More than 40 people packed a room in the Student Centre at York University for a discussion forum led by prominent Marxist thinker and writer, Alan Woods, on Friday Oct. 26. The event was the first on the North American tour for Alan Woods, whose Canadian leg was organized by Fightback and the Tendance Marxiste Internationale in Quebec.
Aside from giving an overview of how the resistance to capitalist austerity is manifesting itself across the world — from the Arab revolutions, to the economic disaster in Europe and to the volatile situation here in North America — the purpose of Alan’s event was to also show the relevance of the Marxist method and ideas in furthering our own struggles. A vibrant question and answer period was then lead on how Marxism provides the tools necessary to fight the system, and what our role as students and workers would be in a capitalist crisis that would inevitably force all sections of society into action.
Alan started by explaining that mainstream bourgeois commentators have not only demonized the ideas of Marx, but they have frequently tried to censor the criticism of the capitalist system. We are told to not use the word “capitalism”, and instead to use such words as “free market economy”, or a “world of peace” to describe the current system. There is nothing further from the truth than to say that capitalism is a peaceful or economically just system. Bourgeois commentators admit that the current economic crisis is as bad as the 1930s. But the real state of affairs is that because of its global reach, the current crisis is worse than that of the Great Depression. And, what is perhaps more scary is that we have not even reached the bottom of the current crisis.
A couple of decades ago, bourgeois commentators had announced the end of history, that capitalism could now provide endless prosperity. Now, they have been forced to change their tone. Alan calmly went through quotes from bourgeois commentators who are now admitting the failures of the system, and even admitting the validity and relevance of a Marxist analysis to the contradictions and failings that are built into the capitalist system.
Marxism explains the current failures of the system and provides solutions to finding an alternative. Through capitalism, human beings have developed technology and scientific discoveries never before dreamed of in history. However this achievement has come at the cost of the misery and destruction of human society in general. A silent holocaust occurs every year, with the loss of 8-million human lives to hunger and disease. Endless wars, corruption, and injustice all exist simply for the cause of profit making. Capitalism inevitably ends in the monopoly of the wealthy few. A system designed for profit, not human need, is not one in which human development will continue any further. Alan explained the current crisis, in the words of Karl Marx, as a crisis of overproduction. To solve this crisis created by the wealthy and gamblers in the stock market, governments around the world have responded with trillions of dollars in public money to bail out the banks and corporations responsible for destroying the world economy.
A stark example right now exists in Europe — in Greece, Spain, Italy and the domino effect reaching every other country in the region. Contrary to popular belief, Canada is not immune from the growing crisis represented in Europe. More than $100-billion of public money has been handed out to the top banks by the federal Conservative government. Alan explained that Greece once economically stood where Canada is today. It is inevitable that the full force of the economic crisis in Europe to hit Canada, especially as how global capitalism is so intertwined. It is our responsibility in this country to be ready for such an outcome. He explained that you may not want politics to be involved in your life; you can go home lock the doors, and hide under your bed but whether you like it or not, politics will knock on your door, most likely at the most inconvenient hour of the day. Therefore it is crucial that people start to prepare for a massive, united resistance against capitalist austerity.
A vibrant and enthusiastic question-and-answer period was held between Alan and the audience. Some asked whether it was possible for us to find an alternative to the current system. Alan explained, humanity has achieved so much, that it must have the capability to design a better system of government over the vast amount of wealth, technology and scientific innovation which already exists. We can do better than a casino-like stock market based on exploitation and overproduction. We must remove private ownership and put our resources into public control. Alan talked about ideas such as expropriating the major banks and corporations, nationalizing the economy, and putting it under democratic workers’ control. A planned and centralized economy is rightfully ambitious. The majority of people in society do not have control; we must therefore put forth a united frontal assault on existing powers in order to regain that control. The goal for students at York University should be to educate themselves on these ideas and become active in promoting them. When struggling to bring forth change, our goal should always be to spread our ideas beyond the campus level, to the majority of people in society. Marxism provides the theory and methods to effectively reach this goal.
York University is known for being a frenzied commuter campus, but Fridays tend to fairly quiet on campus as many students do not have classes on that day. Regardless of this fact, the event for Alan Woods was a full house. This goes to show the level of interest that students (and others) have in trying to find the ideas that will arm them in the fight against capitalist austerity.
Later on in the evening, another 30 people turned out on a cold rainy evening to a meet-and-greet with Alan Woods at a downtown Toronto pub. The attendants had some enthusiastic discussions with Alan and Fightback supporters, including participating in a rousing rendition of the Internationale!
Alan Woods’ tour continues with another featured event in Toronto, before heading off to Ottawa, Montreal, and the USA.
For more information on the Canadian leg of the Alan Woods North American speaking tour, click here.
To check out more pictures from the Canadian events on Alan Woods’ tour, please check our Flickr album.
Follow the progress of the tour by searching for #AlanWoods2012 on Twitter.