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Anti-extradition movement in Hong Kong

 

Lam Chi Leung

2019-7-10

 

Demonstrations started after Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’ Chief Executive announced a law on extradition to China, allowing the Chinese Communist Party to arrest Hong Kong activists considered to be a threat to “national security”. What are Lam’s and Hong Kong’s capitalists’ political goals behind the extradition law?

 

Lam: A characteristic of today’s event is the fact that Carrie Lam prioritizes on satisfying the demands of the CCP regime rather than those of the Hong Kong people, not even those of the Hong Kong capitalists. The capitalists in Hong Kong also fear being extradited to mainland China for getting on the wrong side of the CCP bureaucracy.

 

Carrie Lam opted to expedite the bill in order to gain the trust of Xi Jinping.

 

The CCP regime has two primary goals. First, to extradite the mainland Chinese corrupt tycoons and bureaucrats that fled to Hong Kong. In the past, the Chinese government has sent people to directly extract these elements back to the mainland, but such methods were criticized as Chinese Police overreaching its authority beyond its jurisdiction.

 

Secondly, this extradition bill is to be used against the political oppositionists against the CCP in Hong Kong. Those who openly and sharply criticize the Chinese government and leaders, or those Hong Kongers who helped Chinese democracy activists to flee to Hong Kong, would find themselves in grave danger should the extradition bill becomes the law.

 

Just as the extradition bill was about to be legislated, a Hong Kong bookstore owner who was incarcerated in mainland China for over eight months, Lam Wing-kee(林榮基), decided to flee Hong Kong for Taiwan in late April. Lam published books about the private life of Xi Jinping, which angered the CCP regime.

 

Moreover, the Hong Kong social activists who assist Chinese labor, human rights, or other social movement NGOs may also be charged with “subverting national security” by the Chinese regime and get extradited.

 

Although British colonialism in Hong Kong ended in 1997, and Hong Kong was titularly returned to China, the city still follows the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement: Hong Kong maintains a political and legal system distinct from that of mainland China. The Hong Kongers have freedom of speech and assembly. They also tend to receive more protection from a (relatively) independent judiciary. As mainland China remains under a single party authoritarian rule, where the people lacks protection by the law, an extradition provision would open up a loophole where Hong Kongers could be sent to be tried unfairly inside mainland China at any time.

 

We can see that the movement is at a heightened level of frontal confrontation with the police and shows a solid level of self-organization. We all watched with admiration the taking of Hong Kong’s Parliament. Can you explain how the movement is structured, what are its ideological references and what organisations take part in it? What do you see as the movement’s shortcomings and what obstacles does it need to overcome to grow stronger?

 

Lam: The consecutive large demonstrations that took place from June to July were led by a united front organization known as the Civil Human Rights Front. It is composed of over 50 pan-democratic political parties and civil society groups, including unions, women’s rights organizations, community advocates, student activists and opposition parties. However, the two million people who joined the march not because of the Civil Human Rights Front’s own moral authority, but because of their identification with the anti-extradition cause.

 

The LegCo occupation attempt on July first and prior attempts at surrounding the police headquarters were organized by younger, more radical protesters via the Internet. They were not the result of any social or political organization’s leadership. In order to evade government persecution, the young protestors purposely refrained from establishing organizations, and instead opted for using Telegram or other softwares to spread information in short ranges. Hand signals were used for coordination at the site of the struggles, the effectiveness of which was enhanced by the strong camaraderie among the youth protesters.

 

Neither the citizens who joined the demonstration nor the youths who joined the besieging or occupation attempts uphold a definite ideology. Perhaps you can call them supporters of democracy I.e. against the authoritarianism of the SAR/CCP regime, and for the defense of Hong Kong’s human rights and freedoms as well as for democratic elections.

 

The far right “localists” who called for “Hong Kong First” had much influence during 2014’s Umbrella Movement and perhaps two years after that, but they have been significantly weakened in the run up to today’s anti-extradition movement in terms of ability to mobilize. Yet, they still have a certain hold on the youths ideologically. This is primarily expressed in a section of the youths’ nostalgia for British colonial rule, rejection of mainland Chinese people, or adventurist tendencies during actions.

 

The biggest weakness in today’s anti-extradition movement lies in its inability to transform into a platform of united struggle that is democratically and responsibly coordinated. This prevented protesters with different backgrounds and ideas from coordinating with each other effectively. They had to act on their own. The differences in tendency and strategy usually were expressed in one-sided internet exchanges rather than deep face-to-face discussions that could clarify many fundamental issues.

 

For example, since the movement erupted, some have proposed that a political strike as well as solidarity with the Wuhan citizens’ struggle against polluting incinerators and power stations. Proponents of this idea sought to win support for the Hong Kong movement from the people of mainland China. These extremely precious insights have not been seriously discussed.

 

On the contrary, certain activists utilized the G20 summit last month to call on Trump or other major world leaders to “Free Hong Kong.” Yet such a position can easily be interpreted as leaning on the US and EU government to pressure China, objectively placing the anti-extradition movement under the western powers’ cynical power politics. The movement thus would become a disposable pawn in the backdoor negotiations. This position also provides the CCP regime ammunition to slander the mass movement in Hong Kong, and divide the people of Hong Kong from those in mainland China.

 

Yet, these diverging strategies have not been able to be clarified via a united organization.

 

The movement in HK today grew on the shoulders of the “Umbrella Revolution” which demanded universal suffrage. Youth was very active in 2014 but the working class and its unions were blatantly lacking. What is the role of the working class in the movement today? Are there bonds being formed between students and the working class?

 

Lam: The labor movement in Hong Kong has a glorious past. The Seamen’s Strike in 1922 and the Canton–Hong Kong general strike in 1925-1926 shook British Imperialism, but the labor movement saw a decline since then. It will not be easy to launch a powerful strike that can shake society in the short term.

 

The teachers’ union and social workers’ union both have called for a strike on June 12th. There were even youth groups that voluntarily enter into commercial districts to open up a picket line. There is a university student organization named “Student Labour Action Coalition”(工學同行)which calls on the workers to join the fight against the extradition bill.

 

Although a strike wave has not materialized, but the idea of political strikes has generated a wave of discussions online. These phenomena mark a development from the political consciousness of 2014’s Umbrella Movement.

 

I believe that Hong Kong’s revolutionary socialists have a key responsibility. They can deepen the discussions around political strikes, and guide the strategic discussions towards a conclusion to establish organizations controlled by the masses themselves, as well as explaining why a struggle for civil or political democracy is inseparable from a struggle for economic equality.

 

Since the 2008 crisis, the executive power has been beefing up its repressive measures and anti-social policies. Beyond the demands for democratic rights, does the movement demand concrete measures for the betterment of life and working conditions of youth and the working class? Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s PM, announced a delay of the extradition law in the wake of a 2 million march (for a 7 million people country). Is this a victory for the movement? What are the demonstrators’ prospects? What about the demands for universal suffrage and democratic rights? Would you say that youth and the working class in HK and China are radicalizing? Does it have an impact on the influence of revolutionary, communist ideas and their organizations?

 

Lam: Today’s movement remains a single issue campaign, one that focuses on retracting the extradition bill and protect basic human rights. Yet, it recently has evolved into a movement that also demands democratic election. Whether it can also demand for improvement in worker and youths’ living and working conditions, will depend on the activists who base themselves on the working class’ perspective.

 

Although Carrie Lam is only pausing rather than terminating the legislation, I don’t anticipate a great possibility for her to re-propose the legislation within her term. In a way the movement has gained a partial victory, but to take it further towards bringing down Carrie Lam will not be easy.

 

Although calls for labor and school strikes did not materialize, the fresh idea of a political strike, its possibilities and implications, is already a part of the ongoing public discussions. It is making the masses think further. If the movement wants to gain more results, it needs to quickly abandon its lack of structure, and insists on its political independence.

 

I believe a socio-economic crisis as well as class contradictions are rapidly escalating in both Hong Kong and mainland China, with no signs of abating. Although the crisis may not immediately erupt, when it does I believe it will be extraordinarily acute.

 

As of now the youths in both Hong Kong and mainland China generally are not politicized, but a layer of them have clearly moved towards politicization and ponder on the fundamental solutions for society. Under Xi Jinping autocratic bureaucracy, it is dangerous for youths and workers to self-organize and openly communicate with each other. It’s almost impossible. However, spaces for private exchange of ideas still exist.

 

Further, there are some indications that progressive youths in mainland China are increasingly interested in the ideas of revolution and communism as they are seeking an alternative outside of bourgeois liberalism and Maoism (Chinese Stalinism) .There is even a minority that approves of the traditions of Trotskyism. The revolutionary socialists in Hong Kong have always utilized the city’s relative freedom to spread revolutionary ideas towards youths in mainland China. The most valuable work we can pursue at the moment is the fundamental task of spreading the ideas of classical Marxism to mainland China .

 

Lam Chi Leung is a revolutionary socialist based in Hong Kong. 

 

Révolte contre l’autoritarisme à Hong Kong. Interview avec Lam, marxiste révolutionnaire hongkongais.

07:30

Le 1er juillet, des millions de jeunes et de travailleurs d’Hong Kong envahissaient le Parlement pour exiger l’abandon du projet de loi d’extradition vers la Chine. L’ampleur, la radicalité et la détermination de ces manifestations ont obligé Carrie Lam, cheffe exécutif de HK, à abandonner son projet. Nous avons interviewé  Lam, militant communiste révolutionnaire hongkongais, afin d’avoir un point de vue vivant sur ce mouvement inédit et sur la politisation qui traverse la jeunesse d’Hong Kong et de Chine.

Anticapitalisme & Révolution : Les manifestations ont émergé suite à l’annonce par Carrie Lam, cheffe de l’éxécutif de Hong Kong, de la loi d’extradition vers la Chine, permettant au Parti communiste chinois d’arrêter des militants hongkongais qui serait une menace à la « sûreté nationale ». Pour Lam et le patronat hongkongais, quels sont les objectifs politiques derrière cette loi d’extradition ?

Lam: Une des caractéristiques des événements actuels, c’est le fait que Carrie Lam priorise la satisfaction des revendications du régime du Parti Communiste Chinois, même pas celles des capitalistes de Hong Kong, sur celles du peuple de Hong Kong. Les capitalistes locaux craignent eux aussi de subir l’extradition vers la Chine continentale s’ils froissent la bureaucratie du PCC.

Carrie Lam a voulu expédier le passage de cette loi pour gagner la confiance du Xi Jinping.

Le régime du PCC a deux objectifs principaux. Le premier est l’extradition vers le continent des bureaucrates et des magnats chinois corrompus qui ont fui vers Hong Kong. Avant, le gouvernement chinois envoyait des gens pour extraire directement ces personnes et les ramener sur le continent, mais ces méthodes ont été critiquées, vues comme un dépassement de sa juridiction par la police chinoise.

Deuxièmement, cette loi d’extradition est faite pour être utilisée contre les opposants politiques au PCC à Hong Kong. Celles et ceux qui critiquent ouvertement et sévèrement les dirigeants et le gouvernement chinois, ou les hongkongais qui ont aidé des militants chinois de la démocratie à s’enfuir vers Hong Kong, se trouveraient en grand danger si ce projet de loi était adoptée.

Fin avril, alors que la loi d’extradition allait passer, un libraire de Hong Kong qui a fait plus de 8 mois de prison en Chine continentale, Lam Wing-Kee, a décidé de fuir Hong Kong pour Taiwan. Lam a publié des livres sur la vie privée de Xi Jinping, ce qui a provoqué la colère du PCC.

De plus, les militants de Hong Kong qui aident les mouvements sociaux, du travail, pour les droits humains, ou les ONG, peuvent aussi être accusés de “subvertir la sécurité nationale” par le régime chinois et subir l’extradition.

Même si le colonialisme britannique a pris fin à Hong Kong en 1997, et que Hong Kong est formellement revenu à la Chine, la ville vit toujours selon l’arrangement “un pays, deux systèmes” : Hong Kong conserve un système légal et politique distinct de celui de la Chine continentale. Les hongkongais ont la liberté d’expression et de réunion. Ils et elles sont aussi plutôt mieux protégés par une justice (relativement) indépendante. Alors que la Chine continentale est toujours sous un régime autoritaire de parti unique, où le peuple manque de protections légales, la possibilité d’extradition ouvrirait une brèche par laquelle des hongkongais pourrait être injustement envoyés en procès en Chine continentale à tout moment.

A&R : Depuis la France nous voyons que ce mouvement assume un niveau élevé d’affrontement face aux forces de l’ordre et exprime un niveau d’auto-organisation important. Nous avons tous vu avec admiration l’envahissement du Parlement d’Hong Kong. Peux-tu nous expliquer comment se structure ce mouvement, quels sont ses références idéologiques et les organisations qui le constituent ? Quels sont les limites et obstacles que le mouvement doit dépasser pour pouvoir se renforcer ?

Lam: La série de manifestations massives qui ont lieu de juin à juillet ont été menées par une organisation de front unique, le Front Civil des Droits Humains. Il est composé de plus de 50 partis politiques et groupes de la société civile pan-démocratiques, notamment des syndicats, des organisations pour les droits des femmes, des associations de quartier, des militants étudiants et des partis d’opposition. Cela dit, les deux millions de personnes qui ont rejoint les manifestations ne l’ont pas fait grâce à l’autorité morale du Front Civil des Droits Humains, mais car ils s’identifiaient à la cause anti-extradition.

La tentative d’occupation du Parlement le 1er juillet et les tentatives précédentes d’encercler le QG de la police ont été organisées par les manifestantes et manifestants les plus jeunes et radicaux via Internet. Cela n’a été le fruit de la direction d’aucune organisation politique ou sociale. Pour échapper à la persécution gouvernementale, les jeunes manifestants ont fait exprès de ne pas établir d’organisations, et ont choisi à la place d’utiliser Telegram ou d’autres logiciels pour transmettre l’information à courte portée. Des signes de mains étaient utilisés sur le terrain, dont l’efficacité était augmentée par la forte camaraderie qui lie les jeunes manifestants.

Ni les citoyens qui rejoignaient les manifestations ni les jeunes qui participaient aux tentatives de sièges ou d’occupations n’ont d’idéologie définie. On pourrait peut-être les appeler des militantes et des militants de la démocratie, c’est-à-dire contre l’autoritarisme du régime RAS/PCC1, et pour la défense des libertés et des droits humains à Hong Kong, ainsi que pour des élections démocratiques.

Les “localistes” d’extrême-droite qui en appelait à “Hong Kong d’abord” ont eu une forte influence pendant le Mouvement des Parapluies de 2014 et durant environ les deux années qui ont suivi, mais ils ont été considérablement affaiblis en termes de leur capacité à mobiliser dans la période précédent le mouvement actuel anti-extradition. Pour autant, ils ont encore une certaine prise idéologique sur les jeunes. Cela s’exprime principalement chez une partie de la jeunesse par une nostalgie du régime colonial britannique, le rejet des chinois du continent, ou des tendances aventuristes lors des actions.

La plus grande faiblesse du mouvement actuel contre l’extradition réside dans son incapacité à devenir une plateforme de lutte unifiée qui soit démocratiquement et responsablement coordonnée. Cela empêche les manifestants issus de différents milieux et ayant différentes idées de se coordonner efficacement. Ils et elles ont dû agir seuls. Les différences d’orientation et de stratégie se sont souvent exprimées unilatéralement sur internet plutôt que dans des échanges approfondis en face- à-face qui pourraient clarifier nombre de questions fondamentales.

Par exemple, depuis le début du mouvement, des personnes ont proposé une grève politique et de solidarité avec la lutte des citoyens du Wuhan contre les incinérateurs et les centrales électriques qui polluent. Les tenants de cette idée cherchaient à gagner le soutien du peuple de Chine continentale au mouvement de Hong Kong. Ces idées très importantes n’ont pas été sérieusement discutées.

Au contraire, certains militants ont utilisé le G20 le mois dernier pour demander à Trump ou à d’autres grands dirigeants mondiaux de “Libérer Hong Kong”. Pourtant une telle position peut facilement s’interpréter comme la recherche d’un point d’appui chez les gouvernements des Etats-Unis et d’Europe pour faire pression sur la Chine, subordonnant objectivement le mouvement anti-extradition aux jeux de pouvoir politiques cyniques des puissances occidentales. Le mouvement deviendrait ainsi un pion dans des négociations de couloir, à jeter après usage. Cette position fournirait aussi au régime du PCC des arguments pour calomnier le mouvement de masse hongkongais, et diviser le peuple de Hong Kong du peuple de Chine continentale.

Pourtant, ces stratégies divergentes n’ont pas pu être clarifiées par une modalité d’organisation qui les rassemble.

A&R : Le mouvement que connaît HK aujourd’hui reprend le flambeau de la « Révolution des parapluies », exigeant le droit au suffrage universel. La jeunesse était très active en 2014, mais on a constaté une absence importante de la classe ouvrière et de ses organisations syndicales. Aujourd’hui, dans ce mouvement, quel est le rôle de la classe ouvrière ? Y a-t-il des liens qui se créent entre la jeunesse scolarisé et le monde du travail ?

Lam: Le mouvement ouvrier de Hong Kong a connu un passé glorieux. La grève des marins de 1922 et la grève générale de Hong Kong et Canton de 1925-1926 ont ébranlé l’impérialisme britannique, mais le mouvement ouvrier a depuis connu un déclin. A court terme, il ne sera pas facile de lancer une grève assez puissante pour ébranler la société.

Le syndicat enseignant et le syndicat du travail social ont appelé à la grève le 12 juin. Il y a même des groupes de jeunes qui vont volontairement dans les quartiers commerciaux pour ouvrir des piquets de grève. Il existe une organisation étudiante, la “Coalition pour l’Action Ouvrière et Etudiante”, qui appelle les travailleuses et les travailleurs à rejoindre la lutte contre le projet de loi d’extradition.

Même si la grève ne s’est pas concrétisée, l’idée de grèves politiques a provoqué une vague de discussions en ligne. Ces phénomènes marquent un développement par rapport à ce qu’était la conscience politique du Mouvement des Parapluies de 2014.

Je pense que les socialistes révolutionnaires de Hong Kong ont une responsabilité cruciale. Ils peuvent approfondir les discussions autour des grèves politiques, et guider les discussions stratégiques vers l’établissement d’organisations contrôlées par les masses elles-mêmes, ainsi qu:’expliquer en quoi la lutte pour une démocratie politique ou civile est inséparable de la lutte pour l’égalité économique.

A&R : Depuis la crise de 2008 le pouvoir exécutif renforce ses mesures répressives et les mesures antisociales vis-à-vis des exploités. Au-delà des revendications démocratiques, ce mouvement revendique-t-il aussi des mesures concrètes pour l’amélioration des conditions de travail et d’existence pour les jeunes et les salariés ? Carrie Lam, chefe de l’éxécutif de Hong Kong, a annoncé la report de la loi d’extradition suite à la manifestation de 2 millions de personnes (sur un pays de 7 millions). S’agit-il d’une victoire pour le mouvement ? Quels sont les perspectives pour les manifestants ? Qu’en est-il de la revendication pour le suffrage universel et pour les droits démocratiques ? Dirais-tu qu’il y a une radicalisation de la jeunesse et du monde du travail à Hong Kong et en Chine ? Cela a-t-il un impact sur l’influence des idées communistes, révolutionnaires et de ses organisations ? ?

Lam: Le mouvement actuel reste centré autour d’une question, le retrait du projet de loi d’extradition et la protection des droits humains élémentaires. Cela a cependant évolué récemment, l’exigence d’élections démocratiques est venu s’ajouter. L’ajout de revendications pour l’amélioration des conditions de vie et de travail des travailleurs et de la jeunesse dépendra des militants qui se réclament d’une perspective lutte de classe.

Bien que Carrie Lam n’ait que reporté et non pas annulé le projet, je pense qu’il y a peu de chances qu’elle tente de le refaire passer avant la fin de son mandat. D’une certaine manière, le mouvement a remporté une victoire partielle, mais le pousser jusqu’à la chute de Carrie Lam ne sera pas facile.

Bien que les appels à la grève ouvrière et étudiante ne se soient pas concrétisés, l’idée nouvelle d’une grève politique, ses possibilités et ses implications, fait déjà partie du débat public. Elle fait réfléchir les masses. Si le mouvement veut remporter davantage de succès, il doit rapidement abandonner son manque de structuration, et insister sur son indépendance politique.

Je pense que la crise socio-économique et les contradictions de classe s’exarcerbent rapidement à la fois à Hong Kong et en Chine continentale, sans signes d’accalmie en vue. Même si la crise ne va peut-être pas éclater immédiatement, elle sera extraordinairement aigüe lorsqu’elle viendra.

A l’heure actuelle, la jeunesse de Hong Kong et de Chine continentale n’est globalement pas politisée, mais une partie d’entre elle a clairement commencé à se tourner vers la politique et réfléchit aux solutions fondamentales dont la société a besoin. Sous la bureaucratie autocratique de Xi Jinping, il est dangereux pour les jeunes et les travailleurs de s’auto-organiser et de communiquer ouvertement entre eux. C’est presque impossible. En revanche, des espaces privés d’échange d’idées existent encore.

Plus encore, il y a des signes que la jeunesse de Chine continentale s’intéresse de plus en plus aux idées de la révolution et du communisme, dans sa recherche d’une alternative hors du libéralisme bourgeois et du maoisme (le stalinisme chinois). Il y a même une minorité qui approuve les traditions du trotskisme. Les socialistes révolutionnaires à Hong Kong ont toujours utilisé la relative liberté de la ville pour diffuser les idées révolutionnaires à la jeunesse de Chine continentale. Le travail le plus précieux que nous puissions faire en Chine continentale à l’heure actuelle est la tâche fondamentale de diffusion des idées du marxisme classique.

Lam Chi Leung est un militant socialiste révolutionnaire basé à Hong Kong.

1 NdT : RAS = Région admnistrative spéciale, nom du système d’exception qui régit Hong Kong.

Singh drifts left, Horwath treads water

by Barry W.

The convention was on Andrea Horwath’s home turf, but Jagmeet Singh stole the show.  The federal New Democratic Party leader grabbed national headlines when he spoke to Ontario NDP delegates about his New Deal for People.  It seeks to expand public health care to include universal pharma care by 2020, followed by free dental, vision, hearing, mental health services, long term home care and addictions treatment.  He proposes to pay for it by upping the federal corporate income tax from 15 to 18 per cent, and by creating a new, 1 per cent tax on people whose net worth is more than $20 million.  In a break from Tom Mulcair’s no-deficit, soft-austerity 2015 campaign, Singh vowed to fund green programs and infrastructure through a new $3 billion “climate bank”, to push to retrofit all buildings by 2050 (in the process creating 300,00 new jobs), and to build 500,000 new affordable housing units within a decade.

Ontario leader Horwath, on the other hand, demonstrated why her party is stagnant.  She repeatedly showcased her caucus of MPPs and paraded a bunch of talking heads.  They offered anti-Doug Ford rhetoric, decried wildfires and floodwaters, said ‘me-too’ for pharma care, and issued platitudes for a more just society.  Even her “Green New Democratic Deal” is mainly a 28-page discussion paper rather than a policy.  It fails (as does Singh) to challenge monopoly control of the carbon-fueled economy.

The ONDP and labour bureaucracy tightly controlled the June 14-16 convention in Hamilton.  They stifled criticism.  You wouldn’t know that thousands of auto workers’ jobs are being buried. The top brass put innovative, radical resolutions at the bottom of every topic list.  The leadership exhibited little sense of urgency about removing the Ford Conservative regime despite its onslaught against workers and the environment. A blinkered obsession with preparations for the 2022 Ontario election, three years down the road, ruled the roost. 

Party chief of staff Michael Balagas provided a laughably Pollyanna interpretation of the latest public opinion polls (showing the Tories, NDP and Liberals close together, and the Green Party rising fast).

Identity politics and milquetoast motions dominated the proceedings.  The agenda imposed by the top brass devoted less than 39 per cent of the convention time to policy discussion.  The rest of the time filled up with ‘showcases’, guest speakers (including Dan Riffle from Wall Street’s, war-mongering Democratic Party USA), ‘breakout’ sessions for chatter but not for voting on policy, the numerous elections, and plenty of procedural wrangling.  Cutting, shrinking or reassigning such agenda items to the margins could have restored hours of rank and file democracy to the gathering.  Late starts (delegates were locked out of the main hall after Saturday lunch, and again on Sunday morning), squandered a further 40 minutes of precious policy time.  When, in the opening minutes, Socialist Caucus member Elizabeth Byce asked the convention chair why so little time was scheduled for policy matters, the chair rudely interrupted her with an abrupt “We will cover as much policy as possible.”  But that was a dead letter from the word go.

This is not to say that many of the adopted resolutions are not worthy – just that several were adopted nearly unanimously. They consumed scarce time that could have been spent addressing controversial issues submitted by dozens of local NDP district associations.

Adopted resolutions included: “Policy Sunset and Reaffirmation Resolution”, “Stop the Legalized Theft of Workers’ Pensions”, “Replacing the Term Aboriginal with Indigenous”, “Equity-Seeking ‘Victory Funds’” (to raise money for campaigns that feature visible minority and female NDP candidates); “Cannabis Growers Workers”; “Expand the Powers of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario”; “End Hallway Medicine”; “Opioid Crisis”; “Full Day Kindergarten”; “Health and Phys Ed”; “Black Canadian Curriculum”; “First Nations Job Creation”; and “Development without Displacement”.  Again, these motions could have been approved, omnibus-style, with one vote.  Their positioning effectively scuppered other issues.

Multiply-endorsed resolutions that officials prevented from reaching the convention floor included: “Nationalize GM”; “Share the Work, Shorten the Work Week”; “Dump Doug Ford with Mass Extra-parliamentary Action”; “Social Ownership and Economic Democracy”; “For Public Ownership of Telecom”; “Boycott apartheid Israel, End the Siege of Gaza, uphold Palestinian Rights”; “NDP should be clear: Hands Off Venezuela”; “Eliminate Tuition, Ancillary Fees and Student Debt”; “Public and Democratic Hydro”; and “Build Social Housing as an Emergency Priority in Ontario” (12 different affiliates submitted that one!).

A Left Break-through

A weak resolution titled “GM Jobs”, was referred back to the appeals committee with instructions on Saturday.  In the last minutes of the convention on Sunday, after obtaining unanimous consent, it returned to the floor.  Added were the words “including a new vision of a publicly owned facility that could produce green vehicles and/or any other product that meets public need in order to face the climate crisis and transition to a green new economy.”  Oshawa delegate Rebecca Keetch spoke forcefully to the imminent loss of 5,000 jobs, including her own.  Convention finally adopted the motion, in part due to the SC resolution calling for Nationalization of GM, and thanks to our collaboration with CUPE-Ontario President Fred Hahn, whose dogged efforts paved the way for this small victory.

As seen at the federal NDP convention in Ottawa, February 2018, Palestine shook things up.  But a motion to appeal its low rank on the list of resolutions simply ran out of time for consideration.  Only ten minutes are allowed for appeals from the floor in each policy segment.  The right wing stacked the mics to ensure that left wing appeals would not be heard.

The Resolutions Appeals Committee, chaired by former federal leader candidate Brian Topp, became a lightning rod for discontent.  Several times it suffered defeat on the convention floor as exasperated delegates fought its status quo priorities.  In defiance, a policy to reduce the voting age in Ontario to 14 years carried. Likewise, delegates defeated “Support for Mobile Crisis Response” that relied heavily on police involvement, a motion backed by the party establishment.

Socialists steadfast

An appetite for radical left media was evident.  Delegates snapped up over 500 copies of Turn Left, the glossy, full-colour Socialist Caucus magazine (www.ndpsocialists.ca) .  Donations on site added to the $3,300 raised to fund the publication prior to the convention. Scores of delegates bought copies of Socialist Action monthly newspaper.

NDP staff had said “No literature display tables will be allowed”, although the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Broadbent Institute each got one. Nonetheless, the Socialist Caucus found a way to display its materials, as did former OFL president Sid Ryan who sold copies of his new book “A Grander Vision.”

The convention was poorly attended.  Party officials predicted 1,500 delegates.  The last Credentials Report, claiming that 1,045 attended, tried to bandage this raw sore.  The fact is that only 720 delegates voted for President and Treasurer.  Only 730 voted for V.P. candidates. Fewer than 530 voted for Members At Large. Most of the time, empty chairs outnumbered occupied seats.

Support for Andrea Horwath (expressed in a leadership review vote) was underwhelming.  The norm is 95%+ for a Leader (especially one who made major gains at the previous provincial election).  As Toronto Star columnist Rick Salutin wrote on June 21, “She got 84 per cent support at last week’s NDP convention, not a healthy sign. If her party were serious about power, there’d have been more dissension.”

Socialist Caucus candidates garnered 12.2 to 27 per cent of the votes for the 15 top executive positions that the SC contested. Over 200 delegates marked ballots for Julius Arscott for V.P.  He told the convention, “The NDP must call for mass action, including general strike action, to defeat the Doug Ford/Bay Street agenda. Some may say that is labour’s jurisdiction. But the NDP is directly tied to the struggles of the working class.  We have a huge stake in this fight!”

The establishment slate swept, as expected.  Sadly, independent socialist candidates (like Jessa McLean and Tim Ellis) failed to break through.  A united front socialist slate would surely help in the future.  Once again, the Socialist Caucus provided the most visible, principled, all-round left opposition – and it demonstrated growing support.  A ‘Meet the Socialist Candidates’ pub night attracted a big crowd on Saturday. 

Dozens of new contacts, new volunteers for the SC steering committee, new subscribers to the left press, added to the positive political harvest for class struggle activists.  While it is clear that NDP officials will not lead the fight in the streets against the arch-austerity corporate agenda, they may be compelled to join an upsurge as teachers, and other public and private sector workers suffering job loss and frozen wages, gird for a hot autumn.

 

Socialism in the Park – Summer 2019

Three talks sponsored by Socialist Action in Christie Pits Park, at Christie and Bloor Streets, Toronto. Each presentation will be followed by questions, answers and discussion.

  • Wednesday, June 26, 7 p.m.: Corey David speaks on “Origins of class and the state”
  • Wednesday, July 3, 7 p.m.: Julius Arscott speaks on “Permanent Revolution”
  • Wednesday, July 10, 7 p.m. Sam Cheadle speaks on “Socialism in Canada – an introduction to socialism”

Where? Under the gazebo, at the foot of the hill, in Christie Pits Park, just steps from Bloor Street and the Christie subway station exit. Look for the Socialist Action canopy.

Everyone is welcome. No charge for admission. Literature will be on sale. Event will proceed rain or shine. Bring your own refreshments to share.

For more information, e-mail: socialistactioncanada@gmail.com

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