On July 2 and 3, 2022 over 100 people gathered in Edmonton for the third annual Western Canadian Marxist Summer School. This was the first large in-person gathering of Marxists in Western Canada since 2019, and the biggest in living memory. People from all over the country, from Montreal to Victoria and even the Yukon attended. The success of the school shows that workers and youth in Western Canada want to fight against capitalism, and they’re looking for ideas and an organization that can help them win.
What is imperialism?
The theme of the school was the fight against imperialism, with six sessions throughout the weekend. The first session of the school was a discussion on “What is Imperialism?” in order to provide a solid theoretical understanding of this subject. Socialist Fightback activist Lars Helene presented on the topic and explained that imperialism is the “final stage of capitalism” at which competition has been replaced by giant monopolies. Having saturated the home market, the capitalists look to the foreign market. It is precisely the conflict for the division of the world between the big imperialist powers which is the main driver of wars under capitalism.
The Marxist solution the Israel/Palestinian conflict
The second session of the day was a discussion on Palestinian liberation. Socialist Fightback organizer Adam Zeineddine explained how the British imperialists cynically played the Arabs and the Jews off against each other so they could more easily rule the region following WWI. This situation led to a bloody conflict and the creation of the Israeli state. Since this time, the Palestinians have been deprived of land, any basic rights and are mercilessly crushed by Israeli imperialism. Adam explained how on the foundation of capitalism no solution is possible. Only a socialist federation of the Middle East could guarantee a homeland for all people in the region without repression.
The Nicaraguan Revolution
The first day ended off with a discussion of the Nicaraguan Revolution presented by Socialist Fightback Calgary activist Andrew Brown. Andrew explained the inspiring events of the Nicaraguan revolution and drew out the main lessons from this event. The main leading organization of the Nicaraguan revolution was the FSLN, otherwise known as the Sandinistas. While the Sandinistas carried out a guerrilla war against the government, they were based on a reformist program. This ideological weakness became evident once in power, where the Sandinistas became the managers of capitalism. This demoralized the movement and eventually allowed the rightwing to regain control. This proves in the negative Trotsky’s theory of the permanent revolution which states that the working class, in alliance with the wider oppressed masses, cannot simply fight against imperialism with basic democratic aims but must lead the struggle against capitalism and fight for socialism.
How to bring down the UCP
The second day of the school began with a presentation on the fight against the UCP by Fightback editorial board member, Laine Sheldon-Houle. Laine explained that while Jason Kenney has resigned, the fight is far from over. The brutal cuts and austerity measures have not stopped, and it is unlikely that a new UCP leader will change course. The hatred for the UCP is palpable; all it would take is an ounce of leadership from the labour leaders and the government’s attacks could be stopped, and the UCP brought down. Laine explained how the strategy of waiting for the next election to get rid of the UCP is a recipe for disaster and – whether or not they are defeated in the 2023 – we need to build a mass movement against the UCP government. This is what the Marxists in Alberta are fighting for.
The Oka Crisis and Indigenous resistance
The next session was a discussion on the Oka Crisis, with a presentation by Socialist Fightback Edmonton activist Marcus Katryniuk. Marcus explained that the construction of a golf course on sacred Mohawk land precipitated the Oka crisis. This conflict eventually led the people of Kanesatake to take up arms in defense of their traditional lands. The movement saw solidarity from Indigenous groups across the country and many people joined the blockade. The main weakness of this movement was that it failed to spread to the rest of the Canadian population, hampered by the fact that organized labour never truly joined the struggle. This ultimately weakened the struggle and allowed the reactionaries to pit non-Indigenous people against the Indigenous blockaders. The Canadian army eventually put down the resistance. The Oka crisis, however, was a pivotal movement in the fight for Indigenous rights in Canada – one that all revolutionaries must learn about.
Marxism and the struggle against imperialist war
Ending the school, Fightback editor Alex Grant presented on the topic of Marxism and the struggle against imperialist war. While nearly everyone is opposed to the horrors of war, there is a big confusion in the movement about how to fight against it. Alex explained that war is inherent to capitalism and, therefore, there is no fight against war without fighting for socialism. Alex explained that the main pressure during a war is for class collaboration for the national war effort. This was proven through the experiences of the First World War where most parties of the Second International capitulated to their own ruling classes, and therefore contributed to the great slaughter. The wide-reaching discussion covered topics such as revolutionary defeatism and how revolutionaries can fight the imperialist war drive using the heightened contradictions presented by the war to fight for a socialist society which eliminates the scourge of war once and for all.
At the end of the school, Fightback Editor Alex Grant gave some closing remarks. Alex explained that the nature of the epoch is one of a protracted crisis of the capitalist system which is creating political and social instability. While the objective conditions for socialist revolution are ripe in the sense that the productive forces have never been more developed and the working class is moving into action, the weakness of its leadership means that the struggle will have many ups and downs. This is where the Marxists come in. While we are still too small to play any meaningful role, we are now moving with the tide of history and our ideas are gaining more traction each and every day. Revolutionary epochs like the one we are living through are filled with examples of relatively small revolutionary groups ballooning up to be significant political forces. It’s up to us to build in preparation for the revolutionary events to come!
Participants of the school were enthusiastic throughout the event, and they showed no signs of fatigue by the end as everyone sang out the Internationale loudly. Capitalism continues to face the biggest crisis it has ever seen, and working class people are facing rising inflation, rising housing costs, and rising fuel costs. Marxists are the only ones with the ideas to explain why. If you would like to continue to learn more, you can sign up for the International Marxist University at https://university.marxist.com/en/ or, if you’d like to get involved with Fightback, you can reach out to us at https://marxist.ca/about