March 31, 2018

Young Communists Gather in BC for an educational retreat

Rozh Armand, Adrien Welsh

The Young Communist League held an educational retreat last weekend in B.C., bringing together around 30 of our members from the region to discuss how to better interact with the youth and student movement, as well as other progressive coalitions and struggles that play an active role in the fightback against oppression, austerity, poverty, resource extraction, and war and occupation. These discussions initiated a larger theoretical and historical overview of Marxism, the purpose of a Communist Party and youth league, the dialectical relationship between reform and revolution, and the significance of Communists engaging in mass movements and organizations.

Through our discussions, we emphasized how a Communist organization is needed to prompt political battles into revolutionary change. Real change does not derive solely from spontaneous mass movements, but rather through the power of organization and a goal that becomes larger than a single movement on its own; the goal of overthrowing a system built on the disenfranchisement of the working class. In short, the revolution will not arise spontaneously, and for this we need an organization to fight for the interests of the working class.

As communists, we are fighting alongside the masses and see our struggle as part of theirs. Rather than placing ourselves at the margin of the different progressive movements active in our society, we stress the importance of getting involved and ultimately becoming a strong force within these struggles. As we stated in 2016, “There is always a need for building an organization of young Communists that struggles for immediate reforms to improve the conditions of young people under capitalism, which seeks unity with all other forces who will fight for this or that advancement, while at the same time never losing sight of the necessity of winning socialism. We have the clear perspective that there can be no other road to socialism other than through the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. This is our main contribution to the youth movement in Canada, and if we don’t bring this perspective to the front lines of the struggle, who will do it?”

Through our discussion, we dedicated special attention to a series of movements in which YCL-LJC members are active, and where we see the need for stronger involvement of our organization.

No other movement has mobilized as many people and achieved as many strong gains as the labour movement has. Thus, the school reiterated the necessity to be active in this movement. Since young workers are faced with increasingly precarious conditions, we discussed the importance of the fight for fifteen campaign— a struggle capable of mobilizing the unorganized provided it is carried out properly and focused on the mobilization and unity of grass-root activists. In regards to this campaign, we reiterated how its breakthroughs, which were achieved through popular mobilization, should not be seen as an end, but rather, as an indication that we need to continue building even stronger movements in the future. We also stressed the importance of getting involved in labour councils and unions, fighting unemployment and underemployment, and refusing two-tier agreements.

The school also emphasized the importance of being active in local struggles, such as the movement against the housing crisis, as well as the mobilizations against pipeline developments—both of which impact the most marginalized and oppressed segments of our society. Currently, there are 25,000 vacant housing units in Vancouver, while a few thousand people lack proper and permanent housing. Many of these individuals come from racialized backgrounds and the LGBTQA2S community. All the while, another example is how gentrification in Vancouver Chinatown has been displacing Chinese peoples, who have made a historic community for themselves after being segregated from Canadian society since the beginning of the 20th century. Furthermore, pipeline developments are a violation of treaty rights, and propelled by capitalism’s search to extract profit from the traditional territories of Indigenous nations. The LNG, Kinder Morgan pipeline and Site C are examples of how private companies, with the support of both the federal and provincial government, are profiting from the resources on the lands of indigenous nations, who have been actively and militantly opposing these developments.

The attack on racialized peoples is indicative of the rise of the ultra-right and the growth of reaction. During the School, we highlighted the need to fight against racism, xenophobia, and islamophobia. Therefore, we focused on why we engage with coalitions, such as “Solidarity Against Fascism Everywhere” (SAFE), and how it is essential to unify, broaden and strengthen the anti-racist movement. With that said, the YCL-LJC identifies imperialism as the main threat to youth, popular masses and the working class everywhere. For this reason, we specifically addressed the urgency of building a broad, peace movement that could bring together millions of people, like it once did during the 2003 protests opposing the war in Iraq. For this to be done, it must remain clear that the main threat to peace is imperialism, particularly US-NATO imperialism, which Canada is a part of. This underlines the importance to support the Canadian Peace Congress as the anti-imperialist voice within the broader peace movement in English-Speaking Canada.

Building the student movement was also central to our discussions. As a youth organization, we understand the need to be deeply rooted in this movement as it has the potential to mobilize hundreds of thousands of young people and place them at the forefront of the struggle against austerity measures and the increasing cuts to social services. The 2012 Qu├ębec student strike is an example of this. We also addressed the current difficulties and challenges this movement faces, particularly since there is disunity and a tendency to focus on lobbying campaigns rather than mobilizing students at every level. To overcome these issues, we concluded that we need to promote the demand for free, quality and public education—a demand that has the greatest potential of uniting and growing the student movement’s militancy. Free education is one of importance to many students, especially since tuition fees are increasing steadily (over 3% in the last year). The average student debt is $25 000. Failing to make the fight for free education a priority for young people and for the student movement would be refusing that this crucial demand, which mobilized thousands of young people throughout the world (in Canada, in Chile, Colombia and South Africa for example), has the potential to build a strong and massive fightback. Some ultra-leftist organizations consider free education as too much of a mild and reformist demand. Meanwhile, the right-wing of the student movement refuses to carry out this struggle, falsely believing that students largely accept the fact that they should pay for their education. As such, these forces fail to unite and mobilize students on a demand that can bring them all together.

However, as proven by the 2012 student strike, demanding free education can mobilize many people into the struggle, even the less organized ones, and ultimately, build a powerful, united and militant movement that can challenge power structures, while planting the seeds of unity needed to build a genuine and popular anti-monopolist alliance. As such, it synthesizes the relation between reform and revolution, showing us how the fight for a reform (free education) can, by uniting thousands of people, raise the level of militancy and consciousness, even to the point of becoming a threat to the ruling class. This movement, though having a simple demand, managed to have more militancy and unity than some of the movements that arose in the years after. Despite them having much more advanced political demands and adopting even more combative actions, they reached a much narrower base and failed to strengthen the fightback on a longer term and larger basis.

This stresses the necessity to root our actions, as communists, in mass work. If we disassociate ourselves from mass struggles in which the working class partake in, we disassociate ourselves from the working class itself. However, if we patiently intervene in democratic and economic struggles, while strengthening our organization; if we grow and become a strong voice deriving from the mass movements themselves, we could say with confidence, that the YCL-LJC can potentially play a vanguard role in the youth and student movement.

Nonetheless, this is not the case yet. For now, our role is to prove ourselves, and strengthen both the fightback and our organization. We left the school with an energized state of mind— one of militancy and commitment to become active in the different struggles happening across BC. Through our everyday struggles, we are slowly contributing towards raising the consciousness of youth. Despite the hostile conditions we evolve in, the time we spend struggling on the streets, in our workplaces or on campus, is valuable time—time we spend organizing to build resistance against the capitalist system. So long as capitalism exists, the dangers of imperialism, fascism, oppression, wars, crisis and exploitation will always be around. The only way forward is through building a united and militant fightback.

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