First Published: In Struggle! No. 232, January 5, 1981
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The two-month tour by IN STRUGGLE! reporter, Daničle L, to tell the facts about the revolutionary struggle in El Salvador ended on December 9, at the Ste-Foy CEGEP in Quebec City. We asked her to give us her impressions of the tour which took her to six provinces and thirteen different cities in Canada.
Daničle: Looking at the goals we had when we began, the tour was really a success. First, we wanted to break the wall of silence surrounding the struggle of the people of El Salvador. We wanted to make Canadians aware of this struggle, by informing as many people as possible about what that country is really going through.
We reached 1,150 people directly at the public meetings themselves. More were got to by the distribution of the four-page supplement on El Salvador (we even ran out of copies in Victoria, Regina and London!) and the 13 mass-media interviews of ten to fifteen minutes each.
Another important point is that the people this tour reached were not mainly activists in organizations already committed to support for El Salvador, Mostly they were new people of all ages who had never heard about the struggle in that country. Two-thirds of the eighty-five people at the Toronto meeting were people who had never before been seen at such a meeting.
Question: What were people’s reactions to your presentation of the facts and of your experiences?
Daničle: People were very interested, especially since I presented the facts vividly, and told of real experiences as actual individuals lived them.
But it went further than simple curiosity. The presentation made people react with indignation. It spurred many to want to do something more concrete to help the people of El Salvador in their struggle. Incidentally, that was the second objective we had set for the tour: to develop political and financial support. The results speak for themselves: in Toronto, for example, 25 people gave their names to receive more information on El Salvador and to participate in the organization of support activities.
There were also many proposals for action which came out of the tour itself. For instance, in London meeting participants decided right then and there to write a letter to the London Free Press, the most widely read local newspaper, to protest against its silence on the struggle in El Salvador. The letter mentioned the main points contained in my speech. A fellow from the NDP agreed to write the letter and fourteen people wanted to sign it. In the same city, a support committee was formed after the tour, with twenty people regularly attending meetings.
This experience was repeated in several places. A comrade told me recently that in Victoria, a worker who had heard my speech subsequently decided to present the film “Revolution or Death” to his local union. He collected money to send to the Montreal Support Committee.
On the financial level the results were also very positive: we have already raised $3,600 for the Montreal Support Committee from the tour. It is probable that contributions will continue to grow. For instance, an Albertan who heard the speech in Edmonton on October 27 sent a cheque of $1,000 at the beginning of December to support the revolutionary struggle of the people of El Salvador.
Q. Did the tour enable our organization to develop closer links to other progressive mass organizations?
D. Yes, even in the organization of the tour itself. One of the things we learned on the tour was how to propose the idea of the meeting to several groups who then sponsored it and took on several concrete organizational tasks. There were fifteen groups – student, support for Nicaragua or El Salvador, etc. – who agreed to act as sponsors. And this did not mean just moral support. For instance, in British Colombia, these organizations gave $147 to help defray the costs of the tour. Many provided the hall for the meetings, publicized the event, agreed to put me up for the night, and no on.
Another positive point is that we succeeded in coming into closer contact with the Latin American community in Canada. For example, I had two meetings in Spanish which reached 70 Latin Americans. There was lively debate on many issues: the approach to take to armed struggle and its relative importance; leadership role of the Salvadoran working class; the links between the democratic revolutionary programme and the struggle for socialism, etc.
Many people welcomed the absence of sectarianism in my presentation. People felt at ease asking their questions. It definitely helped open a lot of doors for us after. Thus, the World “Y” Development Group of Victoria invited us, after the tour, to go to one of their meetings to explain more completely the work we do as an organization. VIDEA, another Victoria organization, offered to publicize our activities in future in its news bulletins and wants to work more closely with us in future.
Several people also decided to subscribe to the newspaper after seeing our section on El Salvador, as the representative of the Committee of Support to El Salvador in Edmonton noted some time ago.
There were a few problem in the organizing and mobilizing in Montreal. On the whole the evaluation of the tour was a very encouraging one. We owe this to all those activists And friends of the organization who made this tour possible and who, in one way or another, continue support the struggle of the people of El Salvador.