Socialism 2016 – sparks and convergences

by Barry Weisleder
Speakers from five countries converged on the University of Toronto, May 20-21, for “Socialism 2016 – Crisis and Change”. The eleventh annual international educational conference sponsored by Socialist Action – Canada featured panel discussions on Is Russia Imperialist? The nature of the conflict in Ukraine and Syria; Robots, Part-time and Precarious employment – Is the Working Class Disappearing?; Climate Justice, after COP21; Another Great Recession, and the Stakes for Humanity; and Corbyn, Sanders and the Revival of “Socialism”.

The latter topic, with panelists Jeff Mackler, national secretary, Socialist Action-USA; Xavier Chiarelli, a leader of the Nouveau Parti Anti-capitaliste-France; Cheri DiNovo, New Democratic Party MPP Parkdale-High Park; and this writer, drew close to fifty people. Nearly seventy individuals attended one or more sessions during the weekend.

In the economics debate, sparks flew in a clash between Keynesianism and Marxism. Agreement that another recession is coming soon gave way to a dispute over whether government spending and tighter regulation of banks, or expropriation of Capital and democratic planning are required to solve the underlying causes.

On the subject of Climate Justice, Angela Bischoff, staff member of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, made a strong case against nuclear power and in favour of renewable energy. Jaime Gonzales, a leader of the Socialist Unity League-LUS in Mexico, criticized the weak carbon-emissions reduction measures that emerged from the Paris COP21 conference, and focussed on the growing incidence of wild fires, including the devastating blazes that forced the evacuation of Fort MacMurray, Alberta.

In the opening session, Vancouver-based socialist writer Roger Annis, who travelled recently to Russia, Crimea and Ukraine, provided insights into the Washington-orchestrated NATO offensive to dominate eastern Europe, economically and militarily, right up to the Russian border. As SA-USA leader Jeff Mackler explained, the false designation of Russia and China as imperialist states is a convenient cover to excuse western aggression. It promotes passivity, including on the radical left, towards the regime-change wars fostered by the west in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and beyond.

Between sessions a special appeal for a new film now in production, “The Most Dangerous Man in the World”, netted $400. Forty years in the making, this documentary by Lindy Laub and David Weiss features eyewitnesses who bring to life Leon Trotsky’s dramatic story of revolution, betrayal and exile, in footage never before seen on screen.

Many books, booklets and buttons were snapped up by conference participants from the extensive display at the back of the hall. Video of Socialism 2016 is posted at:

On May 22, members and supporters of Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste gathered in Convention to hear reports on the Fourth International, updates on important class battles against austerity then unfolding in France, and local organizing experiences across the Canadian state. They celebrated brand new and re-activated members in Edmonton, Winnipeg and St. John’s. After adopting a plan of action, including efforts to step up the fight for the environment and socialism in unions and the labour-based NDP, members elected a team to lead the organization forward. The Convention adjourned, buoyed by a rousing chorus of the Internationale.

On to Socialism (May) 2017, the year of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution!