The 2019 SA ‘Year in Review’ by Barry Weisleder (presented on December 7, 2019.)
Socialist Action is a small but fast growing revolutionary party that puts a great emphasis on political education. At the same time, SA is an activist organization that has many practical accomplishments to its credit. From Chile to Lebanon to Hong Kong, from Ecuador to Catalonia to Iraq, 2019 has been a year of revolt against austerity, authoritarianism and repression worldwide. Today the working class of France is confronting the reactionary agenda of President Emmanuel Macron with an unlimited general strike. 2019 was also a year brimming with activism in this region, in this country, in which we have proven our ability to make a positive difference. This is a chronology of the activities of Socialist Action, primarily in the Toronto region, during the past 12 months.
On January 10, people from over 100 countries, among them many heads of government, gathered in Caracas, Venezuela to witness the inauguration of President Nicolas Maduro. I had the privilege of representing Socialist Action and the NDP Socialist Caucus there. Despite the brutal economic sanctions and attempts at military coup, it is clear that the imperialist rulers in Washington, Ottawa, the EU, and their lap dogs in South America have failed to overthrow the elected Chavista government. In fact, Trump has abandoned his discredited puppet Guaido. The ultra-right, racist coup in Bolivia is a setback – perhaps only a temporary one. We can see the future in the streets of Chile and Ecuador. And the working class and indigenous peoples of Bolivia will rise again.
After the holiday break, 2019 began with protests against sexism, racism and capitalist austerity. On January 19, hundreds of women braved the cold in Toronto to demonstrate to the Thug Ford government that women won’t return to the old days of sexist abuse.
We participated in the monthly meetings of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. We resumed our monthly cross-country SA telephone conference calls on January 6. SA published articles in our press and website, and conducted sales of Socialist Action newspaper. On January 23 Toronto Region SA members resumed meeting on a monthly basis to plan a range of activities.
February 23 saw a protest, which SA initiated, at CBC headquarters on Front Street against CBC lies and distortions about Venezuela.
In March a Toronto BDS organizing committee, that SA helped to start, began to meet regularly to plan a Day of Action for Palestine in May.
On March 9, thousands marked International Women’s Day with a rally and march from OISE to Ryerson U.
The popular Toronto SA Rebel Films festival began a new series on March 15. Hundreds of people attended the screenings and guest speakers on seven consecutive Fridays through April 26.
The NDP Socialist Caucus held a provincial conference to prepare for the Ontario NDP Convention in June. The ONDP provincial council met on March 23-24.
On March 25, the Ontario Federation of Labour held a “Take Back Ontario” conference. It was followed by a Toronto Labour Council Stewards’ Assembly in the evening, with both events at the Metro Convention Centre. Neither gathering allowed a vote on concrete proposals for action from rank and file workers.
On March 30 we protested the Jewish National Fund at Dundas Square. For Palestinians, the JNF is like the KKK in the American deep south. That same day we celebrated the Nowruz new year’s celebration with the Kurdish community.
On April 4 at the Unitarian Congregation in Toronto we honoured the life of Eryl Court, a long-time supporter of SA who passed away a few months earlier.
April 6 brought thousands to Queen’s Park to stop cuts to education. On April 13 a rally to support Venezuela took place at Bloor and Spadina. On April 14, the first of several SA public forums in Mississauga took place.
Former OFL President Sid Ryan launched his book, “A Grander Vision – My life in the labour movement” on April 23 at the Lula Lounge.
On April 25, a public meeting in Oshawa’s IBEW Hall issued a call to “Nationalize General Motors.” The ‘Take the Plant, Save the Planet’ campaign demands that electric vehicles be produced in Oshawa under public ownership and workers’ control.
The April 27 Earth Strike drew a big crowd at Queens’ Park. Supporters of public health care demonstrated in front of the Ontario Legislature on April 30.
On May Day, May 1, about 400 marched through pouring rain, from Toronto City Hall to Regent Park. It was a step forward in that: 1. The parade united the left. 2. It did not start at a vacant lot in North York, as in 2018. Next May, it will be even better!
SA’s annual International Workers’ Day Celebration, featuring the music of HOTCHA!, and the Kevin Barrett Group, played to a packed house at the Free Times Café on Saturday, May 4.
The first ever conference in Cuba on the Life and Ideas of Leon Trotsky took place in Havana, May 6-8. Our comrade Bob in Costa Rica represented SA Canada.
On May 11 a SA film and forum took place in Mississauga’s Central Library. The CUPW Convention, May 13-17, was held at the Harbourfront Centre. Jan Simpson was elected president.
May 18 was the Day of Action for Palestinian rights and BDS against the Zionist state. A march of 500 surged from Dundas Square to Bloor and Yonge intersection, which we occupied for 45 minutes. Rallies and vigils that we helped to inspire took place from St. John’s, NL to Victoria, B.C.
On May 20, Jews for a Just Peace and others protested at the Walk for Israel uptown. The OPSEU Convention occurred May 23-25 in Toronto.
On May 28, a Venezuela Solidarity deputation to Toronto City Council’s Planning and Housing Committee promoted the amazing social housing achievements of Venezuela.
The SA international education conference, Socialism 2019, followed by our annual SA convention, took place May 31-June 2 at U of T. Leading activists from Palestine, Venezuela, the USA and the labour movement across Canada were among the guest speakers. We welcomed several new members at the gathering.
On June 7, SA provided the sound system for an OPSEU protest against cuts at the Ministry of the Environment.
On June 8-9, SA reps participated in the Canadian Network on Cuba convention, held at City Hall. We joined a rally near the office of Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on the Sunday afternoon to condemn her policies against Venezuela and Cuba.
The NDP Ontario convention took place in Hamilton, June 14-16. Leading a large contingent of Socialist Caucus members, SA played a prominent role in the fight for socialist policies. The SC ran candidates for ONDP executive, and distributed hundreds of copies of Turn Left magazine. SC candidates got 15 to 40% of the votes cast. SA sold hundreds of dollars of socialist literature and buttons, and gained many new friends, while pissing off the NDP bureaucracy and a few fake leftists.
We walked with the people of Grassy Narrows on June 20 at Queen’s Park. We joined the Trans March on June 21 and the Pride Parade on June 23. Between the two, SA participated in an anti-PEGIDA rally on June 22 where very aggressive cops grabbed our No Platform for Fascists banner. Three months later, Mitchell got it back.
A Toronto SA summer tradition, Socialism in the Park, returned to Christie Pits on June 26, and continued for the next two Wednesdays. The topics were: Permanent Revolution, Precarious Work, and Socialism in Canada.
On July 1 we and 50 Venezuela Solidarity Coalition members confronted Chrystia Freeland at the Liberal Party’s Canada Day picnic at Christie Park.
Peel SA held a public forum at the Mississauga Valley Community Centre on July 6, and another on August 5 at Mississauga Celebration Square.
We rallied against India’s invasion of Kashmir on Aug. 10, and again on August 18. We confronted Finance Minister Bill Morneau at his Liberal BBQ on Aug. 25 in Riverdale.
On Saturday, August 31, the SA annual end-of-summer picnic, social and membership meeting occurred at the Bain Co-op. We welcomed several new members.
On September 2 we marched in the annual Labour Day parade with 30,000 union members. In the first weeks of September, during university campus orientation days, SA signed up many new contacts at our display table.
We joined several rallies for democratic rights in Chile, starting on September 11 at Yonge and Bloor.
Prior to the federal election, Jagmeet Singh’s staff excluded some socialists from local NDP nomination races across the country. The Socialist Caucus protested at the University Rosedale NDP fake nomination meeting on September 14, and recruited several folks to the SC.
SA and friends challenged Chrystia Freeland on September 22 at the U of T Law building, and we organized ‘Fire Freeland’ street postering across the downtown.
On Friday, Sept. 27 a new and well-attended weekly
Rebel Films series began at OISE with the screening of “Climate Change – The Facts.”
On September 28, SA joined with the gay community to stop a parade by Christian hate groups on Church St. In response to Turkey’s invasion of Rojava, we marched in protest with the Kurdish people on October 13. We occupied Chrystia Freeland’s election campaign office on October 17. On October 21 we gathered at the Imperial Pub to watch the federal election results. Minority government improves the conditions for struggle. And the struggle continues. So, on October 24, SA rallied with OCAP at Dundas and Sherbourne to demand good housing and decent welfare rates.
The Cuban Institute for Friendship Among the Peoples hosted a Conference Against Imperialism and Neo-Liberalism, November 1-3, in Havana. Kurt Young and I had the honour of representing SA at the gathering of over 1,300 activists from 86 countries. My report is posted on the SA website, along with my January report on President Maduro’s inauguration in Caracas.
While the Toronto Region SA branch met on November 12, we sent representatives of our party to attend and speak to a protest against the coup in Bolivia.
Our 12th annual Education for Activists Conference was held at OISE on Nov. 15-16. It attracted about 150 participants and won eight new members to SA. Speakers included Dirka Prout, Yvonne Hanson, Rebecca Keetch, Jeff Mackler, Ian Angus, John Clarke, Gary Porter, and Dimitri Lascaris. On Nov. 17, SA Central Committee members met to adopt a manifesto for Eco-Socialism, which we aim to publish soon, and to make plans for the coming year.
The need for an organized class struggle left wing in the labour movement has been clear for some time. Its urgency is underscored by the brazen corporate agenda of Thug Ford and the utter failure of the union leadership to stop it. Under these circumstances, about fifty people, including activists from seven different unions, gathered at the OPSEU Centre on September 14 for a conference of the Workers’ Action Movement. WAM decided to run candidates for the top positions in the Ontario Federation of Labour. At the Ontario Federation of Labour Convention, November 25-29, WAM supporters played a leading role in defeating an executive-sponsored constitution amendment to reduce the frequency of OFL conventions from two years to every three years. The federation has over one million affiliated workers. Rejection of the amendment was a big blow to the labour bureaucracy, which usually gets its way.
An even bigger blow to the brass was the extraordinary vote obtained by Workers’ Action Movement candidates for President and Executive Vice-President of the OFL. Barry Conway, a Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local leader and IWW member from Hamilton got 36 per cent of the 869 votes cast. Kurt Young, a Sheet Metal Workers’ Union delegate and Socialist Action member from Mississauga, got 33.5 percent of the 899 votes cast.
Establishment forces, led by high school teacher Patty Coates who won the presidency, were visibly shaken by the sizable support shown for the WAM ticket. WAM, led by Socialist Action militants who re-founded the body in 2014, campaigned for an end to concessions bargaining, two-tier wages, undemocratic union practices, and for building towards a general strike to “Dump Thug Ford.” Three OFL delegates applied to join SA.
Our solidarity continues with struggles for workers’ power, and for national liberation from imperialist rule, from Latin America and the Caribbean, to Catalonia, to Palestine, across north Africa, the Middle East and Asia, to Quebec and the indigenous people in the Canadian state.
What’s in store for the year ahead?
More struggles against capitalist austerity, more battles against imperialist war, more efforts to stop environmental plunder! In fact, we are more determined than ever to overcome the conservative labour leadership and social democratic obstacles to a militant workers’ agenda.
We will step up our efforts to support teachers and all education workers. We will be on their picket lines next Wednesday, Dec. 11. And, taking our cue from the workers in France, we will continue to urge escalating job action towards an unlimited general strike to bring down the Ford government. WAM plans to build chapters in many more unions, and to run candidates for the top positions in the Canadian Labour Congress at its convention in Vancouver in May. At the next federal NDP convention, whenever it occurs, we will be there to fight for socialist policies and to hold the leadership accountable for its undemocratic practices.
But whatever initiatives we decide to take, one thing is crystal clear. No one of us can do everything that needs to be done. No one can be everywhere to advance the struggle for social justice in a world that is choking on pollution, war and economic misery.
And we also know this: Together, in Socialist Action, we can have an impact, we can make a difference, collectively.
Together, we can have a greater effect than any one individual can. And in the process, we resolve to build the revolutionary workers’ party which is indispensable to leading the working class to victory, to making a better world, a world truly fit for humanity. What better New Year’s resolution can there be than that?