It was correct to oppose invocation of the Emergencies Act
by Barry Weisleder - The recent ruling of a federal judge against the use of the Emergencies Act in 2022 employs a fundamentally different rationale than that of socialists who opposed the EA. But the latest news reminds us that socialists were correct to oppose the draconian powers, then and always, when imposed by the capitalist state. This is what the 2022 Socialist Action Political Resolution says on the matter of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's invocation of the Emergencies Act, backed by the NDP. It is followed by a current commentary:
"The “Con”-voy and the Crisis of Working Class Leadership
The recent prominence of the far-right is chiefly a product of two factors: 1. The advanced state of decay of late capitalism. 2. The crisis of working class leadership.
Did it take a pandemic to show that capitalist governments neglect public health care? Or that they starve public education? Or undermine public transportation? Or ignore the housing needs of the population? Did it take a blistering heat dome, or extensive flooding to show that plunder of the environment spells doom for nature and human civilization?
But these events did demonstrate something noteworthy -- the aggravation of trends long underway. Capitalism fosters conditions that promote racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, police violence, growing inequality and rising authoritarianism, more than ever.
That brings us to #2. The utter failure of the labour and NDP leadership to present an alternative to capitalist decay, plus the failure of the radical left to unite. These factors create a political vacuum. It can be filled by right wing populism, expanding the space for the far-right, including White Supremacists and openly fascist elements. The “Freedom Convoy”, that mobilized many disgruntled workers despite its petty bourgeois, anti-science, anti-worker direction, showed the danger inherent in the situation.
So, what is to be done?
First of all, do not rely on the state and the cops! The Battle of Billings Bridge in Ottawa shows the potential power of working class self-mobilization against the insurgent right wing. The Toronto rally on March 5 against the far-right was another positive step forward.
Needed are more common actions for Eco-socialism, for organizing the unorganized into unions, for the defense of Indigenous people’s rights, and for disarming and de-funding the police. Necessary are actions to repudiate NDP-backed pipelines and NDP votes for Trudeau’s short-lived invocation of the Emergencies Act, as well as demands for policies to surpass NDP half-measures for housing and to curb rampant price inflation.
On the left, we need to answer the real frustration of angry small business and working class individuals who see elite powers arrayed against them. If socialists can show that democracy means economic power to put people before profits, to make work safe and secure, to fund food and homes, not fighter jets, tanks and bombs, then the left can win.
Socialist Action proposes the following:
Assemble a broad, democratic movement against the war in Ukraine. NATO Out of Eastern Europe. Canada Out of NATO. No shipment of arms. No Russian intervention. Support anti-war movements, East and West.
Build a class struggle left wing in every union and in the NDP to defeat conservative bureaucrats and demand socialist solutions to the vast array of problems faced by working people.
Join the Municipal Socialist Alliance to run anti-capitalist candidates, in the October city elections, to demand expropriation of giant landlords and vacant units to house the house-less. Don’t settle for the weak porridge of a promise to cut the police budget by 10 per cent, or to set aside only 5 to 10 per cent of big housing developments for “affordable” units.
Unite on May First for massive International Workers’ Day rallies and marches. Demand a $25/hour minimum wage. Share the available work by instituting a shorter workweek, with no loss in pay and benefits. Provide money for healthcare. Not a penny for war. Smash racism. No platform for fascists. Workers to power!"
Lessons of the class struggle
Bourgeois governments seldom employ special Emergency powers legislation (not counting back to work orders) to bust a picket line or to break a workers' strike. For the ruling class it is routine to violate the rights of labour, or to harass any social justice movement, such as the current mass pro-Palestine campaign. Trudeau needed no special powers to tow obstructive Con-voy vehicles which made life miserable for residents of downtown Ottawa. So, why did Justin Trudeau resort to the Emergencies Act? It was, at least in part, done to overcome internal resistance to comply with government orders. Police forces, local, provincial and federal, demonstrated sympathy with the owner-operator truckers and the reactionary Con-voy leaders.
It is no surprise to us that, according to the Toronto Star (Jan. 24/24), "federal Justice Richard Mosley ruled there was no legal justification for using the Emergencies Act to quash weeks of pandemic-related protests that rocked Ottawa in 2022." Contradictions inside the capitalist class and its state apparatus constantly prompt adjustments to the application of naked force. Why? So that the rulers can apply brutal measures when they think they must, in order to perpetuate their wretched system when it is truly endangered. It is vital that the working class, its allies, labour unions and the NDP, not fall for the siren song of the powers that be. Instead, it is imperative to rely on mass actions organized from below and to foster united fronts to harness the power of a multitude of workers against the rising ultra-right wing.