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From all corners of Canada, supporters of the Marxist Fightback gathered in Toronto on 5th and 6th May to discuss how we can build towards a socialist revolution in Canada and internationally. There were comrades present from Victoria, Vancouver, Whitehorse, Edmonton, London, Toronto, and the Ottawa Valley.

The conference started Saturday morning with greetings from revolutionaries from around the world. Especially inspiring were messages of support from revolutionaries in Québec active in the Common Front student movement who unfortunately were unable to attend. Greetings were also received from Israel, Brazil, France, the USA, Sweden, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Greece, Argentina, Russia, and from the British Marxist Alan Woods. A moment of silence was also held for comrade Ted Grant, as this was Fightback's first national meeting since the veteran revolutionary passed away. A poster of Ted was placed at the front of the room and the conference was held in his honour.

The opening discussion was on international perspectives. The conference was lucky enough to have an international guest to lead off this discussion. Jorge Martín, the International Secretary for the Hands off Venezuela campaign, gave an overview of the instability that characterizes world capitalism today. This instability is present in every country and at all levels. The discussion ranged from the crisis of US imperialism in Iraq, the growing working class in China, and to the struggles in the Middle East. Special attention was paid to the revolutionary movements in Latin America, with an emphasis placed on Venezuela. President Hugo Chávez has recommended the reading of Trotsky’s works, which shows how revolutionary ideas are once again gaining international prominence.

The days where the ruling class was able to throw us a few crumbs are gone, and now the capitalists are taking back everything the working class fought to win in the past. We can see the same processes of counter-reforms taking place in every country around the world. Militarization and wars over markets and spheres of influence are on the rise. Revolutions and mass movements are breaking out everywhere.

The Middle East is a powder keg with a lit fuse. Iraq is clearly in a state of civil war and is openly regarded as a “failed state.” The financial drain on the United States is even ringing alarm bells in the ruling class – reflected in the recent attempt by US Democrats to tie war funding to a troop withdrawal deadline. All of this is taking place when the US working class is beginning to wake up after a long sleep. The New York transit strike, the impressive immigrant rights movement, and the UAW Soldiers of Solidarity are signs of things to come.

The situation in Venezuela is coming to a head. The United Socialist Party of Venezuela is well under construction. Hopefully, it will be a party through which the masses can push aside the reformist bureaucracy that Chávez has identified as being a break on the revolutionary movement. The oil fields have been nationalized and Chávez has been making good on his threats to nationalize any companies that try to sabotage the Venezuelan economy. What is needed now is to make the revolution permanent by expropriating the property of the Venezuelan oligarchy. If the Venezuelan revolution is completed, the world situation will be changed overnight.

After the discussion on World Perspectives, the conference moved on to focus on the development of the working class struggle in Canada. Mike Palecek, a writer for Marxist.com and a CUPW shop steward, gave an hour-long leadoff. This was followed by a wide-ranging discussion.

With the Liberals having exposed themselves as corrupt and the Tories as opportunistic war mongers, the working class is fed up with corporate parties. If only the NDP would give a lead, it could capture power. Workers in British Columbia have just gone through a 5-year period of heightened militancy. This movement has been temporarily cut-across by the oil and construction boom which allowed the government to buy class peace. But there are hundreds of thousands of workers who have gone through the bitter experience of the anti-Campbell struggle and they will not forget these lessons quickly. The Liberal government of British Columbia has failed in its attempt to crush the labour movement and now, the rank and file of the unions have developed a healthy distrust of their leadership after being sold out time and time again. This sets the stage for a much higher level of militancy in the future. The resource boom will not last forever.

Meanwhile, Ontario and Quebec’s manufacturing sectors are bleeding jobs and profits. This has led to a slew of strikes and occupations in the east. From transit strikes in Toronto and Montréal to the occupation of an auto parts plant in Scarborough, militancy is on the rise. After the conference, we witnessed a mass demonstration of 40,000 workers in Windsor over job cuts. Protests have also hit Ottawa as well. The labour leaders of Ontario will be dragged, kicking and screaming, into confrontations with Canadian capital.

It is clear that in these conditions, there is fertile ground to develop the forces of Marxism and spread revolutionary ideas within the Canadian working class. We discuss perspectives so that we may better be able to accomplish this. Trotsky once wrote that Marxism is the victory of foresight over astonishment. By applying a scientific method to our work, we are better able to understand the world in which we intervene – and are more likely to attract a wider layer of class conscious workers and youth.

When our World and Canadian Perspectives discussions were completed, we moved on to talk about the national question in relation to Québec. Alex Grant, the editor of Fightback, gave the leadoff into a particularly fruitful discussion. Grant gave a historical overview of the oppression of the Québécois and how the movement for national liberation, at times, coincided with, and at times cut across, the class struggle. Throughout the history of Québec, we have seen how the bourgeois class has been completely incapable of achieving the emancipation of Québec and that the only class capable of this historic task is the working class. This movement came to a head in the glorious 1972 Common Front Québec general strike, which is arguably the closest the North American working class has come to overthrowing capitalism. Unfortunately, after the defeat of this movement, the petit-bourgeois Partí Québécois seized control and the leaders of the unions entered into class collaboration with the bourgeois nationalists.

Now we see a rejection of the sterile divide between the Liberal bourgeois federalists and the PQ bourgeois nationalists in Québec. For the first time since the Common Front, there is an opportunity for the class question to come to the fore and unite all sections of the working class against capitalist rule. It is perverse to think that there can be any kind of independence for the Québec working class while the bosses still control the economy and society. It is the job of revolutionaries in English Canada to do everything in their power to defend Québec’s right to self-determination against the reactionary measures of the Canadian state, such as the Clarity Act. Inside Québec, an increasing number of working class activists are adopting the position that the only way to achieve emancipation is through socialist revolution. Socialist revolution through class unity between French and English, between Native and Immigrant, and between the workers of Québec and the workers of Canada, who have no interest in oppressing the Québec people. In that way the workers can build a voluntary association of Canada, Québec, and the Americas to build a socialist society.

All in all, the conference left the comrades who showed up feeling confident in the ideas of Marxism. Everyone was excited to bring the ideas and information they learned back to their home cities. The conference wrapped up with a hearty singing of The Internationalé by all the comrades present.

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