustrated by Capital, the productive workers for its part is directly robbed of this wealth. Of course, there is no strict border between productive and non-productive proletarians – their class interests are one in the same –, but the distinction between the two elements is nevertheless real and must be incorporated into our political analysis. Experience has taught us that workers are as closely invested in the class struggle as they are closely connected, economically or historically, to the (productive) working class.”[iv]
- “It must also be said that the productive working class is objectively more closely tied to the socialist project than any other non-productive proletarian elements. This is because the productive working class is already working in the context of collective and industrial forms of production, their work is already socialised – unlike the fruits of this labour. The appropriation of the means of production by and for the workers is a liberating project more accessible to them than to anyone else, as they are the best positioned to realise that it suffices to seize political power. One easily understands that proletarians carrying out sterile and socially absurd labour, in the context of any old financial or commercial service of the imperialist bourgeoisie, will have difficulties regarding this political reality.”
Contrary to what the theory of the Labour Aristocracy claims, the productive working class must, within imperialist nations, be at the center of the construction of the communist Party. To revise this strategy is to revise the heart of the socialist project, the central and necessary role of producers within the revolution. What’s more, the centrality of productive workers encapsulates also a tactical aspect: building the party within the greater centers of production. By this we mean the points of production that are the most concentrated, that employ the largest number of workers. This includes mines, factories, large smartcenters, hospitals, educational institutions, etc. Leading the struggle in the greater centers of production means having the capacity to make the Canadian economy tremble. Without these centers of production, the power relation of the Party is greatly diminished. We will discuss further, however, that the mobilisation and centrality of the productive working class are only a single facet of the construction of the Party in Canada.
THE CLASS STRUCTURE IN CANADA
“Classes are large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated in law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organisation of labour, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it.” (V.I. Lenin, “A Great Beginning”, Collected works, volume 29)
The bourgeoisie is the dominant class in Canada. They are the ones who own all of the major means of production in society, that control the flow of social labour and who hold a dominant portion of social wealth. They are the class enemies of the proletariat in their fight for socialism.
The Canadian bourgeoisie is an imperialist bourgeoisie that massively exports capital into colonized nations to then pillage the riches from these dominated peoples for the profit of Canadian finance capital. Many investment funds and banks are known for their massive investments in these countries. For example, in Quebec, the Caisse de Dépot de Placement du Québec invests massively in energy projects in Mexico and India. Another example is SNC-Lavalin, a major monopoly in engineering that has doubled their investments and projects in dominated nations.
An imperialist bourgeoisie is a monopolist bourgeoisie. It is concentrated in the major Canadian banks and monopolies. Prime examples are the heads of the “Big Five” (RBC, CIBC, TD Bank, Scotia Bank, BMO), the Weston family, the Bronfmans, the Molsons, the Péladeaus, the Rossys, as well as Mackenzie Financial, Rio Tinto, Kruger, Domtar, Cascades, CGI and any other of these robber barons that form the monopolist elements of the Canadian bourgeoisie. Together they make up less than 1% of the population but control most of the country’s means of production. We must note the omnipresence of certain American financial groups in Canadian monopolies, notably the Vanguard Group, which has infiltrated themselves in many parts of the Canadian bourgeoisie.
The second major strata of the bourgeoisie is the (non-monopolist) middle bourgeoisie. This stratum controls fewer of the major enterprises within the Canadian economy, but they remain the class that employs a large swath of the productive working class and remain their direct enemy. This bourgeoisie often relies on different banks than those of the monopoly, like for example Dejardins in Quebec, which hosts most of the small to medium businesses of the province. The jobs offered by the middle bourgeoisie are often less well compensated as this element of the bourgeoisie – as reactionary as the last – attempt to increase their competitivity with the monopolists by increasing the exploitation of their workers. This stratum of the bourgeoisie makes up still only 2-3% of the country’s population.
While neither of these classes can be class allies of communists as they are the exploiters of the revolutionary class, we must nevertheless be aware of the contradictions between them both. The monopolist bourgeoisie concentrates capital, which pressures the middle bourgeoisie to sink or swim by breaking into the monopolist class or dying out with the next economic crisis. This tension is constant and can, when reaching a fever pitch, create a valuable opportunity for us as communists.
To this contradiction amongst the bourgeoisie are added nationalist contradictions between elements of this ruling class. Namely, for example, the contradiction between Canadian monopolist and Quebecois monopolists, between Canadian monopolists and the Franco-Ontarian middle bourgeoisie, between the settler bourgeoisie and what existing elements there are of the indigenous bourgeoisie, etc. To have a deeper understanding of these contradictions, as well as to know what weaknesses and tensions they cause amongst our enemies, they must be deepened and investigated further.
The petty bourgeoisie
Between the proletariat and the monopolist bourgeoisie lies a sizeable and diversified class: the petty bourgeoisie. This class is the second largest population-wise after the proletariat and its role in the revolution must therefore be understood. The petty bourgeoisie is neither terribly exploited nor exploitative and its members have ownership over their own labour, at least more so than the proletariat.
This class is comprised of small owners, low and middle managers in the professional and productive sectors. And in each of these groups there are varying levels of affluence and station within production. We have therefore decided to divide this class into three layers: lower, middle, and upper.
The tendency to value small business and entrepreneurship is common among all layers of this class. The petty bourgeois are, on the one hand, not protected from the cycles of destruction of Capital that can rapidly force them back into the working class or more largely into the proletariat. This is the case when we hear of re-industrialization in Canada brought on by the economic crisis of 2020 and a series of budget cuts to the public sector. These symptoms are signalling the probable declassing of certain elements within the petty bourgeoisie.
But we must not either be duped as even if the lower rungs of the petty bourgeoisie can be class allies in the revolutionary struggle, it does not make the class as a whole revolutionary. The formation of a Party must therefore steer clear of integrating too many petty-bourgeois elements lest if fall victim to opportunist deviations.
The upper petty bourgeoisie is comprised of upper managers in government and big businesses, doctors, lawyers, professional liberal economists, etc. These are the members of this class that have close access to the bourgeoisie or are closest to breaking into it. They can often be found on administrative boards of large multinationals, of banks or as ministers and deputies in the provincial and federal governments.
They have a clear and direct interest for maintaining the capitalist mode of production that offers them a privileged place among society. This layer can therefore not be levied under their current objective conditions. Except for in rare cases, this layer has a material advantage in maintaining capitalism and can only be mobilised, if truly necessary, on an ideological basis. We can expect fierce resistance to the revolution on their part.
The middle petty bourgeoisie benefits from a much more comfortable livelihood and series of conditions than those of the lower level. Its members are not employees but managers in businesses and the state who participate in the supervision and direction of production. They are often well educated and have privileged access to private property which proletarians cannot easily access. Among there ranks are lower and middle managers, engineers, an army of bureaucrats and office workers, etc. Unlike the upper rank, they have less ready access to monopolist bourgeoisie.
This layer cannot be mobilized under their current objective conditions and like the upper tier, have a material interest in the capitalist mode. The middle petty bourgeoisie can therefore only be levied, if necessary, on an ideological basis.
The lower petty bourgeoisie is made up of small owners with no workers, as well of petty-bourgeois wageworkers. This layer’s composition evolves frequently, often having a livelihood nearing – sometimes not even meeting – that of the proletariat. This is the case with those Chinese and Arab owners of restaurants and corner stores who are often heavily burdened by debt, making a profit nearing minimum wage. These small owners are often one crisis away from bankruptcy and to sliding back among the lowest rungs of the proletariat. They can therefore be good class allies to the proletariat so long as they are guided by a strong proletarian line and do not fall into a reactionary small-business line.
Petty-bourgeois wageworkers suffer notably from austerity, deteriorations to working conditions, inflation, wage freezes etc. We find them mainly in the public, para-public and community sectors. They are often more educated than the proletarian workers, and often have more control over their work, but their conditions are increasingly like those of the proletariat.
The intelligentsia are those intellectual and artistic workers and can be found in all three layers of the petty bourgeoisie. Among them are post-secondary teachers, writers, scientists, directors, musicians, etc. They are primarily petty-bourgeois and have historically been important allies to the proletariat. Their “progressivism” can however be limited to reactionary social-democracy and, more recently, different forms of “eco-fascism”. So, while they can sometimes be considered allies, more often they serve the interests of the bourgeoisie. This group can be rallied ideologically, but care must nevertheless be taken when welcoming members of the intelligentsia into the Party. If the Party’s class structure skews to highly towards the intelligentsia serious deviations could occur. Consequently, as they are not a revolutionary class, they must be consciously serving the interests of the proletariat for them to be allies to the revolutionary struggle.
The labour aristocracy, as we understand it, is made up of union employees of varying station that live off the dues paid by workers. They are bought off by the interests of Capital and are rotting the labour movement with their opportunism and reactionary social-democratic line. We are speaking here of the Daniel Boyer’s and Jacques Létourneaux’s of the FTQ and CSN respectively, who castrate and defang the working class of a class based and revolutionary Unionism. These types, whether successful proletarian strivers or petty-bourgeois marauders, are reactionaries that must be stemmed if not excised from Unions and labour organisations.
The proletariat is Canada’s revolutionary class. It’s objective interests are those of socialist revolution. They must lead and control the direction of the revolutionary movement. Proletarians have no other choice but to sell their labour power to the capitalists to earn what living they can. They are also the largest class in Canadian society.
The proletariat is divided into four greater functions: industrial workers (3,665,215 people), service workers (4,221,960), office workers (2,659,905 people) and finally the urban poor (not easily quantifiable). At one point in time, the productive workers represented almost the totality of the proletariat. Which is why Engels could say: “The proletariat, or the class of proletarians, is, in a word, the working class of the 19th century”. Today, the number of productive workers is on a relative decline. Depending on the statistics, they represent upwards of 20% of the active population in Canada. However, this does not mean that the proletariat is shrinking, but rather the opposite. The number of people forced to sell their labour power to live – i.e., the proletariat – is constantly growing. In the last ten years Capital has extended the hegemony of wage-labour to parts of the economy that up until recently were strictly petty-bourgeois enterprises. For example, we can think of the explosion of retail commerce since the end of the 20th century. Retail passed from the hands of the merchant petty-bourgeois who owned their own store front to those of large monopolies who represent enormous employers in Canada (Sobeys and Métro for example).
This transformation of the proletariat must be contextualized when considering a strategy for the formation of a decisive communist party in Canada. On the one hand, we must not recycle the erroneous idea of a dead or dying productive working class. Only organising the proletariat outside of productive centers, where the least surplus value is created and extracted, should be out of the question for us communists. The productive working class is at the center of the revolution and is the power that guides the rest of the people towards socialism. On the other, we must not fall into a glorified and ridiculous understanding of the working class. After all, office and service workers make up a large reserve of the proletariat for whom revolution is advantageous, not to mention the urban poor and oppressed nations. Simply put, the crucial role to be played by productive workers must not be understated, but it’s importance shouldn’t occlude that of the non-productive elements of the proletariat.
Industrial workers are day labourers, specialized and qualified workers that are employed in factories, construction, warehouses, transport, etc. They are the creators of the material wealth of our society. Even though many of these workers have won, through long and grueling labour struggles and unionism, wages almost matching the middle strata of the petty bourgeoisie, this element of the proletariat remains, by definition, the most exploited in Canada.
Service workers are employed in food service, retail and commerce, the health sector, hospitality and in some cases in cultural enterprises. While not being the most exploited proletarian fraction, as their work is by and large less productive than industrial workers, their salaries are often below what is necessary for the reproduction of their labour power. Often these workers earn minimum wage (or below, as is the case in many restaurants). Putting aside healthcare workers, this layer of the proletariat is by far the least unionized of their class.
Office workers are non-productive workers who have a role in the administration of Capital (for example: salespeople, call center workers, teachers, administrators, etc.). With the development of Capitalism and Imperialism, the bourgeoisie has a greater need for strictly administrative labour to oversee their capital. This fraction of the proletariat has been growing steadily since the end of the second world war.
The urban poor are the industrial reserve army, under-the-table workers, those working in illegal industries (weapons, drugs, sex work & prostitution, etc.), the homeless, those on welfare, etc. Historically, this element of the popular class has largely been disregarded or avoided by communist groups in Canada, except for during economic crises that made the reserve of workers swell rapidly. The urban poor are found in the big Canadian metropoles: Montréal, Toronto, Vancouver, etc. They are also in more moderate sized cities (+100,000 pop). In Canada, this section of the proletariat is especially politically active around tenants’ rights. As they don’t participate in production, these proletarians don’t make enough earnings to meet their primary needs (housing, food, etc.). Organizing this element of the proletariat is key for the establishment of a Party within proletarian neighbourhoods in major Canadian cities.
Lastly, we must speak of oppressed nations. They often have their own class structures, but the national question and the struggle for democracy that comes with it in the revolutionary struggle modifies its class relations. This potentially allows the petty bourgeoisie of these nations to play a more progressive role. In the same sense, these nations don’t have a monopolist bourgeoisie: if they do produce monopolists, they will necessarily integrate into the dominant nation’s bourgeoisie. Still, all of this is simply a general overview of the subject, and the concrete reality of oppressed nation’s class structures beg and deserve more in-depth social investigation.
In conclusion, Canada is an imperialist nation; its mode of production is capitalist. The proletariat is the only revolutionary class, and socialist revolution does not need to pass by a stage of New Democratic Revolution or any other intermediary stage. The construction of the Party must be undertaken with the centrality of productive workers (prioritising building the party among the great centers of production) without neglecting the other sections of the proletariat, particularly the urban poor who are being pushed into homelessness thanks to the worsening housing crisis. Canada is also a colonialist country that maintains the indigenous, métis and Inuit nations under a quasi-feudal yolk. National liberation of these peoples is imperative for socialist revolution. Here are more specifically the principal elements for the construction of the Party and socialist revolution in Canada: the centrality of productive workers, the urban poor and proletariat in general, and oppressed nations (and principally the proletariat of these nations).
[iv] Ibid sous « la flèche et la cible »