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In a small meeting room, filled to standing room only, over 60 people crammed in to discuss the future of the BC NDP.  Also in attendance for the event were the media, representing the CBC, CKNW news radio, the Georgia Strait, and the Tyee.  Organized by supporters of “Fightback”,  an analysis of the reasons behind the recent election loss was given with perspectives on how to move forward.  Following this, an open mike discussion was held.

Tim Louis, former Vancouver city councillor and well known activist, spoke first.  He remarked that the spark for the meeting was the manner in which the NDP lost the election.  Louis said “The campaign lacked principle,” and that their program and the party itself merely tried to “photocopy the Liberals,” behaving like “Liberals with manners.”

Louis went on to remind us of Tommy Douglas' “Mouseland” fable.  “Mouseland” is a place where all the little mice lived and played. and where they even elected governments every four years—a  government of “big fat black cats.”  The fable goes on to talk about how as life got harder, the mice would come out to vote, and vote in a government of white cats who would promise to bring “vision” to Mouseland.  To make a short story even shorter, after electing cat government after cat government, one little mouse came forward with an idea to elect a government of mice, at which there is a general outcry, “ Oh, he's a Bolshevik!  Lock him up!”  The moral of the story is that you can lock up a mouse or a man, but you can't lock up an idea.  (You can listen to Tommy Douglas tell the story at http://www.saskndp.com/Multimedia/audio)

Mike Palacek, a member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the Fightback editorial board, next spoke about the lack of ideas available to workers and the marginalized in society.   This was most characterized by the historic low 48% turnout in the last provincial election.  Palecek asked, “Why would a single working mother take a half-hour or an hour out of her busy day to vote, if there is nothing for her to vote for?  Or a student who is also working part-time, maybe even two part-time jobs?  Why is he or she going to take time out of their hectic schedule to vote, if there is nothing in it for them?”

During the discussion several speakers chose to get up and speak about their frustration with the party's direction and lack of responsiveness to the rank and file. They urged for action, and put forward ideas such as getting involved in local riding associations, the youth wing of the party, and by becoming organized to “shake things up” at the upcoming convention.

Other speakers got up to speak about the need for representation for non-workers: the aged, the homeless, and those of us with disabilities.  Alicia Barsalo, a long time NDP member and former election candidate, talked about the need to bring democracy back into the party, remarking that “it’s very important that we have an NDP where the members are actually the decision makers.”

One speaker, a supporter of Fightback and a union activist, drew a connection between workers' struggles in BC with their counterparts around the world.  There are many lessons that can be learned from the experiences of our brothers and sisters in places like Venezuela and Iran who are struggling to change their societies.  “Capitalism throws crisis into our laps, and the question of leadership in the party and in the unions becomes critical if we are to take back the party and take back this province.”

While this was only the initial meeting, the “Take Back the Party!” campaign has already built an undeniable momentum.  Palecek ended with a call for people to sign up to become members of the NDP, handing out application forms. “This is not about splitting the party; it is about building the party... this meeting is about bringing it together and the way to do that is by allowing different points of view to come out.”

Support and interest in broadening the campaign outside of the Vancouver area has been received from across the province; from Dawson Creek, to Nelson, to Victoria, and to Kelowna.  The next meeting in Vancouver is set for 30th July at which the campaign will elect a local steering committee and initiate planning for a course of action.  Other meetings in other regions are also being pursued.

As it turns out the Gordon Campbell's Liberals also attended the event, sending a videographer who chose not to announce themselves as being from the Liberal Party.  When asked about this by the CBC, Palecek noted, “We have nothing to hide,” and that in fact it comes as no surprise that they would send a spy.   Even the Liberals understand the potency of the working people, and that once we begin to organize for change, there is nothing that can stand in our way.

To contact the “Take Back the Party!” campaign, email takebacktheparty@gmail.com.

You can also join on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=101562786556&ref=nf