It is a great pleasure to greet the 36 Central Convention of the Communist Party of Canada on behalf of the Central Executive of the Young Communist Leauge of Canada.
Our membership and our friends have been interested in your convention discussions over the past few months. We think the reason for this is that especially now, our struggles as youth and the general struggles of our class and the peoples forces are not separate, they are one.
Take this economic crisis. It is of cardinal importance today in the militant kinetics of people’s politics.It menaces the future of the youth. Close to half a million young workers are unemployed. Youth unemployment remains over 15% after September’s 20.9% record. British Columbian youth unemployment grew 56% since last year. No other age group has been hit as hard, in Canada and internationally. One in five youth are unemployed in the United Kingdom. The United States AFL-CIO labour union central calls this the “lost decade” for young workers. Among the third-world and global South’s unemployed, youth are a majority.
Yesterday we had some members as observers and I took the time to talk with them briefly about the convention discussion. It is not just ra-ra grandstanding, to say we in the Young Communist League understand that this meeting has bearing and implication on our work.
It’s a honor to speak to your convention. To speak to comrades who are fighters. Who are seasoned revolutionaries for decades, and those who are new to the Communist movement. Sometimes we don’t see enough of each other. Not just as individuals, but as your Party to our League.
The work of the YCL often happens at different places and moments and spaces than the Party. Outside a high school as students stage a walk out. In a different part of the march, where friends of the YCL are. At a dance, the like the one YCL Toronto just had, keeping a community hall rocking until past midnight last Saturday. The youth movement in relation to the other people’s forces in general has a certain vigor, dynamic, impatience and also a marked autonomy and separation.
But it is natural that the most militant youth should find overcome this. That they should seek the Party down, even when it takes an almost Sherlock Holmes search because of our finite resources. Youth socialists find a home in the Communist Party, for as Engles said, the Communist Party is the party of youth because you are the party of the future!
Three years ago, the YCL stood at this podium giving greetings on the eve of our re-founding convention. New delegates may not know this, but in a deliberate and calculated attempt to attack the Communist Party of Canada thirty years ago, a campaign was initiated to destroy, terminate, liquidate the revolutionary youth around the Party. Some members who fought against that attack are here today.
Now we have succeeded. We have re-built the League.
Nothing is perfect. But we’ve made very positive steps in three years.
You probably have noticed bi-lingual Rebel Youth Magazine. We’re also on our third issue of a French-language publication, Jeunesse Militante. We’ve regularized the production of our press, with two issues each year and now three issue. We’re building a subscription base and we’ve developed a team of writers, in French and English, young women and men.
We’re fighting that our publications get read. And they do. They have developed growing reputation. Listen to this email we got the other day from a new subscriber, a young woman --
I received the articles you sent me and your letter, just wanted to say thank you. I am so happy to have found out about Rebel Youth and and Youth Communist League. The magazines are really informative and honest and as I read I find myself both frustrated, refreshingly determined and glad that there are others who think the same thoughts as me.
We want to keep this kind of stuff arriving in our mail boxes. It is a good sign.
We have an expanding membership base now, of dues paid members organized in clubs across the country. We brought in an youth instructor from a migrant workers justice group to one of our schools reciently, and they were like -- Wow, you guys have dues? And people said -- yes, and we are about to get membership cards. And in fact the cards are about to be distributed in a few weeks. For a Canadian youth and student organization this is a pretty high level of getting our crap together, if you will excuse my language.
Developing a leadership core of the League has been a major challenge but has paid off. This hasn’t been easy as we sometimes we have to make things up as we go along. But the engagement of the Communist Party of Canada has proven invaluable. It gives us organizational history which is worth gold in an area where you constantly see committees and groups rebuilding the wheel. We now have a small cadre of leaders and activists who dedicate hours every week, sometimes every day, to the work of the League.
One of the most common problems we find with YCL organizing stems from understanding of the role and purpose of the League.
We’ve had some discussions about this in our Central Committee. About how to work with the widest range of progressive youth on their own struggles, connecting them with the broader struggles of the working class and the people including oppressed peoples, making a communist contribution of unity and militancy; and at the same time educate our membership. Educate our friends and all the youth about not just the immediate priority struggles of youth – but and a Marxist understanding of the necessity for a socialism.
Another major achievement has therefore been our educational work – we’ve held joint schools with your Party, and our own independent summer camps, retreats, a young worker’s conference, special schools on the economic crisis, afternoon presentations and seminars, and in one area are working to plan a women’s school.
We’ve joined several organizations, La Table du consultation Quebec-Cuba, the Canadian Peace Congress, the Canadian Network on Cuba, and re-established membership in the World Federation of Democratic Youth, sending a delegate to attend a General Council meeting. And we’ve become part of countless coalitions on an informal basis, for peace, jobs, education, against racism, homophobia, sexism, and for sovereignty and democracy.
Many of our militants join the Communist Party. But comrades it would be incorrect to place our role as simply reserve of the party. The contribution of the YCL to the youth and student movement is important and growing.
Among the young workers we have been active on the front lines – in strike support across the country, and campaigning against the abysmal conditions of youth. We’ve helped trigger a minimum wage campaign in one major city, which is now developing into a low-paid workers association right across the province. We have worked to organize and mobilize young workers into the battles of the trade unions and to fight back for their rights themselves.
Because, comrades and friends, the youth face a very bleak future.
Our membership is fighting on more issues than we can track. Harpers approach to youth policy can be described as a wrecking ball. Reduced accessibility and privatization of education, transit, housing, dental care, and childcare; lower rates of youth unionization, ageist two-tier collective agreements, and poorer wages (about half of all young workers earn less than poverty-line wage); and even more debt (Canadian student debt is over $13.5 billion) with the rise of “pay day loan’s” extortionate fees and interest. Aboriginal youth, youth from racialized communities, and young women are hit hardest.
The future of millions of youth is basically being thrown in the trash.
Our League is active to connect justified anger of youth with mass campaigns for better work and better wages.
In the dynamic of the youth fight back some general features are clear.
Generally, young people are discounting electoral struggle – both voting and political parties. Youth extra-parliamentary struggle shows some signs of polarization. More young people are choosing more radical progressive positions. Yet a tiny, violent number youth are joining neo-nazi organizations.
We also see polarization in our work in the student movement.
Student politics, while divided along national lines between Quebec and English-speaking Canada, is the youth movement’s most organized component. On campuses the students are fighting a sharpening struggle against Conservative Party-orchestrated attacks on Palestinian solidarity, and now a developing struggle against 13 de-federation campaigns from Canadian Federation of Students.
Among progressive trade union youth there is a continued critique of reformist solutions. We find young union activists, the future of militant class-struggle trade unionism, generally reject business unionism. Right-wing social democratic forces within labour are also trying to capture the aspirations of young activists through training retreats (emphasizing political struggle mainly through the NDP), lures of promotion, rewards, money and – when that fails – simple pressure tactics.
And millions of youth are scandalized by the Harper Tories – like at Copenhagen and their prorogue of parliament. Plus as your convention meets, young militants are calling out for “no Olympics on stolen native land.”
I dont want to try and mis-represent the situation, however there is good reason to be optimistic.
Anti-capitalist perspectives do not spontaneously lead to socialist consciousness. But it does lead to a renewed search for a deeper analysis of the crisis of capitalism, for profound social and political change, and that leads young people to look at the Communist movement.
The dignity and integrity of our activists and militants in the youth movement is winning our League, our politics and our ideology respect.
We are optimistic about building a broad, dynamic delegation of youth to the next World Festival of Youth and Students, a delegation that reflects the multi-national character of the youth and student movement in Canada.
By the way, the WFDY is meeting as we do to pick the next festival, the choices are Ecuador in Summer 2011 or South Africa in December 2010, and a resolution will be put forward to your convention on this.
Our alliance work in the youth movement, especially on campuses, brings us into debate with many left, anti-capitalist and socialist formations. Only the Communist Party of Canada, however, presents an assessment with such scope and vigor. The YCL’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 which warmly welcomes all young socialists.
The documents are important because they are a starting point for deeper discussions. They bring under the revolutionary Marxist microscope the basic and decisive questions for all youth and student activists: what’s new? What are the main dangers? What are the prospects for change? What do we do?
For these reasons we look forward to your 36th Central Convention’s outcome for guidance. We fully agree with the urgency – and the need to overthrow this system based on exploitation and oppression, replacing it with something guarantying peace, jobs, environmental sustainability, and real democracy.
Here is a mission worthy of a new generation. Socialism!