Canada: 2021 Fightback Congress – revolutionary optimism in the time of COVID-19

Over the weekend of May 22-24, Fightback/La Riposte Socialiste, the Canadian section of the IMT, held its largest congress ever, with more than 300 revolutionaries attending the online meeting.

This was a truly pan-Canadian event, with attendees joining in from Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Sherbrooke, Gatineau, Ottawa, Kingston, Peterborough, Barrie, Toronto, Oakville, Burlington, Tillsonburg, Aurora, Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Hamilton, Waterloo, Windsor, Thunder Bay, Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray, Grand Prairie, Kelowna, Victoria, Vancouver, Wetaskiwin, Inuvik, and Iqaluit, plus visitors from the U.S.A. and Europe. Although the pandemic conditions meant that the congress had to be held online rather than in person, this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the comrades in any way. In fact, one of the themes that arose over the weekend was that in the face of the adversity of the recent period, the forces of revolution have not only grown, but are thriving. 

A new historical period

The first session of the weekend was on world perspectives, presented by Fred Weston, editor of In Defence of Marxism. Weston discussed the new historical period that we’ve entered into, one where revolution is no longer a distant prospect, but is already beginning in countries around the world. From the revolution in Myanmar, to the general strike in Palestine, to the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, we are seeing masses of workers and oppressed people entering the political stage. 

Palestine flag demonstration Image NowadaysFrom the revolution in Myanmar, to the general strike in Palestine, to the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, we are seeing masses of workers and oppressed people entering the political stage / Image: Nowadays

While the current state of instability has certainly been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis has been long in the making. As the Marxists have explained, the crisis of overproduction—in which the capitalists produce more than can be absorbed by the market, leading to a crash—has been building up for years, just waiting for something to set it off. Prior to the pandemic, we were already seeing the billionaires hoarding mountains of wealth, increasing inequality, ballooning credit, debt growing faster than GDP, and economic tensions between capitalist powers. COVID-19 didn’t create the crisis, but it made it worse. 

Furthermore, as Weston explained, the capitalists have proven to be entirely incapable of dealing with the crisis. Instead of cooperating internationally to develop and distribute vaccines, countries have competed with one another. Instead of rationally planning the pandemic response, measures have been dictated by concerns over protecting profit, leading to sporadic and ineffective lockdowns and regulations. All the capitalists have been able to do is pump trillions of dollars into the economy to keep it running. After the pandemic, this mountain of debt will have to be reckoned with. However, the capitalists will not be able to implement the cuts and austerity they need without sparking the anger of the masses. The pandemic has highlighted all of the inequality and injustice inherent in the capitalist system, which has had its effect on consciousness. Any attempt to restore economic order risks upsetting the political and social order. There is no way out of this crisis on a capitalist basis. 

Canadian perspectives

These ideas carried over into the discussion on Canadian perspectives, led by Fightback editor Alex Grant. While the situation in Canada has been more subdued than in other countries, the same phenomena of escalating debt and growing inequality, and their impact on mass consciousness, have been taking place here. In province after province we’ve seen bungled pandemic responses, from the ineffective and nonsensical curfew in Quebec, to the huge number of deaths in long-term care in Ontario, to Alberta, where Jason Kenney plans to lay off thousands of health-care workers and has an anti-mask faction in his caucus. On the federal level, billions of dollars have been funneled into the pockets of corporations, particularly through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program. These handouts have not benefited the workers in the least; wealth inequality has grown over the course of the pandemic, with Canadian billionaires becoming $78 billion richer. 

Doug Ford Image In Defence of MarxismThe comrades in Montreal played a pivotal role in the solidarity movement with dockworkers; and Ontario comrades were critical to the formation of the Ontario Coalition Against Ford / Image: In Defence of Marxism

As with the world situation, none of the fundamental weaknesses in the Canadian economy have been solved. Some economists are predicting a recovery after the pandemic, as people who saved money during lockdown will eagerly spend it on things like outings and vacations, and this may indeed be the case. However, it will be an unstable recovery, as it will not change the underlying conditions of massive debt, the looming threat of inflation, and a working class fed up with bearing the brunt of the crisis. 

Grant explained that while we cannot predict how the class struggle will break out in Canada, there are no shortage of avenues for it to be expressed. Whether through the struggle of Indigenous peoples against oppression, the fight against police violence, labour struggles as workers continue to be attacked, or in response to provincial or municipal austerity, there is plenty of combustible material in Canadian society. The question is not whether the working class will fight, but whether it has the leadership necessary to win. It is the task of the Marxists to intervene with the correct demands and tactics that can point the way towards victory, towards socialist revolution. 

That is precisely the task that Fightback/La Riposte Socialiste has set for itself. In the session on building the revolutionary organization, Fightback editor Joel Bergman explained how the organization has also entered a new stage of development. With our growth in the recent period, we are able to take on new initiatives and engage with the movement as never before. In fact, we are already doing so. The comrades in Montreal played a pivotal role in the solidarity movement with Montreal dockworkers; and Ontario comrades were critical to the formation of the Ontario Coalition Against Ford, which pushed forward the demand for work stoppages to win paid sick days. During the discussion, comrades spoke about the growth of the organization across the country. As this growth makes clear, Marxists are no longer swimming against the stream; workers and youth are hungry for revolutionary ideas.

IMT on the rise!

This is true on an international scale as well. Fred Weston spoke on the growth of the International Marxist Tendency, which saw important breakthroughs in 2020. There has been both rapid growth in countries like Britain, the U.S.A., Pakistan, and Russia; as well as new groups starting to be established around the world, from South Asia, to Africa, to Latin America. It was clear that the Canadian comrades are not working in isolation, but are part of an interconnected, worldwide struggle to overthrow capitalism.

Fightback Image Fightback FacebookThe Canadian comrades are not working in isolation, but are part of an interconnected, worldwide struggle to overthrow capitalism! / Image: Fightback

None of this growth would have been possible without a strong apparatus, independently funded and politically accountable only to its membership. This is what Fightback activist Donovan Ritch presented on during the finance session. In spite of the hardships of the past year, comrades have demonstrated their commitment to building the organization with their financial contributions, allowing Fightback/La Riposte Socialiste to expand its staff and establish a true national centre in Toronto with a new office. Comrades demonstrated their commitment again over the weekend, with a record-breaking fundraising drive. Likewise, our press has grown in its reach, both online and in print form, bringing us ever closer to our goal of 1,000 subscribers and a fortnightly publication. This again shows that there is a growing audience for revolutionary ideas.

Ultimately, it is ideas and theory that form the basis of a revolutionary organization. This was highlighted in the final session, led by Fightback editor Rob Lyon, on the struggle for Marxist theory. Many on the left are consumed by postmodernism and identity politics, which are ultimately inward-looking, pessimistic and self-defeating. It is Marxism, with its dialectical materialist analysis and class struggle methods, that actually points towards the victory of the working class over all forms of exploitation and oppression. It is with this in mind that Fightback/La Riposte Socialiste renewed its commitment to study this theory and bring it forward in the movement. 

In a period wracked by crisis, the Marxists have built an organization that is infused with revolutionary optimism. This was clear during the discussions and online socials that took place over the weekend. While the capitalists are helpless in the face of the pandemic, and many on the left have sunk into pessimism and disarray, the IMT in Canada is growing. This is because we know that there is a solution to the present crisis, a socialist solution, and that the working class is fully capable of rising up against capitalism within our lifetime. The only question is whether it will have the leadership and ideas necessary to win. It is the task of the Marxists to make sure it does.

Originally published 25 May at marxist.ca |

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