On this May 1st, 2020, International Workers’ Day, we are publishing this text to remind the proletarians of Quebec and Canada that the future of their class does not lie in the current bourgeois society, a society in which their value is not recognized, in which their voice is buried and in which they are constantly trampled underfoot by the ruling class that exploits them. On this May 1st, 2020, let us remember that the fight to come is the fight for proletarian power!
Among all the things that the “COVID-19 crisis” has brought to light is the fact that bourgeois society is based entirely on the physical and concrete work of the proletariat. Yet many intellectuals had been claiming for decades that proletarians and workers no longer existed in countries like Canada. These bourgeois ideologues claimed that the exploitation of one class by another no longer corresponded to contemporary reality and that everyone was now merging into a kind of confused and homogeneous marmalade. They also claimed that manual labor had been replaced by “immaterial” labor and other such nonsense. But here it is: with the containment measures of the last few weeks, all these assertions are clearly refuted by the facts. From the very beginning of the crisis, there has been a tangible division, a very clear division between those who, on the one hand, have been able to continue their usual occupation by “teleworking” and those who, on the other hand, have been deprived of their livelihood or have been forced to continue to physically go to their workplaces (since they were in “essential” employment). What does that mean? It means that the social division of labour is still very real, but it also means that the functioning of society is still and always based on the daily material action of a mass of proletarians. This mass of workers still makes up the majority of the population (which is easily confirmed when we look at the available statistics), despite all the fuss that artists, journalists, university professors and “public figures” of all kinds regularly make to convince us that the heart of society is people like them. The confinement has also highlighted the fundamental contradiction in today’s society, that between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. We have seen, in fact, that the real events that occur in society affect people in a radically different way depending on whether they are part of the minority of rich people living on income from their capital and having considerable reserves of money in their possession, or whether they are part of the vast majority of modest or poor people living on wage labor and having little or no savings. For the bourgeois, who have no obligation to work for a living, confinement was not a serious problem. For the proletarians, who depended on their wages for survival and had virtually no room for manoeuvre in case of trouble, confinement meant economic insecurity, anxiety and impoverishment.
The facts are hard to deny (even if the petty-bourgeoisie is an expert at it) and the ideologues who not long ago denied the existence of the proletarian class and the reality of physical and exploited labour will have to be silent for a while. In fact, the media news has been occupied for days – especially at the beginning of the crisis – by the reality of different groups of proletarians and workers, groups occupying various functions within the great social process of work that produces society as it exists. Since the economy is the basis of society, it goes without saying that such an important reorganization of social life as a generalized confinement could not be centered on anything other than the reorganization of the great sectors of production and work: transport, manufacturing, trade, public services and utilities, etc. Within this vast process of work, for example, a distinction had to be made between what was “essential” and what was “non-essential”. While some categories of workers have had to stop working altogether, others have been forced to stay on, for example, to produce food, to maintain supply chains, or to run hospitals and the entire health care system. It was clear that without the continuity of the concrete work of these thousands of proletarians, everything would fall apart. In fact, we began to see many petty-bourgeois (who, in normal times, are not the least bit interested in the reality of production and the great work process that allows them to live) affirm on social networks that they were paying attention for the first time to the work of store employees, cashiers, truck drivers, delivery men, etc. Many of these attention-seeking petits-bourgeois began to ostentatiously thank these workers. Of course, it was only to clear their conscience and “redeem” themselves for having ignored them for years – something they will soon start doing again.
Normally, workers do not make headlines or receive praise. Their reality is usually of little or no interest to the media. Indeed, in capitalist society, it is the personalities who have accomplished individual “exploits” that are put on a pedestal. The people who are praised in the media are bourgeois sportsmen like Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, fil-à-papa artists like Xavier Dolan, “entrepreneurs” à la Alexandre Taillefer, star activists à la Dominique Champagne, astronauts like David Saint-Jacques, singers, writers, university researchers, adventurers, etc. If bourgeois society puts these personalities in the spotlight, it is to reinforce the illusion that it is individuals who produce the world and not the masses. Thus, the bourgeoisie seeks to convey the idea that certain particularly intelligent and talented individuals have built everything, when in reality, everything has been produced by the combined work of millions of anonymous proletarians who have never asked for anyone’s attention. In fact, the “great personalities” produced almost nothing at all. Their “accomplishments” are nothing more than the product of the activity of the millions of human beings who surround them and who came before them, a product that they appropriate in order to shine, to build a career, to enrich themselves and, above all, not to have to work like everyone else. Often, these people have benefited from extremely favourable material conditions that have allowed them to develop their “talents” and now they use them to parasitize society, which is the only thing they know how to do. In general, these “heroes” of the bourgeoisie look down on the proletarians and consider their lives far too “ordinary” to be worthy of interest. Yet the real heroes are the millions of workers without history who work every day to make their small contribution to social life. The real heroes are the millions of proletarians who take part every day in the vast collective process of transforming the world and improving the well-being of humanity. In reality, the noblest and highest thing that can be achieved is not getting a doctorate, making a work of art, winning the Olympic Games, going into space or anything like that. On the contrary, the most admirable thing it is possible to do is to carry out daily with one’s comrades a simple piecemeal task within the great social process of production and work that allows humanity to live. Taken separately, these tasks seem at first glance to be nothing extraordinary. But when we take them as a whole, we grasp their full importance: we understand that each of them is necessary for the reproduction of society, and that if there were no one to carry them out humbly, human civilization would collapse in an instant.
That being said, since the beginning of the crisis, something unusual seems to be happening. While normally it is the “heroes” of the bourgeoisie who occupy all the space in the media, all of a sudden we hear about the proletarians and their indispensable role in society. Premier Legault, for example, from the very beginning of the health emergency, seemed to want to express his deep gratitude to nurses and orderlies by starting to call them “our guardian angels”. Moreover, in his unbearable “thanks of the day”, he began to praise the daily efforts of all kinds of specific categories of workers. Among the proletarians still at work, almost everyone was there, from hospital staff to store cashiers, delivery men and truck drivers. What happened? Did class relations change in society? Not in the slightest. In fact, the recent “glorification” of certain categories of workers had nothing to do with any real recognition by bourgeois society of their contribution. The bourgeoisie, which exploits the proletarians year-round, did not start last March to care about the lives of the workers. In fact, what must be understood is that the bourgeois government executive, through these hypocritical thanks and praises, was simply seeking to promote the obedience and submission of the proletarians it sent to work despite the risks associated with the virus, a bit like a general singing the honour and glory of the soldiers he sends to be sacrificed like cannon fodder on the battlefield. One thing we can be sure of, is that under the Prime Minister’s velvet glove is an iron hand. Moreover, in parallel with his speech “full of gratitude to the proletarians”, François Legault accused the popular masses in a barely veiled way of being responsible for the spread of the virus. In particular, he gratuitously accused young proletarians, from the very first days, of not listening to instructions. Later, he implicitly suggested that the chaos in the health care system was partly caused by absenteeism of workers in the system, assuming that many of them had left not because of their health but simply because they were afraid (which would still be perfectly understandable and would in no way be the cause of the problems we are witnessing). But his disregard for the working class was evident when he implied that medical specialists would be able to do the work of nurses and orderlies without any difficulty (and without any training), while adding, in a tone full of condescension towards the proletarians who clean the facilities of the health network, “[that] they [medical specialists] are not asked to wash the floors in the CHSLDs”. Let there be no mistake: the bourgeois state’s thanks to the workers serve no other purpose than to encourage them to sacrifice themselves to save Capital. Let us be assured that the situation will soon return to normal, that the working masses will once again be ignored by the media and that all the proletarians who have made incredible efforts to defeat the virus will be completely forgotten by the government. As a trucker interviewed on Radio-Canada at the beginning of the crisis summed it up so well: “Before, we were less than nothing. Now we’ve become heroes. But in a little while, we’ll be back to being zeroes again.” This is the fate reserved for proletarians under capitalism: while they make up the majority of the population and are the ones who allow society to function, they are despised and their voice is completely stifled by the bourgeoisie.
It is only when the proletariat will hold power that the contempt for the proletariat will come to an end and workers will be appreciated at their true value. Under socialism, the work done by the proletarians and workers will be truly and permanently honoured. This glorification will not only be expressed in words, but will also be translated into the implementation of all kinds of measures to improve the welfare of the working masses and make their lives easier. Measures will also be put in place to encourage the participation of the greatest number of proletarians in political and economic decisions. The institutions that will be set up will all have the function of serving the people. Finally, all decisions will be made according to the interests of the workers rather than according to a minority of parasites as is the case under the bourgeois regime. This socialist society is ahead of us, it is to come. It is up to us, proletarians, to fight for its realization!