First Published: The Forge, Vol. 4, No. 18, May 11, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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From Vancouver to Halifax, via Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City, the League’s May Day meetings were a great success.
Last week The Forge published accounts of the first seven meetings. Ten more have been held since then.
Altogether close to 3300 people attended these activities. With all the bourgeois parties fighting for our votes in the May 22 elections, the League got across the message that it represents a real alternative.
“Spoil your ballot, use this period to unite, build our struggles, and build the new communist party” – this was the message conveyed by League spokesmen at every meeting.
The newly-released Draft program for a new communist party was warmly received. The program reflects the great steps forward we have taken towards the creation of the party.
A slide show on the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike and the many varied cultural activities recalled the rich fighting tradition of the Canadian working class, and showed the strength it has when united.
International solidarity was also a central point in the meetings. In Montreal a representative of the Workers’ Revolutionary Organization of Spain spoke. The Toronto meeting heard an auto worker who is a member of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) of the US.
The crowd was 2100 strong at the Montreal meeting May 5; workers, unemployed, people from working-class neighbourhoods, students, all answering the same call: “Unite in the struggle for our demands and our rights.”
The first speaker was a Railworkers’ Organizing Committee spokesman who received a warm welcome.
Jerry White, a League militant from Regina, aroused everyone’s interest by underlining the battles underway in English Canada and the League’s role in these struggles. He also reaffirmed the importance the League places on defending, across Canada, the right of the Quebecois to freely choose their own political future: “The struggle against national oppression is of the utmost importance and so it shall remain.”
Robert Côté, a hospital worker and League militant well-known in the Quebec union movement, explained the League’s objectives in the unions. Rousing applause greeted the Chairman of the League’s Central Committee, Roger Rashi, who called on all workers to join the League and help create the new communist party.
Another highlight of the evening was the presence of a special guest speaker, a representative of ORT (the Spanish Workers’ Revolutionary Organization), a Marxist-Leninist Party.
John Reid, a veteran of the International Brigades that fought the fascists in Spain between 1936 and 1938, got up on the stage and, arm-in-arm, he and the ORT representative Carlos Estrenenos saluted the hall with raised fists in one of the most moving moments of the evening.
“I probably won’t live more than another ten years,” John Reid said after the meeting. “I hope to see the revolution before then; in any case tonight has been one of the best times of my life.”
The audience also heard from a Khmer patriot who spoke about his people’s struggle against the Vietnamese-Soviet aggression. Solidarity messages were received from the Haitian Marxist-Leninist League and the Iranian Students Association, Montreal Branch (CIS).
The event was covered by television and the press.
The show of working-class unity by the speakers and participants made the May 5 meeting in Toronto a success.
A highlight of the evening was the speech by the Vice-Chairman of the League Central Committee, Ian Anderson.
The 190 participants gave a warm greeting to the Lancia-Bravo strikers at the rally who are presently fighting for a decent contract.
Underlining the spirit of unity was the presence of Chinese and Black Canadians, Franco-Ontarians, and immigrant working people from Italy, India and the Caribbean.
They heard James Endicott speak on behalf of the Kampuchea Support Committee. Mr. Endicott has been a leading anti-imperialist fighter for most of his 80 years.
Steve, a worker at Chrysler-Detroit and a member of the Communist Party Marxist-Leninist of the USA, was listened to with special attention by autoworkers from Windsor, Oshawa and Scarborough as he described the fight of US autoworkers.
League representative Ian Anderson, in a talk about the Federal elections, said; “the NDP is an obstacle to working class political power.”
“Maybe some of you still have at the back of your mind that the NDP, even if it’s not perfect, may be a little better than the others.
“First let’s look at the NDP’s big election gimmick, the industrial strategy. The NDP says this plan will solve the problem of unemployment. Well, when we took a closer look we found they are going to close down whole industrial sectors like textiles, clothing and furniture, throwing thousands of mostly immigrant workers out in the streets. Some solution!
“If the NDP has nothing to offer in dealing with the crisis, what about labour releations? Take a look at what happened in the postal strike. The NDP voted against the back-to-work law, but just for form. Because once it was passed Broadbent was on the front line hollering at the postal workers to obey the law and go back to work...”
Other speakers were an East Indian worker, a rail union activist, a member of the Canada Trust Tenants’ Union and a League member from the Common Front in Quebec.
Information booths were set up by the Filipino Patriots, CAPT (Third-World Peoples’ Anti-imperialist Committee), the Organization to Fight for the Democratic Rights of Immigrants (OFDRI), the Indian Peoples Association in North America (IPANA), the Union of Injured Workers, Lancia-Bravo strikers, Labour Rights for Domestic Servants and Asianadian.
The Peoples Players presented a short play called “Unity” from Eight Men Speak, which was originally produced in Toronto in 1933.
An IWA woodworker spoke at the meeting in Vancouver about the contract negotiations.
From the Farmworkers Organizing Committee, a representative described working conditions and their struggle to build a union. A spokesman from IPANA pointed out that May Day is a national holiday in India. The 90 people at the meeting contributed money for the legal expenses of the Simon Fraser 18.
May Day in Winnipeg was the occasion for working people, community groups, students and Franco-Manitobans to learn from each other about the fight against their common enemy.
A representative of the support committee to stop the shutdowns of community clinics emphasized the importance of a united fight back to beat budget cuts. Other speeches were given by a Franco-Manitoban student, a miner at Inco’s Thompson installations, and by a League representative.
The 35 participants greatly appreciated the League’s slide show on the history of the Winnipeg General Strike.
210 people from Quebec City and the surrounding area attended the League meeting in this provincial capital. The participants gave a standing ovation to a speech by an ex-PQ militant. She explained that through her own experience she saw the PQ doesn’t fight national oppression in the least and doesn’t represent the working class.
The workers, unemployed and students present heard a Sudbury Franco-Ontarian woman talk about the role women play in the support committee for the Inco strikers.
A striker from Cables Industriels, a Quebec City area factory, explained how he came to see that the League is the only organization capable of supporting and directing both immediate struggles and the fight to do away with the capitalist system.
The meeting ended with the singing of “Forge Our Party” and the “International”, led by the Thetford Mines cultural group (from a small mining town in southern Quebec) and the Chant du People (The Voice of the People). The songs were taken up by the whole audience.
There were also meetings in Rouyn, Three Rivers, Seven Islands. All together the meetings attracted 145 people.
Fifty-five people came from different parts of New Brunswick to the Moncton meeting, where they heard an unemployed worker explain the importance of broadening the struggle against Bill C-14 through the Maritimes and across the country.
At the first communist meeting held in Halifax in over 30 years, a representative of the Black Youth Organization, one of four speakers, gave examples of the national oppression of Blacks in Canada. He pointed out that the small reforms won in the civil rights movement are all being reversed.
He said to the white workers in the audience, “We must mutually support each other because we are all ripped off by the same guys.”
A member of the unemployed committee in Bathurst, New Brunswick, described how they mobilized 1000 people to demonstrate against Bill C-14 in February.
There were about 30 people present. A Black youth said, “I think the meeting gave the people a great lift.”