It is one of those things that one should expect to see more often in a city as diverse as Toronto.
Last week, on August 27th, 2010, youth and workers, particularly from the Iranian, South Asian, and Black communities of Toronto filled the party room of Windmill Line Co-op, located in the Esplanade community, in an event to raise relief funds for our brothers and sisters facing the fierce floods in Pakistan. The event, organized by the Toronto Young New Democrats (a city-wide NDP youth club), the Esplanade Community Group, the Iranian Association at University of Toronto, and various Iranian and Pakistani community groups, demonstrated a genuine international solidarity that crossed national lines.
Attendance was impressive as more than 70 people attended from very different backgrounds and vocations: including well-known Iranian writers and journalists, youth leaders from the Pakistani community, local youth from the Esplanade neighbourhood who hosted the event and, students from the University of Toronto. The fact that we had been able to secure such a strong and diverse attendance came because of our partnering with different campus and community groups, without whom this event would never had happen.
Youth and elders mingled and carried heated discussions on politics and international issues while enjoying the barbeque. The food continued into the late hours of the night, where some in attendance broke iftar. Several speeches were made by community activists, including the authors of this article, who brought a class analysis to the current flood disaster.
The event managed to collect some $1,400 in donations (with money still coming in), all to be given to the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign (PTUDC) in the carrying out of revolutionary relief work. The decision to send the funds to the PTUDC, instead of the other well-known charities or the corrupt Zardari government in Pakistan, was intentional and explained by the speakers.
As working class activists in Toronto, we understand the role of charities in maintaining the status quo in the developing world. The most genuine fighters against poverty and starvation in Toronto are the class fighters in the trade unions, the NDP, and various community groups; likewise, we understood that this holds equally true in Pakistan. The PTUDC has proven this fact through their exemplary relief work. Aside from all of the waste and costs spent on NGO bureaucracies, we also know that funds that go to charities can end up in the wrong hands. Often, the money raised in the West never reaches the far-flung places where they are most needed. Even worse, Zardari’s government is famous for its widespread corruption.
Speakers at the event highlighted a class understanding of the current crisis in Pakistan. One of the speakers commented, “It is the poor and working class that, in regular times, carry the burden of poverty and misery that capitalism has cursed us with. In times of crisis, these inequalities become even more pronounced and murderous.” This is true, not just of Pakistan, but in the aftermaths of other natural disasters such as the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, and even Hurricane Katrina in the United States.
The Pakistani ruling class has long neglected infrastructure, health, and the economic development of the country, while filling their pockets through the labour of the Pakistani toiling masses. Another speaker asserted, “Only under a socialist Pakistan, where those who labour have economic and political control, will the necessary preparations for disasters be made, as well as the economic development needed to elevate the Pakistani masses.”
Revolutionary spirits were high as was the thirst for political education. Most attendees could also be seen with the new copies of Fightback, the publication of the Canadian Marxists, as well as numerous Marxist books that were on sale. Attendees, especially those from previous revolutionary generations, were also visibly impressed with the work that the Marxists and the TYND had been able to do in organizing the Esplanade neighbourhood, where activists have been able to win a layer of trust within the local population.
It is the commitment of the Canadian socialist and working-class activists to continue to spread the internationalist spirit among the Canadian working class. The class struggle has no national boundaries, and our modest, yet successful, fundraiser demonstrated this clearly. We not only raised money for our Pakistani brothers and sisters in need, but demonstrated our political alternative to petty bourgeoisie charities and their corresponding mindset toward the so-called “Third World” countries.
We would like to extend our warmest revolutionary greetings to our Pakistani comrades, who are struggling under the harshest conditions to build a new society where a flood will never lead to such a massive destructions of human life. Their struggle, for a socialist revolution in Pakistan, is ours, too.