The Ontario New Democratic Youth (ONDY) will be holding its annual convention in Toronto from the 21st to the 23rd of November. As the world watches the capitalist system enter its latest and most dire crisis, this conference will have increased importance for the future of the ONDY and the NDP.
Over the last several weeks we have seen the capitalist system crumble under its own weight. Contrary to their existing dogma, the bosses have been forced to turn to the state to rescue them and their profits. Various Western governments have nationalized portions of the economies. This is a full admission that, despite what they have been saying for close to 20 years, capitalists require the intervention and planning of the state to save the free market from itself.
These nationalizations have not been carried out on a socialist basis, using the productive capacity of these businesses for the benefit of all. Instead, these are nationalizations to save the bosses and their profits at the expense of the working class. Big Business’ hirelings in government have taken over the burden of bankrupt monopolies and will use public resources to build them back up, after which they will be handed back to private interests and run for the profit of the capitalists once again. It truly is socialism for the rich, capitalism for the rest of us.
The actions of the bosses and their politicians show the dead-end that is capitalism. The NDP saw its support jump during the election, being at par with the Liberals at one point; however the inability of the NDP (or any party for that matter) to offer a clear solution to the economic fears of the working class led to the lowest voter turnout since 1867. The low turnout and the fact that Canadians have chosen, yet again, to deny a majority to any one party shows that they are fed up with the existing platforms of all the major parties. Canadians are hungry for a real change.
The ONDY has always been a battleground between two opposing ideas within the NDP. Those ideas are “reforming capitalism” or socialism. While adopting radical resolutions in word, the ONDY has been used as a reserve of campaign workers for elections rather than a force for change in the party. In previous years, the NDP youth has acted more as a debating society rather than an activist organization. If the ONDY were a genuine political force, it would be organizing rallies, political education groups and youth canvassing to recruit new members from the broader layers of working youth. Unfortunately, the ONDY has mainly restricted itself to university campuses and election work. While important unto themselves, neither of these avenues reach out on a mass basis to working class youth.
Tactics and ideas go hand in hand. At present, the NDP leaders are at a loss to explain the solution to the problems of global capitalism. However, if the ONDY were to adopt the ideas of socialism as its main theme, it would have a far greater impact on the broader youth population. Visits to picket lines, public forums and recruitment meetings, and working youth clubs would attract working class youth looking for an answer to the crisis in society.
The ONDY must take the lead within the NDP to push for change. Some will likely still defend the old line that Canadians will be “scared off” by radical solutions. The answer to this is that over 40% of people (and probably an even greater number of youth) did not see an answer presented in this past election. The ONDY must appeal to this silent majority. Who are they? They are the young, women, immigrants, and the working poor; precisely those who would benefit most from a socialist programme. Young people and workers will vote if there is something worth voting for. And they won’t just stop there; they will become active in changing society. These ideas need a strong voice and the ONDY must become this voice within the party and push the leaders of the NDP to offer a real socialist alternative to the rest of the Canadian working class. To accomplish this the youth must become an activist organization. The ONDY must actively intervene in the movement. It cannot content itself with merely meeting once a year, but rather reach out to the broad layer of working class youth.
This coming ONDY convention, taking place at the beginning of the largest capitalist downturn since the Great Depression, will give its delegates the opportunity to change the role and character of the NDP youth. The youth are the barometer of the rest of the party, a strong voice for socialism and militancy could give an impetus to the rest of the working class. The ONDY must become an active campaigning body that uses elections to mobilize people rather than just seeing them as an end unto themselves. The ONDY once had as its masthead a slogan which we must bring back to life: Socialism and Freedom!