by Barry Weisleder
New Democratic Party activists from Hamilton, Oakville, Mississauga, Thornhill, several Toronto constituencies, and from as far away as Winnipeg, Manitoba gathered at OISE U. of Toronto on June 12 for the Annual NDP Socialist Caucus Federal Conference. Although the next NDP federal convention is June 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia — the NDP Socialists are wasting no time in addressing the big issues that face the working class today.
At the top of the SC agenda is ending the war of occupation in Afghanistan and opposing any coalition, let alone merger, of the NDP with the Liberal Party, or any capitalist party. NDP MPs have been too soft-spoken during the current campaign by the business media and the Liberal Party to extend the imperialist war mission beyond the 2011 Canadian troop removal deadline. One New Democrat MP, Jack Harris, who was part of the infamous Liberal Bob Rae-led junket to Kandahar, has mused about the need for Canadian forces to remain as trainers and to build “institutions” in Afghanistan, which implies a fighting presence there.
That brings us to rumours of a merger with the Liberal Party, the political pillar of Bay Street rule and the whole private profit system of environmental, labour and indigenous injustice. While NDP Leader Jack Layton says ‘no one is authorized to engage in talks’, so-called party ‘saints’ Ed Broadbent and Roy Romanow are talking potential ‘deals’ with former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and other Liberal honchos. Sadly, the outrageous prospect of such a merger seems credible only because the NDP has moved so far from its CCF and working class roots.
After illuminating presentations and discussions on domestic social policy (John Clarke, OCAP; Alex Johnstone, women’s and children’s rights; Robert Ling, End Prohibition of Cannabis) and foreign policy issues (Michael Skinner, Exiting the Afghanistan Quagmire; and this writer speaking on the campaign for democracy, anti-militarism and international solidarity in the NDP), conference participants got down to work on resolutions.
The gathering reaffirmed policies advanced by the SC in the lead up to the 2009 NDP Federal Convention in Halifax, and added three new ones: Legalize Cannabis, Make CPP Benefits a Decent, Living Income for Retirees, and Support the Cochabamba (Bolivia) Protocols on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth.
The conference mandated the incoming SC federal steering committee to write a new resolution on ending the Alberta Tar Sands Project.
All current SC policy resolutions are posted on the SC web site: www.ndpsocialists.ca and will be circulated extensively across the country through NDP riding associations, affiliated unions and youth clubs. The aim is to persuade local organizations to discuss, adopt and forward the SC resolutions to the federal NDP convention for debate, vote and, hopefully, adoption there.
Leading this effort will be the newly elected NDP Socialist Caucus federal steering committee consisting of: from Toronto, Carol Bailey, Elizabeth Byce (elected SC treasurer), Judy Koch, Christos Draxl, Hans Modlich, Esther Mwangi, Doug Phillips, Ross Ashley and Barry Weisleder (elected SC chair); from Hamilton, Robert Ling; from Oakville, Sean Cain; from Thornhill, John Orrett; from Montreal, Robbie Mahood; and from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Rosemary Hnatiuk.
NDP activists who agree with SC policies and principles and who are interested in joining the SC federal steering committee, which operates primarily through inter net consultation, should send a message via the web site, or call 416 – 535-8779.
Inside the Ontario NDP, the Socialist Caucus remains the driving force behind grass roots challenges to postponement of the provincial convention by the party establishment and to its ongoing support for public funding for Catholic separate schools. Although the ONDP Provincial Council meeting on May 29 reaffirmed the party’s regressive position on those issues, it was only after a vigorous council debate animated by SC activists. A lively lunch-time forum, attended by thirty ONDP councillors and observers, showed that the NDP Socialists represent the best hope for democracy and the turn to the left so essential to NDP survival in the current neo-liberal climate.
So does the SC defense of NDP federal MP and deputy leader Libby Davies (Vancouver East). She was denounced on July 15 by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae and NDP Leader Jack Layton – simply for stating that the Israeli occupation of Palestine began in 1948. The fact that the Zionist state was founded on the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinian Arabs, and the ethnic cleansing, killing and incarceration of many more since 1948, is widely recognized worldwide, including by most NDP members. It explains why the global campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli apartheid has gained the support of many unions, municipalities and leading personalities internationally. Telling the truth should be commended, not condemned. Hands off Libby Davies!