J. Boyden, Friday, September 24th
YCL-LJC 25TH CENTRAL CONVENTION
Comrade chair, honoured guests, delegates and observers –
Welcome. Welcome to the 25th Central Convention of the Young Communist League of Canada.
Welcome to delegates who have come from far and wide. From Nova Scotia to British Columbia. By plane, train, bus and subway.
I know some of comrades have been awake almost all night. Some have been traveling. Some have been working late hours at jobs and at school. Some have been working on the convention.
But there has been a mood surrounding this convention, in the weeks before. A mood of interest.
A mood of excitement!
This convention belongs to us. This convention belongs to the YCL. It is our convention. It is your convention. Welcome to our highest decision-making body.
As I look around this room, I think we have a right to be proud. There is no prize for being a communist other that the reward of fighting for liberation.
To take from poet Gil Scott Heron – There is no thank you card. No special pizza-party for being a revolutionary. Your picture will not appear on “revolutionary of the month” on a bulletin board next to the washrooms in the back hallway. You will not be able to skip out for beer during commercials. The theme song will not be written by Justin Beiber.
The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will be live.
We’ll here we are. We are revolutionaries. And yes, the revolutionary process is alive!
This convention is crucial for our YCL. Not only for our League. Not only in terms of growing. Of expanding our size and influence. But also because of the crucial situation facing the youth and student movement in Canada today – and the working class as a whole.
We meet just a day after two million workers hit the streets in a general strike in France. They are protesting raising the retirement age. Today they announced more general strikes.
The day after our convention, elections in Venezuela will decide on the next stage of the Bolivarian revolution.
We meet at end of a very hot summer. Not just in terms of protests – climatically, it has been one of the warmest on record.
What is central to the youth and student fight-back at this point?
In our view, and perspective of the proposed documents, the global economic crisis – transferred through the policies of the Harper Conservatives – is the primary attack on the youth and people’s movements. The primary attack that we must unite – and combat.
There is a rising attack on the youth. It is here in Canada. It is around the world. It is resulting from a deepening system crisis of capitalism. Round Two of the economic crisis. It is a message reinforced by stories every day.
Just this Monday, the Canadian Payroll Association released a nation poll. It said that six of ten Canadians live payday to payday. 59 per cent would be in trouble if their pay was delayed just a week.
Our response is a call for immediate action.
Higher minimum wages, living wages, raised to $16 an hour. Eliminate pay inequality for women. We demand that youth have the right to organize a union, and massive job creation programmes.
Millions of students have just returned to school. They have found public schools suffering from billions of dollars of underfunding.
Full-time students in undergraduate programs will pay, this fall, 4.0% more on average in tuition fees than before.
Compulsory fees (which include mainly fees that are illegal – like library access fees) have increased 7.0% in 2010/2011 compared with the previous year. And so has student debt.
Student debt is now at a record $15 billion dollars in Canada, as of this month.
Post-secondary education should be free. There are adequate funds in society to do this. But the priorities of capitalism prevent it. We need grants, not loans. We need to eliminate all student debt – and make education a right!
When it comes to childcare, or housing for the homeless, or youth sports, or aboriginal education – the government has no funds. The capitalists scream to high heaven if it suggested their taxes be raised.
This is criminal.
Just look at the G20 police presence. Just look at the war in Afghanistan. US-imperialism is pressuring Canada to again extend its mission, and the Harper Tories are openly manoeuvring to do this, beyond 2011.
So there is plenty of federal and provincial money to spend – if.
- If it will directly benefit transnational corporate interests and profitability.
- If it will help sustain global capitalism in the longer haul.
- If it will help curtail popular resistance and undermine labour and democratic rights.
- If it will strengthen authoritarian practices by police and military.
We are in a dangerous and volatile period.
The kind of movement of resistance we need will not come out of today's federal parliament.
Look at the record of the Harper Conservatives. Its dangerous anti-people agenda. Given all the issues I have just mentioned -- what is the most substantive issue the opposition parties can launch a full-court press against the Harper Tories? The census and the gun registry!
Where is the solution? It with the people’s movements – with labour at the core – on the streets, in our workplaces, in our schools. It is with the people’s struggle. That is where the solution lies.
And the youth must be a core part.
Here-in lies our purpose, our role. For the Young Communist League has an essential, vital, role to play in the struggles of the youth movement.
In fact, if the youth and students needed more reasons to resist, we had just look around.
We are in a social emergency. In this case you can picture this convention hall as a emergency ward. Think of all the people’s struggles that are silently with us today – from homelessness to environmental problems.
Our job here this weekend, as much as we can, is to triage. To get a sense of priorities.
And clearly one of those priorities must be the 17th World Festival of Youth and Students.
The Executive would like to say a few words, on opening of this congress, about the Youth Festival.
Many comrades here are familiar with the festival. That it is the largest gathering of anti-imperialist youth and students in the world. We are working hard to build an all-Canadian delegation to the 17th festival, meeting in Johannesburg South Africa under the slogan of ‘Let’s defeat imperialism; for a world of peace, solidarity and social transformation.’
In this context I would like to make three points.
- Firstly, I think we should be identifying our own comrades who need to go and, not just make an effort within the festival committees to fundraise but also as a YCL. Let’s be straight – we’re an organization of working-class youth and few of us can afford the festival out of our own pocket alone;
- We need to bring in more, much more, allies and festival partners – especially on a local level.
- We need to do what we can to accentuate the ‘movement’ dynamic of the festival because we not just working to build a trip. We are working to build something that continues on after this event.
Let’s not forget to include festival building in our discussions this weekend.
Turning to the League.
A special section of our convention documents deals with the environment. This is a new development in our priorities, but not in our outlook.
Look at the Tar Sands scandal in the news a few months ago about Syncrude’s murder of thousands of ducks on a tar sands pond. We can not loose site of the fact that the Aboriginal communities downstream have 30% higher rates of cancer.
Climate change is a pressing issue that is connected to the class struggle. Class consciousness constantly is developing in different and new platforms including in these fights.
Another important task in this convention is to strengthen our perspective towards young women’s movement, including the recruitment of young women into the League.
There are many young women who should find a political space in the YCL and frankly this is not happening enough. It is not fixed in the agenda, but we are aiming to convene a fraction of all women delegates. Part of the discussion will no doubt turn to this issue, as reflected in some of the resolutions.
Young women’s issues are front-line issues. They not issues just for young women to fight on. Take access to public, quality abortion. This is under a rising threat now, with Harper. This is an issue for young guy and women comrades to raise.
The fact we are addressing these issues indicates our growth.
Since our last convention we are much stronger. Is it enough? Of course not. We should not over-estimate the strength of the League. But I think, perhaps, the greater danger is to underestimate.
Was the accuracy and level of discussion associated with this convention possible within the League just three years ago? I would suggest not.
There is an organizational basis to this political growth. Especially, this is seen in our most sophisticated and revolutionary basis of organization – our clubs.
Our clubs have many new members. They are meeting more regularly. In most cases, they are becoming stronger collectives. We have a clearer definition of what it is to be a member of the YCL.
But, this in itself was a political choice.
The dues system, for example. It was a political choice.
And it was a choice made by the last convention of the YCL.
We have a job to do at this convention because we have a job to do after the convention.
After seven months of discussion – longer than we had planned – now we’re here. There have been a lot typing and words!
Have we made a mistake by making an ideological mobilization?
Is it time to just “stop talking and start causing some shit?”
Some say “Action ... speaks louder than words.”
This is a common slogan in the youth movement. What do we make of it?
Well it is time for struggle. It is time for action. And so what do we do? How do we make that decision?
Always. Alway, always. Discussion and debate must be connected with action, as much as possible.
And sometimes, word are actions.
Take the demand for a people’s inquiry to the crimes of the G20 police brutality.
We demand a new constitution for Canada that recognizes the sovereignty and self-determination of Quebec and Aboriginal nations, including the Metis and Acadians.
Our what about the South Africa’s Freedom Charter, which is a special focus of rebel youth. This became the center of a resistance struggle against South African Apartheid. But it was just a piece of paper.
Here is another example. The Communist Manifesto.
Struggle is political. Politics exists in discourse. In discussion.
And here-in lies a challenge.
For we are striving to become communists, just at the same moment that our biggest is talking with non-communists. Our home is with the youth movement, with the people.
We draw a wide net here, so to speak. We do not intend to isolate ourselves. Last summer, the Central Executive wrote an open letter to the Young New Democrats, making an appeal for united action. We have the same view point towards youth of the Green Party, religious youth, young people involved in culture struggles, and young women’s organizations.
This will be a convention of action. United. Together. As much as is realistically possible. To orient. To focus. To deepen, to reinforce. To debate – and perhaps to have some good arguments. To build on where we have come from. To move, as much as we can, forward. Towards going further into the struggle. The campaigns. The fight-backs of the youth.
We aim to come away from this convention with a clear analysis. With a fighting line of march. We aim to leave with an approach that rallies our generation. That can inspire the youth. That can win the youth to stand on the same side of the barricades as the working class, with all the forces for social transformation.
We are with the struggles of the youth, in resistance. The youth. One of the most dynamic and radical forces in society. Can you imagine a revolution without the youth? We aim to take our country in qualitatively new, progressive and emancipatory direction.
And is it any surprise that the young people should be drawn to the Communist viewpoint? Socialism and communism is the movement of the future. As Engels said, it is the movement for us.
The attack of the G20 arrests, for example. That was an attack on the hopes of the youth. On our confidence. On our aspirations.
Our response is to demand a full public inquiry into those arrests, an issue we will no doubt return to this weekend.
But what is our confidence based on? Our hope, our spirit, our morale? Look at Latin America. Look at their courageous break with imperialism and, in many areas, their demand for socialism. Look at the fact that there is a rise in anti-capitalist sentiment globally.
Last year, for example, the BBC news did a survey and found that only 11% of the population in 27 countries though capitalism was doing a good job. In Canada, 20% said capitalism is fatally flawed and a different economic system is needed.
Our hope is therefore is not just subjective. It is based on objective developments.
They can not crush the spirit of the youth.
And we are fighting, not just in the negative sense. Not just in the sense of resistance.
But we have a positive vision of a better world, which is urgent, necessary and possible!
The class struggle is not just economic. It is political. And it is a battle of ideas.
As class struggle intensifies, so to does ideological struggle and pressures. There is no coincidence that precisely now, when capitalism facing serious problems, that there is an increased ideological offensive from our class adversaries.
This convention should condemn the rising anti-communism in Europe. Including the banning of our Polish comrades. We should condemn the crude attempts to re-write history as well. With the construction of an anti-Communist monument in Washington and plans to do the same in Ottawa, we can say it is clearly here also.
There is an urgent need to creatively study and engage Marxism Leninism. To reject the constant pressure to swing away from the revolutionary path, towards an orientation that sees reforms as everything and seeks out a terribly mistaken route – humanized capitalism.
This is imposable. As the slogan of the youth festival says, For peace, solidarity and social transformation, together we will defeat imperialism. United, together we will win a better world, socialism.
In this context I want to read you a poem. Its by Bertolt Brecht, and it’s called Praise of Communism.
It's sensible, anyone can understand it.
You're not an exploiter, so you can grasp it.
It's a good thing for you, find out more about it.
The stupid call it stupid and the squalid call it squalid.
It's against squalor and against stupidity.
The exploiters call it a crime but we know:
It is the end of crime
It is not madness, but the end of madness.
It is not the riddle but the solution
It is the simplest thing so hard to achieve.
Thank you for your attention!