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Youth and Students Join the Fight, Defeat the Harper Ultra-Right!
Build the YCL – Organizationally, politically, ideologically
24th Convention of the Young Communist League of Canada
March 23rd to 25 2007, Toronto.
This 24th convention of the La Ligue de la Jeunesse Communiste - Young Communist League comes at an important moment. We are meeting at a time of unprecedented dangers facing our class, our country, our generation and all humanity, arising from growing militarism and war, economic plunder, and increasing environmental destruction. Big crises also face youth and students across Canada, with our rights to a world a peace, to jobs, and to education sharply under attack.
While each crisis has its own shape and story, they share a common source – the prevailing social-economic system. Capitalism at its present imperialist stage creates and fosters the basic problems we resist. This situation makes the fight for peace, jobs, and education the major challenge of our generation.
The offensive of imperialism is generating stiff opposition. Globally, in Latin America, and across Canada, more people are struggling in many un-sung campaigns for social progress and democracy. Daring to demand real change, alternatives, is the first step to winning. At the forefront of these struggles is often our generation, together with the working class.
The most urgent challenge facing our League is to help mobilize and strengthen resistance on the broadest possible basis, and forge together a united combative fight back of youth and students, together with the working class and the people, against the current offensive of the ruling class and its governments, beginning with the Harper Tories.
The struggle today for progressive reform is inextricably tied to the struggle for the revolutionary transformation from capitalism to socialism. Only socialism, based on working class power in Canada and internationally, can put people before profit and mark a real advance towards true democracy – the rule of the people, by the people and for the people. This is our future and our fight, the fight for a better life.
Capitalist Globalization and the Youth Struggle
After the counter-revolution in the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc, the balance of forces in the world changed negatively. The Communist movement was rocked. Setbacks to socialism soon led everywhere to setbacks of working class and all democratic and progressive forces, including those of youth. In Canada, this setback included the liquidation of the YCL-LJC at our last convention in 1989.
The setbacks to socialism are a powerful weapon to convince people that there is no revolutionary alternative to capitalism, an argument still used to shape the political consciousness and social activity of youth.
The current system, however, is profoundly unsustainable and will lead to disaster unless it is changed. Current globalization is nothing but a disguised element of capitalist development. It is the latest recipe of imperialism, that final stage of capitalism where the rich countries plunder the world to meet their cancerous hunger for profits. Canada too is an imperialist power, and an ally in the so-called "War on Terror."
Youth suffer the most from the consequences of neo-liberal globalization policies. In Europe, the Bologna Treaty will lead to privatizing public education and making it functioning in the service of capital with a clear elitist perspective. Education turns from a public good to a commodity or a luxury good. The new Lisbon Strategy aims to make young workers subjugated in the hands of the ruling class with programs of job flexibility, spare training and mobility attempting in this manner to create a new generation deprived of any type of rights. We need struggles and victories like the fight-back of French youth and workers against the attempt to introduce regressive changes in the labour laws (CPE).
Globally, defense of democratic freedoms, against the advance of the extreme right, against xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, religious fanaticism and obscurantism, and against anti-communism has become crucial. One important example of the attacks against fundamental rights, liberties and guarantees of citizens is the young Czech communists (KSM), criminalized for resisting capitalist exploitation and imperialist oppression and for daring to fight openly for the re-establishment of socialism
Canadian big business, however, is pushing us into lock-step with the Bush agenda, successfully winning several 'deep integration' agreements in 2006, harmonizing trade and foreign policies, and military interoperability. The Harper Conservatives are happy prisoners of this class agenda, willingly letting Alberta's oil and gas fuel fortress America, promoting the Atlantica trade d eal, and strongly supporting Canadian involvement in the occupation of Afghanistan for another decade – an unjust and illegal war that is destroying that country.
But even in the present conditions liberating advances towards sovereignty and social progress are possible. The advances of the popular and anti-imperialist struggles that are sweeping through Latin America confirm that the workers and peoples do not conform. The fresh success of the world youth and student's festival movement is visual evidence that democratic young people are opting for a alternative socialist and communist ways. One milestone was the 16th world festival of youth and students in Caracas, Venezuela, which brought together over 17,000 youth from over 120 different countries.
Youth have not supported neo-liberal globalization and the increased wars, aggressions, and commercial embargoes by the imperialist powers since then. In Canada, the youth protested APEC in Vancouver, the FTAA in Quebec City, and everywhere marched against the Iraq war, and now the US-Israeli intervention into Lebanon and Gaza. The so-called “War on Terror” of the Bush agenda has also been widely condemned by youth and students internationally in declarations and protest, including by youth in the United States. As the January 2007 meeting of the European and North American Council of the World Federation of Democratic Youth stated:
"Mass organization and radicalization of the peoples struggle is observed in many regions, such as in Latin America, the Middle East as well as in other continents mainly through the anti-war movement or workers and youth actions and struggles. The student and youth massive struggles in France, Chile and Greece, the rejection of the Euro-Constitution in France and the Netherlands, the courage resistance of the Lebanese and Palestinians as well as the movement of refuse to draft to the Israeli army, the pan-European mobilization of port workers and the mobilization against the Bolkestein Directive, the mobilization against the anticommunist memorandum of the Council of Europe are examples that show the opposition of the peoples and mainly of the youth against the designs of the capital and imperialism."
Socialist Cuba is proof of a real alternative to capitalism. The YCL-LJC stands in proud solidarity with the people of Cuba and the unjustly imprisoned Cuban Five. We extend special solidarity to the Venezuelan, as well as the Cuban, Korean, Laotian and Vietnamese and Chinese people in their hard struggle to build socialism, and with the Haitian, Iraqi, Columbian, Afghan, Somolian, Korea, Palestinian and Lebanese people who are under a heightened imperialist assault.
While big business says socialism is finished and capitalism will endure forever, in reality it is the capitalist system, based on private ownership of the means of production, which has no future. It is a system in crises and decay, incapable of meeting the needs and aspirations of the world's peoples.
Youth and the Trans-Canadian Fightback
As the Programme of the Communist Party states, “The central fact of political life in Canada is that state power is in the hands of Canadian finance capital.” Canada is a capitalist and imperialist state. It is made up of different nations, formed by the colonial theft of Aboriginal peoples’ lands, shaped by European wars of domination between the French and English, and consisting today of the oppressed Aboriginal (including Métis) and French-speaking nations and the dominant, oppressing English-speaking nation.
This is the context in which the youth and student movement must be seen.
As Lenin noted, “Capitalism and imperialism can be over thrown only by economic revolution. They can not be over thrown by democratic transformations, even the most ‘ideal.’ But a proletariat not schooled in the struggle for democracy is incapable of performing an economic revolution.” All the fights of youth are struggles for more democracy. As the Communist Party states, “The struggle of the Canadian people for democracy, sovereignty, peace and social advance is essentially a political struggle against big business and its control of the Canadian state.”
Monopoly capital’s neo-liberal government policies have not spared the youth. At the exact time the Harper Conservative’s regime pours more taxes away from hard-fought for social programmes into military adventures, we see sky-rocketing tuition fees, evaporating grants, high-school education and sports cut-backs, unemployment, poverty wages, dangerous work, union-busting, privatization, job ghettos, housing shortages and scant to non-existent rent control, poor public transit, police brutality, as well as racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia as well as national inequality towards Quebec and national oppression of Aboriginal peoples, sometimes violently.
There are also signs of stiffening opposition to this political, economic and social offensive from the youth and student movement across Canada. The massive mobilizations against the war in Iraq just three years ago were an expression of the resistance of youth and the people. They forced Canada’s government to stay out of a war with Iraq. The largest was in Montreal, Quebec, with one-quarter million people. And did you know Quebec students organized the largest student protest in Canadian history two years ago? The most organized component of the youth movement is the student movement, and the Canadian Federation of Students.
Three major areas of activity to build unity and militancy among young people across Canada are peace, education, and jobs. Our task is to help build this fight back, unite it, and help it join with the struggles of all workers and people in Canada. By organically combining political education and class struggle, we will also foster the confidence, steadfastness and commitment in struggle needed to be Communists.
Youth often make up the most energetic and vocal members of the anti-war movement and international solidarity movements. The anti-war movement in Canada is aimed against the ideology and policy of the imperialist ruling circles and is, therefore, a protest against the existing system. There have been victories in this area including preventing Canada from participating in the invasion and occupation of Iraq and preventing the Canadian government from taking a direct role in the US missile defence system.
Because of Canada’s imperialist role in Afghanistan, perhaps most significant is the ‘Troops Out Now’ campaign, which unites the anti-war coalitions of both Quebec and English-speaking Canada, as well as the Canadian Labour Congress, key sections of the Muslim community, environmentalists, students, and many others. Another important campaign is “Operation Objection” launched by Act for the Earth, which is building resistance to the re-branding of the Canadian military along US lines with ‘operation connection’ and its militarization of society for the purposes of recruitment. Communists see young soldiers as workers and denounce their use as cannon fodder for imperialist aggressions.
Political acts bringing together a broad strata of people are staged in the pan-Canadian peace movement and international solidarity movements. Unity is important. However, ultra-left groups sometimes divide the larger movement in favour of establishing a “pure” anti-war movement and a “pure” international solidarity movement. An example is the Vancouver-based youth and student group Movement Against War And Occupation, a front for “The Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice,” which has been expelled from the broad local anti-war coalition. The YCL rejects Fire This Time’s tactics as sectarian, and encourages all young people to build the strongest mass peace and solidarity movements possible.
Post-secondary students in Canada are under the gun. The last decade has been marked by a big business assault, which has cut federal funding by 50% since the 1980s. Over the past fifteen years, tuition fees have increased almost 300% across Canada. The right to free higher education is part of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and Canada’s ruling class’s shortfall in fulfilling this obligation to the Canadian people should be exposed in a forum such as the UN bodies. Grant money is being eliminated, students’ democratic voice reduced, and academic research subverted to the aims of profit and the military. The U of T alone receives 1.5 million dollars for US and Canadian military research each year.
We know we can stop this! Students in Quebec fought back two years ago to keep public grants, and organized the largest student protest in the history of Canada. Through its February 7th day of action, the Canadian Federation of Students in English-speaking Canada is helping build a coordinated, militant, pan-Canada strategy launched aimed at reversing the erosion of democratic public education. This is a very positive sign because lobbying alone isn’t enough. Mass mobilization must be pursued, uniting students with students as well as with the labour movement, other progressive movements, and the people.
The fight over tuition fees addresses the crisis of access to education that has arisen in Canada today. This is a broad, universal concern. Winning the total elimination of tuition would not be a major concession by the ruling class, and it is quite achievable. The role of the Communists should be to engage within this fight whenever possible. It is important to raise the crisis of Aboriginal post-secondary education. We must also raise the issues exposing the agenda of monopoly capital and imperialist on campuses, such as privatization of public institutions, corporate influence on research, military recruitment, and military research on campus.
In the past year and a half, there has been a huge upsurge in Military Recruitment through the million-dollar US-style Department of Defense programme ‘Operation Connection.’ One place where this has become very prevalent is in high schools. The Canadian Military offers a co-op program for high school students, where, rather than getting an education, students are being taught to shoot machine guns, take orders, and other forms of military training.
This recruitment tactic is selective and has a class-bias: in schools where people are generally well-off and have high academic stats, military recruitment is mainly just a couple posters through a school. However, in schools that have a high amount of poverty and lower levels of academic achievement, the recruitment is much more intense. This includes army officials coming into classrooms and presenting military recruitment propaganda, as well as targeting cross-Canada events like sports, the National Festival of Quebec, and Remembrance Day, the day to remember the heroic anti-fascist ‘war to end all wars.’
Action must be taken to get the military out of our schools, where we are supposed to learn for our future, and to support Act For The Earth’s campaign “Operation Objection,” exposing the real truth about recruiting.
This big business assault is also eyeing up high school students. In general, their objective is to under fund and create a crisis in schools, forcing privatization of the education system. The furthest extent is the P3 privatized school, which has proven a financial disaster for the public in Nova Scotia. To accomplish their aim big corporations and the right are weakening and removing all democratic controls over the public education system from teachers, from communities and from students. In response, Communists stand with the People, who are demanding a fully funded education system, and more local autonomy and democracy, giving students and communities a voice that is 100% publicly funded, owned and operated. This includes more funding to Aboriginal education. Over 60% of aboriginal youth have less than high school education.
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. The working class has seen a transition of full-time work to part-time work, loss of benefits, vacation, economic security. This is one factor that has let big business take unprecedented levels of profits. Canadian youth are better educated, badly paid and under employed. Young workers, in particular aboriginal youth, women and visible minorities, are marginalized from playing a leading role in the labour movement by racism and sexism. Youth need to be at the forefront of the struggle as they are the future of the labour movement and most effected by unemployment and union busting.
There has been insufficient effort since the early 90’s by the labour movement to organize young people or adapt to changes in the system of production that effect young workers. Although unionization rates amongst youth have recently increased slightly, it represents a temporary bump in a long term decline in unionization rates that is occurring across North America, almost without challenge. Young people have a big role to play promoting the militancy and solidarity in the labour movement and the YCL is up for the challenge. One positive sign is the launching of minimum wage campaigns by the Toronto District Labour Council and the B.C. Federation of Labour as well as the Super Size My Pay movement in British Columbia.
Youth across Canada, in particular students, are vocal in leading the movement to save the world from environmental destruction. It is our planet, our future, and our fight. In some areas, the environmental movement has successfully united with their allies in the labour movement and other progressive movements, producing many important victories. There is growing danger that the environmental movement is being sucked into a trap of unstratigically supporting one set of corporations over another. This leads to naïve ideas of “green capitalism”, rather than directly challenging monopoly capital as a whole. We know that the only thing green that trans-national capital usually produce is the stuff they dump in our water.
The only way to successfully balance the needs of human being as well as our environment is a carefully planned system based on scientific socialism rather than the chaos of capitalist production. This point is clearly demonstrated by socialist Cuba having the only environmentally sustainable economy as recognized by the WWF.
Capitalism however will never be environmentally sustainable. While Al Gore has recently popularized the environmental cause, his argument that capitalism can solve the environmental crisis is wrong. Harper’s “Clean Air Act” is in fact a “Dirty Oil Act,” allowing auto industry tax cuts that are a token measure not addressing the root cause of environmental unsustainability. Capitalism can’t be trusted with the environment -- only the working class can, and the “oil addiction” of the people should not be blamed for capitalism’s environmental crisis.
The pressing call for electoral reform
Since before Confederation, armed struggle and public pressure has forced our electoral system to change, first abolishing colonial rule in 1837, then enfranchising working class men, latter white women, and latter Aboriginal peoples. But the basic system of voting members of parliament (first past the post) has not changed once. Today, if you look at previous electoral data, you will notice that the results rarely accurately affect the seat distribution in the House of Commons. Simply put, our voting system is a sham. Youth, together with oppressed communities, as well as the working class, are more likely to be cut out of this electoral system. The recent electoral reform meeting of youth organized by the Ontario provincial government proved this, because the youth were very open to voting for political parties that did not conform with the status-quo.
The Communists were the first to call for proportional representation, which is now championed by the NDP, the Green Party and a growing voting reform movement. We need to pull hundreds of thousands of people for a better voting system that will more accurately deliver the will of the people. We must actively campaign for mixed-member proportional representation, equal media time for all parties, and voting age reduction to sixteen.
Mobilizing youth resistance: the YCL-LJC's Challenge
Our important task at this convention must be to re-activate a pan-Canadian revolutionary youth organization. In the past, a stronger YCL-LJC has lead to a stronger youth movement, greater militancy, and wider unity between and within youth movements and the broad fight for democracy, against imperialism and neo-liberalism. The YCL-LJC has to rise to this challenge again.
In various forms, and across all nations of Canada, youth are fighting back this year – against low wages, high tuition fees on Feb. 7th and mobilizing for peace on March 18th. But, as the Charter of Youth Rights, a major action programme of the YCL-LJC in the 1980s, stated, “so long as the youth are not organized into a powerful movement, the government will continue to use the crisis and the grim future facing the youth to make narrow political gains and co-opts young people to their bankrupt policies.”
The key question is therefore unity. As the Charter pointed out, correctly, “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.”
We are proud of our Marxist-Leninist world outlook. At the same time we should respect differing political and philosophical views among youth and other groups. We strongly feel that the youth can put aside what may divide them to work together on addressing the crucial issues which we all face. Youth unity can only be achiever when due consideration is taken into account for special issues experienced by young women, immigrants, visible minorities, Quebec youth, native youth and national minorities. The Young Communist League stands ready to engage in mutual discussions with any groups and individuals concerned about young people and willing to discuss the possibilities of united action.
Our League therefore has a vital role to play not only as a school for struggle, but by also joining in and helping advance the fight of youth and students. We must be organizationally autonomous, but stand politically and ideologically united with the Communist Party. And we must be internationalists! We must stand for the strongest unity in the international communist movement, and with the suffering of oppressed peoples everywhere.
Aggression, exploitation, apathy and poverty cannot be our future. Young people cannot and should not remain indifferent in the efforts of their exploitation and control by capitalist system. Now is the time to unite and organize!