Nearly 80 years after the 1935 On to Ottawa Trek which demanded work or wages for unemployed workers during the Great Depression, thousands of activists are expected to gather in Ottawa to discuss social change strategies, August 21‑24.
This time, it is less likely that a Conservative government will be able to stop people from attending, like the Bennett Tories did by staging the “Regina Riot.” Still, the people who attend will be Harper’s worst nightmare.
It would be fair to say that the Peoples’ Social Forum in Ottawa marks another stage in the long‑awaited renewal of peoples’ movements for social and national emancipation in Canada.
Veterans of Idle No More, Quebec’s student strike, and the G8 protests in Toronto, the resistance to Corporate Canada’s shackles, will meet in Ottawa August 21‑24. Organizers are preparing to host thousands of people.
It is useful to compare these movements with the last large upsurge in the 1980s which were concerned with preventing nuclear war, free trade and wages, connected to a far higher level of strikes.
People today are beset by a perfect storm of problems, from justice for Aboriginal peoples to peace, from poverty to jobs, from energy to climate change.
Regardless of the level people have reached in understanding these crises, it is vital to awaken them to action for real change, translating the science of fundamental social change into the language of today.
The forum is expected to strengthen existing campaigns, spark new ones and promote unity and cooperation. Issues such as pipelines, treaty rights (nation to nation relations), and defeating the big business agenda will be part of the discussion.
Take Back the CLC activists will also be at the forum to strengthen the militant wing of the labour movement across Canada. Hassan Husseini’s bid for president at the May CLC convention is clearly not the end of the TBC’s contribution to organize the labour movement’s growing militancy.
The large strike vote‑mandates by Safeway and Superstore workers in Western Canada (99.7% and 98%) show that younger workers are fed up with low wages and part time jobs. Reflecting the deep crisis of youth unemployment and barriers to higher education, many activists will be on the younger side.
Organizations with decades‑long experience will also be presenting workshops, such as the Canadian Peace Congress. The Congress will raise the discussion about Canada’s role as an imperialist country.
Nearly every major city across Canada is preparing to send dozens of its best activists.
In Winnipeg, preparations include a Building a Peoples’ Movement forum on July 5, with workshops on treaty rights, pipelines, job creation, defeating the Harper big business agenda, and defeating the neoliberal education model.
The Social Forum process is modeled after the World Social Forum which each year attracts thousands of people to discuss problems of social change. The world forums are a response to the narrow, selfish global corporate agenda which each year is honed at places like Davos, Switzerland.
You can reach the PSF at http://www.peoplessocialforum.org or a local organizing committee near you listed on the website.
(The above article is from the July 1-31, 2014, issue of People’s Voice, Canada’s leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers – $45 US per year; other overseas readers – $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People’s Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)