On October 1st, 2022, friends, family, and comrades gathered in Montreal, Quebec to celebrate the life of Robbie Mahood, a founding member and revolutionary voice of Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action Socialiste.
Federal Secretary of Socialist Action, Barry Weisleder, spoke at the memorial for comrade Robbie Mahood.
Speech to A Celebration of the Life of Robbie Mahood October 1, 2022
Bonjour, toute la monde. Bonjour mes camarades, bonjour mes amis, et la famille Mahood.
We are here to celebrate the life of Robbie Mahood, a founding member and a leading light in Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste, who passed away in Montreal on December 26, 2021 at the age of 75. He was a dear, dear friend and comrade of mine. For us all, Robbie was a quiet hero, a voice of revolutionary reason, and a modern-day Dr. Norman Bethune.
Robert Fisher Mahood had the advantage of being born into one of the great families of the Canadian left. As a teenager, he witnessed the battle for Medicare. Impacted by the youth radicalization of the 1960’s, he embraced revolutionary Marxism. After studying history and politics at the University of Regina, he went into medicine and was active in the fight for abortion rights, collaborating with pro-choice activists and Dr. Henry Morgentaler in opening and operating his Winnipeg clinic. Robbie was a semi-retired family physician in Montreal, and a leading member of Ligue pour l’Action socialiste / Socialist Action to the end.
Robbie lived in the Middle East in the early 1960’s while his father worked for the United Nations setting up teacher training for Palestinian refugee communities, but Saskatchewan was the place of his youth.
Robbie was a student activist in the 1960s, involved in anti-war activism as well as early community organizing efforts against racism in Saskatchewan. He worked briefly for the National Farmers’ Union, and in a factory in Toronto. He went to Cuba on a work exchange in the late 1960s, and famously played (and lost at) baseball with Fidel.
Robbie joined the Canadian section of the Fourth International in the late 1960s. Subsequently, he was a member of the Revolutionary Marxist Group in the early to mid-1970s, and later belonged to the Revolutionary Workers’ League. The RWL was the product of a fusion of the RMG, the GMR in Quebec, and the League for Socialist Action/Ligue Socialiste Ouvrier in 1977. I became better acquainted with Robbie when I was the RWL branch organizer in Winnipeg, Manitoba, from 1977 through 1979. On speaking tours across the western provinces in those years I got to know the Mahood clan, including Robbie’s parents, Ed, and Margaret Mahood. They were a legendary force on the Saskatchewan left, particularly in the fight for medicare, and in the Waffle movement, both inside and outside the NDP. Alas, the RWL disintegrated, giving rise to Socialist Challenge/Gauche socialiste. When Elizabeth and I, and several others were excluded from the organization in 1994, at which time the Quebec organization, and soon most of the Fourth International leadership, abandoned revolutionary party-building and class struggle politics, Robbie stood with the Leninist-Trotskyist opposition. As a founder and leader of Socialist Action/Ligue pour l’Action socialiste, he worked closely with us, and as part of the Tendency for a Revolutionary International with comrades around the world both inside and outside the F.I. today.
Robbie was a member of the federal steering committee of the NDP Socialist Caucus, and served as the SA/LAS Montreal organizer. Thanks to his facility in French, he was able to play an important role in advancing our work in Palestine solidarity, environmental justice, and anti-poverty work in Quebec. Often, Robbie hosted comrades and friends at his home in Montreal when they visited the city to attend major political events, such as the massive strikes and marches of the Quebec students’ movement against university tuition increases, as well as during a Canadian Labour Congress convention held here in 2017. Robbie’s selfless devotion to revolutionary engagement was strikingly evident in his participation at SA Central Committee meetings in the last weeks of his life, even following physically exhausting blood transfusions.
As a physician, Robbie participated in the campaign for reproductive choice, including…as a fly-in (abortion) provider in the Maritime provinces. Robbie decided that salaried group medical practice was the best model for delivery of medical services and was involved in several unique group community practices in Winnipeg (Klinic), and in Montreal (CLSC Côte des Neiges) where he spent the rest of his career.
In Montreal he remained politically active in various progressive campaigns, continued a lifelong critical involvement in the left of the NDP, and ran (provincially) as a candidate for Québec Solidaire. He was a committed activist for Palestinian rights, for immigrant rights and healthcare, and for action against climate change, which he saw as a direct consequence of the profit motive of capitalism.
His entire life, personal and professional, was devoted to the battle for progressive social change in key sectors of political life. He brought an inextinguishable optimism that a better world was possible, a great intellectual energy, a deep curiosity about the world and its challenges, and a determined expectation that we should all do the same.
He courageously battled cancer for the last two decades of his life, surviving bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy regimes with little complaint and tremendous determination.
Throughout these struggles he maintained his eclectic interests in folk music, film, art, and history, constantly sharing his insights and observations with friends and colleagues around the world. He remained highly informed about the many struggles for equality and justice the world over and could always be counted on to offer a cogent, thoughtful, and unique analysis of world events and of the way forward. On a personal level he was smart, funny, and never polarizing in his many discussions over just the right cup of Mile End coffee.
Robbie was a prolific and high-quality writer. The most recent articles, booklets and video talks by Robbie Mahood include:
“Montreal protesters rally against curfew, call for stricter public health measures”
“China and the Uyghur question”
“Marxism versus Anarchism”
“Choice is Under Attack! Women Resist from Texas to Toronto to New Brunswick”
“Covid-19: Capitalism is the Virus”
“COVID-19: The End Game?”
“The War Measures Act, 50 Years On”
“A Redder Shade of Green”
“Corona Virus Pandemic – a Socialist Perspective”
“The Weaponization of Anti-Semitism”
Robbie was the architect of our position on the National Question, codified in the booklet “Quebec, Acadia and Aboriginal Peoples – The National Question in the Canadian State” which he authored.’
As good as he was a writer, researcher and publicist, Robbie was a great conversationalist. I had the pleasure of speaking with him, often on a weekly basis, for many years. His erudition was, at least for me, a constant source of intellectual enrichment. Many days he’d send two or more articles from afar, with the post-script “What do you think of this?” We shared many stories, personal and political. His medical advice, which I sought occasionally, was always couched in caution, always recommending a less intrusive, less drug-dependent course of action. Even concerning vitamins, he said good food is a better source than the pharmacy.
The loss of Robbie is a terrible blow. A great personal friend to me, and to many, Robbie was a brilliant leader of our party. He is gone now 9 months. Still, it is difficult to grasp the magnitude of this loss. Fortunately, we are endowed with his many articles, interviews, and video recordings, several of which can be easily accessed via the Socialist Action YouTube channel and at www.socialistaction.ca . His absolute firmness of principle was attended by great tactical flexibility, openness, humility, and a supreme elegance of expression. As a revolutionary doctor, serving his patients in a working class Montreal neighbourhood clinic, Robbie was an insightful and constant guide through the trauma of the first years of the Covid pandemic.
This is a dark moment. Try, we must, to illuminate it with fond and precious memories of Robbie. His indelible example lives on. It inspires all who strive for a better world.
Robbie Mahood est avec nous, et la lutte continue!by Barry Weisleder, October 1st, 2022.