The Winnipeg General Strike: from Revolt to Revolution?

by Medway Baker

This article was originally published by Cosmonaut.

May 15, 2019 marked the hundred-year anniversary of the beginning of the Winnipeg General Strike. An icon of the Canadian socialist mythology, the Winnipeg General Strike is emblematic of the 1919 Canadian labour revolt and the reformation of the Canadian left between 1917 and 1921. More broadly, it speaks to the spontaneism common to much of the revolutionary left worldwide at the time. It is a lesson in the need for a workers’ party able to command the allegiance of the majority of the working class, with a revolutionary strategy and a clear programme leading inexorably to a rupture with bourgeois society. 

The Canadian revolutionary left prior to 1917 was small, and had relatively little experience in labour struggles, but its message rang loud and clear to the Canadian proletariat. The Socialist Party of Canada (SPC), the first nominally nationwide revolutionary party, was formed in 1904 from a merger of several socialist clubs and sects, mostly concentrated in British Columbia, where it had its largest support. The leading current of the SPC was impossibilist: much like its sister party, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, it rejected all kinds of reformism, which to many of the party’s leading intellectuals included economic struggles. The political struggle was limited to election campaigns, the purpose of which was to educate the working class so that it could ultimately emancipate itself. The role of the party was purely to propagandise, and until 1912 it remained aloof from the trade union movement. Nonetheless, the party held seats in the British Columbia legislature from 1903 to 1912, and did fight for and win important reforms to improve working conditions—even as E.T. Kingsley, one of the party’s primary theoreticians, derided conflicts between employers and workers as mere “commodity struggles,” rather than a part of the class struggle itself. This line was essentially a sort of ultraleftist spontaneism, which in the final case is not much different from reformism: socialists were meant to wait for the final upsurge, which would occur only when the material conditions necessitated it; when the forces of production had developed to the point that capitalism could no longer be sustained, and the socialists, through achieving majority support, could peacefully take power. 

This impossibilist line did not sit comfortably with some party branches, especially in Manitoba and Ontario, outside of the SPC’s western heartland. Beginning in 1907, branches gradually broke off from the SPC, until they formed the Social Democratic Party of Canada (SDP) in 1911. The SDP favoured alliances with non-Marxist groups in the labour movement. At the same time, a handful of SPC locals in southern Ontario split because they viewed the party as too reformist; these formed the Socialist Party of North America (SPNA). The SPNA, while anti-electoralist, concluded that its members should join the trade unions whenever possible in order to propagandise among the organised workers. Meanwhile, in 1912, a shift occurred in the SPC leadership, from doctrinaire intellectuals to active trade unionists. The SPC proceeded to win a majority of the executive positions in the BC Federation of Labor, which went on to endorse the SPC’s programme. 

Thus, on the eve of the First World War, three sects constituted Canada’s Marxist left: the Socialist Party of Canada, the Social Democratic Party, and the Socialist Party of North America. All three were involved in the labour movement in different parts of the country, while the SPC and SDP had some experience with electoral politics. The SDP, despite its rather reformist leadership, had a large number of language federations for immigrants from Eastern Europe, which tended to stand on the left of the party. All three of these sects suffered during the war, when their membership depleted and their activities ground to a halt under the weight of war propaganda and state repression. It was only in 1917 that the left was revived, and at the same time split over a single issue: Bolshevism. 

Majorities in the SPC and SPNA supported the October Revolution, while the left and right of the SDP progressed towards an all-out split, with the language federations supporting the revolution, while the English section largely began favouring their own party’s liquidation into an analogue of the British Labour Party. The SPC, the left of the SDP, and the SPNA began to speak of uniting around the programme of Bolshevism. However, despite these talks of the “party of a new type” and the Bolshevik programme, the revolutionary left remained spontaneist, and in these formative years worked to build not a mass party that could develop into a counter-hegemonic force in society, but rather a minoritarian “vanguard” party that would intervene in the class struggle in order to propagandise for socialism. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of ordinary workers attended public meetings, went on strike, and called for the nationalisation of the means of production. Trade union militants spoke of revolution, and the labour movement, which had fallen nearly silent during the first years of the war, ballooned beyond its prewar levels. 

Yet, despite clear support for socialist principles among the working class, the revolutionary Marxist sects did not grow to encompass a real contingent of the class. They began working, instead, to influence the working class, so that they would rise up and battle for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Marxists in Ontario told striking workers, “we don’t oppose your strike, but you have to take the next step to insurrection!” Many of them seem to have been more familiar with Pannekoek than with Lenin, even as they proudly proclaimed themselves Bolsheviks. The eastern labour movement thus remained dominated by conservatives, who went on to dominate the 1918 convention of the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada (TLC). In the west, where the Marxists had a more organic connection to the labour movement, the left won leadership of the major workers’ organisations, and began to formulate a singular strategy for the 1919 TLC convention. This led to the Western Labour Conference in March 1919, where the left held a firm majority. 

The resolutions at this conference were explicitly revolutionary: calls for the abolition of private property, for the dictatorship of the proletariat, for a general strike. The TLC convention was forgotten, and in fact the conference voted to secede from the TLC and form a new, revolutionary industrial union: the One Big Union (OBU). While the OBU has been termed syndicalist by some historians, this charge is bizarre: its instigators came largely from the SPC, which had always been critical of the IWW’s syndicalism and was committed to political action through a revolutionary party. The OBU was not seen by its founders as the primary organ of revolution, but as one weapon among many to be used by the working class in its formation as a class for itself. In fact, it seems that it was not quite clear to the OBU’s founders what its practical function was to be. It was for the rank and file workers, not the political leadership, to wield the OBU for their own revolutionary ends. The SPC had no revolutionary strategy to guide the working class to power, no clear vision of what the tasks of revolutionaries were; as before the war, they saw their activities as consisting primarily of the education of the working class. 

Meanwhile, a strike wave was building across the country. 1919 would go down in Canadian history as the most militant year for labour, as nearly 150,000 strikers across the country fought for their rights and the rights of their fellow workers. The strikes of that year can be divided into three categories: first, local strikes addressing the usual issues of union recognition, pay, and work hours; second, general strikes called in support of such local strikes; and third, sympathy strikes called in support of the Winnipeg General Strike. All three of these occurred across the country, despite the east’s more conservative labour bureaucracy. 

The most famous of these strikes began in Winnipeg in May. Although the OBU had not yet officially been formed, Peter Campbell insists that “the idea of the One Big Union, which aimed at the linking of socialist theory and trade union protest” was an important factor in the progression of the strike, and further that “it was the interaction between trade unionists and Marxian socialists that made the labour revolt of 1919 as widespread and effective as it was.” In this sense, the SPC was moving towards the “merger formula,” that is, the notion that the socialist movement is the result of a meeting between socialist theory and the workers’ movement. However, it was not able to provide the workers’ movement with a clear strategy for taking power, and therefore failed to direct the 1919 labour revolt into a real revolutionary movement. 

The Winnipeg General Strike was a response to employers’ refusal to bargain with metal and building tradesmen—the metal, mining, and shipbuilding trades were at the forefront of class struggle in 1919. The Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council called a general strike on May 15, with only 500 votes against the proposition versus over 11,000 in favour. Within 24 hours, over 22,000 workers had walked off the job, many of whom were not even unionised; the final number was over 30,000, a clear majority of the city’s working population. A Strike Committee was formed to manage the affairs of the striking workers, and found itself in control of the city’s labour: workers selectively performed only certain essential jobs in accordance with the Strike Committee’s will. In effect, it planned the city’s economy for the duration of the strike, at least in a partial sense. The police union also voted overwhelmingly for the strike, but at the request of the Strike Committee (in agreement with the mayor) they remained on the job—it was hinted that the army would be brought in to substitute the police if they walked off. Although the striking workers had no goal beyond union recognition and basic wage demands, they had effectively taken control of administration of the city. Winnipeg, whether the workers were aware of it or not, was ruled (at least in part) by a workers’ council—the Strike Committee. 

It is clear, therefore, that the formation of workers’ councils in itself is not a sign of impending revolution or mass class-consciousness. The vast majority of Winnipeg workers had no desire to install the dictatorship of the proletariat. The strike could not advance beyond the immediate aims of the workers without the leadership of a workers’ party with a revolutionary programme. The Strike Committee urged workers not to take to the streets, to avoid confrontation with the government. It was the veterans’ organisations, not the Strike Committee, that organised the street demonstrations that did occur. In fact, the SPC-led Vancouver General Strike (one of many across the country called in sympathy with the Winnipeg workers) made more radical demands than those being put forward by the Winnipeg Strike Committee, including the universal recognition of trade unions, the nationalisation of cold storage plants, slaughterhouses, and grain elevators (to end the hoarding of foodstuffs), and the enactment of the six-hour workday in industries suffering from large-scale unemployment. In spite of this, the Vancouver strike collapsed not long after the workers in Winnipeg were defeated: the SPC was not willing to continue fighting a battle that it knew it could not win. 

The bourgeoisie was not nearly so naïve as Winnipeg’s working class. In opposition to the Strike Committee, Winnipeg’s bourgeoisie formed a “Citizens’ Committee” made up of the city’s businessmen, lawyers, and officials, with the purpose of organising the maintenance of public utilities. The commander of Winnipeg’s military district, Major General Ketchen, was present at the creation of this organisation and would collaborate with them throughout the strike. They began circulating their own newspaper, which stated on the front page of the first edition that this was not a strike, but a revolution. 

The bourgeois press across the country repeated this sensationalist lie, and compared Winnipeg to Soviet Russia. Xenophobia was central to anti-Bolshevism in this period; Eastern European socialists were repressed far more harshly than anglophone socialists, and the Citizens’ Committee pushed a narrative that the strike was being led by these “foreigners.” The strikers and their comrades across the country waged war against the press: shortly after the beginning of the strike, Winnipeg’s six wire-services operators walked off the job, cutting short all transcontinental press communications until direct communication was established between Ontario and Saskatchewan. Telegraphers west of Winnipeg resisted this attempt to circumvent the Winnipeg strike, by refusing to handle items originating in Winnipeg or even altering stories directly. The Strike Committee proposed to have the operators return to work if all news items were passed by a special committee for approval, but the bourgeois press rejected the suggestion. The Winnipeg typographers were also pressured to join the strike, shutting down the city’s three newspapers; the Strike Committee began to produce its own daily newspaper in their place. The class struggle had spread to the domain of information: workers and the bourgeois press battled to present their respective narratives of the situation. 

The Strike Committee soon found that it had not prepared itself sufficiently for the task of administering a city. When, on the morning after the beginning of the strike, the bread and milk delivery wagons failed to do their rounds, there was widespread panic. The Strike Committee formed a special food subcommittee to organise the distribution of staples, and approached city council to work out a solution to the problem. This cooperation with the bourgeois state is emblematic of a working class lacking the ability to govern society, with no civic institutions of its own. Once again, the SPC and SDP had failed to prepare the working class to take power. 

It was decided, in consultation with the city council and industry, that the Strike Committee would authorise a number of wagons to distribute bread and milk, which would be given placards displaying, “Permitted by Authority of Strike Committee”. Subsequently, restaurants, bakeries, gasoline stations, and cinemas were reopened with the Strike Committee’s authorisation, and the work necessary to keep hospitals running resumed. But the mayor, Charles Gray, felt that the necessity of Strike Committee authorisation for the essential work of keeping the city running undermined the authority of the bourgeois state. The city council soon pressured the Strike Committee to remove the placards from the milk and bread carts, to be replaced with special cards carried by the cart operators. This was a victory for Mayor Gray and the forces of the bourgeoisie in the battle for legitimate control of civil society. Gray triumphantly stated that now there could be no further misunderstanding “that the legally constituted authority has been taken out of the hands of the civic authority.” 

The Strike Committee had demonstrated, even in its first week of existence, that it was incapable of serving as a counter-hegemonic force against the bourgeois state, incapable of serving as the basis for a workers’ republic. This, nonetheless, did not assuage the fears of Canadian and American capitalists, who continued to print sensationalist headlines about the strike. 

This was when the federal government sent representatives to Winnipeg. Even as the Strike Committee failed to contest the bourgeoisie’s grip on state power, to remain aloof any longer would signal a crisis of legitimacy for the Canadian state. Gideon Robertson, the Minister of Labour, and Arthur Meighen, Minister of the Interior and of Justice, arrived on May 21. Having already been exposed to the Citizens’ Committee’s narrative, they spoke to Manitoba’s Premier, Tobias Norris, to General Ketchen, and to various other officials. They refused to address the Strike Committee, despite the Committee’s invitation to attend their meeting. They insisted that the Strike Committee send a delegation to meet them the next day instead. 

The cabinet ministers and the Citizens’ Committee quickly began collaborating to undermine the strike. Their first target was the postal workers, who threatened to disrupt the postal service nationwide. They issued an ultimatum to the postal workers to return to work within three days or be dismissed. Even before waiting for the expiry of the three days, however, they had begun to gather volunteers to continue the work. All but 40 of the postal workers chose not to return to work, and were fired. The railway mail clerks struck in solidarity with the postal workers, but soon were forced to return to work or meet the same fate. Some of the fired postal workers asked to be allowed to go back to work and offered to give up their union memberships, but they were not rehired. 

In failing to retaliate for the dismissal of the postal workers, and letting the bourgeoisie retake control of certain means of production, the Strike Committee demonstrated that it presented no real threat to the “constitutional order.” The working class here was no fighting force struggling to control the means of production. Nevertheless, the government would not be satisfied until the total defeat of the working class. Paranoia of the influence of revolutionaries in the One Big Union surely fuelled this hostility. 

Robertson was firmly convinced that the Strike Committee and the OBU were connected, working to bring about revolution in Canada. He was convinced of the need to crush the strike in order to strangle the OBU in its cradle. Although his musings of a conspiracy are fantastical, he was likely correct that the success or defeat of the strike would affect the balance of class power in Canada for years to come. Supporters of the OBU came to the same ultimate conclusions that Robertson did. Meighen, while perhaps not sharing Robertson’s paranoias, was equally convinced of the need to crush the general strike, as its success might encourage the formation of vast industrial unions, capable of calling general strikes at a moment’s notice. 

The bourgeoisie soon turned its gaze to the police service, which was sympathetic to the strikers. They presented the police with an ultimatum: to renounce their connections to the unions and pledge their allegiance to the state, or be dismissed. In the end, only a small minority of the police force elected to take the vow. The city council was placed in a delicate situation at this point, because to carry out their threats, they would have to empty the streets of the police force. The Citizens’ Committee and the government forces immediately founded a special police force, and failed to follow up on the ultimatum. 

In response to the introduction of the special police, the Strike Committee ended the distribution of bread, milk, and ice. However, the Citizens’ Committee organised volunteers to distribute staples to the population, with the protection of the special police. Meanwhile, the bourgeoisie continued to build up its special police force. Shortly after this, the 240 members of the official police force who refused to sign the pledge were dismissed. The regular head of police was additionally sent on leave. The armed wing of civil society had been almost fully replaced, in another victory for the bourgeoisie in the contest for legitimate authority. 

The special police force had practically no training, and through its brutality broke the tense peace that had hitherto persisted in the city. They attempted to break up crowds listening to public speakers, and were quick to resort to the baton or even the firearm. Brawls between strikers and police became relatively common occurrences. 

As sympathetic strikes spread, the bourgeoisie scrambled to find a peaceful conclusion in their own favour. They proposed to negotiate with the craft unions, the bureaucrats of which were opposed to the OBU’s radicalism and industrial unionism. This divided the Winnipeg workers’ movement, and the strikers were split over the issue of whether to settle on these terms. The Strike Committee opposed this move against it, but if it could not maintain control of the skilled labour force, then the strike would disintegrate. In this moment of weakness, in the early hours of June 17, the government made its move against Winnipeg’s radicals. 

Even without having charged them, state forces swiftly swept up the radical strike leaders and placed them in prison. The Labor Temple and other labour offices were broken into and ruthlessly searched by police for evidence of revolutionary plots. The Strike Committee condemned the arrests and demanded the release of the men, and the pro-strike veterans organised public meetings in protest. The state actors involved disagreed on how to proceed: Meighen, while recognising the dubious legality of the arrests, wished to deport the prisoners; Robertson felt that deportation of the British-born radicals would be deeply unpopular. Members of the Citizens’ Committee pushed for leniency and a fair trial. Ultimately, six of the radicals were released on bail on the condition that they play no further role in the conduct of the strike. The left wing of the strike movement had won its (at least temporary) freedom, but the damage was done. The strike was left under the sway of the moderates. 

In this environment of uncertainty, some strikers began to return to work. The streetcars resumed operation on June 18. This was perceived by many in the city as a sign that the strikers were losing the battle. The pro-strike veterans were incensed, and there was talk of violent retaliation even as the Strike Committee attempted to find a compromise with the bourgeoisie. 

The veterans insisted that streetcar service be ended and that the capitalists settle an agreement with the strikers, or they would hold a public march on Saturday, June 21. Mayor Gray was openly opposed to such a march, fearful that it would break the tense peace and lead to all-out conflict. He was unable to prevent it, however, and so he called in the Royal North-West Mounted Police to maintain order. 

The demonstrating workers and veterans pulled a streetcar off its wire and set it ablaze. The Mounties rode through the demonstration threateningly, and were met by jeers, then by bricks and bottles. One rider fell off his horse, and a demonstrator began beating him. The other Mounties decided to fire into the crowd. The firing continued for several minutes; one man was killed instantly, and many others wounded. The crowd scattered, and was met by the special police armed with clubs and revolvers. Mayor Gray asked General Ketchen to activate the militia, which had been significantly built up over the course of the strike, and militiamen armed with machine guns moved into downtown. This day would go down in Canadian labour history as Bloody Saturday. 

The streets remained occupied by the special police, Mounties, and militia for several days thereafter. Individual strikers began to return to work, and further public meetings were prohibited. The Strike Committee agreed to end the strike if the provincial government would appoint a royal commission to study labour conditions and the cause of the strike. Premier Norris assented to this condition, over the objections of the Citizens’ Committee. On Thursday morning, the vast majority of Winnipeg’s workforce returned to their jobs. Although a few small sections of labour continued the strike, the working class had been totally defeated. 

It is clear that the revolutionary left failed this test of its power entirely. The working class had no civic institutions of its own which could substitute the functions of the bourgeois state, and thus provide an alternative to it. Although the Strike Committee made decisions about what labour was to be performed, it was thoroughly unprepared for this task, thus its collaboration with the city council. The strikers had not prepared for a takeover of society. A revolutionary programme would have provided them with a roadmap for how to conquer state power and take ownership of the means of production; instead, the bourgeoisie won battle after battle for control of production and distribution. 

While it is not the goal of this essay to prove that the Canadian labour revolt was or was not a revolutionary situation passed by, it is necessary to reflect on how socialists in the past have succeeded or failed to advance their revolutionary political project, so that the communists of today can better formulate their own strategy. Even if Canada’s working class could not possibly have been prepared to take state power in 1919, the events of that year were pivotal in the reformation of the revolutionary left, and with the right direction could perhaps have resulted in the formation of a mass, militant revolutionary movement. Instead, the revolutionary left remained minoritarian, and ultimately failed to win leadership of the workers’ movement or present the working class with a strategy for taking power. 

General strikes and the formation of workers’ councils are not necessarily signs that the working class is conscious of its historic role and making a bid for state power. When the Russian workers and peasants formed soviets during the February Revolution, they were not yet prepared to govern society. It was the Bolshevik party and its programme that put forward the slogan, “All power to the soviets!”, and that led the workers and peasants to take power through the substitution of bourgeois political institutions with their own. Similarly, the Winnipeg workers did not ever seek to replace bourgeois institutions with their own. There was no party agitating for them to do so; no party pointing out that they were already administering the essential means of production to meet the needs of the people; no party agitating for the formation of workers’ militias so that the working class could defend itself against the bourgeois state and expropriate the capitalists. 

It is the purpose of the revolutionary workers’ party to organise the working class for such an eventuality. The workers’ party, through presenting the class with democratic alternatives to bourgeois civil society even before the revolution, can prepare the workers for exercising state power. The party must become a state within and without the bourgeois state, by forming its own civic institutions such as schools and recreational clubs. Workers’ militias must be organised and trained by the party to defend the working class from the bourgeois state, and ultimately go on the offensive and seize control of the means of production when the opportunity arises. The party must train the proletariat to govern itself, so that it can conquer and effectively wield state power. 

The party’s programme provides a roadmap to socialism. Without training the proletariat in self-governance, without preparing it for the conquest of state power, and without a political programme that leads, in no uncertain terms, to a rupture with the bourgeois state and the institution of the workers’ republic, the working class cannot become a real fighting force, capable of contesting bourgeois hegemony. As the example of the Winnipeg General Strike demonstrates, the working class cannot struggle in an organised fashion for socialism without such a party. Relying on spontaneous revolts of the working class will result only in disappointment and defeat. The struggle for socialism is the result of a merger between socialist theory and the workers’ movement. This merger is embodied in the mass communist party, which is uniquely capable of organising the proletariat to take state power and abolish the capitalist system of exploitation. Revolutionary unions and workers’ councils cannot substitute this essential instrument of class struggle; neither can a minoritarian party, limited to interventions in existing struggles. This lesson is essential if we are to avoid defeat, if we are to conquer power, if we are to bring about communism. 

Anti-extradition movement in Hong Kong

 

Lam Chi Leung

2019-7-10

 

Demonstrations started after Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’ Chief Executive announced a law on extradition to China, allowing the Chinese Communist Party to arrest Hong Kong activists considered to be a threat to “national security”. What are Lam’s and Hong Kong’s capitalists’ political goals behind the extradition law?

 

Lam: A characteristic of today’s event is the fact that Carrie Lam prioritizes on satisfying the demands of the CCP regime rather than those of the Hong Kong people, not even those of the Hong Kong capitalists. The capitalists in Hong Kong also fear being extradited to mainland China for getting on the wrong side of the CCP bureaucracy.

 

Carrie Lam opted to expedite the bill in order to gain the trust of Xi Jinping.

 

The CCP regime has two primary goals. First, to extradite the mainland Chinese corrupt tycoons and bureaucrats that fled to Hong Kong. In the past, the Chinese government has sent people to directly extract these elements back to the mainland, but such methods were criticized as Chinese Police overreaching its authority beyond its jurisdiction.

 

Secondly, this extradition bill is to be used against the political oppositionists against the CCP in Hong Kong. Those who openly and sharply criticize the Chinese government and leaders, or those Hong Kongers who helped Chinese democracy activists to flee to Hong Kong, would find themselves in grave danger should the extradition bill becomes the law.

 

Just as the extradition bill was about to be legislated, a Hong Kong bookstore owner who was incarcerated in mainland China for over eight months, Lam Wing-kee(林榮基), decided to flee Hong Kong for Taiwan in late April. Lam published books about the private life of Xi Jinping, which angered the CCP regime.

 

Moreover, the Hong Kong social activists who assist Chinese labor, human rights, or other social movement NGOs may also be charged with “subverting national security” by the Chinese regime and get extradited.

 

Although British colonialism in Hong Kong ended in 1997, and Hong Kong was titularly returned to China, the city still follows the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement: Hong Kong maintains a political and legal system distinct from that of mainland China. The Hong Kongers have freedom of speech and assembly. They also tend to receive more protection from a (relatively) independent judiciary. As mainland China remains under a single party authoritarian rule, where the people lacks protection by the law, an extradition provision would open up a loophole where Hong Kongers could be sent to be tried unfairly inside mainland China at any time.

 

We can see that the movement is at a heightened level of frontal confrontation with the police and shows a solid level of self-organization. We all watched with admiration the taking of Hong Kong’s Parliament. Can you explain how the movement is structured, what are its ideological references and what organisations take part in it? What do you see as the movement’s shortcomings and what obstacles does it need to overcome to grow stronger?

 

Lam: The consecutive large demonstrations that took place from June to July were led by a united front organization known as the Civil Human Rights Front. It is composed of over 50 pan-democratic political parties and civil society groups, including unions, women’s rights organizations, community advocates, student activists and opposition parties. However, the two million people who joined the march not because of the Civil Human Rights Front’s own moral authority, but because of their identification with the anti-extradition cause.

 

The LegCo occupation attempt on July first and prior attempts at surrounding the police headquarters were organized by younger, more radical protesters via the Internet. They were not the result of any social or political organization’s leadership. In order to evade government persecution, the young protestors purposely refrained from establishing organizations, and instead opted for using Telegram or other softwares to spread information in short ranges. Hand signals were used for coordination at the site of the struggles, the effectiveness of which was enhanced by the strong camaraderie among the youth protesters.

 

Neither the citizens who joined the demonstration nor the youths who joined the besieging or occupation attempts uphold a definite ideology. Perhaps you can call them supporters of democracy I.e. against the authoritarianism of the SAR/CCP regime, and for the defense of Hong Kong’s human rights and freedoms as well as for democratic elections.

 

The far right “localists” who called for “Hong Kong First” had much influence during 2014’s Umbrella Movement and perhaps two years after that, but they have been significantly weakened in the run up to today’s anti-extradition movement in terms of ability to mobilize. Yet, they still have a certain hold on the youths ideologically. This is primarily expressed in a section of the youths’ nostalgia for British colonial rule, rejection of mainland Chinese people, or adventurist tendencies during actions.

 

The biggest weakness in today’s anti-extradition movement lies in its inability to transform into a platform of united struggle that is democratically and responsibly coordinated. This prevented protesters with different backgrounds and ideas from coordinating with each other effectively. They had to act on their own. The differences in tendency and strategy usually were expressed in one-sided internet exchanges rather than deep face-to-face discussions that could clarify many fundamental issues.

 

For example, since the movement erupted, some have proposed that a political strike as well as solidarity with the Wuhan citizens’ struggle against polluting incinerators and power stations. Proponents of this idea sought to win support for the Hong Kong movement from the people of mainland China. These extremely precious insights have not been seriously discussed.

 

On the contrary, certain activists utilized the G20 summit last month to call on Trump or other major world leaders to “Free Hong Kong.” Yet such a position can easily be interpreted as leaning on the US and EU government to pressure China, objectively placing the anti-extradition movement under the western powers’ cynical power politics. The movement thus would become a disposable pawn in the backdoor negotiations. This position also provides the CCP regime ammunition to slander the mass movement in Hong Kong, and divide the people of Hong Kong from those in mainland China.

 

Yet, these diverging strategies have not been able to be clarified via a united organization.

 

The movement in HK today grew on the shoulders of the “Umbrella Revolution” which demanded universal suffrage. Youth was very active in 2014 but the working class and its unions were blatantly lacking. What is the role of the working class in the movement today? Are there bonds being formed between students and the working class?

 

Lam: The labor movement in Hong Kong has a glorious past. The Seamen’s Strike in 1922 and the Canton–Hong Kong general strike in 1925-1926 shook British Imperialism, but the labor movement saw a decline since then. It will not be easy to launch a powerful strike that can shake society in the short term.

 

The teachers’ union and social workers’ union both have called for a strike on June 12th. There were even youth groups that voluntarily enter into commercial districts to open up a picket line. There is a university student organization named “Student Labour Action Coalition”(工學同行)which calls on the workers to join the fight against the extradition bill.

 

Although a strike wave has not materialized, but the idea of political strikes has generated a wave of discussions online. These phenomena mark a development from the political consciousness of 2014’s Umbrella Movement.

 

I believe that Hong Kong’s revolutionary socialists have a key responsibility. They can deepen the discussions around political strikes, and guide the strategic discussions towards a conclusion to establish organizations controlled by the masses themselves, as well as explaining why a struggle for civil or political democracy is inseparable from a struggle for economic equality.

 

Since the 2008 crisis, the executive power has been beefing up its repressive measures and anti-social policies. Beyond the demands for democratic rights, does the movement demand concrete measures for the betterment of life and working conditions of youth and the working class? Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s PM, announced a delay of the extradition law in the wake of a 2 million march (for a 7 million people country). Is this a victory for the movement? What are the demonstrators’ prospects? What about the demands for universal suffrage and democratic rights? Would you say that youth and the working class in HK and China are radicalizing? Does it have an impact on the influence of revolutionary, communist ideas and their organizations?

 

Lam: Today’s movement remains a single issue campaign, one that focuses on retracting the extradition bill and protect basic human rights. Yet, it recently has evolved into a movement that also demands democratic election. Whether it can also demand for improvement in worker and youths’ living and working conditions, will depend on the activists who base themselves on the working class’ perspective.

 

Although Carrie Lam is only pausing rather than terminating the legislation, I don’t anticipate a great possibility for her to re-propose the legislation within her term. In a way the movement has gained a partial victory, but to take it further towards bringing down Carrie Lam will not be easy.

 

Although calls for labor and school strikes did not materialize, the fresh idea of a political strike, its possibilities and implications, is already a part of the ongoing public discussions. It is making the masses think further. If the movement wants to gain more results, it needs to quickly abandon its lack of structure, and insists on its political independence.

 

I believe a socio-economic crisis as well as class contradictions are rapidly escalating in both Hong Kong and mainland China, with no signs of abating. Although the crisis may not immediately erupt, when it does I believe it will be extraordinarily acute.

 

As of now the youths in both Hong Kong and mainland China generally are not politicized, but a layer of them have clearly moved towards politicization and ponder on the fundamental solutions for society. Under Xi Jinping autocratic bureaucracy, it is dangerous for youths and workers to self-organize and openly communicate with each other. It’s almost impossible. However, spaces for private exchange of ideas still exist.

 

Further, there are some indications that progressive youths in mainland China are increasingly interested in the ideas of revolution and communism as they are seeking an alternative outside of bourgeois liberalism and Maoism (Chinese Stalinism) .There is even a minority that approves of the traditions of Trotskyism. The revolutionary socialists in Hong Kong have always utilized the city’s relative freedom to spread revolutionary ideas towards youths in mainland China. The most valuable work we can pursue at the moment is the fundamental task of spreading the ideas of classical Marxism to mainland China .

 

Lam Chi Leung is a revolutionary socialist based in Hong Kong. 

 

Révolte contre l’autoritarisme à Hong Kong. Interview avec Lam, marxiste révolutionnaire hongkongais.

07:30

Le 1er juillet, des millions de jeunes et de travailleurs d’Hong Kong envahissaient le Parlement pour exiger l’abandon du projet de loi d’extradition vers la Chine. L’ampleur, la radicalité et la détermination de ces manifestations ont obligé Carrie Lam, cheffe exécutif de HK, à abandonner son projet. Nous avons interviewé  Lam, militant communiste révolutionnaire hongkongais, afin d’avoir un point de vue vivant sur ce mouvement inédit et sur la politisation qui traverse la jeunesse d’Hong Kong et de Chine.

Anticapitalisme & Révolution : Les manifestations ont émergé suite à l’annonce par Carrie Lam, cheffe de l’éxécutif de Hong Kong, de la loi d’extradition vers la Chine, permettant au Parti communiste chinois d’arrêter des militants hongkongais qui serait une menace à la « sûreté nationale ». Pour Lam et le patronat hongkongais, quels sont les objectifs politiques derrière cette loi d’extradition ?

Lam: Une des caractéristiques des événements actuels, c’est le fait que Carrie Lam priorise la satisfaction des revendications du régime du Parti Communiste Chinois, même pas celles des capitalistes de Hong Kong, sur celles du peuple de Hong Kong. Les capitalistes locaux craignent eux aussi de subir l’extradition vers la Chine continentale s’ils froissent la bureaucratie du PCC.

Carrie Lam a voulu expédier le passage de cette loi pour gagner la confiance du Xi Jinping.

Le régime du PCC a deux objectifs principaux. Le premier est l’extradition vers le continent des bureaucrates et des magnats chinois corrompus qui ont fui vers Hong Kong. Avant, le gouvernement chinois envoyait des gens pour extraire directement ces personnes et les ramener sur le continent, mais ces méthodes ont été critiquées, vues comme un dépassement de sa juridiction par la police chinoise.

Deuxièmement, cette loi d’extradition est faite pour être utilisée contre les opposants politiques au PCC à Hong Kong. Celles et ceux qui critiquent ouvertement et sévèrement les dirigeants et le gouvernement chinois, ou les hongkongais qui ont aidé des militants chinois de la démocratie à s’enfuir vers Hong Kong, se trouveraient en grand danger si ce projet de loi était adoptée.

Fin avril, alors que la loi d’extradition allait passer, un libraire de Hong Kong qui a fait plus de 8 mois de prison en Chine continentale, Lam Wing-Kee, a décidé de fuir Hong Kong pour Taiwan. Lam a publié des livres sur la vie privée de Xi Jinping, ce qui a provoqué la colère du PCC.

De plus, les militants de Hong Kong qui aident les mouvements sociaux, du travail, pour les droits humains, ou les ONG, peuvent aussi être accusés de “subvertir la sécurité nationale” par le régime chinois et subir l’extradition.

Même si le colonialisme britannique a pris fin à Hong Kong en 1997, et que Hong Kong est formellement revenu à la Chine, la ville vit toujours selon l’arrangement “un pays, deux systèmes” : Hong Kong conserve un système légal et politique distinct de celui de la Chine continentale. Les hongkongais ont la liberté d’expression et de réunion. Ils et elles sont aussi plutôt mieux protégés par une justice (relativement) indépendante. Alors que la Chine continentale est toujours sous un régime autoritaire de parti unique, où le peuple manque de protections légales, la possibilité d’extradition ouvrirait une brèche par laquelle des hongkongais pourrait être injustement envoyés en procès en Chine continentale à tout moment.

A&R : Depuis la France nous voyons que ce mouvement assume un niveau élevé d’affrontement face aux forces de l’ordre et exprime un niveau d’auto-organisation important. Nous avons tous vu avec admiration l’envahissement du Parlement d’Hong Kong. Peux-tu nous expliquer comment se structure ce mouvement, quels sont ses références idéologiques et les organisations qui le constituent ? Quels sont les limites et obstacles que le mouvement doit dépasser pour pouvoir se renforcer ?

Lam: La série de manifestations massives qui ont lieu de juin à juillet ont été menées par une organisation de front unique, le Front Civil des Droits Humains. Il est composé de plus de 50 partis politiques et groupes de la société civile pan-démocratiques, notamment des syndicats, des organisations pour les droits des femmes, des associations de quartier, des militants étudiants et des partis d’opposition. Cela dit, les deux millions de personnes qui ont rejoint les manifestations ne l’ont pas fait grâce à l’autorité morale du Front Civil des Droits Humains, mais car ils s’identifiaient à la cause anti-extradition.

La tentative d’occupation du Parlement le 1er juillet et les tentatives précédentes d’encercler le QG de la police ont été organisées par les manifestantes et manifestants les plus jeunes et radicaux via Internet. Cela n’a été le fruit de la direction d’aucune organisation politique ou sociale. Pour échapper à la persécution gouvernementale, les jeunes manifestants ont fait exprès de ne pas établir d’organisations, et ont choisi à la place d’utiliser Telegram ou d’autres logiciels pour transmettre l’information à courte portée. Des signes de mains étaient utilisés sur le terrain, dont l’efficacité était augmentée par la forte camaraderie qui lie les jeunes manifestants.

Ni les citoyens qui rejoignaient les manifestations ni les jeunes qui participaient aux tentatives de sièges ou d’occupations n’ont d’idéologie définie. On pourrait peut-être les appeler des militantes et des militants de la démocratie, c’est-à-dire contre l’autoritarisme du régime RAS/PCC1, et pour la défense des libertés et des droits humains à Hong Kong, ainsi que pour des élections démocratiques.

Les “localistes” d’extrême-droite qui en appelait à “Hong Kong d’abord” ont eu une forte influence pendant le Mouvement des Parapluies de 2014 et durant environ les deux années qui ont suivi, mais ils ont été considérablement affaiblis en termes de leur capacité à mobiliser dans la période précédent le mouvement actuel anti-extradition. Pour autant, ils ont encore une certaine prise idéologique sur les jeunes. Cela s’exprime principalement chez une partie de la jeunesse par une nostalgie du régime colonial britannique, le rejet des chinois du continent, ou des tendances aventuristes lors des actions.

La plus grande faiblesse du mouvement actuel contre l’extradition réside dans son incapacité à devenir une plateforme de lutte unifiée qui soit démocratiquement et responsablement coordonnée. Cela empêche les manifestants issus de différents milieux et ayant différentes idées de se coordonner efficacement. Ils et elles ont dû agir seuls. Les différences d’orientation et de stratégie se sont souvent exprimées unilatéralement sur internet plutôt que dans des échanges approfondis en face- à-face qui pourraient clarifier nombre de questions fondamentales.

Par exemple, depuis le début du mouvement, des personnes ont proposé une grève politique et de solidarité avec la lutte des citoyens du Wuhan contre les incinérateurs et les centrales électriques qui polluent. Les tenants de cette idée cherchaient à gagner le soutien du peuple de Chine continentale au mouvement de Hong Kong. Ces idées très importantes n’ont pas été sérieusement discutées.

Au contraire, certains militants ont utilisé le G20 le mois dernier pour demander à Trump ou à d’autres grands dirigeants mondiaux de “Libérer Hong Kong”. Pourtant une telle position peut facilement s’interpréter comme la recherche d’un point d’appui chez les gouvernements des Etats-Unis et d’Europe pour faire pression sur la Chine, subordonnant objectivement le mouvement anti-extradition aux jeux de pouvoir politiques cyniques des puissances occidentales. Le mouvement deviendrait ainsi un pion dans des négociations de couloir, à jeter après usage. Cette position fournirait aussi au régime du PCC des arguments pour calomnier le mouvement de masse hongkongais, et diviser le peuple de Hong Kong du peuple de Chine continentale.

Pourtant, ces stratégies divergentes n’ont pas pu être clarifiées par une modalité d’organisation qui les rassemble.

A&R : Le mouvement que connaît HK aujourd’hui reprend le flambeau de la « Révolution des parapluies », exigeant le droit au suffrage universel. La jeunesse était très active en 2014, mais on a constaté une absence importante de la classe ouvrière et de ses organisations syndicales. Aujourd’hui, dans ce mouvement, quel est le rôle de la classe ouvrière ? Y a-t-il des liens qui se créent entre la jeunesse scolarisé et le monde du travail ?

Lam: Le mouvement ouvrier de Hong Kong a connu un passé glorieux. La grève des marins de 1922 et la grève générale de Hong Kong et Canton de 1925-1926 ont ébranlé l’impérialisme britannique, mais le mouvement ouvrier a depuis connu un déclin. A court terme, il ne sera pas facile de lancer une grève assez puissante pour ébranler la société.

Le syndicat enseignant et le syndicat du travail social ont appelé à la grève le 12 juin. Il y a même des groupes de jeunes qui vont volontairement dans les quartiers commerciaux pour ouvrir des piquets de grève. Il existe une organisation étudiante, la “Coalition pour l’Action Ouvrière et Etudiante”, qui appelle les travailleuses et les travailleurs à rejoindre la lutte contre le projet de loi d’extradition.

Même si la grève ne s’est pas concrétisée, l’idée de grèves politiques a provoqué une vague de discussions en ligne. Ces phénomènes marquent un développement par rapport à ce qu’était la conscience politique du Mouvement des Parapluies de 2014.

Je pense que les socialistes révolutionnaires de Hong Kong ont une responsabilité cruciale. Ils peuvent approfondir les discussions autour des grèves politiques, et guider les discussions stratégiques vers l’établissement d’organisations contrôlées par les masses elles-mêmes, ainsi qu:’expliquer en quoi la lutte pour une démocratie politique ou civile est inséparable de la lutte pour l’égalité économique.

A&R : Depuis la crise de 2008 le pouvoir exécutif renforce ses mesures répressives et les mesures antisociales vis-à-vis des exploités. Au-delà des revendications démocratiques, ce mouvement revendique-t-il aussi des mesures concrètes pour l’amélioration des conditions de travail et d’existence pour les jeunes et les salariés ? Carrie Lam, chefe de l’éxécutif de Hong Kong, a annoncé la report de la loi d’extradition suite à la manifestation de 2 millions de personnes (sur un pays de 7 millions). S’agit-il d’une victoire pour le mouvement ? Quels sont les perspectives pour les manifestants ? Qu’en est-il de la revendication pour le suffrage universel et pour les droits démocratiques ? Dirais-tu qu’il y a une radicalisation de la jeunesse et du monde du travail à Hong Kong et en Chine ? Cela a-t-il un impact sur l’influence des idées communistes, révolutionnaires et de ses organisations ? ?

Lam: Le mouvement actuel reste centré autour d’une question, le retrait du projet de loi d’extradition et la protection des droits humains élémentaires. Cela a cependant évolué récemment, l’exigence d’élections démocratiques est venu s’ajouter. L’ajout de revendications pour l’amélioration des conditions de vie et de travail des travailleurs et de la jeunesse dépendra des militants qui se réclament d’une perspective lutte de classe.

Bien que Carrie Lam n’ait que reporté et non pas annulé le projet, je pense qu’il y a peu de chances qu’elle tente de le refaire passer avant la fin de son mandat. D’une certaine manière, le mouvement a remporté une victoire partielle, mais le pousser jusqu’à la chute de Carrie Lam ne sera pas facile.

Bien que les appels à la grève ouvrière et étudiante ne se soient pas concrétisés, l’idée nouvelle d’une grève politique, ses possibilités et ses implications, fait déjà partie du débat public. Elle fait réfléchir les masses. Si le mouvement veut remporter davantage de succès, il doit rapidement abandonner son manque de structuration, et insister sur son indépendance politique.

Je pense que la crise socio-économique et les contradictions de classe s’exarcerbent rapidement à la fois à Hong Kong et en Chine continentale, sans signes d’accalmie en vue. Même si la crise ne va peut-être pas éclater immédiatement, elle sera extraordinairement aigüe lorsqu’elle viendra.

A l’heure actuelle, la jeunesse de Hong Kong et de Chine continentale n’est globalement pas politisée, mais une partie d’entre elle a clairement commencé à se tourner vers la politique et réfléchit aux solutions fondamentales dont la société a besoin. Sous la bureaucratie autocratique de Xi Jinping, il est dangereux pour les jeunes et les travailleurs de s’auto-organiser et de communiquer ouvertement entre eux. C’est presque impossible. En revanche, des espaces privés d’échange d’idées existent encore.

Plus encore, il y a des signes que la jeunesse de Chine continentale s’intéresse de plus en plus aux idées de la révolution et du communisme, dans sa recherche d’une alternative hors du libéralisme bourgeois et du maoisme (le stalinisme chinois). Il y a même une minorité qui approuve les traditions du trotskisme. Les socialistes révolutionnaires à Hong Kong ont toujours utilisé la relative liberté de la ville pour diffuser les idées révolutionnaires à la jeunesse de Chine continentale. Le travail le plus précieux que nous puissions faire en Chine continentale à l’heure actuelle est la tâche fondamentale de diffusion des idées du marxisme classique.

Lam Chi Leung est un militant socialiste révolutionnaire basé à Hong Kong.

1 NdT : RAS = Région admnistrative spéciale, nom du système d’exception qui régit Hong Kong.

Singh drifts left, Horwath treads water

by Barry W.

The convention was on Andrea Horwath’s home turf, but Jagmeet Singh stole the show.  The federal New Democratic Party leader grabbed national headlines when he spoke to Ontario NDP delegates about his New Deal for People.  It seeks to expand public health care to include universal pharma care by 2020, followed by free dental, vision, hearing, mental health services, long term home care and addictions treatment.  He proposes to pay for it by upping the federal corporate income tax from 15 to 18 per cent, and by creating a new, 1 per cent tax on people whose net worth is more than $20 million.  In a break from Tom Mulcair’s no-deficit, soft-austerity 2015 campaign, Singh vowed to fund green programs and infrastructure through a new $3 billion “climate bank”, to push to retrofit all buildings by 2050 (in the process creating 300,00 new jobs), and to build 500,000 new affordable housing units within a decade.

Ontario leader Horwath, on the other hand, demonstrated why her party is stagnant.  She repeatedly showcased her caucus of MPPs and paraded a bunch of talking heads.  They offered anti-Doug Ford rhetoric, decried wildfires and floodwaters, said ‘me-too’ for pharma care, and issued platitudes for a more just society.  Even her “Green New Democratic Deal” is mainly a 28-page discussion paper rather than a policy.  It fails (as does Singh) to challenge monopoly control of the carbon-fueled economy.

The ONDP and labour bureaucracy tightly controlled the June 14-16 convention in Hamilton.  They stifled criticism.  You wouldn’t know that thousands of auto workers’ jobs are being buried. The top brass put innovative, radical resolutions at the bottom of every topic list.  The leadership exhibited little sense of urgency about removing the Ford Conservative regime despite its onslaught against workers and the environment. A blinkered obsession with preparations for the 2022 Ontario election, three years down the road, ruled the roost. 

Party chief of staff Michael Balagas provided a laughably Pollyanna interpretation of the latest public opinion polls (showing the Tories, NDP and Liberals close together, and the Green Party rising fast).

Identity politics and milquetoast motions dominated the proceedings.  The agenda imposed by the top brass devoted less than 39 per cent of the convention time to policy discussion.  The rest of the time filled up with ‘showcases’, guest speakers (including Dan Riffle from Wall Street’s, war-mongering Democratic Party USA), ‘breakout’ sessions for chatter but not for voting on policy, the numerous elections, and plenty of procedural wrangling.  Cutting, shrinking or reassigning such agenda items to the margins could have restored hours of rank and file democracy to the gathering.  Late starts (delegates were locked out of the main hall after Saturday lunch, and again on Sunday morning), squandered a further 40 minutes of precious policy time.  When, in the opening minutes, Socialist Caucus member Elizabeth Byce asked the convention chair why so little time was scheduled for policy matters, the chair rudely interrupted her with an abrupt “We will cover as much policy as possible.”  But that was a dead letter from the word go.

This is not to say that many of the adopted resolutions are not worthy – just that several were adopted nearly unanimously. They consumed scarce time that could have been spent addressing controversial issues submitted by dozens of local NDP district associations.

Adopted resolutions included: “Policy Sunset and Reaffirmation Resolution”, “Stop the Legalized Theft of Workers’ Pensions”, “Replacing the Term Aboriginal with Indigenous”, “Equity-Seeking ‘Victory Funds’” (to raise money for campaigns that feature visible minority and female NDP candidates); “Cannabis Growers Workers”; “Expand the Powers of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario”; “End Hallway Medicine”; “Opioid Crisis”; “Full Day Kindergarten”; “Health and Phys Ed”; “Black Canadian Curriculum”; “First Nations Job Creation”; and “Development without Displacement”.  Again, these motions could have been approved, omnibus-style, with one vote.  Their positioning effectively scuppered other issues.

Multiply-endorsed resolutions that officials prevented from reaching the convention floor included: “Nationalize GM”; “Share the Work, Shorten the Work Week”; “Dump Doug Ford with Mass Extra-parliamentary Action”; “Social Ownership and Economic Democracy”; “For Public Ownership of Telecom”; “Boycott apartheid Israel, End the Siege of Gaza, uphold Palestinian Rights”; “NDP should be clear: Hands Off Venezuela”; “Eliminate Tuition, Ancillary Fees and Student Debt”; “Public and Democratic Hydro”; and “Build Social Housing as an Emergency Priority in Ontario” (12 different affiliates submitted that one!).

A Left Break-through

A weak resolution titled “GM Jobs”, was referred back to the appeals committee with instructions on Saturday.  In the last minutes of the convention on Sunday, after obtaining unanimous consent, it returned to the floor.  Added were the words “including a new vision of a publicly owned facility that could produce green vehicles and/or any other product that meets public need in order to face the climate crisis and transition to a green new economy.”  Oshawa delegate Rebecca Keetch spoke forcefully to the imminent loss of 5,000 jobs, including her own.  Convention finally adopted the motion, in part due to the SC resolution calling for Nationalization of GM, and thanks to our collaboration with CUPE-Ontario President Fred Hahn, whose dogged efforts paved the way for this small victory.

As seen at the federal NDP convention in Ottawa, February 2018, Palestine shook things up.  But a motion to appeal its low rank on the list of resolutions simply ran out of time for consideration.  Only ten minutes are allowed for appeals from the floor in each policy segment.  The right wing stacked the mics to ensure that left wing appeals would not be heard.

The Resolutions Appeals Committee, chaired by former federal leader candidate Brian Topp, became a lightning rod for discontent.  Several times it suffered defeat on the convention floor as exasperated delegates fought its status quo priorities.  In defiance, a policy to reduce the voting age in Ontario to 14 years carried. Likewise, delegates defeated “Support for Mobile Crisis Response” that relied heavily on police involvement, a motion backed by the party establishment.

Socialists steadfast

An appetite for radical left media was evident.  Delegates snapped up over 500 copies of Turn Left, the glossy, full-colour Socialist Caucus magazine (www.ndpsocialists.ca) .  Donations on site added to the $3,300 raised to fund the publication prior to the convention. Scores of delegates bought copies of Socialist Action monthly newspaper.

NDP staff had said “No literature display tables will be allowed”, although the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Broadbent Institute each got one. Nonetheless, the Socialist Caucus found a way to display its materials, as did former OFL president Sid Ryan who sold copies of his new book “A Grander Vision.”

The convention was poorly attended.  Party officials predicted 1,500 delegates.  The last Credentials Report, claiming that 1,045 attended, tried to bandage this raw sore.  The fact is that only 720 delegates voted for President and Treasurer.  Only 730 voted for V.P. candidates. Fewer than 530 voted for Members At Large. Most of the time, empty chairs outnumbered occupied seats.

Support for Andrea Horwath (expressed in a leadership review vote) was underwhelming.  The norm is 95%+ for a Leader (especially one who made major gains at the previous provincial election).  As Toronto Star columnist Rick Salutin wrote on June 21, “She got 84 per cent support at last week’s NDP convention, not a healthy sign. If her party were serious about power, there’d have been more dissension.”

Socialist Caucus candidates garnered 12.2 to 27 per cent of the votes for the 15 top executive positions that the SC contested. Over 200 delegates marked ballots for Julius Arscott for V.P.  He told the convention, “The NDP must call for mass action, including general strike action, to defeat the Doug Ford/Bay Street agenda. Some may say that is labour’s jurisdiction. But the NDP is directly tied to the struggles of the working class.  We have a huge stake in this fight!”

The establishment slate swept, as expected.  Sadly, independent socialist candidates (like Jessa McLean and Tim Ellis) failed to break through.  A united front socialist slate would surely help in the future.  Once again, the Socialist Caucus provided the most visible, principled, all-round left opposition – and it demonstrated growing support.  A ‘Meet the Socialist Candidates’ pub night attracted a big crowd on Saturday. 

Dozens of new contacts, new volunteers for the SC steering committee, new subscribers to the left press, added to the positive political harvest for class struggle activists.  While it is clear that NDP officials will not lead the fight in the streets against the arch-austerity corporate agenda, they may be compelled to join an upsurge as teachers, and other public and private sector workers suffering job loss and frozen wages, gird for a hot autumn.

 

Ligue pour L'Action Socialiste