The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 27      July 28, 2014

Meeting celebrates expansion
of Communist League in Canada
(front page)
MONTREAL — “I’d like to welcome you all to this international celebration of the expansion of the communist movement here in Canada, hosted by the Communist League and its two new branches in Montreal, Quebec, and Calgary, Alberta,” Philippe Tessier told some 50 people gathered at the Lajeunesse Community Recreation Center in Montreal July 12. Tessier, 21, a member of the Montreal branch executive committee who joined the league in September, chaired the meeting, which was followed by a dinner and lively social.

“For the first time since 2005 the Communist League will have branches in two cities,” Michel Prairie, organizer of the new Montreal branch, told the meeting.

Two days later, the members who will be setting up the Calgary branch piled into two cars and set out for Alberta. They plan to make several stops on the way to learn more about politics across Canada. In Manitoba they will meet farmers hit by recent massive flooding and report on their demands for the Militant.

In recent years, communist workers in North America and beyond have found sustained and growing receptivity to communist propaganda among workers and farmers as the propertied rulers have sought to make working people pay for the growing crisis of their capitalist system.

“The league has recruited three new members since last September,” Prairie said. “This augmentation of our forces, which has helped deepen our work in the working class, is a product of the changes in the world, our involvement in workers’ skirmishes and political activity, and the attractiveness of our revolutionary perspective for fighting workers.

“Today we see increasing resistance around the world, from Ukraine to Turkey to South Africa,” he said. “One example here was the victory of port truck drivers in Vancouver.”

“I’m happy to welcome those of you with us here from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Twin Cities, New York, Omaha, Philadelphia, London, Vancouver and Hamilton, Ontario,” Tessier said.

In addition to members of the Communist League, the Socialist Workers Party in the U.S. and organized supporters of the communist movement, participants included four co-workers of league members, including one who helped arrange a February trip to Mali and Burkina Faso to expand the reach in Africa of books on revolutionary politics published by Pathfinder Press. Other participants had experiences joining with Communist League members participating in strike picket lines and efforts to defend the Cuban Five. Yasemin Aydinoglu, who had joined a Militant reporting trip to Turkey a few weeks earlier, came from New York to take part in the celebration.

“The strengthening of the working class across Canada over the past few decades was registered here when workers rejected the reactionary political course of the Parti Quebecois in the April 7 Quebec election,” Prairie explained to the meeting. “This defeat demonstrated how gains steadily made by the working class have broken down the ability of Canadian capital to divide us by using discrimination against French-speaking Quebecois.

“These gains are reinforced by the growing integration of the fighting capacity of immigrant workers into the battles of the working class,” he said.

Prairie pointed to a message to the meeting from Robin St-Pierre, president of the Confederation of National Trade Unions at Hotel des Seigneurs. League members have built support for their fight to defend their jobs and conditions since October 2012, bringing workers and Militant readers to their picket lines and taking word of the fight to workers’ doorsteps as they introduced them to the paper. “It has been our pleasure to work with you,” St-Pierre wrote.

“We were able to work with the union to organize a showing of the prison paintings of Cuban Five prisoner Antonio Guerrero at one of their meetings,” Prairie said.

“We’ve always had the perspective of building a party across Canada to join the vanguard of the working class in the fight for power, for a workers and farmers government in Ottawa.

“We see these as two new branches — including here in Montreal, where we’ve had a unit for the last six years,” he said, “because we will have to involve all our members thinking from a new start about how we can take the Militant newspaper door to door in working-class neighborhoods in our regions, build fractions in plants and join in common activities with our co-workers, to defend workers on the job and to participate in other labor and political activities in our areas. And to expand our participation along with the SWP and other Communist Leagues in working-class fights and political developments around the world.”

Openings in Ukraine, Turkey

“Not too many years ago it would have been unthinkable for the communist movement to send a Militant reporting team to Ukraine,” said Frank Forrestal, Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor of Minnesota, who has participated in two Militant reporting teams to Ukraine this year, as well as to Turkey in June.

“On both trips, everywhere we went, from the west to the east of Ukraine, workers wanted to talk to us,” he said. “They described their battles to defend their country and their jobs, wages and working conditions. We told them what workers in the U.S. are going through today as the bosses try to squeeze more and more out of us. They agreed that we face the same questions, the same challenges, the same need to find a road to fight for workers power.”

“On the second trip we went to the exclusion zone in Chernobyl, the site of the nuclear disaster in 1986,” Forrestal said. “We contrasted the response of the Stalinist rulers, who covered up the scope of the disaster with disdain for the consequences to the lives and conditions of working people, with the internationalist course of the Cuban Revolution, which extended free medical care to more than 25,000 victims.”

Forrestal also joined a Militant reporting team to the Soma region in Turkey where 300 miners were killed in a May 13 fire at the Eynez mine.

“We were warned that the reception might not be so hot for workers from the United States,” Forrestal said. “But the opposite was the case. The miners related to us just like workers in Ukraine, as fellow fighters facing the same obstacles, looking for a way forward. And they want to keep in touch.”

Turning point

“This is not a routine decision,” Norton Sandler said, speaking for the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party. “It marks an important turning point for our entire international movement.”

“The capitalists and their banks and corporations in the U.S., from General Motors to General Electric, are saddled with massive debt,” he said. “They have no answer to the crisis of their system. They have tried every kind of stimulus, cut interest rates effectively below zero, without any growth. They will keep trying to push wages down, to boost productivity while tossing safety aside, to use more temps, to keep grinding it out of our class, so that, over time and off our backs they can grow out from under the debt.

“There is one crucial calculation they make in this: that the working class will remain passive,” he said. “But they have a problem. The evidence is that the working class is mounting increasing resistance. The skirmishes we see are not necessarily big or long-lasting. We don’t win often today. But the fights show that something has shifted.

“Since 1978 our world movement has concentrated our cadres in basic industry,” he said. “Today it is clearer than ever — the future of all politics is in the working class.

“We find more workers looking to talk politics, to act in solidarity with anyone who resists,” Sandler said. “Some see that what we are saying and doing is worth devoting your life to.”

“One of the reasons there are members of SWP branches in Omaha, San Francisco, Twin Cities and Seattle here today is because the establishment of a branch of the Communist League in Calgary opens opportunities for more practical collaboration,” he said. “We can work together on political questions like the ramifications for workers of the growing extraction of shale and tar sand oil, fracking and the spread of rail disasters, as the bosses rush to profit from the energy boom. We can be involved together in the struggles of working farmers, of meatpackers.

“There will be more opportunities to collaborate with supporters of the communist movement in Vancouver, members of the Print Project who work on the production of Pathfinder books.”

“What comrades are saying about the Montreal branch being a new branch is very important,” Sandler said. “I’m glad SWP comrades came from Philadelphia, because it expands the number of our branches that can work with and learn from collaborating with you.

“Your move will help change our movement in North America,” he said. “It will help us become more proletarian, more capable of responding to working class resistance.”

World smaller, more homogeneous

“One thing that struck me when I was listening to Frank Forrestal is how small the world is becoming,” said Jonathan Silberman, speaking for the Political Committee of the Communist League of the United Kingdom. “If you look at the distances across Europe, from Ireland to Ukraine to Turkey, it is a shorter distance than between Montreal and Calgary.”

From Ukraine to Turkey to Canada and the U.K., workers face the same challenges, the same need to find a common line of march against capitalist oppression and exploitation and towards workers power, he said.

“We have two branches in the U.K., and it’s a big help in looking at politics as a nationwide party. That’s a lot harder if you are only in one city. The lessons of your experiences will be a big help to us,” Silberman said. “Like you, we are working to transform our branches, deepening participation in working-class politics and stirrings of resistance, in defense of the Cuban Revolution and the Five.”

“The same time that we begin setting up in Calgary, one of the members of the Communist League, Bev Bernardo, will be leaving to join Mary-Alice Waters, president of Pathfinder Press, at the International Society for the Study of Chinese Overseas conference being held in Panama,” said Katy LeRougetel, organizer of the new Calgary branch.

“We know that the revolutionary party starts with the world. It’s a perfect way for the new branches of the Communist League to get going. Tonight everyone here can join in,” she said, launching a fund appeal to help cover the expanding work of the league. Pledges and collections totaled $4,270.

The meeting was followed by a delicious dinner, organized by supporters of the league. It was an opportunity to relax and continue the political discussion.

“This was a really good meeting,” Amélie Lanteigne, a former co-worker of LeRougetel at Quebecor printshop, told the Militant. “Since Katy is leaving to build the Calgary branch, I made sure I went around and got the phone number of everyone in the new Montreal branch. I want to make sure we keep working together.”
Related articles:
Socialist Workers Party holds Convention
Sets course to deepen involvement in struggles
and propaganda activity in working class

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