A Crisis of the Left and Union Movement
Once upon a time, a long time ago, workers and their allies had a vision of a new kind of society based on equality for all, a society of plenty where there was no ruling class, no war, no extremes of wealth and poverty, where people strove to build a culture of from each according to their ability, to each according to their need. Striving to achieve that vision was a key motivation for those who built unions, social democratic parties, communist parties and anarchist movements around the world. Workers and others imbued with that vision achieved many great victories, improving the lives of billions, a legacy of successful struggle that benefits ordinary people to this day. But the workers movement also suffered spectacular defeats, took many wrong turns and sometimes found itself trapped in a dead-end street.
Trapped in a corner with no obvious place to go is exactly were the union movement and the left finds itself today. In many parts of the world we have never been weaker. The earth is being fundamentally altered by global warming and other planetary rifts that are a direct result of a system that declares ‘greed is good’ and denies a meaningful voice to over 90 per cent of the world’s population. Political parties that claim to be of the left dismantle hard-won social programs and slash spending to save the existing economic system. They preside over governments that use military might to maintain or expand a world system of domination and exploitation by the rich. The heavily bureaucratized shells of unions that were once part of a real workers movement mostly also go along with the capitalist flow, seldom rising above the status of a “loyal opposition” to the corporate elite-dominated ruling class.
To make matters even worse we have lost our vision of an alternative to this system that enslaves the vast majority of us in one way or another. In the absence of a real opposition, the triumphant sycophants of a narrow ruling class have proclaimed ‘the end of history.’ But our history only ends if we give up struggle.
The Way Out
The first step on the way out of the dead end street where we find ourselves is to regain our vision of an alternative to the existing system. That is a key requirement of rebuilding a workers movement that effectively opposes capitalism. But this vision must be more than ‘pie in the sky’ — it must be practical and based on the real experiences of workers today and over the past centuries. It must confront the real problems we face, including the environmental crisis that jeopardizes our planet.
The New Commune-ist Manifesto has been written as an attempt to reinvigorate the workers movement and the left. It offers an updated vision of a practical alternative to capitalism, economic democracy, and proposes a route to follow to get there. While remaining in the tradition of those who built the union movement and built a better world for all, it also draws lessons from our defeats and mistakes.
Who We Are
The author of the New Commune-ist Manifesto, Ernesto (Ernie) Raj Peshkov-Chow, is an avatar of the international working class. He is all of us and yet none of us. He is the ideal post-ethnic internationalist, working-class militant. First created by Gary Engler, in writing the New Manifesto Ernie was also directed by Al Engler, Jean Rands and Yves Engler. These four have over 150 years of class struggle among them.
Gary, currently an elected full-time union officer with British Columbia’s Media Union, is the author of The Year We Became Us, a novel about the 1962 Saskatchewan doctors strike. Al is a retired former maritime workers union local president and the author of Economic Democracy — a working class alternative to capitalism. Jean was a founder in the 1970s of the first feminist union in Canada. Yves, who currently works for one of Canada’s largest national unions, is the author of seven books, including Stop Signs — cars and capitalism on the road to economic, social and ecological decay and The Ugly Canadian — Stephen Harper’s foreign policy.
But the ideas expressed in the New Commune-ist Manifesto and on this website do not belong to any individual writers. In reality they are part of the collective wisdom of an international working class that has struggled over centuries to create a better world for all. They are ideas that can be planted by a few but can only grow to maturity by the struggle of the many.