May 14, 2019

Rebel Youth remembers Stephen Endicott

Special to RY

Rebel Youth remembers and salutes Stephen Endicott who passed away on May 4th as a giant for the Communist movement in Canada.

Stephen wrote impressive books and articles adding to our collective struggle against Capitalism and Imperialism, the details of which can be found here:

His work Raising the Workers Flag: The Workers’ Unity League of Canada 1930-1936, takes a detailed look at this Communist lead class struggle union federation that set in motion the unionisation of major industry in Canada during the Great Depression. His work Bienfait looks at the Saskatchewan Miners Struggle of 1931 and the horrible repression these heroes of the working class faced from the Capitalists state.

His book The United States and Biological Warfare uncovers more of the United State’s crimes during the imperialist war on the Korean people. His book Red Earth: revolution in a Sichuan Village studies and pays tribute to the Socialist advances by everyday people in a village in China.

Also, significantly for the YCL-LJC, our friends, and our allies, Endicott was a key organizer in the Young Communist League, (then called the National Federation of Labour Youth), in the 1940s and 1950s when he played roles as organizer of the YCL on the University of Toronto Campus, organizer of the YCL in British Columbia, representative of the YCL to the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), and General Secretary of the YCL.

We were lucky enough to hear him speak at the 2014 YCL-LJC Central Convention. There, he told the YCL and allies about lessons from his organizing experience in the YCL. You can listen to his speech on this link and also read key excerpts of his speech here.

In this article, we reproduce the conclusion of the talk he gave in 2014 in which he thanks members of the YCL-LJC to still find their way along the path of socialism.

Two observations for Young Communists today

I think that it is harder to be a YCLer now than it was in the days of the early Cold War. That may sound counterintuitive to you, but an important difference between now and then, is that then, we had the inspirational example of one third of the world actually building socialist societies, and as a future scholar of the Soviet experience of building Socialism wrote in 1945, “The country which had adopted Marxism, had dazzled the world by its immense industrial progress, the spirit of its people, and the rapid development of its power.”

We in Canada, in the Canadian movement, owned that experience without apology. It was an inspiration to us in our work, a kind of beacon that attracted many people. The question is now, can we still own that experience, or do we feel that we have to start with apologies for the bad things that happened?

That is a question that I often asked myself as I was writing my recent book on the Workers Unity League and on Raising the Workers’ Flag. Had the Workers’ Unity League been wrong in their admiration of the Soviet Union? After long and careful thought I decided from newly emerging research into those societies, which I have written about, and my own life experience, that without a doubt, we can and should confidently and proudly own our Socialist heritage.
For four years, two in Europe, and two in Asia, Lena and I lived in societies building Socialism, societies where labour power was not viewed as a commodity to be bought and sold on the market, rather it was treated as something embedded in human beings, which had a need for good food, warm clothing, shelter from the weather, affordable healthcare, education for the children, secure and meaningful employment, and a comfortable old age.

I mention this because the attitude to labour power is one of the principal differences between Socialism and Capitalism, and we should never forget that. Lena and I didn’t ask for perfection, but we came to understand the guiding principles leading in those countries and saw good progress being made in many directions.

I’m not saying to the YCL you should go downtown and rent Massey Hall, put up a sign saying “Socialism is good! Please come in!” We haven’t reached that state of enlightenment yet. But as individual Communists we need to know, we need to examine our own hearts and minds, to know if we are in the right place.

At the end of our second year in the WFDY in Budapest, we went down to a studio at Christmas time, and had a portrait taken. We wanted to ensure our far away parents that we and our little daughter Mariam, who had been born shortly after we arrived in Hungary, had thrived together while living under the banner of socialism.

The other comment that I want to make of the difference between now and then, is that, here in Canada then, in the ‘30s to the ‘50s, there was a fairly large constituency of people who were either members or supporters of the Communist movement or interested in knowing about our ideas. Not to mention, in Toronto we elected, at times, as many as eight people to City Council and the Provincial Legislature, and across the country there were many powerful trade unions, of miners, electrical machine shop, automobile, fisherman, fur and leather, civic workers, that were lead by communists and their allies. This strong situation introduced the fury of the anti-communist attack, but also provided significant chances for successful counter-attack.

Because of the way that the Cold War ended, and the collapse of Socialist systems, your generation is in a different era. It has to work a lot harder for small victories. The inspiring thing to me is that you continue to find your way along the path to our Socialist future. Thank you.

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