[L-I] Russia, and Rebuilding the Left in Canada

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at SPAMtao.ca
Thu Jan 18 02:27:15 MST 2001

(I apologize to Lou in advance for crossposting this- but it turned into a report
back from the Rebuilding the Left conference in Vancouver- which I had been meaning
to write for both his list, Rad-Green and L-I for days now. To people on Rad Green,
parts of this may seem irrelevant, skip ahead to my second paragraph :-))

Mine wrote:

> I guess the same comrades still don't get that what we are dealing in
> Russia are bourgeois politics and US imperialism, not mass fascism.

Exactly. We are dealing with something far far more grave for the world than a
fascist dictator. We have a first: A world empire built on the ashes of what Hitler
could not conquer. Beyond that, there is a light on the horizon. The first ever
global reccession. In that there is hope. The student activist centre at my
University has a "students against sweatshops" crew. While I have seen these to be
liberal in the past (Particularly local comrade Tony Tracy's report from Oregon on
Marxmail is a good example). Within these scattered, unorganized grouplets there are
genuinely anti-capitalist folks.

The initiative in Vancouver (following in the footsteps of Toronto) called
"Rebuilding the Left" was actually very inspiring. Perhaps part of my enjoyment of
the day was in seeing so many new faces there, rather than the Vancouver usual
suspects (and face it, every city has them). I noticed early that there were not only
new faces, but a new look to the crowd. It was heavily what "looks" (as much as one
can "look" like an ideology) like semi-comfortable social-democratic. People might be
shuffling in their seats right now, but this is exactly what we need. They are at
this meeting because they know *something* is deeply wrong. Those who demand of
themselves a dedication for truth which leads to justice will get where we are all
trying to go- it just takes the honest social-democrats a lot longer to reach the
same conclusions. They were at the meeting because the project they had been working
on (NDP or similar) was not working in achieving a socialist(ic) vision. And
considering our brilliant successes in the last 15 years, we can stress a little
humility is in order. Before one can speak of the need for Lenin, the audience has to
at least read Marx.

The discussions were the same ones, almost exactly, that I have had many times in the
past. We all have- "Is it capitalism that is causing the oppression?" etc. Then, when
this was seen as a basic consensus, the next debate became "what do we do about
it?" - In other words, ballots or bullets. Brand new party or fix the old party, all
of that. So far, nothing new. Here's the kicker: The pronouncements were close to
nil. The people in attendance (save for some Sparts) were not interested in
Vanguarding the group, others weren't trying to pour people into the NDP either.
People were listening very closely to one another- very little in the way of trying
to start factions. In order to determine where the people could actually go, people
were interested in determining where others already were. In fact, people were almost
*too* polite with one another. The main arguments are still to be had, and that will
undoubtedly get heated (After all, this is still a conference of opionated leftists
:-)) and some won't stay.

Many people spoke of how `Marxist-Leninist' (their air quotes) groups had done great
disservices to themselves in the past with a total disregard for the "woman question"
with things like: "We'll get to that after the revolution, don't you worry your
pretty little head about it..." No one advocated a return to this affair, and a
womans caucus exists in the burgeoning groups. At the end of the day, it was decided
that the group would not reconvene until after the follow-up meeting of the caucus.
My only concern here is time and momentum. There was an awful lot of it, it must be

The people in attendance also spoke of the need to incorporate Indian issues, but
what exactly that will mean is not clear. The Natives at the event spoke little (but
powerfully when taking the opportunity). I am quite wary that a lot of folks there,
considering the history of the social democratic movement in Canada vis-a-vis Native
issues, will push for strong support for the treaty process. I hope to all that is
good that I am wrong on that.

What was lacking in my view (there were many different discussion groups- 10 for each
set, 2 sets, as well as opening and closing plenary) was a discussion of how people
see our situation, or, put more concretely, how we got into this situation. What do
we think happened in the last 10 years? What caused this? How does a social
democratic party fit into this? And how does a communist see this? What of the
Anarchists that have burst onto the scene? (There were some, although not that many,
at the conference as well...) I suppose for now, I am very comfortable with the fact
the entire meeting did not centre around hammering out a program, but rather where we
agree. The things we agree on are now clear, in a very broad sense. In that is a
clear example of Praxis.

A large number of people spoke of Seattle and the implications it has for people
here. This is very good- "violence" was not divisive, and media attempts to smear the
demo in Seattle have not worked on Social Democrats- something I find very
surprising, but again positive.

The sense of the meeting is that something must happen. People are looking for an
answer now. Rather than offer them a subscription, I think Canadian revolutionaries
would be well advised to offer them action and hard work. I'll be at any meeting that
gets held- and it has been quite some time since I was at a meeting that gave me that
kind of feeling and determination.

To the list members that had a role in organizing this event: Good on you! See you
soon. It is your actions that speak highly at this moment.

Macdonald Stainsby

Rad-Green List: Radical anti-capitalist environmental discussion.
Leninist-International: Building bridges within Marxism in the tradition of V.I.

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