Contrary to stereotyped opinions, the federal leader of the Communist Party of Canada does not wear green army fatigues emblazoned with the red star. Instead, Miguel Figueroa proclaims very Canadian values.
As election time looms most of us do not realize that the Communist Party of Canada exists and is running in 21 ridings across Canada. With an 80 year history in Canada, communists have helped forge most industrial unions, made early calls for universal medicare and were influential in the creation of unemployment insurance.
Although other media was scarce at Figueroa's Calgary press call Wed., Jan. 11, the Gauntlet took up a rare opportunity to sit down with the federal party leader.
The CPC platform for the Mon., Jan. 23 election is one of reform.
"We want to curb the interests of big business in favour of the interests of the working class," said Figueroa. "Free-trade agreements give license to trans-national corporations to fleece the resources and capital of foreign states without any restrictions."
Predictably, the CPC rejects the ideas of neoliberalism and believes that Canada needs to rethink a lot of its policies in this vein.
Figueroa also prioritizes issues of sovereignty for both Quebec and Aboriginals.
"Quebec is a nation inside a multinational state and their sovereignty is necessary for this country to stay united," he said, noting the CPC believes Quebec and Aboriginals need sovereignty based on an equal and voluntary partnership developed through the refashioning of the Canadian Constitution.
Perhaps ironically, the CPC wants democratic reforms giving more strength to opposition parties. Figueroa accepts that socialism can only be achieved through democracy and the will of the majority in Canada. This quells notions of violent upheaval as the means for achieving a socialist revolution.
"The concept of revolution is misunderstood," he stressed. "Even though we are a revolution party we do not advocate violence to achieve this, instead our idea of revolution is more about changes to basic aspects of the superstructure."
Figueroa believes many Canadians and westerners in general still fear communists and view them as radicals.
Students, like the wider electorate, are divided.
"I would not vote for the Communist Party of Canada," said third year communications major Stephan Dugadizic. "I lean to the left but find that communists lean too far to the left and are too radical,"
The CPC has had many problems with popular support because of the failings of the Soviet Union and perceptions lingering from the Cold War. Figueroa allays such pondering by pointing to the fact that communism is relatively new, only 90 years old.
"Capitalism regressed back into feudalism several times in several different regions before it finally took hold and survived for the past 500 years," said Figueroa. "Those who believe that communism failed are basing these conclusions on a certain model which was flawed and tried in states that were not that developed."
Figueroa believes that a second wave of communism is coming and that Canada, given its developed economy and relative wealth will learn from previous failures.
"Even now communism is picking up globally, especially in Latin America where people are standing up against American imperialism," said Figueroa, noting Venezuela, Brazil and recently Bolivia under Evo Morales are all led by left leaning political parties which gain support and unity by standing up to the threat of American big business.
Figueroa feels that similar sentiments are beginning to pick up steam here.
"People are seeing that capitalism is failing, after the Cold War there is more aggression in the world and the proposed peace is simply not happening," he said.
For some, even in the business world, Figueroa's message makes sense.
"Yes, I would vote for the Communist Party," said second year business student Andrey Komotskiy. "I think socialism deserves another chance."