The following documents were adopted at the 25th Convention of the YCL-LJC in Sept 2010
Part 1 - The Global Economic Crisis and the Youth Movement Internationally
Part 2 - The Condition and Position of the Young Workers
Part 3 - Peace and Anti-Imperialist Solidarity
Part 4 - The Struggles of Secondary and Post-Secondary Students
Part 5 - The Environment, Climate Change and Youth Struggle
Part 6 - Other Struggles of the Youth and Student Movement
Part 7 - The Youth Charter and the YCL-LJC's Contribution to the Youth and Student Fight Back
Our goal is to help the youth and student fight-back across Canada turn a new page in the struggle and to deepen our League’s contribution. At the end of each section, we present action-plan items.
The dangers today
The convention meets at a time when dangers threaten literally the future of the working class, even humanity:
• climate change is both escalating and a potential catastrophe;
• wars and aggressions spread misery, racism, gendered violence, even nuclear holocaust;
• corporate attacks sharpen;
• millions of people have lost their jobs;
The need is pressing for the people to discover and create an alternative future.
We open the document with an international assessment of these dangers. We argue that the main culprit is imperialism and the capitalist system, because of its drive to accumulate profits. ‘We make it, they take it’ is the central contradiction of this system today. That contradiction, however, triggers its destruction and the creation of a new society.
The 24th Central Convention of the YCL-LJC agreed that despite fundamental set-backs to revolutionary, national liberation, socialist and communist forces since 1989, “even in the present conditions liberating advances towards sovereignty and social progress are possible.” Since then the pro-socialist left-ward shift in Latin America has been reinforced. Elsewhere, anti-capitalist sentiments and advocacy of socialism are growing, albeit unevenly.
We agree with the November 2009 Paris seminar of the World Federation of Democratic youth: “The capitalist crisis is a proof of the system’s weakness. Young people should take advantage and courage at this weakness by strengthening their anti-imperialist struggle.” As the February 2010 Central Convention of the Communist Party of Canada noted, these are dynamic times, with dangers and challenges, and the potential of resurgent socialism.
Goals of the document and discussion
Like hospital emergency ward nurses, we aim to triage the grievances of the youth and students, for the YCL-LJC’s collective attention. After presenting the international section, we look at the four areas the outgoing Central Committee is proposing for main areas of struggle:
• Young workers and the labour movement
• Peace and anti-imperialism
• Student movement
• The Environment
We also present sections on other youth struggles, including for:
• full equality;
• sports, recreation and culture;
• parliamentary struggles.
We conclude with a proposal for the youth to advance a Charter of Youth rights as a counter-offensive tactic, and a discussion of the YCL-LJC’s role in the struggle.
Our strategic goals in the YCL-LJC’s Declaration of Unity and Resistance are: short term, to build the youth resistance; long term, to build socialism. There is no artificial separation here. There is one strategy that expresses itself flexibly, in different ways under different conditions, but can not be dissected.
The insight of the Communist Party of Canada on the road to socialism is decisive and essential. Together, we orient on the unity of the youth and the working people to win immediate struggles -- but with the perspective of turning the fightback towards a counter-offensive, beating the capitalists, winning working-class state power, and building socialism. The YCL-LJC’s tactics and day-to-day work comes from an awareness of this strategy.
The global economic crisis, transferred through the policies of the Harper Conservatives, is the primary attack that the youth and people’s movements must unite and combat. Our priority areas of struggle are: young workers, peace and anti-imperialism, the student movement, and climate change.
Comrades protest occupation of Afghanistan at 25th Convention
THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS AND THE
YOUTH MOVEMENT INTERNATIONALLY
We begin with the problems facing youth on the international level, and their global response, particularly with the economic crisis. Globally, we see an attack on the youth by imperialism, and a youth fight-back, on the ideological, political, and organizational levels.
The biggest part of the world’s population are workers and peasants under 25 years old. The youth face the same problems of the general people’s movements: war, environmental destruction, famine, disease (especially AIDS), gender discrimination, racism, homophobia, attacks on labour, civil and democratic rights, the denial of culture and leisure, etc. There is no class of the youth. The majority of the youth are part of the working class. However, overall problems of the people’s movements are not simply reflected into the struggles of youth as an age demographic. Rather, there are specific challenges to the generation that will inherit the future.
Imperialism in action
The major problem that is new since our 24th central convention in 2007 is the management of the world economic crisis by imperialism. The economic crisis has not been the only development in the attack of imperialism, whose meddling, aggressions and wars is outlined below.
Imperialism's current tactics include:
• wars and occupations;
• further development of a network of US military bases around the world;
• sanctions and blockades, especially towards socialist and socialist-oriented countries;
• destabilizing by exacerbation of the national question in the third and second world;
• multi-national trade agreements destroying environmental, labour, and other state-level standards.
This is seen in each part of the world.
• funding (channelled through USAID, the CIA-financed National Endowment for Democracy, the Soros Foundation, and other NGOs) the “colour revolutions”;
• separating Kosovo from Serbia in the final disintegration of Yugoslavia;
• a stepped-up anti-communist campaign including banning socialist and communist symbols like in Poland;
• North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion;
• European Union (EU) expansion;
• Free trade deals like the Bolkestein Directive and Bolognia process.
An important setback to the anti-communist campaign was over-turning the ban on the Czech Communist Youth (KSM). Widespread rejection of the EU constitution, such as in Ireland, and strike actions including in France and Spain, all showed the people’s resistance. The resistance of the Greek working class led by the united worker’s front (PAME) and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) are drawing thousands of people into the streets. However, the support of far-right and neo-fascist elements in the 2009 European elections shows there is still much work to be done in strengthening left-wing and people’s forces.
Middle East and Asia:
• Supporting Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine including: the Apartheid wall; intensification of Gaza’s siege; an all-out genocidal war in 2009;
• Continuing Iraq’s occupation;
• Deepening Afghanistan’s occupation;
• Destabilizing Pakistan and Iran;
• Supporting the Sri Lankan government massacre of Tamils;
• Funding reactionary national uprisings in China;
• Military provocations on the Korean peninsula;
The defeat of imperialism’s oppression of Palestine would not only end a barbarous injustice, but also have major positive global implications for progressive people’s forces.
People’s resistance includes:
• growing isolation of Israel and support of Palestinian solidarity;
• upsurge of Iranian students against the theocratic regime;
• overturning the monarchy in Nepal and establishing a strong leading presence of left and communist forces;
• determined resistance by the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan;
• resistance by the peoples of the Philippines;
• strong people’s opposition to the Iraq war and growing rejection of the Afghanistan war;
• Brave trade union organizing throughout the region;
• expansion of US and NATO base system;
• support of wars and coups over natural resources (ie. Nigeria);
• destabilization in Zimbabwe, Sudan and Somalia;
• supporting the occupation of Western Sahara;
• denying basic humanitarian support against AIDS, malaria, mal-nutrition, and desertification
• continued presence of reactionary and white supremacist forces in South Africa
We greet the 2009 election of the African National Congress Zuma leadership in South Africa and the announcement of the 2010 World Youth Festival in South Africa with great excitement and enthusiasm!
• restarting the US Caribbean and South American fleet;
• helping Colombia's government with its major offensive against the FARC-EP and establishing new US bases;
• intensifying the occupation of Haiti,
• orchestrating Honduras’s coup;
• destabilization attempts in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela;
• the election of a right-wing government in Chile with ties to the former Pinochet fascist dictatorship
In the USA, US President Obama’s election had both positive and negative dimensions:
• defeat of George Bush’s ultra-right leadership;
• engaging progressive people’s forces;
• electing the first African-American US President;
• However, the ultra-right were not defeated;
• Obama’s agenda was never progressive but a tactical shift by imperialism.
• The fundamental challenges of the youth and people’s forces in the US continue.
Resistance in the Americas includes:
• continued guerrilla resistance in Colombia;
• mass demonstrations in Haiti and Honduras;
• consolidation of anti-imperialist and pro-socialist forces across Latin America especially in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Brazil, and El Salvador;
• Reinforcing the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA)
• Growth of Communist forces supporting the pro-socialist trend!
Foremost in Latin America pointing a way to socialism has been Cuba. The retirement of comrade Fidel Castro and the continued socialist direction of Cuba has shown that the mandate for the socialist leadership of that country comes from the people. We express our special solidarity to the Cuban people, the Communist Youth Union of Cuba, comrades Raul and Fidel, and to the Five Cuban Heroes unjustly jailed in US prisons over the last ten years for fighting terrorism!
From our viewpoint, this reinforces our general thesis: that it is imperialism, not the workers, peasants and oppressed peoples and nations of the world that are to blame. Foremost is this seen with the economic crisis.
Economic crisis and the youth
The economic crisis is rooted in the systemic crises of the capitalist system. It has come about at the same time as environmental and food supply crises that have related but distinct origins.
While neo-liberalism has intensified the outcomes of the current crisis, the crisis “is not the result of the implementation of neoliberal policies such as free trade, deregulation, privatization, and anti-labour employment policies, etc.; rather, it is the inevitable outcome of the systemic crisis of capitalism itself.”
As the 11th International meeting of the Communist and Worker’s Parties in Dehli, India, declared:
Though the capitalist system is inherently crisis ridden, it does not collapse automatically. The absence of a communist-led counterattack, engenders the danger of the rise of reactionary forces. The ruling classes launch an all out attack to prevent the growth of the communists and the workers' parties to protect their status quo. Social democracy continues to spread illusions about the real character of capitalism, advancing slogans such as 'humanisation of capitalism', 'regulation', 'global governance' etc. These in fact support the strategy of capital by denying class struggle and buttressing the pursuit of anti-popular policies. No amount of reform can eliminate exploitation under capitalism. Capitalism has to be overthrown. This requires the intensification of ideological and political working class led popular struggles. All sorts of theories like 'there is no alternative' to imperialist globalisation are propagated. Countering them, our response is 'socialism is the alternative'.
Now the crisis has matured. There is a major campaign to convince us that we have experienced a ‘jobless recovery.’ In fact there is no such thing. The February 2010 convention of the Communist Party of Canada drew several points of conclusion regarding the economic crisis. We elaborate here regarding the youth:
Internationally, the young workers have seen a major spike in unemployment:
• No other age group has been hit as hard.
• 1 in 5 youth are unemployed in United Kingdom.
• United States AFL-CIO labour union central calls this the “lost decade” for young workers
• For third-world and global South’s unemployed, youth are majority.
As the Nov. 2009 Lima, Peru meeting of World Federation of Trade Unions youth said:
Young workers [especially from the ‘second’ and ‘third’ worlds] are the first victims of labor market deregulation, produced by imperialist globalization, with alarming results: millions of young workers are unemployed, sub-employed or working in slavery-like conditions without health or social security; they are homeless and persecuted emigrants; as well as child labor. A whole generation of young workers are in material and spiritual ruin, with no promising future.
The capitalists are claiming that the debt and deficits incurred to ‘fix’ the crisis must be resolved by anti-working class and anti-youth measures, like:
• reduced accessibility and privatization of education, transit, housing, health including dental care, and childcare;
• even lower rates of youth unionization, ageist two-tier collective agreements, poorer wages;
• and even more debt;
The consolidation of these plans by imperialism are found on the state budget-level, and special trade agreements. Those hit hardest include:
• Indigenous youth;
• youth from racialized communities;
• young women;
• youth in sub-Saharan Africa,
• youth in countries subject to imperialist wars, occupations and blockades.
The intense ideological offensive designed (a) to divide the working class, including scapegoating, racism, anti-labour unionism, anti-communism, etc, and (b) convince people that a recovery is in full-swing.
Efforts to convince the youth through the corporate media and culture that “the crisis has ended” is broadened to include campaigning for the hearts and minds of the youth, for their vision of a better future. etc. The methods are sophisticated, and although the basic message is sometimes very crude, it is found in all capitalist media.
Ways to divide the young and old include:
• the ultra-accessibility of credit to youth, fosters a “false consciousness” of economic security
• anti-consumer critiques (“la décroissance”) that ignorant hordes with their 1.5 kids, dogs, SUVs, etc. and polluting jobs have caused climate chaos
• trade unionists, especially industrial workers and public-sector workers, are to blame because of their ‘high’ salaries (essentially a dangerous ‘race to the bottom.’)
• attempts to scape-goat (im)migrant workers (ie. in Europe, North America);
• promoting values of individualism, greed, and competition;
These attempts to win the minds of young people are carried-over into school class rooms, college and university lecture theaters.
Aggravation of inter-imperialist contradictions, a precursor to war; and exposure of US economic might’s relative decline.
Imperialism’s rivalries are playing out in forums ranging from trade protectionism (ie. ‘Buy American’) to climate change agreements. These objective contradictions within imperialism could break-out with global war. At the same time, the economic power of the United States has been rocked and challenged, including by China and India.
The labour and people’s fight back against the crisis has been slow and sporadic due to a general sense of weakness and caution by working people, state restriction and even repression, ideological disorientation, and the betrayal by opportunist leaders.
• mass united fightback (like in the Great Depression) has not developed globally;
• expressions of internationalism inspiring the youth ten years ago, with the anti-globalization movement, have not developed but dissipated and dissolved;
• despite energetic claims of a ‘new’ people’s politics by anarchist anti-globalization activists, contradictions within the World Social Forum have lead to its demise as an expression of anti-capitalist sentiment.
• Youth of the Socialist [Social Democratic] International do not present themselves as a home for a militant pro-people, pro-democratic youth resistance.
On the other hand, genuine anti-imperialist efforts have been seen globally:
• outpouring of support by the youth for the revolutions of Latin America – both on that continent and internationally;
• the resistance of the youth in Honduras;
• international youth support for the Cuban Five;
• strikes and actions of the Greek youth and workers;
• resistance of the German, Austrian and French students;
• sharp criticism by the ANC Youth and Young Communist League of South Africa of neo-liberalism;
• rejection by young Americans of Bush and the war in Iraq;
• rise in youth support of the Japanese Communist Party;
• global outrage by the youth about climate change, seen at militant protests in Copenhagen.
These fight backs on the surface have a strong spontaneous dynamic, but in fact are part of organized struggle. Often they are connected with the specific work of youth organizations.
The most organized global expression of anti-imperialist resistance is the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY). We also express our hope for strengthening the International Union of Students. The continuation of the World Festival of Youth and Students movement is a terrific step forward. It should be greeted with the greatest energy and enthusiasm by our YCL-LJC.
THE CONDITION AND POSITION
OF THE YOUNG WORKERS
The global capitalist economic crisis has added a special character to the struggle of young workers. The political report of our 24th Central Convention pointed out that:
Conditions facing young workers are getting worse year by year. Across the country, injury rates to young workers are at all time highs, and safety regulations are being gutted. At the same time, real wages for youth are the lowest they have been in 25 years and minimum wages across the country are at their lowest point in 30 years. This is one factor that has let big business take unprecedented levels of profits.
In many ways, this remained the same throughout the years following that Convention. However, what our report three years ago could not have predicted was the scope of the impending economic catastrophe and the devastating effect it would have on young workers across Canada.
The economic crisis
Young workers have been amongst the hardest hit by the crisis. Youth unemployment hit a 30 year high in 2009 with official numbers, which are generally considered conservative at best, hitting 16.3%, and 19.2% for students seeking summer work.
This comes as no surprise since young workers continue to hold mostly low-paid, part time or casual jobs in the service and hospitality sectors. They are often the first to go when layoffs are the order of the day. Furthermore, they find it increasingly difficult to compete in a job market super-saturated every day with more unemployed workers. Unionized youth are sometime subject to divisive two-tier wages and other concessions in collective agreements.
This dire situation is made worse by the de-industrialization of the Canadian economy. Good, union, jobs with decent pay and benefits are continuing to disappear at an alarming rate as Canada is transformed into a shopping mall economy. “McJobs” have become the fate of millions of workers across the country. These jobs are low paid, have no benefits or job security, and are usually part time or casual in nature. Meanwhile, industry based towns around the country are suffering, or shutting down entirely as forestry, paper products, auto, mining, and other industries are devastated by the sell-out policy of de-industrialization. This policy, which threatens not only the economic well being of Canadian workers, but also our sovereignty, has been pursued by consecutive Liberal and Conservative government and continues to be pursued by the Harper Tories. Young workers are left to hunt for super-exploitative jobs in the service and hospitality sectors which simply don’t pay the bills.
They face declining real wages, increasing cost of education and difficulty accessing Employment Insurance due to the part time or casual nature of much of their work. Many young workers find themselves in conditions of poverty and desperation from which there is only one path out; the path of militant, mass struggle.
Bailout packages to the tune of billions of dollars of public funds have been given to corporations and banks across the world and in Canada specifically. These bailouts should be vigorously opposed as a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich aimed at stabilizing the capitalist system at the expense of the working class, youth, and students.
Young workers' fight backs
In BC and Ontario, young workers took up the fight for an increase to the minimum wage during the last few years. The YCL supported and participated in these campaigns despite the fact that the demands were very low ($10). This policy was correct in that the alternative was turning our backs on a crucial issue which had mobilized young workers into action and won the support of the vast majority of society in favour of sitting on the side lines and criticizing. Furthermore, the possibility of the young workers movement carrying forward to bigger and better fights and victories would be built on by the increase in organization and class consciousness brought about by such a campaign.
Another campaign which has picked up momentum has been the Living Wage Campaign which calls not for a minimum wage increase but for wages based on the cost of living. There have been small scale successes in BC and Ontario. The YCL supports these campaigns fully. A re-assessment of YCL policies surrounding minimum wages at the Provincial level, the idea of a Federal minimum wage, and the campaign for a living wage may be in order to ensure that our policies and demands remain current and appropriate.
While these campaigns have been positive, the experience of the past years proves the need for action beyond campaigns led primarily by trade union activists and towards organizing the unorganized into the struggle. The effort to build a fighting organization of low wage workers in BC is one of the most significant developments to grow out of the young workers movement in Canada in the past few years. Other notable efforts have been made along these lines such as work to build an unemployed workers organization in Hamilton. At a time when union density is eroding and deindustrialization is in full swing, organizing the unorganized is a task that can only be ignored by a movement which is suicidal.
Among the unorganized one should not forget migrant and temporary foreign workers. Through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), and the Live-in Caregiver Program workers are brought to Canada from the Third World to work as labourers, farm workers, nannies, live-in caregivers and more. These programs are fundamentally racist and exploitative. The YCL must continue to say “good enough to work, good enough to stay.” Capitalists in Canada are not just abusing and exploiting temporary foreign workers, they are seeking to use these workers against Canadian workers by helping to ensure that there is always a pool of unemployed to use as a threat to workers who fight for their rights. The plight of temporary foreign workers is one that affects all working people. Farmworkers under SAWP have, against all odds, successfully organized on some farms, but in southern Ontario faced evictions and deportations, although they and supporters are fighting back including our members.
One inspiring development has been the formation of the Common Front in Quebec which includes all the major unions in the public and parapublic sectors in Québec, including unions grouped together in the SISP (CSQ, FIQ, SFPQ, SPGQ and APTS), the CSN (FSSS, FEESP, FNEEQ and FP) and the FTQ (CUPE, SQEES, COPE and UES). The Common Front has organized rallies of as many as 75,000 people against the Charest government’s attacks on public services and workers.
Trade union movement and the youth
The growth and proliferation of young workers committees in some unions, labour councils, provincial federations of labour, and at the CLC is a positive development. However, some committees suffer from lack of action and tokenism. The policies of some trade unions around casual employees and exclusion policies which keep apprentices out of the union, are also of concern as they weaken the youth voice in the labour movement and damage trade union unity. Two-tier contracts in which senior workers protected in terms of wages and benefits during negotiations while a second tier of employees with lower wages and benefits is formed for new workers also disproportionately affect young workers and can damage the unity between older and younger workers.
For example, high school student’s career classes are told - directly from the ministry in curriculum - it is a dog-eat-dog, post-union, post-industrial world and you cannot depend on the same career. Bosses use sophisticated tactics to divide young and old workers in order to justify bad jobs for young workers. The YCL rejects the idea that there are ‘real jobs’ and ‘youth jobs’ that are acceptable to be ‘bad.’ All jobs should be living jobs. We demands all jobs have pensions, benefits, job security, and a living wage.
Despite these stumbling blocks, the importance of the continued growth of young workers committees is undeniable. It should be considered the task of all Communist, left and progressive young workers in organized labour, and all young workers who wish to build a movement based on action, to establish and/or build young workers committees wherever they can and to work to make them active, vibrant, diverse and action oriented bodies. At the district labour council level, young workers committees should be structured when possible to allow the inclusion of un-organized young workers. Toronto and York Region District Labour Council integrates CFS
student union representatives in their meetings.
District labour councils play an important role. They are the bodies which bring labour together in a given community for the purposes of taking collective action. Many councils have been hard hit in recent years by new limits on funding from the CLC, de-affiliation of some unions, and the notion paraded by some on the right that labour councils have become outdated and should either be eliminated or “reformed.” All reforms which seek to reduce or eliminate council or their capacity to take action at the local level must be defeated. Labour Councils should play the role of action oriented bodies which serve to unite the labour movement with other working class and peoples forces on a community level.
Action Caucuses are another important aspect of the trade union movement today. These caucuses bring together those members who want to build a fighting labour movement, a movement based on action. These are also typically the most politically progressive segments of the organization and the most class conscious. They are broad based, non-sectarian groupings which find their main moment of activity at conventions where they can fight for the adoption of militant programmes and challenge right wing leaders. Young Communists in the trade union movement should, wherever possible, seek to establish or build on existing Action Caucuses.
Young workers have often been visible amongst the most militant segments of the trade union movement in action, at conventions, and in their committees. It should be noted that there has been a clear increase in the level of class consciousness in organized labour in the past two years. The failure of the capitalist system, exemplified by the current economic crisis, is opening the eyes of ever more workers to the need for significant change. In some cases, it is opening their eyes to the need for revolutionary change.
Class and revolutionary consciousness
Although the level of revolutionary consciousness is still low, it is increasing along with the level of basic class consciousness without which this would be at least superfluous if not impossible. We must remain cognizant of the fact that young workers are the future of the labour movement and can both play a significant role in carrying forward working class struggle in the present as well as building a foundation for a stronger and healthier movement in the future.
Social democracy continues to be the predominant ideological force in the Canadian labour movement. The political nature of social democracy is shifting clearly and openly to the right across Canada. The New Democratic Party, which is still considered by most to be labour's political party, has opened its arms widely to embrace business, big and small. Meanwhile it has made conscious efforts to move away from its association with the labour movement, while still expecting and receiving full support from the majority of unions.
At the same time, there are splits within the ranks of social democracy. The growing class consciousness and militancy in the trade union movement is leading to an increasingly large left within social democracy which has not developed a revolutionary consciousness but sees the need for a serious fight back, and may even have identified capitalism as the problem. These are potential allies.
The YCL’s role
The YCL’s goal must be to build a strong, united, militant, fighting young workers movement while building the YCL itself in the process. Specifically, this means:
- working to establish, and build on existing, young workers committees at all levels, with special attention to district labour councils;
- promoting organization of the unorganized into unions, and other forms of class organizations, for example, low wage workers organizations and unemployed organizations, preferably linked to the trade union movement where possible;
- working in a collective and coordinated manner;
- striving in our work to bring our revolutionary perspective into the movement and to provide leadership in the direction of class struggle, not conciliation and collaboration.
Class struggle is our frame of reference; we must aim to make it the frame of reference for organized labour and then the whole of the working class. We must engage in the ongoing ideological struggle, the battle of ideas, between those who seek to preserve the capitalist system and those who seek to smash it. Our policy should be one of open Communist work in the trade union movement, as in all the mass movements although tactical exceptions to this may occasionally be necessary. The YCL should strive to educate its members and allies about the contradictions that exist within organized labour so as to overcome misconceptions about the nature of the trade movement, many of which are caused by the encounters of youth with business unionism, class collaboration, tokenism and other negative aspects brought on by right wing leaders.
Finally, we must re-assert that the working class is the only consistently revolutionary class in this historical epoch. It is the primary contradiction in our society – that between the social production of wealth and its private appropriation, which is ultimately maturing and leading towards the end of capitalist society. The working class, and especially its organized segment i.e. the trade union movement, is the only class which has the ultimate power to shut down the capitalist economy and to seize state power.
We must say frankly that this is no time for arguments that “socialism is not on the table today.” Our long term goal of a socialist society must remain at the forefront of our minds during all of our work with fellow working people. It is a goal which we must disdain to conceal. If we don’t put socialism on the table, how can we expect it to get there?
YCL-LJC General Secretary Johan Boyden at the 25th Convention
PEACE AND ANTI-IMPERIALIST SOLIDARITY
While correctly noting that “Youth often make up the most energetic and vocal members of the anti-war movement and international solidarity movements,” our 24th convention was not able to make an assessment of Canada’s growing militarism. We are still in a nuclear-weapons era and as long as these weapons exist, the military-industrial complex includes their utilization in nightmare fantasies.
Resistance against imperialism and the question of Canadian sovereignty
Peace issues are directly linked to young workers' and students' daily struggles. Student and labour work must also work against war and militarism. The peace movement is a broad, multi-class formation. In addition to workers, students and trade unionists, our peace efforts unite with pacifist and religious organizations like the Student Christian Movement and Muslim youth, as well as liberal groups opposing certain wars.
It would be a fatal mistake to dismiss these forces as, for example, “the status quo left.” We also reject the view that the slogan of peace somehow makes us seem weak. Against imperialism’s gigantic military build-ups of “weapons of mass destruction,” against its aggressions, blockades, sanctions, occupations, bombing and mass killing of civilian life – peace is the main response.
While standing with the vast majority of anti-imperialist movements, it is not automatic that we are in solidarity with every force that is objectively fighting imperialism. At the same time through the struggle for sovereignty, progressive developments often occur within resistance forces, and imperialism does not need our help in critiquing of its enemies.
The YCL-LJC needs to also engage more on complex youth debates about democratic sovereignty. While expressing solidarity with the sovereignty of the peoples of Afghanistan, Palestine, Cuba, Haiti, Korea, etc., we can not obscure the relationship between Canada and the United States. Canada is not a colony or vassal of the US, it is a full imperialist power; at the same time the US dominates Canada’s economy, political life and culture. It is not a simply either/or, it is both.
Resistance to the US role in Canadian society is not a distraction. It is entirely natural that, while recognizing their short-comings, the YCL-LJC would work with pro-Canadian forces in defense of issues of sovereignty (ie. Free Trade and deep integration with the United States, for a democratic people’s culture, and for an independent foreign policy based on peace and disarmament).
This is not in conflict with internationalism. For us, Canadian sovereignty means the sovereignty of the peoples of Canada – the vast majority of whom are workers and their closest allies – and the basic democratic right of the Canadian people to determine their own future, their own destiny. It is also sovereignty against US imperialism. Sovereignty is directly connected to the rights of nations and peoples to self determination.
This is not a selective right reserved only for oppressed nations, or those which have already embarked on a revolutionary path. Recognition of the national rights of Aboriginal peoples, Quebec, and the Acadians, does not detract from or negate the sovereign rights of the peoples of Canada who as a whole to resist the onslaught by U.S. imperialism and international finance capital.
Militarism in Canada
Militarism here refers to three associated developments:
- restructuring and integrating the Canadian Forces (CF) with the US military;
- massive increases in Canadian military spending;
- the CF shifting from pro-US ‘peace keeping’ to anti-insurgent combat.
Ottawa’s Harper Conservative foreign policy could be typed in Bush-era Washington. One of the most marked shifts is 100% uncritical support of Zionist Israeli and fascist Colombia. Canada’s Cuba policy is perhaps the only exception.
The deep integration of the US and Canadian armies includes:
- creating “Canada Command” styled after its US counterpart;
- directing Canadian soldiers within the US army either as units or individual military experts;
- training of Canadian officer cadres at the School of the Americas;
- Canadian government now permitting US troops to operate anywhere on Canadian soil, beyond US bases.
In 2002 the US Bush-regime Ambassador to Canada stated his main goal was to increase Canadian military spending. After a short-lived drop in the early 1990s, Canadian military spending has now outpaced Cold War records:
- now 7th highest among the 26 NATO countries;
- military spending was $12.3 billion in 2001;
- now $19 billion in 2009 with plans to increase spending to $30 billion by 2027;
- The Afghanistan war’s cost alone (assuming Canada’s participation ends in 2011) is estimated to be $28.3 billion;
- Despite the economic crisis, this spending is officially ‘locked-in.’
Canadian peace-keeping operations occurred during the Cold War. They consistently sided with the US against the Soviet Union and socialist countries. Since the set-backs to socialism, the number of Canadian peace keepers can now fit on a Greyhound bus! The CF have stated their new emphasis is on insurgencies like in Afghanistan. This means wars where the people themselves are the primary enemy – ie. the Operation Charging Bison training that took place over downtown Winnipeg in 2007.
The war has created great pressures on the Canadian military. Many – 15 to 25% – of soldiers on rotation to Afghanistan are now reservists. The CF are now recruiting thousands of young people. Operation Connection is an aggressive recruitment plan, announced at the time of our last convention. It includes elementary, high school and post-secondary campuses outreach.
Almost 8,000 were recruited last year; 60 % were under 24. Special target is made at poor and working class youth, Aboriginal youth, and young people in the East Coast. At various points Newfoundlanders, who make up two percent of the Canadian population, accounted for about 25% of all troops in Afghanistan.
Military recruiting is both an ideological pro-war pipeline to the youth, and a transmission belt for imperialist cannon fodder back to the military. Sophisticated recruitment tactics include:
- presence at sports events, cultural celebrations, air shows;
- mass-advertising in student washrooms with the lure of free-education;
- special recruiting vans near high schools;
- cooperation with high school job councilors;
- special visits to classes with guns;
- paid high school co-op programmes;
- presence at job fairs on campuses.
A heavy corporate media campaign supports the war in Afghanistan. The ‘enemy’ is racialized and dehumanized as ‘vermin,’ while the 138+ Canadian Forces deaths (plus a few civilians) are mourned as heroes. Family criticism of the military and their role has been silenced.
Both the Afghan and Canadian people have rejected the occupation, especially the youth. The war in Afghanistan has been a disaster, causing:
- a spike in infant mortality rates;
- tens of thousands of Afghani deaths, including from bombing weddings, shooting-up markets, hospitals;
- expanding opium poppy production;
- further oppression of women’s rights
Youth and student resistance has included conferences, participation in mass rallies, campus educationals and opposition to military recruitment (generally under the banner of Operation Objection). Opposition to the war been sporadic but lively in English-speaking Canada from coast to coast, and well organized in Quebec where the military is also seen somewhat as an army of occupation.
Although protests against the war in Afghanistan were large mass demonstrations at the time of the convention, since then they have shrunk in size. In Quebec, there is less participation by the trade union movement and organizers have shifted from demonstration mobilizations to educational-oriented conferences. These problems deserve discussion and analysis.
The struggle against the war in Afghanistan is not the only anti-imperialist campaign. Across Canada, including Quebec, youth and students are fighting for:
- Palestine solidarity;
- To free Omar Khadr from US Guantanamo Bay torture camp;
- To defend the Tamil peoples in Sri Lanka;
- Against human rights abuses in Colombia;
- Solidarity with the people’s of Honduras;
- And on many other causes.
Notably disconnected with from these legitimate anti-imperialist causes is the so-called “Free Tibet” movement which is supported by many liberal and progressive youth in Canada. The true nature of this campaign starts in 1950 with the liberation of Tibet from the feudal and theocratic regime of the Dali Lama. The YCL-LJC rejects the notion that “Free Tibet” represents a legitimate anti-imperialist movement. Here we look at two specific struggles.
Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was a 15 year old youth, when he was captured by US forces after a battle in the village of Ayub Kheyl in Afghanistan in 2002. He was detained at Guantanamo Bay, charged with fighting with the Taliban against US forces. Despite his juvenile status, weak evidence against him, repeated claims of abuse at Guantanamo, and his Canadian citizenship, the Harper government has not taken action to have Omar Khadr repatriated and reunited with his family in Canada. The YCL supports the campaign to bring Omar home immediately, and not to try him in Canada but instead to rehabilitate him into society.
Campaigning by students, together with support of some trade unions, has been an important factor in the shift of public opinion against the Zionist state of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The Harper Conservatives, working with university administrators, have made obstacles to students working on solidarity campaigns with Palestine. For example at several Ontario campuses this has included heavy fines and punishments to students for staging demonstrations, banning event posters, attempting to ban the phrase Israeli Apartheid, and intense public criticism in the corporate media.
The formations of the so-called Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism sets a dangerous precedent which has been supported by the Conservative, Liberal, and New Democratic Parties. The true nature of this Coalition is pro-Zionist as it aims to not fight anti-Semitism, but to tar all those who oppose the Zionist Apartheid system as anti-Semites and to thereby justify infringing upon their democratic rights.
The recent motions in the Ontario, Manitoba, and Federal legislatures condemning Israeli Apartheid Week as “anti-Semitic” are unprecedented attacks on campus based lecture series to promote Palestinian human rights. Though only the Ontario motion passed, they are particularly disturbing examples of pro-Zionist officials trying to silence young, anti-imperialist forces.
We express solidarity with the wide range of Indigenous People's struggles across Latin America as they fight against the destruction of their communities and natural environment and for self-determination. These struggles continue to expose the barbarous lengths imperialism will go to in its insatiable search for profits.
We stand in solidarity with the Communists and popular forces of Nepal as they continue and deepen their successful fight against feudalism, reaction and imperialism in the construction of a new society, and send our internationalist greetings to our comrades in the Democratic National Youth Federation of Nepal.
We also express solidarity with all the Communists and popular forces of the Philippines as they wage their struggle against domestic oppression and US military intervention, and send them our internationalist greetings.
YCLers in action at the 25th Convention
THE STRUGGLES OF SECONDARY AND POST-SECONDARY STUDENTS
The primary contradiction in the struggle for increased access to education is: corporations want a trained workforce but they will not pay for it through corporate taxes, forcing the people to pay for education through wages, savings and especially debt. The working people want accessible, emancipatory education.
This class perspective is often obscured. The struggle for access is presented as a simply universal fight against the government. Right-social democratic ideas in the student movement deliberately avoid class perspectives and misrepresent the state as neutral. Yet the state’s decisions are, generally, in line with the banks and businesses. And the single largest group of youth impeded and excluded from post-secondary are youth from the working-class majority.
The student movement is vital in the fight back. It makes up the most organized component of the youth movement. The students are concentrated onto campuses. Education also gives them skills for struggle. Yet students also contain strong non-working class elements in their leadership with associated values. Students are a therefore a contradictory and dynamic force.
The corporate agenda for schools
Over the past generation, the hungry drive of the corporations for profits has led to:
- restructuring the tax system and federal-provincial relations, restricting post-secondary funding;
- ‘eating’ the public sector as a new source of profits through privatization.
In BC, for example, students pay will pay more in tuition in 2010 than corporations pay in provincial taxes. This is restructuring for rich-only, American-style education.
Thirty years ago tuition fees were negligible or even zero! What has changed?
- Federal government's role in funding reduced transfer payments, no longer requires provinces to allocate money to secondary and post-secondary education;
- tuition fees have emerged as a major user fee on a service which should be free;
- in spring 2010 student debt topped $13,500,000,000;
- mass increases in illegal ancillary fees (like “library access” fees);
- Boards of Governors have adopted an increasingly pro-corporate, pro-privatization, anti-student line;
- a small army of students work on and off campus for corporations, essentially free labour.
In Quebec, tuition fees are very low. But the loans programme sharply reduces accessibility. Currently tuition is highest in Ontario and Nova Scotia. It is frozen in Newfoundland.
In secondary schools there has been similar under-funding and cut-backs. In Ontario alone, schools are short several billions of dollars from mid-90s levels because of the flawed provincial funding formula. All schools have seen a wave of cut-backs: support staff, teachers, supplies, repairs and new buildings. Teachers' pay has been frozen (ie. Alberta in 2008) and collective agreements torn-up. In Nova Scotia and elsewhere, Public Private Partnership (P3) school buildings are scandalously over-budget.
While the source of the problem in the privatization of universities lies in the budget of the federal/provincial government, the structure of university administration is crucial. If over-staffing takes place at the administrative level, this undermines the role of teachers and professors in major decisions within the universities, and creates an even greater barrier between the students and those responsible for the cost of their education. Lower wages are not the solution, but neither is over-staffing undemocratic university administrations.
In elementary and secondary schools there has been a trend toward the introduction of user fees which are often illegal. Students are being asked more frequently to pay for materials essential to their education such as music texts, gym shorts, year books and more. Meanwhile, fundraising for public schools is becoming increasingly predominant. These trends create a funding framework that leaves working-class schools with fewer resources than schools with wealthier students who have the ability to pay user fees and fundraise. The YCL-LJC opposes and has organized around fees imposed on students and against the move towards privatization of our public school systems.
Privatization is not just an attack on service – costing more, but delivering less because of the new need to make a profit – but an attack on workers as well. Privatization attacks union collective agreements, and decertifies unions (ie: privatization of campus food services). This strengthens the objective basis for student-teacher and student-worker unity. While public schools continue to be subject to deep funding cuts, private schools continue to receive public funding in many parts of the country. The YCL demands an end to all funding of private schools and a subsequent strengthening of the public school system.
Resistance in secondary and post-secondary
The attack on education has been met with continued resistance since our last convention. In high schools the majority of resistance has been lead by the teachers. School boards have also opposed funding cuts and been placed under receivership by provincial governments. The YCL-LJC supports school board autonomy and local democracy and youth running for school board elections raising a pro-teacher, pro-student agenda.
The YCL-LJC aims to reach out to the next generation of its membership through the methods mentioned in the action items, and prioritize the future of socialism to the outmost degree thereby. Knowledge of the fundamentals of social justice should be disseminated in an effort to combat growing levels of anti-communist propaganda within the actual curriculum, and to combat apathy within the secondary school student body. High school clubs such as environmental or “Gay-Straight Alliances” are often places to find progressive youth. The YCL-LJC has a role to play in terms of strengthening these groups.
In English-speaking Canada the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) organized a cross-Canada day of action in spring 2007 but has called none since. In some high schools, students have walked out of class, joining in solidarity with university students. More assessment by the YCL-LJC needs to be made on the situation in trade schools.
In Quebec, following the spectacular 2005 students strike, an attempted 2007 general student strike failed.
Individual provincial CFS actions were organized in Ontario and Manitoba in fall 2008 and 2009 under the new and positive slogan ‘Drop Fees.’ Manitoba students occupied the legislature. Although there were very few mass mobilizations in BC and elsewhere, these Drop Fees actions are very significant. They visibly show the students' power. Mass protests must be supported by more youth and people’s forces, including labour. There more regular organization will only help push the students beyond lobbying.
Other potential sources of campus resistance for a students' agenda include:
- Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGS), uneven and decentralized, but often home for many genuine anti-capitalist students;
- Part-time and mature students and international students;
- Racialized student clubs;
- Environmental and social-justice clubs like the Student Christian Movement;
- University professors (too often absent from demos) and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT);
- TAs and sessional instructors, whose actions have been dynamic, especially at York U.
- Equality rights organizations such as LGBTTTQQI and Women's groups
Greater student participation in university affairs has also been demanded in confrontation with the corporatization of education. Workers, students, administrators and the state have a role at the table. Corporations do not.
Harper Conservative attacks
On a number of campuses university administrators have been heavy-handed against demonstrators. This has engendered widespread campus solidarity:
- British Columbia, UBC – students arrested protesting privatization and destruction of campus environment, support committee developed;
- Alberta, U of A – student protest blocked administration from abolishing elected student residence representatives, after reps had petitioned against rising fees;
- Ontario, U of T – administration deliberately had police arrest 14 campus activists on the pretext of occupation of the President’s office weeks prior, campaigning forced dropping of charges and restrictive bail conditions;
- Quebec, UQAM – student protest (ie. demos, posters) banned within the vicinity of all campuses.
- Quebec, CEGEP du Vieux Montreal –over 100 arrests at one student occupation, although campus was well know for long-standing tolerance of protest; across Quebec the student movement experienced reduced tolerance towards any campus activism;
Restrictions on academic freedom remain a significant problem in schools around Canada. Students and professors often face discrimination because of their political beliefs. The YCL-LJC stands for inclusive, progressive academic freedom.
Conservative Party youth organizations have also stepped up their activity against progressive and left student organizations. For some time the Conservatives have held a secret slush-fund to seek office in student unions. But in the spring of 2009 on campuses across Canada, Conservative youth organized training sessions about:
- building front organizations, working with Zionist and anti-abortionist organizations on campus;
- attacking Public Interests Research Groups;
- de-federating from the Canadian Federation of Students;
- strikingly, workshops featured sitting Members of Parliament;
- since, at least one MP has been caught interfering directly in student elections through administration (MP Peter Kent and the York Federation of Students);
- Conservative youth also a catalyst in several attacks on PIRGS (ie. Guelph, Halifax);
- Conservatives implicated in thirteen decertification campaigns from CFS;
- blocking student protestors at last fall's Drop Fees demonstrations at the Manitoba legislature.
The question of de-federation has brought to light the problem of cross-Canada student unity.
English-speaking Canadian student unity
The struggle for student unity is playing out in various ways on different campuses. Political problems have sometimes been expressed in administrative solutions. Although the CFS AGM created new rules regarding decertification, the campaigns against the CFS continue, and the right-wing enemies of student unity have not disappeared.
There are also right-wing student organizations that can “fill the hole” of the CFS – specifically the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, historically a device of the federal government to split the student’s movement. CASA and its provincial affiliates have been used to stand in the way of student mobilization around progressive demands. The tacticians of the Liberal and Conservative Parties, happy political prisoners of the big corporations, may view CASA as of less use today. Therefore a new wrecking ball has been swung into motion.
Post-decertification campuses will not engage political campaigns. Simon Fraser University was the test ground for this, in 2008. Right-wing students worked with some leftist critics of CFS to decertify in the context of mistaken management by the student union.
People’s organizations like CFS have internal problems. There is a struggle for democracy and militancy. Claiming the left should provoke a “few” decertifications to “shake things up in CFS” is opportunist. Claiming the CFS can not be reformed plays the right-wing’s game.
The counter-offensive required in this struggle is broad united fronts. The political reason for the CFS must be brought back to the students who must empower themselves to democratically drive the student struggle.
This is an internal battle students are fighting out. Liberal as well as right and centrist social democratic outlooks are predominant but not ‘hegemonic’ within CFS. The British Columbian, Manitoba and Nova Scotian components of CFS have made open criticism of the NDP. Some leaders have torn-up their membership cards. Students understand the need for militancy, unity and grass-roots campaigns. A CFS basing itself on militant struggle for the interests of students would no doubt win the interest and support of a much wider array of students and help to pull the rug out from under anti-CFS forces.
Student unity in Quebec
Although there is greater militancy, unity of the students in Quebec is arguably weaker than in English-speaking Canada. In Quebec CFS has organized a few student unions. The bigger players are the FEUQ for university students, FECQ for CEGEPs, ASSÉ and the new Third Voice who organize both. The majority of student unions are unaffiliated.
The most militant student union central is the ASSÉ. The FECQ/FEUQ hold an annual action, but have a narrower lobbying and compromise approach focusing on immediate student issues. In 2005 the ASSÉ initiated the largest mobilization of students in Quebec and Canadian history against cutbacks of student bursaries (with support of labour and people’s forces). In 2007, the ASSÉ launched a failed call for a general strike after the Charest government un-froze student fees, and then launched another failed call for an unlimited general strike (like 2005).
ASSÉ continues to have a serious internal discussion about the failed strikes and the implication for strategy and tactics today. The debate is around how to place the demand of free education. Reasonable voices with ASSÉ have identified a like lack of unity, between ASSE and the FECQ/FEUQ, as detrimental to their cause.
The way forward for the students in Quebec demands that they overcome these barriers to unity. Of necessity, this requires a transformation of the FECQ/FEUQ position towards a more mass-student and class struggle-based approach.
Education is a human right – and for First Nations a treaty right. However, in addition to long-standing neo-colonial policies against Aboriginal peoples, in 1996 the Federal government imposed a 2% cap on all basic core services funding increases, breaking the Treaties. Rising numbers of Aboriginal youth seek degrees. Over half of the aboriginal population is under 25. There are long waiting lists for First Nations youth to attend post-secondary. Non-status and Metis people do not receive any funding, while facing the same racism. YCL sees the need to establish additional Aboriginal public universities with Aboriginal education at all universities.
Racist policies against Aboriginal students hurt the entire movement. Although First Nations students centers and associations have been established at most universities across the country they must fight for funding. Only one First Nation’s University exists in Canada, in Saskatchewan, which the Harper Tories are shutting-down. The YCL-LJC condemns the closing of First Nations University. The YCL-LJC demands abolition of the funding cap, emergency action to improve Aboriginal people’s social and economic conditions, and full recognition of sovereignty and self-determination for aboriginal nations.
Pan-Canadian student unity
The necessity for a united organization for all students at the federal level is an objective need. Some efforts have been made uniting CFS and Aboriginal students. The CFS has campaigned on Aboriginal student’s issues especially in Manitoba, and condemned the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs’ continued approach to aboriginal education and closure of First Nations University.
Unity between English-speaking and Quebec students is sporadic and limited. On the surface, language is a barrier to greater communication. In fact this is a political problem about the national question with reflections into tactics:
- the Millennium scholarship was opposed by the CFS as ineffective;
- for Quebec student’s however it was an advantage to their loan system;
- the “Post-secondary education act” first advanced by the CFS and the CAUT and now adopted by the New Democratic Party contains no special provisions for Quebec and Aboriginal students.
While narrow nationalism (encouraged by the Parti Québéquois) discourages some Quebec students from pan-Canadian, Federal-level action, the main problem is English-speaking Canadian chauvinism. Many English-speaking students speak as if there were no militant student battles in Quebec.
In our view there is one working class within distinct nations in Canada. The situation has changed since the days of the National Union of Students when there was one organization of Quebec students (ANEEQ). If the CFS were to withdraw from Quebec there is no guarantee that something beneficial would arise in its absence. There are many English-speaking student unions not organized into any progressive student movement. First outreach could be made by the CFS and its own position on the national question should develop to recognize the multi-national character of Canada.
THE ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE
AND YOUTH STRUGGLE
The question of the environment is very relevant to the struggle of the young people in Canada for a better future. One of the foremost pressing environmental problems is climate change. However, the titanic scale and danger of climate change should not obscure other pressing environmental concerns, which are connected with social and economic problems and contradictions in capitalism. Some other environmental issues include:
- Bio-diversity, species extinction and habitat destruction;
- Water, air, and other forms of pollution including the use of toxic chemicals in house-hold products, work-places and schools;
- Harm-reduction against destructive practices such as factory ships, clear-cut forestry, tar sands and shale gas production, etc;
- The dangers associated with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) like in farming and the salmon fisheries;
- The implications of nuclear power and nuclear waste and the necessity for alternative energies;
- Recycling, energy efficiency and the political and health implications of food production
- The question of so-called “peak-oil production”;
- The specific impact of environmental problems on racalized communities and Aboriginal nations;
- Protection and expansion of public parks and nature reserves for all people, not just the rich;
- “Greenwash” or corporate mis-information about the environment.
Many of these problems are interwoven. (For example, food production patterns cannot be ignored when we look at the challenge of environmental sustainability. Meat production under capitalism has to be recognised as a major issue in this context. Meat production at its present level and technique has caused massive deforestation pollution of water and soil, and does not even constitute an efficient method of food production; thus contributing to environmental destruction.)
This should not been understood as a complete list, nor separate from social questions including ownership and control of natural resources. In this section we look especially close at the danger of climate change, as an important development of the YCL’s analysis of environmental questions which we should continue to expand and deepen.
Why focus on climate change?
While the issue of climate change is increasingly important in the international political agenda and especially with respect to the mobilization of youth, it is necessary to open the debate on why the YCL-LJC should get involved in the movement against climate change as a priority. The issue of climate change has engaged many young people today – first, because the nature of the impacts which will primarily involve the young generation, secondly because most of us were born at a moment when climate debate became very public.
The Copenhagen conference teaches us many things. First, it illustrates how climate change is mobilizing the masses and especially the youth in all countries. The Asia-Pacific started the flow of events around the world with some 50,000 people in the streets in Australia, Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. In Manila, Hong Kong, Jakarta, and as in most major Canadian cities, rallies of several hundred protesters were also held. In Copenhagen itself, hundreds of thousands of people began marching in the cold to protest.
With the abysmal failure of this United Nations conference which was suppose to conduct an agreement between states to reduce GHG and be following the Kyoto agreement, it becomes obvious to the people that the imperialist countries have no desire to act. The strings of this conference were pulled by the United States and its allies including Canada. The so-called agreement that came out was not obtained in a democratic way and is a farce. In summary, the countries simply have the obligation by the end of the year to provide targets for 2020. The leaders of the imperialist nations refuse to acknowledge their primary role in causing this disaster and will reject any agreement that could jeopardize their control of the world’s wealth and resources.
More specifically, the most extreme example of this is the Alberta tar sands, Canada’s largest source of pollution and a multi-billion dollar source of revenue. Canada continues to exploit and degrate the local water supply, leading to massive amounts of cancer in Northern Indigenous populations. By 2015, the Alberta Oil Sands are expected to emit more greenhouse gases than Denmark, a nation with the population of 5.4 million. The social and environmental costs are just too high, yet the Canadian government continues to extract and sell oil to the United States, to fuel their war machine, which accounts for the majority of tar sands consumption.
Causes of climate change
At this summit, leaders of imperialist countries have been singled out and accused of being in the pay of the industry. For the general public belief is that industry and our individual consumption is causing climate change. But as Marxists, we know that this is not so much the industry as the way it is implemented; in other words, how capitalism works. Capitalism is the decisive cause of climate change; as a system based on production for profit and not for needs, increasing exploitation of not only labour, but also the environment is necessary to fuel the engine of capitalism. For itself, industry is not necessarily something negative. In fact, because of industry for the first time in history, the development of productive forces has the potential to produce enough to meet the needs of all.
About the individual consumption, this is a way for capitalists to individualize the problem and put us all in the same boat. Under this idea, people are all equally responsible for the disaster. But the working men and women of the world do not consume as the bourgeoisie class does. Half the planet lives on less than $ 2 per day and is not liable as the capitalists who exploit them.
It is not without reason that the corporate media propagate massively the idea of the individual solution, as it is an easy marketing technique to encourage frustrated young people wishing to effect environmental change to consume their products. Individual consumer choices, such as purchasing an electric car, organic vegetables or any other new product that is supposedly green and only the rich can afford are not a solution to climate change. Market-based solutions continue to perpetuate the problem and distract youth from the problem at hand: capitalism.
The conditions of the working class already determine its consumption. This idea of individual responsibility is dangerous and leads to even viewing with a negative eye the aspiration of some developing countries to achieve a standard of living equivalent to the developed countries.
Corporations will continue to exploit workers and the environment as long as it remains profitable, and regardless of the consequences. By removing our natural resources and the means of production from profit seeking corporations, we are able to produce and consume in a sustainable manner, according to human need, not for corporate gain. Under capitalism this is not possible; the only way out of this catastrophe is the nationalization of our resources, land and production under a socialist government. Youth, who often are very passionate about environmental change, must grasp the fact that in working together in beating capitalism and worker’s exploitation, we are also working to end the current environmental crisis.
Instead, we need to consider the demands of Evo Morales, President of the Republic of Bolivia and others who call for climate reparations, and funding sustainable technologies in the developing world. The obstacle to this is imperialism, which prefers to make trillions off these countries rather than address the gravity of climate change.
Climate change is not caused by all classes. The worker women and men of the world do not consume as the ruling class does. Half the planet lives on less than $2.00 per day and is not liable, unlike capitalism and imperialism that exploits them. Furthermore, it will not consistently impact humanity. Those who are most affected by environmental crisis will be the poorest in the world. Climate change will bring the disruption of ecosystems, and therefore lifestyles that are more dependent on the immediate environment. It will affect the health of populations, such as the development of certain infectious and respiratory diseases. Which brings us back to fight for a public health system accessible to all.
In 2007, the Secretary General of the United Nations said that in many developing countries, youth, and in particularly girls and young women, are often responsible for agricultural work, collecting water and firewood, tasks which "will become more difficult and take longer at the expense of education and productive activities as climate change affects access to water, agricultural productivity and the survival of ecosystems.”
Imperialism is considering other approaches to solving climate change as well – so called “Plan B.” This is because the effects of climate change have already begun and are expected to get much worse. Therefore immediate problems of mitigation come into play. Plan B or Geo-engineering is the intentional large-scale manipulation of the global environment, generally to reduce undesired climatic change (i.e., initiating a giant plankton bloom in the ocean, or the injection of large amounts of sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere simulating a volcanic eruption). NASA, the British Institute of Mechanical Engineers, the British Royal Society, and the UK parliament are all doing studies on geo-engineering. But these nightmarish solutions could cause unknown damage.
YCL-LJC can not be absent from this debate, especially since it excites the youth of today. The YCL needs to develop concrete positions on climate change and other important environmental issues as they go hand in hand with the exploitation of young workers, students, and international youth.
OTHER STRUGGLES OF THE
YOUTH AND STUDENT MOVEMENT
Beyond the YCL-LJC’s priority areas of struggle there are a number of important battles that the youth and students and all the people’s forces combat. In identifying priorities the YCL-LJC do not preclude our active participation in other movements. Democratic struggles are a vital part of revolutionary struggle. While we cannot cover every struggle in this document, others may be covered throughout the course of Convention in the form of special resolutions.
We are encouraged not to think of culture as a right of the youth; however unemployment is not the same as leisure! Recreation, leisure time and democratic culture are all rights, most certainly not privileges whether you are in a city or rural area.
One of the foremost areas of spontaneous youth resistance is music. Rock, Hip Hop, Punk, Folk and Electronic music and other genre’s all contain contradictory elements of dominant corporate mass culture and people’s democratic culture. The YCL-LJC supports people’s democratic culture and grass-roots art.
Reinforcing the industry’s elitist approach, many young people cannot learn in public schools in the area of culture they want because there is inadequate funding of music education, drama and arts. Youth are afraid to risk a career in the arts because they will not get a job, and art schools are limited to a tiny provincial archipelago of Colleges of Art and Design.
Access to recreation facilities varies wildly across the country as do training programmes for young athletes. Corporate advertising and the cult of violence is promoted. Women’s sports are still deeply undervalued.
Struggles for full equality
Sexism and misogynistic ideologies are alive and well even in 21st century Canada. The YCL-LJC rejects arguments that policies and legislation aimed at enforcing gender equity and overcoming sexism are outdated, unnecessary or even “reverse sexism.” The youth and student movement, including the YCL-LJC, does not exist in a bubble removed from this sexist society. We too should strive to combat sexism internally. Clubs, therefore, need to pay extra attention to actively recruiting women members especially by being on the front line of women’s struggles. Offering leadership opportunities to women members and putting special efforts toward the cadre development of women also helps us, and the youth and student movement in general.
Women work the majority of low-paid, casual, and part time work; making 70% the wages of men on average for the same work and experience. This wage gap has remained largely unchanged since the 1970’s despite an increasingly educated female work force and despite increasing numbers of women on the job. Furthermore, women continue to perform the majority of household chores and bare the brunt of raising children.
They face sexist and male chauvinist attitudes every day at work, at school, on the street and even in the home. Not to mention from the corporate media and entertainment industry which continue to portray an unhealthy, disempowered vision of how women should be.
In recent years, women’s right to chose has also been under increased attack with the coming to power of the anti-choice Conservative government. It is well known that the Conservative Party opposes women’s right to chose. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has even suggested holding a referendum on the question aimed at stripping women of this fundamental right over their own bodies. Harper is even taking his fundamentalist Christian ideology abroad, in denying G8 funding for contraception and access to safe abortions in the developing world. This funding is essential for the world’s most impoverished women to maintain their sexual health and independence from unwanted pregnancies. The YCL-LJC defends women’s right to chose.
The YCL-LJC demands strong legislation against gender discrimination, total economic equality between men and women, and unity between men and women in the youth and student movement to defeat sexism. It isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s a class issue. Sexism divides and weakens the peoples fight back.
51% of Canadian women have faced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 16. Every minute of every day, a woman or child is being sexually assaulted. Yet, the majority of these cases go unreported and almost all of them go unpunished. Violence against women is the natural outgrowth of the sexism inherent in the capitalist system.
A common form of violence against women amongst youth and students is date rape. 31% of sexual assaults are reported as being perpetrated by a date or acquaintance. Many more are carried out through the use of date rape drugs. The majority of victims in these crimes are young women between the ages of 16-24.
The YCL demands better protection for women who are or have been the victims of violence. More funding is needed for rape relief centres and counseling. Women’s self defense programs should be funded to allow women to protect themselves. The practice of further victimizing those who have suffered abuse through relocation and other forms of “protection” while the victimizer remains free must be ended.
Although the youth and student movement is often justifiably praised for its dynamism, energy, creativity, and boldness, the issue of the national question continues to be poorly understood in English-speaking Canada, both for Quebec and Aboriginal national rights.
The situation of the Quebec people has changed markedly since the “quiet revolution” in the 1960s and the greater development of a Quebec capitalist class. The new generation of Quebec youth can work and study mainly in French, unlike their parents, and have less commitment to national struggle. The main demands of the Quebec people are still the recognition of their national rights including sovereignty and self-determination.
The aboriginal youth face sharp oppression including: lack of basic services on-reserve like clean drinking water; discrimination in housing, education, employment and culture; high male suicide rates; abduction and coercion of young aboriginal women by gangs into the sex trade; colonial legacy of policy reinforced by the minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.
In the past few years we have witnesses some alarming displays by racist organizations in Canada, particularly in Calgary where neo-nazis have even resorted to firebombing and other violence.
The YCL-LJC continues to stand firmly in opposition to every manifestation of white supremacy and racism. We call for a complete ban on racist and white supremacist organizations, literature and symbols.
Canada cannot continue to pride itself in its diversity and “multiculturalism” while allowing neo-nazi organizations to terrorize new Canadians and Canadians of visible minorities. Hate crime legislation must be enforced and strengthened.
We reject the notion that hate speech is a question of “freedom of speech.” The freedom of racists is incompatible with the freedom of those they attack and with the unity and interests of the working people as a whole. It must be ended.
We also oppose Islamophobia and anti-Arabism, which are forms of racism that are a desperate attempt to gain support for wars abroad by demonizing and terrorizing people in Canada, and also abroad, who come from predominantly Muslim national groups. There is nothing secular about white supremacist and ultra-left attempts to suppress the democratic rights of Muslims under the guise of protecting “Canadian values.”
Homophobia continues to plague Canadian society and the youth and students of Canada. Even amongst some progressive circles where racism and sexism are repudiated, homophobia retains a strong foothold.
The YCL maintains that hatred of the LGTB-QI community is no better and no less dangerous to the youth and student movement than any of these other bigoted beliefs.
As with sexism and racism, homophobia serves the ruling class by dividing youth, students, and the working class as a whole.
Hate crime legislation must be toughened and enforced vigorously to end gay bashing. Straight youth and students should join with the LGBTTTQQI community in opposing homophobia so that we can more effectively fight together for our common interests.
The YCL-LJC also condemns the homophobic actions of Conservative Immigration Minister in blocking references to LGBTTTQQI rights in the government’s new study guide for immigrants applying for Canadian citizenship, and not recognizing homophobia as grounds for refugee status.
Attacks on civil and democratic rights
Since the election of the Harper government in 2006, his government has increasingly encroached on the civil and democratic rights of the people and exhibited increasingly anti-democratic tendencies.
Harper's eager willingness to avoid, ignore or shut down dissenting voices within and outside of Parliament, his quickness to implement draconian security programs under the guise of “anti-terrorism,” and his quickness to shut down Parliament whenever it suits him should be of concern to all democratic Canadians.
Public services and crown corporations are under attack including health care and education, Canada Post, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Wheat Board, Canada Council for the Arts, the National Film Board, and the Marine Atlantic Ferry services to Newfoundland. The same is true on the Provincial-government level. This has engendered wide-spread outrage and activist response uniting trade unions, community organizations, artists and professionals, and senior citizen groups.
Because they often do not appear to be sites of militant confrontation, many youth do not understand the connections between these struggles and those of our generation and devalue them. The YCL-LJC should stand behind such struggles because of their significance in the class struggle, and help connect these movements with the youth.
Since our last convention, youth have continued to turn away from participation in electoral politics. There are exceptions such as certain municipal campaigns like COPE in Vancouver, and Québec solidaire’s campaign for the National Assembly, that have captured some youth support. But generally the number of young people who are voting is at record lows.
The Central Committee has identified two reasons for this. Firstly, young people do not see real alternatives being presented in the programmes of the parties. Secondly, through voting rules and regulations young people are discouraged from participating. In our view the primary reason is that a significant block of young people are disenfranchised from political struggle, do not see themselves as the makers of politics, nor that their engagement would do anything.
In marked contrast are the Communist Party of Canada’s campaigns that the YCL-LJC has supported. Despite shoe-string budgets these campaigns have generated interest on campus and among young workers, and have won a much higher level of the high school vote that the popular percentage.
We continue to call for deep-rooted electoral reform including: mixed-member proportional system; the right of recall; and a new republican constitution abolishing the Crown and the senate, and guaranteeing the right of nations to sovereignty and self-determination.
THE YOUTH CHARTER AND THE
TO THE YOUTH AND STUDENT FIGHT BACK
The history of Canada is a history of class struggle. The youth and student movement in Canada emerged in the development of state-monopoly capital and imperialism. In all the struggles of this time the youth and students have, to varying degrees, played a dynamic role with the working class. This history shows the need for the Communist movement – of the Communist Party of Canada and the YCL-LJC.
We can not do this as “observers” of the youth movement. Essential to a bigger YCL-LJC is our unity in action. Concentrating and prioritizing our work is not in contradiction with seeking out, identifying and engaging the full panoramic of the youth movement.
From Lenin’s perspective the key problems for Communists were to form alliances with other people. As the Communist Party says, building alliances:
- increases the material strength of the working people;
- shows that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’;
- teaches working people to learn how to work with other classes and groups
- shows the relationship of classes and groups to one another – and the state;
In other words, it helps to create the basis for working class leadership of society as a whole. As Rae Murphy, former the leader of the YCL-LJC, wrote on the eve of the League’s 1960 convention:
“The main task that we have before us today both as an organization, and as individuals meeting with young people, is to arouse young Canadians not only to the dangers and problems our country faces, but also to the possibilities that exist and the advances that can be made if we can organize and unite.”
“Winning the minds of young people is the gigantic task of the Communists, and it is of the utmost importance, for it means winning the future. It means overcoming the passivity and cynicism so carefully natured by our environment, showing young people that there is a future, that there is a better way…”
“How to get into the fight? How do we develop the broadest and most diversified approach to young Canadians and yet maintain our character and identity? How do we put forward our own independent public activity and educational programs, and yet maintain the most flexible and persistent approach to united action with other youth organizations and individuals?”
The way we exercise our role is not just a virtue of our size. It is our strategic policy. Our style isn’t to play the game by trying to be a one player team. We have to mobilize more people than just ourselves. For communists to influence people, we have to be on the terrain where they are already fighting. We have to be attuned to issues that are already angering youth. We have to be part of the struggles where they are engaged. The most sophisticated tool to make such assessments and ground people as a group is the YCL-LJC club that can work with an eye to bringing other forces in on “the ground floor.”
Role of the YCL-LJC
Therefore we present the question not as ‘are we relevant today?” but rather: what is our role?
The role of the YCL-LJC was discussed in the August 2008 Central Committee and can be identified as:
working with the widest range of progressive youth to:
- fight on the struggles of youth;
- connecting the youth with the broader struggles of the working class and the people including oppressed peoples;
- making a communist contribution of unity and militancy with the tactic of the united front.
Through struggle and action, educating our membership, friends and all the youth about:
- the immediate priority struggles of youth;
- understanding the long-term necessity for a socialist Canada;
- ideological problems the youth face in the revolutionary process
This purpose is difficult and challenging. It encapsulates the unity of our short term goals, like supporting the Troops Out of Afghanistan campaign or Reduce Tuition fees, and our long-term goal: socialism. To correctly apply YCL-LJC policy requires a comprehensive approach that sees immediate reform struggles as part of much bigger historic revolutionary process. YCL-LJC club members and leaders need to find their own language for grounded answers to explain our role. The YCL-LJC should also give members and leaders the tools to answer these questions.
In this line, we are proposing a Charter of Youth Rights to better articulate the most pressing task facing the youth movement:
- to unite the youth movement around militant actions and class-struggle policies confronting the corporate attack;
- to overcome the national divisions within the youth movement on a democratic basis;
- to connect the youth with democratic and anti-monopoly transformations;
- and to shift the balance of class forces in favour of the working class and its allies.
A Charter of Youth Rights would present a unique YCL-LJC tactic that compliments the strategy of the Communist Party of Canada.
The YCL-LJC’s relationship with the Party is political and ideological unity combined with organizational autonomy. This is a creative relationship. We must discuss, discover, and invent. Struggle for ideological clearness is essential to chart a way forward, especially among youth and the YCL-LJC which warmly welcomes all young socialists.
While we reflect the ideology and politics of the Party, as Georgi Dimitrov – perhaps the greatest promoter and elaborator of the united front – said the united front of youth will have different dynamics and be more flexible than the broad united front. Likewise, YCLs can not “construct their organizations as if they were Communist Parties of the youth” Dimitrov said.
Communists view the immediate challenges of the working class and its allies in Canada within the broader perspective of launching a major united-front counter-offensive towards socialism. We project a much stronger left, including a more class conscious working class and a stronger Communist Party, winning defensive battles and then grasping moments of weakness in the capitalist class. Communists also understand the reality of the Canadian state as having one working class but many nations. As the YCL-LJC’s Declaration of Unity and Resistance says:
“Our unity is founded on the recognition of Canada as a country of many nations, unequally together, Aboriginal (including first nations and Métis), Quebecois, and the dominant oppressor English-speaking nation. […] Overcoming national chauvinism and recognizing national self-determination and sovereignty must be a key-stone of any truly pan-Canadian movement.”
The revolutionary road that the Communist Party of Canada forecasts is not just a singular, decisive blow but includes as a pre-requisite a protracted series of many stages or phases of struggle and that “Uniting the working class across the country will not be possible without combating national oppression and fighting to achieve a new, equal and voluntary partnership of Canada's nations.” The tactical formulation is of a united front on a democratic, anti-imperialist, anti-monopoly basis with the working class at the core. This front, referred to as the people’s coalition, will ultimately have an electoral reflection and could unleash the forces of the working class and its allies, accelerating society towards socialism.
Youth and the people’s coalition
Historically, the youth in Canada have played a central role in working class and people’s struggles, often spurring onward the broader movements. The youth created a number of united front organizations and actions including the On To Ottawa Trek and the Canadian Youth Congress. These campaigns have become strongest when they have united the aspirations of all the youth, including Quebec and Aboriginal youth. The tendency for the progressive youth and student movement in Canada is to support the militant struggles of labour and people’s forces, but at the same time find expressions that are often autonomous or even separate.
In our view, the people’s struggles of the 1920s, 30s and 40s were characterized by:
- greater strength of working class, left, socialist and communist forces;
- the absence of social democratic hegemony;
- a more favourable balance of forces internationally;
The dividing line between the magnificent unity and militancy of labour and the people’s resistance in the past and the more tepid response of labour today is the Cold War and McCarthyism, and the partly successful neutralization of the radical, left and Communist forces including in the youth movement. Another obstacle to the unity of the youth is therefore ideological. Right-wing social democracy and anti-communism must be overcome to build the people’s coalition.
Today, a small, militant, radical, internationalist (and sometimes ultra-leftist) pole does exist within the youth and student movement that finds expression currently in groups like No One Is Illegal, the ASSÉ, Students Against Israeli Apartheid, the Olympic Resistance, and even the Public Interest Research Groups. Some elements within this pole do pose the question of a united front of youth and uniting youth with the working class. Other elements, however, are anti-communist. Some objectively sabotage the bold, uncompromising, and noble aspirations of progressive youth with a preoccupation on narrow causes, and purist tactical debates – like around direct action.
Larger youth organizations (like student unions) have bigger contradictions within their membership that often allows the right-wing youth, currently, to check or block progressive actions. But it would be profoundly mistaken to conclude that therefore these organizations have no potential in people’s struggle. Ideological lines are also less entrenched, and these organizations have greater freedom of motion than trade unions. While their purpose is not revolutionary, their agenda of youth rights draws them into conflict with corporate power.
In fact, revolutionary politics is mass politics – the politics not of hundreds, or thousands, but millions. If all these organizations were energized by mass people’s struggle – how could or would the youth and student movement configure itself within and around an upsurge of resistance?
A youth charter
What is needed is a flexible and creative tactic that proposes to put debates about the policy, tactics and strategy of the youth movement into the motion of political actions. Youth unity can only be achieved when due consideration is taken into account for special issues experienced by young women, immigrants, youth from racialized communities, Québec youth, and aboriginal youth. Our conception of this strategy must be to place the struggles of the youth and students within the class struggle.
It would demand as rights of the youth:
- A democratic solution to the national question
- Recreation, culture, sports
- A healthy environment
- Full equality
Beyond these broad strokes the YCL-LJC could and should specifically advance our own policy ideas, with the understanding that the youth movement itself must be a drafter.
A youth charter would be a tactic to strengthen the militant, left pole within the youth and student movement in a positive and new direction by winning other youth to its demands. It would be the basis to develop the struggles of the youth and students to a higher level, to bridge the gap between the labour and people’s fight back and the youth and student fight back, and therefore position the youth and students as a potential force within and around the people’s coalition.
It would make an intervention beyond the immediate demands of today’s youth and student movement. It would be complimentary with our longer-term perspective of socialism, not a substitution for socialism. Winning a youth charter would not be socialism. A youth charter would make broad anti-corporate, anti-war demands placed in the positive sense: as rights of youth.
A Charter would outline ideas as to the basis upon which youth unity may be achieved. Lasting youth unity will not occur spontaneously nor overnight. It may take various forms such as student unions, peace coalitions, or councils. One thing is for sure, it will take active work amongst the youth, we can not expect it to happen on it’s own. Youth must learn through experience and patient explanation that their real genuine rights can be won only by the determination to fight for them.
While we can not simply bring about these conditions through will-power, this is not wishful thinking. If we needed a reminder that situations do not stay the same, just look at the economic crisis. Capitalism has an expiry date. Our task is to project a forward direction for the youth. The Young Communist League should stand ready to engage in mutual discussions with any groups and individuals concerned about young people and willing to discuss the possibilities of united action around the Charter of Youth Rights.
The policies and strategy of the YCL-LJC and the Communist Party have the potential to bring down governments, and change the direction of Canada. When these liberating ideas and demands are taken up by the masses of the people, they become a material force for change.
That’s why we are dangerous. Across Canada today there are 4.6 million youth between 15-24. Wouldn’t it be a big underestimate to say only 20 per cent of these youth hold progressive views? Yet that number alone is larger than the population of the city of Winnipeg. We are not saying these youth are about to join the YCL-LJC. People’s life background, personality, politics and ideology are reasons not to. But as the Communist Party recently said at its convention:
It is our revolutionary essence, and our objective potential to grow in size and influence as the systemic crisis of capitalism deepens, that makes the Communist[s] a potent threat to the capitalist system and a consistent force in the struggle for fundamental change and for socialism in Canada.
If we successfully fight to be seen, heard and read – we will recruit.
War, misery, exploitation, apathy and poverty cannot be our future. Young people cannot and should not remain indifferent.
Now is the time to unite and organize!