The live broadcasting of the event on the Socialist Action’s Facebook page is now ended. In a couple of weeks, a high quality video of the speeches and performances will be posted here. Also on this page, a report on the event will be posted. Stay tuned. Below are some photos taken at the event. Further below is the full text of the speech delivered by Barry Weisleder.
Socialist Action Speech to May Day Celebration 2018
Good evening, sisters and brothers, comrades and friends. Are you familiar with the expression “the past is prologue to the present”?
50 years ago, millions of workers and students in France shook the foundations of capitalist rule with a general strike. But one party urged workers to abandon the strike in favour of an election. That betrayal by the Communist Party saved the Gaullists and French capitalism. Today railroad and airline workers, backed by the broader public sector, are in the streets of France battling the anti-labour policies of Emmanuel Macron. Students are occupying schools to protest rule changes by Macron to make college education less accessible. Will May 1st 2018 pick up where May-June 1968 left off?
46 years ago, thousands of Palestinians marched to the border of Israel to demand the right to return to their homes and to their occupied land. Six were killed in what became known as Land Day. Today, the Great Return March continues at the Gaza/Israel border. Dozens of Palestinians have been shot and killed by Israeli snipers. Meanwhile, the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Zionist apartheid state is growing.
22 years ago, Ontario was the scene of a series of one-day general strikes against the Mike Harris Tory government. The day after the biggest strike which paralyzed Toronto and Queen’s Park, union bureaucrats pulled the plug on the movement. That guaranteed the re-election of Harris. Today a provincial election campaign is underway, leading to a vote on June 7. The Conservative Party leader is Thug Ford. A Ford government at Queen’s Park would make Mike Harris look like Mother Teresa. The Kathleen Wynne Liberals, in a death bed conversion, are offering reforms that superficially look good. The labour-based NDP, led by Andrea Horwath, makes it easy for the Lyin’ Liberals by offering a similar platform of milquetoast policies. If Horwath does not turn sharply to the left to win, get ready for general strikes to confront a hard-right wing Doug Ford government.
The labour movement suffered a telling blow when UNIFOR quit the Canadian Labour Congress. It is sad, no, it is outrageous to see union leaders who embrace the Liberal Party turn their backs on the House of Labour, only to embark on a course of union raiding. This behaviour is symptomatic of the crisis of the workers’ movement. Decades of concessions bargaining and internal repression have weakened labour and emboldened Capital. Only an awakened rank and file can turn this around.
Today, the world is teetering on the brink of climate catastrophe and nuclear holocaust. Which one will destroy civilization first?
The New Cold War is getting hotter. Its front line stretches from the Baltic countries, through Ukraine, and Syria, to the Persian Gulf. Ironically, the cradle of civilization could become the grave yard of humanity if the Cold War goes nuclear.
We know that 1% of the global population controls over 50% of the world’s wealth. In the face of growing inequality and poverty, Canadian bank and mining CEOs reward themselves with multi-million-dollar salaries. The head of Ontario’s Hydro One, Mayo Schmidt, got a $1.7 million raise to boost his pay to $6.2 million. As an electricity user, did you get your bonus yet?
We have a severe housing crisis. Robots are replacing workers. Cops get away with murdering Black, brown and mentally ill people. We are inundated by a steady stream of lies from our saccharine Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. On climate change, indigenous rights, electoral reform, taxation, civil liberties and military spending, his is the Harper agenda – behind a cloud of cannabis smoke. On matters of imperialist war, pipelines and trade, Trudeau has been Trumped. Instead of dumping the Investor State Dispute Settlement court, Trudeau wants to preserve NAFTA. Instead of disarmament and development aid, he is sending choppers to Mali, in Central Africa, a country which just happens to be rich in gold and uranium. Justin Trudeau backs NATO ally Turkey, which is on a killing spree in the Kurdish region of Syria.
In contrast to these reactionary moves, we see a growing appetite for social and political change.
Millions of women and men marched on January 21 across North America against sexism and misogyny.
Millions more demonstrated on March 24 against gun violence. Millions are disgusted by the antics of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Campaigns to defend public postal services, to save public libraries, to make Ontario Hydro public again, and to raise the minimum wage are gaining ground.
Teaching assistants at York University, Carleton and Western are fighting for decent jobs and pensions.
In this situation, socialists are very active. We forced an end to the conservative leadership of federal NDP head Tom Mulcair in 2016, and we helped to defeat the right-wing leader of the CLC, Ken Georgetti, in 2014. But there’s much more to be done.
Let’s start with the housing crisis. Winter in Canada without housing is a death sentence. Scores die on the streets in this country every year; 100 died here in 2017. In Toronto, the waiting list for social housing is over 180,000 people. Community housing stock requires $2.6 Billion in repairs. The average home price in Greater Toronto is $916,000. Housing costs have outpaced wage increases for decades. Basically, wages have been frozen for 30 years. Instead of superficial measures like a tax on vacant condos and foreign investors, we need the government to build 500,000 housing units immediately, under public ownership and workers’ control.
Corporations and the rich should pay for improved train and bus service. Want to get cars off the road? Free mass public transit is the better way. Why are good jobs so scarce? Not because of immigration, but due to automation and capitalist greed. In a few years, robots will quadruple. In a rational society, this would not be something to fear. The elimination of boring and dangerous work would be a good thing – provided that the fruits of automation are shared. How can that be done? By shortening the work week, without loss of pay and benefits. Share the available work, increase the quality of work life and productivity – through democratic economic planning.
Sadly, capitalism is going in the opposite direction. Big companies are merging, killing thousands of jobs. The so-called ‘middle classes’ have been squeezed while the very rich get richer. Governments complain about revenues but tolerate secret tax havens.
The gap between economic growth and the well-being of Canadians widened considerably since the 2008 recession. Millions of people experience precarious work, longer commute times, rising rates of diabetes. Yet we feel none of the promised benefits of growth in the economy. Business hacks argue that governments cannot afford to worry about well-being.
The truth is that society cannot afford environmental degradation. It cannot afford the human and economic costs of poor health. And yet, what else does late capitalism have to offer? Many wonder: What will it take to change course? Well, isn’t it clear?
To save civilization, to save humanity, to save life on Earth, capitalism must go. And to do that it will take a revolution. History shows that there can be no revolution without a revolutionary party. A revolutionary party is not self-proclaimed. It must earn recognition in the eyes of millions. It takes more than slogans to change society. But slogans and a programme are necessary. Sustained revolutionary practice based on a revolutionary programme and strategy is absolutely required.
Central to our programme is the fight for Climate Justice and a decent, democratic and sustainable future for humanity.
We say it’s time to declare a Climate Emergency. A New Climate agenda would begin with nationalization of key sectors such as Finance, Energy, resource industries like Big Oil and Gas, Transportation, Agri-business and Auto.
The economy must be restructured radically, with planning by workers, scientists and environmentalists, and managed by elected worker reps. The top priority should be the rapid replacement of fossil and nuclear fuels with clean, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass. Reverse the privatization of Ontario Hydro. Phase out the Alberta Tar Sands. Cancel the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and abrogate the other ‘free trade’ deals. Dismantle the polluting, wasteful, and dangerous war machine used to support imperialism. Dismantle nuclear weapons, starting with the US arsenal. Close all foreign military bases. Send home all soldiers and military contractors. Get Canada out of NATO.
We demand nationalization of Big Oil and Gas –not to drill for fossil fuels, or to make pipelines ‘safe’. Our aim is to conscript the wealth accumulated by the energy pirates, and to devote it to rapid green energy conversion. It is the only way to fund the energy transition that is so urgently needed.
But what is the key to unlock the door to liberation? It is recognition of the fact that a socialist programme must be advanced and won inside the mass working class organizations. Why? Because that is where we can create the political basis for a Workers’ Agenda, a Workers’ Government, and a socialist revolution.
At this stage, activists are needed who understand the goal, and the means to get there. The fight to win anti-austerity and eco-socialist policies must take place inside the workers’ movement. It’s true that there we will find agents of the bourgeoisie, and they must be fought. We must remove the union and NDP bureaucrats who collaborate with the bosses, vote for cutbacks, vote for military spending, and prop up the rotten capitalist system. Look at the spectacle of the Alberta NDP government stabbing the B.C. NDP government in the back over a dirty oil pipeline.
Clearly, the bureaucrats put their personal careers within the state apparatus ahead of the interests of the working class as a whole. They undermine the political independence of workers at every step. Pro-business bureaucrats must be replaced by class conscious revolutionary workers. Workers will gain self-confidence in the fight against the bosses, and against the agents of the bosses in the workers’ movement.
That is why Socialist Action is engaged in struggles inside the mass working class organizations. You won’t find many groups that call themselves socialist doing that today. Most stand on the sidelines, talking to themselves, or acting as cheerleaders for the bureaucrats.
For Socialist Action, building a disciplined working class party inside our class is the heart of our strategy for revolutionary change. So, we fight for socialist policies and run candidates for executive office in unions and the NDP. We are leaders of the NDP Socialist Caucus. At the federal NDP convention in Ottawa in February we were in the forefront of those making demands for party democracy and for public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy. Our candidates got between 16 and 33% of the votes cast, except for one, Dirka Prout, who was elected. Delegates snapped up over 1,000 copies of Turn Left magazine.
We helped to shape the NDP leadership debate on pipelines, education, childcare and taxation. And we will continue to push hard on freedom for Palestine and Kurdistan, for Hands Off Syria, Canada Out of NATO, for homes not bombs, and to tax the rich.
Here’s a question: Are you sick at the prospect of 4 more years of John Tory big business rule at City Hall? Should there be a challenge from the socialist left at the October municipal election? Well, Socialist Action is ready to step up – ready to battle the business elite. If the NDP won’t run, we will run candidates for city council and mayor if we can double our membership in the next two months. Sisters and brothers, comrades and friends, I urge you to join us in this effort. But let’s be very clear: There is no electoral solution. There is no market solution to the crisis of capitalism. The capitalist market created the problem. Only a social revolution can solve it. Only by taking control of the major means of production, like the Cubans did 58 years ago, only by instituting democratic planning, in harmony with nature, does humanity have any hope of survival.
That’s what Socialist Action is all about: educating, agitating and organizing for fundamental change. In this process, a mass revolutionary workers’ party will arise. Such a party is the key to a future of peace, freedom and prosperity.
But it cannot be built without you. So, please join Socialist Action today. Together we can make the world a place truly fit for human beings.
Long live the international working class. Long live the fight for socialism and feminism. Have a wonderful, festive, red May Day weekend!