Around the world, millions demonstrated for workers’ rights and socialism in the main city squares. It was the continuation of a proud revolutionary tradition that began 132 years ago. But in Toronto, fewer than two hundred people met in a muddy field at the corner of Keele Street and Four Winds Drive. After a much-delayed rally on the soggy grass, featuring excellent socialist hip-hop rapper Mohammad Ali Aumeer, and a good opening statement from the organizers, the gathering of far-left factions walked for an hour south to a desolate Downsview Park. There the event ended in disarray.
Now is the time for some accountability on the part of ‘organizers’ of one of the most farcical gatherings for May 1 in the modern history of the day in Toronto.
At the terminus, there was no concluding statement from the organizers. The saving grace was a circle dance led by Kurdish women, and a rendition of the Internationale led by Socialist Action. SA hosted a lively contingent, walking and chanting at the front of the parade. Other organizations on the left, ostensibly socialist, anarchist and left social democratic, were conspicuous by their absence.
The purported reason for holding this virtually hidden display of workers’ solidarity, far from the eyes and ears of working people concentrated in the busy downtown districts, was to bring the celebration closer to teaching assistants on strike at York University, to indigenous people and environmentalists fighting Line 9, and to the victims of Ottawa’s imperialist war policies. These were good goals. But, sadly and predictably, this plan failed on all fronts. The demonstration did not approach the site of the strike. It attracted almost no friendly onlookers en route, and obtained zero mass media coverage.
Apart from a dozen, stalwart, flag-waving members of CUPE Local 3903, there was no significant union participation visible, and no presence of indigenous people’s movements evident.
Instead of the 1,000+ folks who typically gather at Dundas Square or Toronto City Hall or Christie Park or Queen’s Park on the occasion, this effort of the so-called United May Day Committee was one of weakest displays of outreach, event planning and parade marshaling seen in decades. Organizers did not inform SA, and others, of the meetings of the UMDC. As a result, we are reduced to openly expressing our concerns post-facto.
Clearly, there are hard lessons to be drawn from this sad experience. Just as importantly, activists in the unions, international solidarity campaigns, and on the left should strive to ensure that the May 1, 2019 march does not repeat the egregious errors of the rather pitiful one just held in 2018.
We can and must do better in the future.