What is Canada?

by the Revolutionary Communist Party


Canada is a capitalist, settler-colonialist, and imperialist state. As such, Canada is a society that is divided into different social classes whose interests clash with one another. At the top, the bourgeoisie––the capitalists who own the means of production and appropriate, directly or indirectly, the surplus value they glean from the labour of the working class. Alongside these exploiters are their loyal agents who work to preserve this system. At the other end, there is the working class, the great majority, who can only survive by the sweat of their brow.

But since Canada is also a settler-colonial state that came into existence by colonizing Indigenous land and maintains internal colonies of the nations it massacred and displaced, its class structure is affected by this colonizer-colonized contradiction. White settler society in Canada experiences a level of development of its productive forces in a manner that is different than what is experienced by Indigenous communities living under colonial domination.

Finally, Canada is an imperialist country. Following the devastating course of systematic and organized theft of the lands of Indigenous peoples, and in tandem with its exploitation of the working class and the export of capital, Canada has become an important imperialist power in its own right. This too affects its class structure, leading to the existence and persistence of a labour aristocracy––a worker elite that sees its interests more-or-less aligned with the ruling classes, often willing to sell out the working class as a whole.

The class structure of Canada can thus be understood according to its existence as capitalist, settler-colonialist, and imperialist by the following contradictions: i) the contradiction between the working class and the capitalist class; 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 working class at the centres of capitalism.

Canada is Capitalist

Capitalism is a system of exploitation and misery that cannot, due to its inherent logic, be humanized. Its over-arching class structure prevents humanization since one class is necessarily parasitical on the existence of another class that does all of the labour to produce the material basis for Canada’s continued existence. The former class is the capitalist class; the latter is the working class. These two class positions are shot through with multiple contradictions due to the fact that Canada is also settler-colonialist and imperialist, as well as the fact that there are other sites of oppression (i.e. racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc.) that have either been inherited from this society’s existence as settler-colonialist and imperialist, or have been retained from previous epochs. These sites of oppression affect the composition of the working class and capitalist class, but in the last instance we can make sense of Canada’s exploitative and misery-generating existence due to the class contradiction (worker-capitalist) that defines capitalism as a mode of production.

In Canada, 20% of the population lives in need on a permanent basis. Millions of people are left jobless or work in poor paying jobs, especially youth, women, immigrants and Indigenous peoples. The gap between the rich and the poor is continually increasing. In 1960, 20% of our richest citizens owned 30 times as much as the poorest 20%. In 1994, this ratio grew to 78.6 times as much. While the rich are always becoming wealthier, the poor are getting poorer. All of the wealth created in the past decade has been snatched up by 5% of the richest citizens so that, by 2014, the wealthiest 86 individuals control more wealth than the poorest 11.4 million people.

The capitalist factory is a prison where workers are exploited in order to make profit for their bosses. These workplaces cause mental illness and injuries. In the most exploitative work places, where we will find the hard core of the proletariat, workers do not have the right to express themselves; they must simply perform the tasks they are paid for. For capitalists, a harmed worker is nothing more than a broken piece of machinery. It is only a matter of replacing them through a mere increase in expenditure. The worker murdered by their job is nothing for a capitalist because they can be replaced by hundreds of thousands of unemployed.

The massive upheavals (depressions, business failures, etc.) wrought by this system of misery explain the existence of an enormous “reserve army of labour”: unemployed workers looking for work. Such upheavals free entire populations and ready them for capitalist exploitation. Then, due to competition, there is a growth in firms that put to use an increasing amount of mechanized production, throwing more workers into the streets. It is not machinery, however, but exploited labour-power that allows capitalists to make profit. This means the rate of profit -the amount of profit gained per capital invested- is on a steady decline as the development of technology follows its course. To counter this decline in profit, firms are forced to merge, which in turn creates more unemployment. As for the workers that avoid being laid off, they have to work harder to ensure productivity. The hiring of new workers is stalled by this reality. In the meantime, other firms act in a similar manner to gain an edge on the competition.

The exploitation of workers has its physical limits: this is why new machinery is always being produced. Such a tactic allows capitalists to survive longer. For various firms, new investment becomes less and less profitable, often because they are incapable of selling their products on a clogged market. Bankruptcies ensue, more mergers and more unemployment. After an economic crisis, the stronger survive with enough capital to be able to reproduce the cycle that led them to this dead-end.

This is not, however, a one-sided process. Workers spontaneously resist the attempts of their bosses to pump ever greater amounts of wealth from their labour. Sometimes these struggles become more organized and erupt as strikes and other work-stoppages. In turn, the struggles of the working class sometimes become even more organized and take on a political expression with the formation of working-class parties, other social struggles, and eventually, revolution. Class struggle -the struggle between the working class and the capitalist class over the control of society’s wealth- is an unavoidable feature of capitalist society.

Moreover, the problem of environment management is tied to the prevailing capitalist order; every environmental disaster is provoked by economic interests related to profit-making. Despite claims of bourgeois environmentalists who say that environmental issues reach beyond class interests, that they are a “common cause” that we all share on an even basis and that all modes of production are equally destructive and polluting, we argue that the problem of environmental sustainability revolves solely around the capitalist mode of production. That capitalism destroys human life and the environment should not be surprising: its feverish quest for profit has no limits and does not shy away from destroying the ecosystem. Thousands of acres of forest are destroyed, rivers set off course, oceans polluted so that natural resources can be dredged up from their beds in order to generate more profit.

Canada is Settler-Colonialist

Canada, like other states founded through European colonialism, was built on the violence, exploitation, and oppression of Indigenous nations. Before the arrival of the white settler in Canada, millions of people lived on these lands. The arrival of the French and the English, who brought war and disease, took its toll on the First Nation populations, massacring the vast majority. This process constituted, and continues to constitute, genocide. In some cases, 80%, 90%, and even 95% of Indigenous communities perished, their societies and ability to reproduce these societies almost completely obliterated.

The result is that now the original inhabitants of these lands have been forced into a precarious existence: their living conditions are determined by poverty and misery; their life expectancy is eight years lower than that of the average Canadian; twice as many of their children die, as compared to the rest of the Canadian population; their youth are seven times more likely to commit suicide. In most regions, their level of unemployment is three, even four times higher than the Canadian average. The living conditions on the reserves are harsh, and the Canadian government has demonstrated that it is unwilling to solve this problem. The development of Indigenous struggles and their radicalization, as well as the constitutional stalemate and the dead-end in negotiations around their territorial rights have reached an explosive point.

Returning to the problem of capitalist-generated environmental devastation, in settler-colonial countries such as Canada it is primarily the Indigenous peoples’ territories that are plundered for natural resources: the Canadian state promotes oil extraction sites, uranium mines, hydro-electric dams, installations that often pollute Indigenous hunting and fishing grounds. After having prevented them from developing their own territory, and having destroyed their environment, Canadian colonial-capital offers these nations no other solution other than being crammed into reserves and reduced to even more misery.

All of this affects the class structure, and thus the class struggle, of Canada. In the case of white settler nations, because productive forces are socialized (though appropriation remains private), the class struggle is between the working class and the whole capitalist class. When productive forces are not yet socialized, class alliances are not the same. Because of the Indian Act and the (forced) economic dependence on the Canadian state, large Indigenous working-class strata exist but they do not always participate in the same type of economic activity as the settler working class.

The reserve system maintained by the Indian Act resulted in the creation of a bureaucratic capitalist class that derives its power not from the internal economic activity of Indigenous nations but rather from transfer payments that are made by the federal government. This bureaucratic capitalist class is made up of band chiefs, cadres and functionaries of administrative apparatuses on reserves and some business-people who trade essentially with band councils and/or the Canadian state. While it might be the case that in some communities, where small and local capital is stronger, there could be some emancipation from the federal government, it is also the case that local political authorities tend to dominate their communities.

This bureaucratic capitalist class is by-and-large a comprador class in that it adopts a pro-colonial and pro-imperialist position. The Assembly of First Nations is a lobby group that puts pressure on the Canadian state; it does not seek to build new economic and political Indigenous institutions, let alone a revolutionary path towards the complete liberation of Indigenous peoples.

Among the Indigenous bureaucratic capitalists, however, there are some elements that are not comprador. These elements could even support struggles that are essentially revolutionary.

In any case, it is clear that Canada is invested in remaining settler-colonial, and thus its capitalism is also a colonial-capitalism. To cease being a settler-colonial state Canada would either have to continue its crimes against humanity by annihilating its colonized populations altogether, or surrender all of the lands and natural resources upon which the remaining Indigenous nations reside. The former option, a heinous final solution that was possible in the early days of colonialism, is impossible due to indigenous resistance and would offend the majority of Canadian citizens’ liberal sensibilities. This does not mean that Canadian colonial-capitalism would not dare to complete the genocide it began in the early days of settlement, only that it is forced to do so in a creeping and slow manner: poisoning water supplies, forcing integration, destroying Indigenous institutions, and everything that the radical elements of Indigenous communities are heroically reducing. The latter option, to surrender the lands and national resources to the colonies by finally agreeing to recognize the Indigenous peoples’ right to full and unqualified national self-determination, is also blocked by colonial-capitalist logic since it would mean that Canada would cease being Canada, losing large portions of the natural resources upon which its ruling capitalist class is dependent. In short, there can be no lasting justice or self-determination for indigenous peoples without an end to Canada.

Canada is Imperialist

We are in the era of imperialism: a stage of decaying capitalism. The longer capitalism continues to exist, the more it wreaks worldwide havoc: destruction of the environment and human life through wars, unemployment, intensification of exploitation, famine.

There is a core of big imperialist Canadian capitalist class who control large portions of finance capital (bank capital which controls industrial capital), the type of capital that defines imperialist strength. Canadian finance capital is one of the most concentrated in the world: the five biggest Canadian charter banks control 80% of the market; moreover, barely 1% of all Canadian companies (which total less than a thousand) control more than 80% of the country’s assets. In 1992, 42 groups out of the 988 biggest Canadian corporations were controlling two thirds of all Canadian direct investments abroad. Seven years later, these investments added up to 240 billion dollars and have continued to grow. In the last quarter century, Canadian monopoly capitalists made considerable gains. The assets of big Canadian corporations abroad (i.e. Scotiabank, Barrick Gold, etc.) surpass domestic assets. In light of this reality, to imagine that Canada is not an imperialist country is absurd.

As below, so above, and vice versa: settler-colonialism on the ground, neo-colonialism abroad; neo-colonialism abroad reinforcing settler-colonialism on the ground––an oppressor nation at home will, if it possesses the means, be an oppressor nation abroad. Just as the persistence of settler-colonialism affects the class structure of Canada, so does its position in the imperialist world system. On the level of the imperialist world system, then, there is a global contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed masses. This global contradiction is echoed by an internal contradiction within the Canadian working class itself.

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.


Misery for the majority is built into the very fabric of Canadian society. Canada is a settler-colonial country founded on and sustained by the genocide of indigenous peoples. It is a capitalist country, in which a small minority, the capitalist class, enrich themselves at the expense of the vast majority, the working class. And it is an imperialist country, in which the capitalist class spread their misery across the world. It is for these reasons, and more, that we say: Fuck the 150th!