Our Tasks in the
New Democratic Party Today (1974)
LSA/LSO Internal Information Bulletin, Vol. 2, No. 2
This bulletin contains the report presented to the
Central Committee plenum by John Steele, on behalf of the Political
Committee. It was the second report from the Political Committee on the
question of the New Democratic Party presented to the plenum. Following
discussion, it was adopted by a vote of 26 to 0.
B. Building a
Class Struggle Opposition
C. The Waffle Experience
D. The NDP after the Waffle
E. The Federal NDP
NDP in Government the B.C. Experience
G. The B.C. NDP
Women's Rights Committee
Debate over the Women's Ministry Demand
I. The Present
Situation and Our Tasks
The purpose of this report is to pull together some of
our more recent experiences in the New Democratic Party, to assess their
meaning, to try to get a clearer picture of what is happening to the NDP
at this time and, through the recommendations in the report and the
discussion to follow, arrive at some general guidelines for the work of
our movement in the NDP in the period ahead.
The framework for this report is the summary statement
of our longstanding approach to the New Democratic Party that is
contained in the political resolution adopted at our last convention
(reprinted in The NDP The Marxist View) and restated and
clarified by Comrade Gary Porter in his report to this plenum.
A full exchange of opinions and experiences by the
comrades here on our NDP work in various areas of the country will aid
us greatly in making our intervention into this political formation a
more effective, more precise and more correct one.
We are fighting to build a broad, class struggle
opposition in the New Democratic Party. What does this mean? Sometimes
it is referred to as a class struggle current or a class-struggle left
wing. It means intervening inside the NDP to win forces to key aspects
of our program, in opposition to the reformist perspectives of the
right-wing leadership of the NDP and labor movement. Through such
intervention we seek to widen our influence in the workers movement and
to win cadres to our organization, the nucleus of the mass revolutionary
To put it another way, it means taking our transitional
program into the class struggle as it is reflected inside the NDP, and
counterposing that program to the bourgeois-reformist program of the
NDP leadership. It means fighting the Social-Democratic misleadership
of the working class on their own territory, whether they are in the
government, or simply aspiring to form the government.
It means striving to generalize and transform every
impulse in the class struggle of the workers to go beyond reformism
toward revolutionary mass action, into a conscious and decisive break
with Social Democracy.
Around what issues, what structural forms, can class
struggle opposition in the NDP be built? Any attempt to define precise
answers to these questions for an extended period of time would only
imprison us in rigid and inaccurate schemas. The process by which layers
of the working class and its allies are radicalized and set in motion
against the ruling class is uneven. And so inevitably is the reflection
of the class struggle within the labor party.
Our experience indicates that the development of
left-wing formations within the NDP does not correspond exactly with the
pace of the radicalization. Throughout most of the 1960s, a period of
developing radicalization among student youth in particular, there was
little activity in the NDP ranks, few openings in the party for the
revolutionary socialists to get a hearing for their ideas among broad
layers of the party membership. Then the developing crisis of
perspective of the initial organizations of the "new left" student
radicals, and the desire of many radicals to link up with the organized
working class (in the aftermath of May '68) found a certain response in
the development of the "Waffle" caucus. Today, while the radicalization
continues to deepen, and finds expression through increasing labor
militancy, we do not yet see a corresponding development of a mass
labor-based left wing in the NDP. There is no organized broad left wing
current in the NDP today. The contradiction between rank-and-file
militancy in the labor movement and the conservatism of the NDP
leadership will find expression in the NDP. When, and how it will find
expression remains to be seen.
Because the effects of the radicalization and the
deepening class struggle proceed unevenly in the NDP, we have to be
flexible in deciding what we do in the NDP at any given time. In all our
very different fields of work the trade union movement, our teachers
struggle experience in Ontario, the building of mass-oriented campaigns
such as those for abortion law repeal, Morgentaler defense, or the
defense of victims of repression in Chile, or our election campaigns and
our day-to-day propaganda and agitation we direct the radicalization
towards the NDP, in order to concretize the concept of independent
working class political action and to stimulate a programmatic
confrontation with the Social Democratic NDP leadership.
Our regular fraction work, conducted in pace with the
activity of the party itself, has been intensified during election
campaigns and in conventions of the NDP, both provincial and federal.
And in keeping with the opportunities as we have seen them at any
particular time, we have constructed or participated in a variety of
vehicles for struggle within the party: from caucuses around a single
issue to those expressing the interests of a whole sector of the
radicalization in motion, such as the women's caucuses; to caucuses
dealing with a range of class struggle questions.
But no matter what forms our intervention has taken or
will take, its essence is the mobilization of NDP members and supporters
in struggle around key democratic and transitional demands reflecting
their objective needs, counterposed to the class collaborationist
program of their Social Democratic leadership.
The possibilities for radicalizing layers of society to
meet with a positive response in the New Democratic Party, were
demonstrated by the development of the Waffle movement in the NDP. From
its emergence we analyzed the Waffle as a response in the NDP to the
It was the incorporation in its program of a number of
central class struggle demands, however much they were obscured by a
clutter of nationalist and left-reformist illusions, which was the
Waffle's strength. Measured in terms of organizational and political
influence, it reached its zenith in posing a challenge to the party
leadership in Jim Laxer's contest against David Lewis for the federal
NDP leadership at the 1971 convention. Laxer received 37 percent of the
votes in the final ballot against Lewis.
The most fundamental reason for the Waffle's
vulnerability and eventual breakup inside the NDP was that the youth
radicalization which sparked it and provided its shock troops occurred
prior to a radicalization in the labor movement of the scope required to
shake the power base of the leadership.
The right wing leadership was aided in its witchhunt of
the Waffle by the latter's, inability, as a no more than left reformist
current, to formulate a comprehensive strategy for fighting the right
reformist leadership of the party. Ultimately, the Waffle split down the
middle, its major force dissipating, when the main part of the Waffle
leadership deserted the struggle inside the NDP in search of an
ill-fated shortcut to the working class through the nationalist Movement
for an Independent Socialist Canada (MISC).
If these elements had come to recognize that the NDP did
not correspond to the kind of party needed to realize their political
objectives, they had nonetheless not been won to the revolutionary
socialist program. We continue to face a big challenge to win to our
organization the best of these elements, those who are capable of
finding their way to the program of class struggle and recognition of
the necessity of a revolutionary party on the Bolshevik model.
We put forward the "stay and fight" perspective at the
August 1972 Ontario Waffle conference a perspective maintained in our
press up to and following the recent abandonment of the NDP by the
Saskatchewan Waffle. We explain that work within the NDP itself, where
the question of the leadership of the class will be sharply posed for a
whole period, is a vital and necessary part of the struggle of
socialists against the Social Democratic bureaucracy at the head of the
Canadian working class.
The Waffle split from the NDP in Ontario and
Saskatchewan and its nearly complete disintegration in other parts of
the country, introduced a period that has been characterized in general
by a downturn of struggles within the party. A whole layer of militants,
demoralized by the Waffles incapacity to fight the leadership of the
NDP, dropped into relative inactivity, wandering between the NDP and
the Waffle. Many have reintegrated however reluctantly into the party
mainstream, while others gravitate to the ultraleft. In this situation
the NDP leadership has firmly consolidated its control over the NDP
politically and organizationally. Recently through articles in the party
press and public forums, they have attempted to give a theoretical
veneer to their bankrupt social democratic ideology.
Other elements previously in the leadership of the
Waffle, but pushed towards revolutionary socialist conclusions in the
course of the struggle, likewise gave up the struggle within the NDP,
not by leaving outright, but by adopting sectarian and ultraleft tactics
precluding any possibility of their being an effective force for the
construction of a class struggle current in the NDP.
This development was reflected in the sectarian
degeneration of the Left Caucus which had emerged in Ontario in the
struggle, against the split course of the Waffle leadership.
The struggle which unfolded in the Left Caucus after the
Waffle's exit pitted the League, defending the initially established
perspective of the Left Caucus as a non-exclusionary vehicle for
struggle within the party, on key policy issues, against the Red
Circle-Old Mole, who used their control over the Toronto Left Caucus
steering committee to impose their own sectarian conceptions on the
While the intervention of our comrades into the May 1973
Left Caucus conference blocked the caucus from formally adopting the
sectarian perspective of what had now become the Revolutionary Marxist
Group (RMG), it was not able to undo the damage already done to the
caucus by the unilateral actions of the sectarians.
The erosion of the initial broad support for the caucus
led it to become essentially reduced to members of our movement, the RMG,
the Lambertiste Labor Action Committee and a handful of non-affiliated
militants. This isolation was reinforced by the general situation in the
Ontario NDP the relative passivity of the thousands of NDP members
who had fought the leaderships witchhunt of the Waffle prior to the
capitulation of the Waffle leadership. Reduced to a sectarian shell, the
Ontario Left Caucus was unable to constitute an effective vehicle for
the development of a class struggle [alternative] in the period
following the Left Caucus conference, including the July 1973 Federal
In contrast to the 1971 federal NDP convention which
centered around the Waffle challenge to the Lewis leadership, the 1973
convention took place in the wake of the crushing or defection of
organized left wing formations within the party.
The leadership approached the convention with an eye to
getting the party to ratify its "make parliament work" policy of
collaboration with the Liberals in the federal parliament. This
class-collaborationist policy; of "balance of powerism" is geared to
presenting the NDP as the responsible left partner of the Liberal
government. This tactic is disastrous. It breaks with the drive to bring
the NDP to power, reinforces illusions in the Liberal party, and cuts
across the concept of independent labor political action.
The NDP caucus's open collaboration with the Liberals
has produced a certain unease within the party ranks, some of which was
evident in the federal convention among a layer of delegates.
The problem facing our movement going into the
convention was how to direct this unease, this questioning, and the
hostility to the leadership left over from its purge of the Waffle left
wing how to give it a struggle perspective against the
class-collaborationist program of the leadership.
It would have been a serious error to envisage centering
our intervention in the federal convention around the now unviable
Ontario Left Caucus.
The task of our movement in this situation was to
accurately assess what the issues were, to give leadership in the
struggle around them and in this way begin to pose the class struggle
alternative to the Lewis leadership.
The major opening for our perspective came through the
development of a broad feminist caucus, called on our initiative through
the British Columbia NDP Women's Rights Committee, an official committee
of the party. This caucus mobilized in important struggles that brought
it into sharp conflict with the federal leadership, and resulted in
A large part of the success of this radical formation at
the federal convention was its adoption under our leadership of the
defense of Dr. Morgentaler. This campaign poses sharply the need for the
NDP to mobilize against the government and the abortion law. This effort
gave the Morgentaler defense a big impetus on a cross-country scale.
The caucus adopted the perspective of organizing women
in the NDP across the country and set up a loose steering committee to
carry this out.
Having carried a successful struggle against an
opposition formation of considerable influence the Waffle the Lewis,
leadership was now faced with the possibility of another formation,
reflecting one of the deepest areas of radicalization, led in part this
time by revolutionary socialists rather than left reformists.
The activity of the women's caucus helped open the door
to the development of another formation under our initiative
"Delegates for socialist policies". Both formations together involved
approximately 150 persons out of the 1800 that attended the convention.
The call for the formation of the caucus signed by more
than 40 delegates with a good cross-country representation, outlined the
need for socialist policies, noted the party leadership's failure to
pose such policies, and argued that socialists in the party must
organize to fight for them.
"This convention," stated the appeal, "must signal a
turn in the direction of the NDP away from obsession with
parliamentary maneuvering toward active participation in and leadership
of the extraparliamentary mass movement around a program of far-reaching
measures that strengthen the independent power of the working people and
undermine the power of the big corporations."
Delegates from this caucus spoke in every major policy
debate counterposing the class struggle program and perspective to the
leadership's class collaborationist program. A key issue around which
the caucus gathered broad support was the question of nationalization of
resource industries. The caucus was able to make this one of the major
debates of the convention, circulating a statement signed by prominent
New Democrats. The hard core voting strength of the left varied between
ten and twenty percent on policy resolutions. The caucus candidates
received fifteen to thirty percent of the votes for federal council
positions. At the conclusion of the convention the caucus discussed the
possibility of continuing work, exchanged mailing lists but set up no
What we accomplished
Combined with these two interventions our movement
carried out a large scale circulation of our press and literature,
selling 380 copies of Labor Challenge, 170 Young Socialists, 24
copies of International Socialist Review containing resolutions from our
April convention, $300.00 of Pathfinder literature. Comrades also
solicited and got sponsors for the Ligue Communiste defense, defense of
the expelled and excluded YSers in Ontario, distributed a Vanguard Forum
leaflet, aided the Morgentaler Defense in selling 400 pamphlets and 350
buttons, the CWC in selling 350 copies of Spokeswoman, and the Vietnam
Action Committee in distributing 100 leaflets.
Twenty-five comrades attended the convention as
delegates, in addition to a full mobilization of the Vancouver branch.
This was the largest number of Trotskyists ever to become delegates to
an NDP convention, in part because of the vacuum left by the Waffle
What did we accomplish?
(1) We were able to help deepen the impact of the
feminist radicalization in the NDP by mobilizing women around
clear-cut demands, expressing their needs, aimed against the ruling
class and challenging the anti-feminist class collaborationist
program of the leadership.
(2) We were able to pose to a significant layer of
militants in the party not only the correctness of "staying and
fighting" as a long-range strategy, but also the concrete
possibilities for organizing struggles on key issues, under
present circumstances, within the NDP today.
(3) We were able to reach a large number of
activists in the NDP with our ideas either on the floor of the
convention or with our literature.
(4) In this way we were able to establish more roots
in the NDP and pose comrades as leaders of a current in opposition
to the leadership. This was an all the more impressive achievement
in a situation where the leadership in fact was further
consolidating its bureaucratic grip on the party as a whole, and
receiving massive support for its class collaborationist course.
The role of our movement contrasted sharply with the
paralysis of the other tendencies. The Lambertistes, afraid of
expulsions, kept under cover for the most part, even failing to sell
their press. The Workers League, with no delegates, simply sold their
paper. The Stalinists hid behind a Kraft Boycott table. The Waffle
leadership did not appear. The Canadian Liberation Movement failed to
turn up. CPCML (Maoist), handed out a sectarian sheet. The Revolutionary
Marxist Group did their best to abstain from the real struggles. One of
their major interventions in the caucus was to attempt to impose their
view that nationalization without compensation was a principle and the
dividing line between reformists and socialists. They presented a woman
candidate for president of the party in an utterly sectarian manner
not consulting the women's caucus, and misusing the name of the defunct
Ontario Left Caucus to support the candidacy. Old Mole, their newspaper
was in no way addressed to the convention. On the convention floor they
substituted denunciations of the leadership for political debate. They
(accurately) foresaw that the NDP leadership would support anti-labor
legislation in the coming railway strike. The problem was that this
single issue so mesmerized them that they were led away from intervening
effectively on other issues which could and did mobilize rank-and-file
delegate support against the leadership, such as nationalization of
The general thread running through the activities of all
our opponents was sectarian abstention from the real struggles that took
place at the 1973 federal convention.
The experience at the federal NDP convention helped
prepare our movement for its big experience with an NDP government in
British Columbia a province with a large working class and labor
movement and a rooted and sizeable branch of our organization.
The defeat of the big business Social Credit government
and the election of an NDP government in August 1972 aroused widespread
expectations of far-reaching reforms among broad layers of the B.C.
population, based on their illusion that the new government headed by
David Barrett was somehow fundamentally different from the discredited
Bennett Socred regime. These profound expectations provided
revolutionary Marxists with important possibilities to initiate and lead
mass struggles that could mobilize the ranks of NDP supporters against
the reformist leadership, now responsible for managing the B.C.
provincial section of the Canadian bourgeois state. The key issues would
be determined by what the NDP's rank-and-file constituency considered to
be the most burning questions before the province's working people
including, in this case, the struggle of the labor movement against a
vicious web of anti-labor legislation, and far-reaching demands by women
for child-care, enforcement of equal pay laws, an end to discrimination
against women in the work force, and full abortion rights and
facilities. In every instance, revolutionary socialists would encourage
and further the independent mobilization of the working class, to
undermine its confidence in the government, while at the same time
helping the workers learn in the course of their experiences that they
must rely only on their own mobilized strength.
The election of an NDP government raised the struggle
against the reformist leadership to a higher level. It meant that
henceforth many militant struggles against the bosses and their state
would directly confront the reformist leadership of the NDP, now
responsible for administering an important component of that state. It
opened up qualitatively new opportunities for us to drive home the
point, through the experiences, the struggles of the working people
themselves, that the interests of the bureaucratic leadership of the
class are fundamentally different from those of the class itself. It
allowed us to deepen the contradiction between the procapitalist
leadership of the NDP, and the labor base of the party. This
contradiction is not overlooked by the bourgeois press for example the
Vancouver Province recently stated in an editorial referring to the NDP
government's reluctance to accede to trade unionists' demands to change
its proposed labor code, that "in our system, when a party becomes a
government, it undergoes a subtle change. In effect it is no longer a
party, but the people's government... Government and party are not
synonymous in our system."
Above all, we were aided by our longstanding
appreciation of the necessity to formulate our demands in such a way as
to drive directly against the class enemy, catching the reformist
apologists and agents for the bourgeoisie in the crossfire. This
understanding meant that we were prepared to perform all sorts of
maneuvers, to form all sorts of (temporary) alliances, so long as we
operated around a consistent class-struggle program and perspective.
Although the NDP government has been in office barely 16
months, the LSA/LSO has already had an important and instructive
experience in a number of confrontations with it in particular in the
fight around Bill 11, the new labor code, and the struggle to get the
government to act on women's rights. Both struggles involve rich
tactical lessons for our movement as it goes through the experience of
these governments with millions of workers.
Our April Political Resolution outlined some useful
guidelines for our work in the NDP under these conditions. It put it
"Where the NDP is in office...we are challenged to
seek ways to relate the radicalizing mass movements to the NDP, to
challenge the NDP government to support and implement their demands.
As we expressed it in the August 1971 plenum report: '...we must
pay particular attention in the next period to the development of
campaigns and demands that advance our concept of a workers and
farmers government a government that carries out decisively
anti-capitalist measures, against the caretaker concept of
government upheld by the Schreyers and Blakeneys (and we might now
add, the Barretts).
"...Where the NDP is in office, we must seek to
mobilize broad campaigns and actions encompassing rank and file
forces from the party and the trade unions aimed at the NDP cabinet;
initial steps would include campaigns for the new government to
implement the more radical aspects of the NDP program which usually
comprises some far-reaching demands adopted by the rank and file in
LSA plays a key role
With this general approach our movement played a key
role in the first phase of a very significant struggle against the NDP
government's restrictive labor code, culminating in the decision of the
NDP convention in November to demand the government change the bill in
line with NDP policy.
One of the main planks in the NDP election campaign was
repeal of the Social Credit anti-labor legislation. Following the
election, the government, through Labor Minister King, stalled on the
question despite criticism from the leadership of the B.C. Federation of
Labor. Comrades on the official NDP bodies moved into this situation to
demand that the government act immediately.
Through the Burrard constituency Labor Committee a
riding committee with a representative on the NDP standing Policy
Committee on Labor we played a vital role in setting up, in January
1973, an Ad Hoc Committee for the Repeal of Anti-Labor Laws. The
committee was open to New Democrats in the Vancouver area and unionists
in affiliated unions. It was composed of about 30 activists from the
Protests against government inaction on the legislation
reached a high point in the spring. The ad hoc committee succeeded in
holding a widely publicized meeting of 150 persons demanding the
government act. On two different occasions we got the NDP provincial
council to demand the government repeal the laws. The uproar dissipated
when the government promised its new legislation for the fall.
In preparation for the legislation the ad hoc committee
circulated a statement called "Take the Shackles off Labor" which
outlined the record of the Barrett government. It stated that the
working people could not rely on governmental machinery, courts, judges,
ministers and ministries, boards and so on to guarantee their rights.
The new legislation, introduced October 1, while
revoking some of the worst features of the old Social Credit labor laws
(e.g. Bill 33 and the Mediation Commission), introduced many new
measures providing for government interference in the unions, including
new restrictions on the right to strike and picket and sweeping powers
allocated to a revamped Labor Relations Board.
When the legislation was introduced, the B.C. Federation
of Labor leadership reacted strongly, demanding changes that would
eliminate the major restrictive features. But while their criticism of
the bill was essentially correct, they proposed no activity in support
of these demands that did not go beyond legislative lobbying by the
trade union staffers.
We intervened and a strongly worded resolution was
adopted by four constituencies calling for changes in the bill in line
with NDP policy, support to the Federation campaign, a campaign of mass
action to force the government to act, and an organized fight at the
November NDP convention.
The Federation convention backed the Federation
leadership's opposition to many features of the Bill. At the same time
the Federation leaders made it clear they did not intend to wage an
all-out fight against the NDP government on this issue. It was clear to
us, however, that around Bill 11, there were possibilities to mobilize NDPers in struggle against the NDP cabinet around a clear programmatic
point the class-collaborationist labor policy of the government.
This was concretely posed when the NDP's standing Policy
Committee on Labor drew up a resolution for the NDP convention which,
while not as complete as the resolution passed in the ridings on our
initiative, contained much of the same content change the law in line
with NDP policy and support for workers struggling for their rights.
Around this resolution a caucus of about 45 people was
organized. "Delegates for the Labor Policy Committee Resolution"
spearheaded the fight for the resolution at the convention. The line of
this caucus was expressed by its candidate for party president, Ed
Livingston, who said in his election speech, "We want the government
elected by us to quit holding hands with big business and take decisive
action in the interests of the working people of British Columbia." He
got 30 percent of the vote.
The government attempted to defend its position with a
combination of threats against the Federation for its promise to defy
restrictive legislation, and appeals to loyalty to the "people's"
government which had replaced the hated Socreds.
But after much debate, the convention adopted the
resolution by a narrow majority (322-290). This vote was a very
important initial victory for the working class in B.C. The caucus would
not have been organized to carry this fight, nor would the fight have
been won, without our intervention.
The question of government "accountability"
The Labor Code becomes law early this year. But the
groundwork has been laid for the mobilization of workers in B.C. against
the Barrett government on this critical question. Our work against the
Bill puts us in a strategic position to become deeply involved in such
a development when it occurs.
In this situation our movement stuck hard and fast to
its main aim of mobilizing the ranks in struggle around key programmatic
points. The task was to give the unease of the ranks concerning, the
role and character of the government programmatic content. This unease
was crystallized in the widespread demand that the cabinet be
"accountable" to the party; that it implement NDP policy. A number of
resolutions along these lines were submitted to the convention. There
were some moves for caucus formations around these concepts.
When reformist working class parties take office, it is
inevitable that the initial breach between the bureaucratic leadership
and the ranks will find expression in the demand that the government be
"accountable" to the party rank-and-file. British Columbia experience
has been no exception. But to realize the progressive kernel in such
sentiments, and avoid mistaken liberal concepts that what is needed are
mere structural changes that can transform the government into a
people's government, more "accessible" to the masses, it is necessary
for the revolutionary Marxists to concretize it in demands for specific
actions by the government consistent with our program. We did this
around the Bill 11 struggle, which provided the clearest expression to
date of the essential conflict between the Barrett ministry, which in
the last analysis upholds bourgeois rule, and the interests of the rank
and file of the working class organization he leads.
It would have been an error for us to have set up, at
this time, a multi-issue left or socialist caucus. The movement made
some initial probes along these lines with modest results. But the key
struggle was Bill 11; to have brought in other issues at that time would
have limited our ability to mobilize New Democrats in opposition to the
The RMG gave a good example of a sectarian error. They
stood outside the entire struggle and contributed nothing to it. In
order to separate themselves from the position of the organized labor
movement they adopted the demand, Repeal Bill 11, counterposing it to
the Federation's demand, Change Bill 11 (to meet the Federation's
criticisms and proposals). In the real context of the struggle, repeal
was an incorrect demand. It ignored the fact that Bill 11 abolished the
hated Socred legislation. The generally correct proposals of the
Federation pointed in the direction of freeing the trade unions from the
interference of the capitalist state. They provided the best basis for
launching the struggle against the government's action.
The RMGs sectarian position took them outside the whole
movement to demand that the government change the bill. They refused to
participate in the caucus around the Labor Policy Committee resolution.
Our leadership in this fight is well known in the NDP.
Combined with our other work at the convention, the women's caucus,
Chile defense, Morgentaler, literature and press sales, leaflet
distributions, the 600 delegates to the convention were not only able to
read our ideas but go into action with them on the floor of the
convention against their leadership.
The deepening feminist radicalization has affected the
NDP. Feminists have begun to organize in the NDP to force the party to
adopt feminist demands and to fight for them. From the beginning we have
played a big role in this development.
We participated in organizing women to fight for their
rights at the last federal NDP convention, as described earlier in this
report. We are now going through experiences in women's rights caucuses
in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and B C.
This report will deal with the B.C. experience at length
for two reasons:
1) It has been the biggest experience to date. We
participated in the B.C. NDP Standing Committee on Women's Rights
for the more than two years that it has existed, and gone through
big experiences with it.
2) We have much to learn from the B.C. experience
because the existence of the NDP government adds a new dimension to
the struggle. Our experiences in mobilizing women to demand that
this government respond to the needs of women in B.C. can be
instructive for the situations in Manitoba and Alberta where we now
have opportunities to go through some of these experiences.
We apply our revolutionary strategy for women's
liberation to the NDP as well as to other areas. This strategy consists
of reaching out to women with demands that meet their real needs and
drawing them into struggle for these demands independent of and against
the ruling class. We know that in the process of this struggle women
gain more political understanding of the forces they are up against and
the type of struggle necessary to overcome them. They will gain more
confidence in themselves, in their ability to struggle and win gains.
In the NDP we seek to organize women on the basis of
their common oppression to fight for concrete demands. We don't see the
organization of women in the NDP as a closed club, a discussion group,
but rather we put forward a mass action strategy for feminists in the
The organization of women in the NDP can become an
important part of the feminist movement. The struggle of women in the
NDP for feminist demands can have an impact on the broader class
struggle and in breaking the class from reformism. We have already had
a small preview of this in our experience to date.
The feminist ferment in B.C. has been fed by the great
hopes many women had surrounding the election of an NDP government.
After so many years of hostility to women's rights by the Socred
government, many believed that the NDP government would act on their
behalf. The B.C. NDP's official program, adopted in conventions as a
result of pressure from the feminist movement, included many important
demands such as 24 hour child care, the right to abortion, an end to
restrictions on union organizing, etc.
Many feminists campaigned for the NDP in the 1972
elections which saw the NDP sweep the Socreds out. One prominent
feminist Rosemary Brown was even elected. But it soon became clear
that the new NDP government had no more intention of implementing
feminist demands than the previous government did.
Its inaction and outright hostility provoked an angry
response in feminists and, since Barrett was openly defying party
policy, also throughout the ranks of the NDP.
Feminists submitted hundreds of briefs to the government
hoping to change its mind. The recent NDP Caucus Commission on
Priorities for Women revealed the extent of this activity. I don't think
any other government has received such a barrage of criticism and
proposals from feminists.
For example, the first feminist action against the
government took place in February 1973. A group of parents frustrated by
the government's inaction on their demands occupied a government day
care information center and appealed for support from women's liberation
groups, the NDP and the unions.
Much of this feminist ferment has centred around the NDP
women's rights committee, an official party body. The committee has
organized tours, conferences, and publishes a regular newsletter,
Priorities, with wide circulation. The response it has received revealed
a broad rise of feminist consciousness in all areas of the province.
The women's rights committee has served to voice many
demands of the feminist movement, and to bring pressure to bear on the
government. At the same time it has been itself subject to the pressure
of the Barrett government. One current in the committee has bent to
this pressure. This current has discouraged or opposed mass actions, or
broad campaigns around programmatic demands, initiatives which might
"embarrass" or "antagonize" the government. For our part, we have
pressed the committee to mobilize women in struggle against present
What is really involved in this debate is two radically
different strategies for the committee; one, to force the government to
meet the needs of women, and the other, to force feminists to adapt to
the character of the government. These conflicting lines explain why the
record of the committee has been uneven throughout the year and a half;
and particularly over the last six months as the opposing directions
became more sharply posed. Given the need to bring the full pressure of
the feminist movement to bear on the government and the important role
the NDP committee had to play in this, we pushed for the NDP women's
rights committee to organize a women's conference open to all women
inside and outside the party to discuss how to get the government to
act. We succeeded in getting such a conference called for September 8,
Although the conference was poorly publicized and posed
as a conference to simply find out what women want so that the women's
rights committee could convey this in private session with the NDP
caucus, more than 150 women from over 30 organizations throughout B.C.
came to the conference. Their dissatisfaction with the government
enabled us to transform the conference. The 150 women marched down to
the provincial council meeting with banners and signs and confronted
Barrett with their demands for child care, the right to abortion, an
end to sexism and discrimination in education, job discrimination, an
end to the anti-labor legislation and for a Ministry of women's rights.
The conference also unanimously adopted a resolution to call a further
conference to discuss establishing an "action coalition" to enable the
many groups to unite further in actions directed at the government.
This conference marked a turning point for the women's
rights committee. It made clear to the government that this committee
could become a real threat. Immediately tremendous pressure was put on
the committee to reverse its course. The right-wing in the committee,
led by the chairwoman Melodie Corrigall and the main leader of the
committee, Sharon Yandle, launched a full scale campaign to bring about
They proposed that the committee should limit its
proposals to the November '73 provincial convention to concentrate on a
number of structural proposals to the government and party, omitting
the need to press for legislation on specific demands. They wrote the
motion for the action coalition out of the record, denying that they had
ever heard of such a motion. They denied that the theme of the September
8 conference was to get the government to "Act now on women's rights".
They launched a full-scale redbaiting attack in the committee against
the "LSA women," passing a motion that members of the women's committee
could not express any differences with any NDP women's planks outside
the committee. This redbaiting attack had as its main purpose the
blocking of a discussion of program in the committee a discussion
which was long overdue. Even more, it blocked the turn of the women's
committee towards a mass action strategy.
As one of the women put it in the witch-hunt meeting,
"The NDP caucus has said 'it's either kick out the Trots or squelch the
women's committee." Another effect of the red-baiting was to finger our
comrades for the brass. A few weeks after the meeting Wendy Stevenson
received a letter from Hans Brown, the provincial secretary, refusing
The experience of the federal convention and the
September 8 demonstration had proved to the government that the
committee was getting out of hand, so they demanded a show of loyalty.
But it appears Barrett didn't have to twist the arms of the
Yandle-Corrigal clique too hard. As early as the July federal convention
they were nervous about our influence in the committee as Yandle frankly
said in the discussion of the so-called "problem of the male-dominated
The main structural proposal that they sought to unite
the committee around for the provincial convention was the women's
ministry. They argued that the ministry was a necessary first step that
it was useless to talk about childcare., etc. these demands might as
well wait because without a ministry they wouldn't be implemented. With
a ministry, women would have "real power" they said.
We of course argued against this both in the committee
and in Labor Challenge. The September 10 article by Jacquie
Henderson noted that the only real power women have is through
independent mobilization to force the government to grant their demands.
We said the structure had to be secondary to the program, not take
priority over it. We pointed to the September 8 action as the way
We were defeated on this. Leading up to the provincial
convention the themes of the September 8 conference action on child
care, abortion, the anti-labor legislation were all subordinated to
the ministry, and two other structural proposals. In fact the biggest
question became how to get elected to the provincial executive. Many
concessions to the leadership had to be granted for leaders of the
women's committee to get elected.
These problems were all expressed at the convention
itself. The Women's Rights Committee produced a button saying "I'm for a
Ministry of Women's Rights," which it sold aggressively. Unlike past
conventions the committee's literature table did not include a variety
of women's rights literature. It just featured the ministry pamphlet and
Priorities. Resolutions were submitted on the ministry.
Yet despite such energetic preparations, the women's
ministry question was not raised on the floor of the convention at all.
No meeting of the women's rights committee or caucus meeting decided not
to raise it for vote. Corrigall and Yandle made the decision themselves.
They were afraid if it came to the floor, it would be debated and
possibly defeated. Besides, they now had bigger fish to fry.
The convention only allotted 30 minutes to women's
rights something that would have been vigorously fought in the past.
But the right-wing leaders of the women's committee were not oriented to
carrying such struggles, or to pushing the positions of the committee.
It was our initiative, and that of the day care forces, which succeeded
in getting a day care resolution on the floor. We did not succeed in
bringing to the floor a resolution on Morgentaler.
The orientation of the committee's right-wing leaders
was to the elections to the provincial executive, and in their minds,
this precluded a political challenge of the party brass. Yandle,
Corrigall, and three other women's committee members were elected to the
We intervened in the caucus meetings in the convention
and did much contact work with the many women upset by the course of the
committee. We sold our press with the article "Make Barrett Apply
Women's Program" and carried a struggle to get child care and
Morgentaler resolutions on the floor of the convention. We also sold 75
copies of the LSA brief to the government commission on priorities for
women which outlines our transitional strategy and program.
While we didn't succeed in reversing the direction of
the committee, we made some real progress. Many women began to get a
little worried about the maneuvers, compromises and capitulations which
characterized the bid of the Yandle-Corrigall clique's attempt to win
election to the party leadership.
Immediately following the convention, the government
commission held a hearing. Almost a hundred women went and voiced their
dissatisfaction with the government.
The struggle in the women's committee continues. We are
now trying to get the committee to move into the child care fight and
the fight for the right to abortion. Much of our efforts in this respect
are centered in these areas outside the NDP committee, which in turn
puts pressure on the committee. As well we are demanding that the
committee mobilize to block Wendy Stevenson's expulsion.
At the last women's committee meeting Yandle, the new
chairwoman of the committee, moved that a sub-committee draft the text
of a bill for a ministry of women's rights. That is what some of the
committee members are now busying themselves with.
In this part of the report I want to take up the
criticism of our approach raised by the Labor Party Tendency in their
document, "The Subversion of our NDP Orientation."
The document objects to the September 10, 1973 Labor
Challenge article "Women's Ministry debate in the B.C. NDP.
Diversion for feminists." It says that this article is an attack that
"can only appear to be essentially unprincipled, dogmatic, sectarian and
factional, besides being a quite unintelligible attack..." (p. 19) It
argues for supporting the demand for a women's ministry on the grounds
that this demand "expresses the objective needs of the class, it flows
out of their present level of consciousness and takes them forward in
struggle..." (p. 21) The LPT claims that in not supporting this demand
we are dumping the line spelled out by the 1971 LSA/LSO plenum. The
leadership's stand is thus a prime example of its supposed "break with
our NDP orientation."
Comrade Ross Dowson has said in this plenum that the
ministry question was not discussed in the Political Committee. What are
When the resolution calling for a ministry was passed at
the B.C. NDP convention in the fall of 1972, we were not only uncritical
of it, we supported it. That's very clear in the account of the
convention, in the December 11, 1972 issue of Labor Challenge.
But it wasn't long before some comrades, thinking more carefully about
the implications of the demand, and in the light of our experience in
the women's rights struggle against the B.C. government, began to
question the demand.
Last spring the leading comrades in Vancouver and the
editorial board of Labor Challenge began a discussion of the
women's ministry demand, in preparation for an article. We all felt
that there were serious problems with it. The demand did not have
programmatic content. Labor Challenge had previously tried to
insert this content into the demand for a ministry, in an article
printed in the February 5, 1973 issue. This only made matters worse,
because it made it sound as if we thought the ministry was the way to
achieve these demands. The discussion was extended, and was expanded to
include leading Political Committee members not on the editorial board.
Most PC members felt that Labor Challenges stand had been
incorrect; Comrade Ross argued for the contrary view.
The publication of the pamphlet "The Case for a Ministry
of Women's Rights" in early July by the NDP women's committee aided the
discussion. It printed in black and white the motivation for the demand,
as expressed by the leaders of the women's committee.
The Political Committee discussed the question at its
July 7 meeting, and took a position on the women's ministry demand, a
position which is expressed in the September 10 Labor Challenge
article by Jacquie Henderson. The Vancouver branch also discussed the
PC's position and adopted it on September 5.
What were some of the reasons which convinced us that
the demand was incorrect? It is true that the vote for the ministry
motion at the 1972 B.C.NDP convention expressed the delegates' healthy
distrust of the leadership, and their insistence that there be concrete
action for women's rights.
Barrett's hostility to the demand was due to his fear
not of a ministry itself but of the independent feminist movement. He
was, and is, determined not to give an inch to the women's movement
unless he is forced to. As we put it in the September 10 article:
"Premier Barrett told reporters at the time of the
convention that his government would make establishment of such a
ministry a 'low priority'. His statement has become famous as a
symbol of the government's contemptuous rejection of the broad
program of legislation for women's rights proposed by the
Nevertheless, the support of militant feminists for the
ministry, and Barrett's rejection of it, does not mean that the demand
itself is automatically correct. In the struggles that arise in the
party between the brass and the members, for membership control of
government policy, we aim to focus the battle around demands which
express correctly the class interests of the workers and their allies.
This raises the question what is the content of the demand for the
The LPT says it "expresses the objective needs of the
class." If that is the case, then it certainly is a demand that we want
to put forward. But the LPT does not say how it expresses this need.
Nowhere in their document do they attempt to explain what is the
positive class content of the demand.
What the pamphlet says
Comrade Dowson and the LPT ask how we can say that the
ideas of the pamphlet divert women from the independent struggle for
The pamphlet presents the demand for the women's
ministry as the central demand of the women's movement on the NDP
government. It does not link this demand to the achievement of concrete
gains; it does not pose the ministry as simply a means of implementing
victories won through mass struggle and mass pressure. Rather it
presents the ministry as a precondition for such victories and as the
means of achieving them.
The LPT cannot see any grounds for criticizing Yandles
article. Well, what does her article say? Yandle affirms that women need
a ministry because they need power, and the ministry will get them
power. She says, "It is a very important means of stimulating and
encouraging women to break through the barriers that confine them to a
socially inferior status by giving them the power the finances, the
resources, and the authority to start breaking those barriers down ...
what the ministry can do is provide women with the tools to begin the
systematic elimination of the root causes of oppression."
That's the passage quoted in the September 10 article.
Does the LPT think that Yandle is right? Her statement is wrong. Dead
wrong. Setting up the women's ministry as proposed by Yandle, will not
give women "power" or "authority" or the "tools" to begin to eliminate
the causes of their oppression. To think that this can be done through a
new ministry is purest reformism.
The position of our movement as expressed in the
September 10 Labor Challenge article is that women can only "get
power" "the finances, the resources, and the authority" through
independent struggle against the ruling class through the concrete
concessions they win, and ultimately through the workers government
which must be their final goal. Yandle & Co.'s view is counterposed to
this. It miseducates and misleads feminists, by suggesting that such a
modest proposal for structural change in the government can produce
profound social reforms. In practice we have seen how this reformist
line has been counterposed to our class struggle strategy for the NDP
women's committee and how it has led the committee away from the
struggle for women's rights against the government.
Labor Challenge points out that the resolution did
not demand that the government enact any new legislation, it did not
demand a ministry any different from those already in existence, and it
projected a ministry integrated into the governmental framework. In
quoting this passage, the LPT comrades interject a series of indignant "sic"s.
But they dont explain where the LC analysis is wrong. It stands as a
simple and correct presentation of what the resolution really said.
In the first part of Yandle's article, she explains a
series of socialist concepts about the roots of women's oppression in
the capitalist system, the need to change this system. In this part of
the article Yandle uses the term "structural solution" as a kind of
pseudonym for a fundamental change to a socialist society.
The Labor Challenge article summarized these and
other correct ideas put forward by Yandle and Corrigall in the pamphlet.
The LPT critique ignores this part of the Labor Challenge
article, and summarizes these generally correct ideas in the first part
of Yandle's article once more at considerably greater length.
But Yandle's article continues, in its second part, to
present the women's ministry as a "structural solution" that is, as an
instrument for carrying out the kind of fundamental social change that
she described. She calls this ministry "a means to begin the task of
breaking down the structural inequality that women face," providing
women with the tools to begin the systematic elimination of the root
causes of oppression.
This is where Yandle goes wrong and that is what
Labor Challenge criticized in her position. The LPT critique says
nothing at all about this aspect of the articles by Yandle and Labor
Challenge. The are silent on the very question which is in dispute.
It is true that in introducing her main point Yandle
says some correct things. But does this mean we should ignore the
purpose she puts these to to justify her reformist strategy for the
feminist movement? We should not be so easily misled, simply because
some reformists, under the impact of the radicalization, choose today to
surround their essential reformist concepts with radical phraseology.
The LPT claims that Yandle is merely expressing our
strategy; as outlined in a section of the 1971 plenum report. But the
1971 report made it clear that our intervention with respect to NDP
governments was not to be expressed in demands for structural solutions,
but rather around demands for concrete measures consistent with our
program of transitional and democratic demands. This is what Yandle
ignores with her strategy of focusing the women's rights struggle
around the demand for a ministry, a "structural solution."
The 1971 plenum report explains, for, instance, that
these governments should be pressed to make the hospitals which are
under their jurisdiction perform abortions and set up abortion clinics.
Here is another example. The B.C. NDP government sent a
letter to the federal government telling it to reverse its decision to
recognize the Chile junta. We demanded that it not just send this
letter, which we welcomed, but that it actively campaign for this demand
and also campaign to open Canada's doors to the refugees. The prestige
and resources of the government would give great aid to defending the
victims of the coup.
We are not against making structural demands, when what
is involved is the implementation of concrete measures involving the
objective needs of the working class and its allies. For example, if the
NDP government in British Columbia had just passed legislation providing
for 24-hour childcare free to all who need it throughout the province,
as the B.C. NDP program promises it will do, we would most certainly
have something to say on how that measure should be implemented for
example, demands for user control that include "structural" proposals.
But our "structural proposals" would all be in the framework of
increasing the independent strength of the women's and workers'
movement, not undermining it. But this example is only hypothetical at
present. The Barrett government has not legislated any women's rights
measures not on child care, not on abortion, not on education, not on
job discrimination, or anything else. The problem is not one of a lack
of structures to implement a vast government program of women's rights
legislation. The problem is that there is no such program of concrete
Any structural proposals we advocate are designed to
facilitate the implementation of measures in the interest of the
oppressed. They are designed to bring out the programmatic content of
such measures, and not as a substitute for the measures or the struggle
to achieve them. They must also pose the independence of the working
class vis-a-vis the state, not simple modifications or reinforcement of
the bourgeois state apparatus.
In this specific instance, the women's ministry demand
lacks programmatic content. It simply proposes structural modifications
in the bourgeois state. In no way does it pose the independence of the mass movement, its mobilization against the
bourgeois state. It is quite conceivable in fact that a ministry, once
established, could backfire against the feminist movement. With its
administration over vast sums of money in the government budget, it
could easily be used by the reformists as a means of interfering in the
independent women's movement, allocating funds to relatively
conservative organizations to bolster them against more militant groups.
We have never demanded a ministry of labor in the
federal government, as a step towards overcoming the exploitation of
workers. We would not raise this demand, even if the federal government
were headed by David Lewis and the proposed minister of labor were a
former worker. We do not demand that Trudeau establish a "ministry of
Native Indian rights" in the federal government in order to "provide
Natives with the tools to begin the systematic elimination of the root
causes of their oppression." Not even if Trudeau finds a Native willing
to serve as his minister. Governmental structures could be agencies for
liberation if we had a workers government. But the B.C. government is
bourgeois that is, it ultimately serves the class interests of the
bourgeoisie and defends the capitalist order. Its structures will not
serve the cause of our liberation no, not even when the Social
Democrats are in office.
Labor Challenge opposed the idea that campaigning
for women's rights should focus on a structural change in the government
apparatus a new ministry rather than focusing on the struggle for
concrete demands which we want the government to implement. Such an
idea, we said, fostered the illusion that somehow the ministry could be
a tool against the government to ensure that the demands of women were
Such an illusion is dangerous because the NDP government
is bourgeois. It is administering the B.C. section of the Canadian
state, not dismantling it. The demand for a ministry of women's rights
poses the possibility of women achieving their demands through
structural changes in the bourgeois state apparatus. This is a total
violation of the Marxist theory of the state.
We have seen through our experience in B.C. how the
whole strategy behind the women's ministry struggle has cut against the
independence of the B.C. NDP women's rights committee from the Barrett
government and the struggle perspective of the committee.
To the reformist strategy of Yandle we counterpose our
revolutionary strategy. Ross Dowson and the LPT don't comment on this.
Labor Challenge explained well how we did this in the September 8
NDP women's conference, but Comrade Dowson and the LPT don't comment on
that article. Nor do they comment on the article we put into the
provincial convention this November, "Make Barrett Apply Women's
Program," in the November 5 Labor Challenge. The last five
paragraphs in this article sum up our views.
The LPT and Comrade Dowson say that the Labor
Challenge article on the ministry pamphlet erred in introducing the
question of the need for revolution, not merely reforms of the state
apparatus, to achieve women's liberation. They say this question is
irrelevant to the debate.
They say that nothing in the articles suggest that
Yandle and Corrigall believe "that the structuring of the new socialist
society can take place on some progressive piecemeal basis of
restructuring the old capitalist apparatus. If they hold this view it is
by no means clear from their written words in the pamphlet under
review." (pg 21)
But it is very clear from the parts of the Yandle
article quoted earlier, and from many other passages we have not
bothered to quote, that this is precisely their view. Corrigall echoes
that this ministry is the way to achieve "real power" for women.
The LPT raises the question has the demand for the
women's ministry proved a diversion in life? The answer to that question
is very clear. It has. It is obvious that future articles in Labor
Challenge will be able to discuss this further from the angle of
our concrete experience.
The LPT ends its case by saying we shouldn't worry about
creating illusions in the state by supporting the ministry demand. They
argue that we are often accused of promoting illusions in the NDP
because we give it critical support. The illusions are already there,
they point out. There are illusions in the state that shouldn't
prevent us from putting demands on the government.
Well, we are not worried about what we are accused of
doing. What is of concern is what we are actually doing. We give
critical support to the NDP as a labor party, against the capitalist
parties, but we express no political confidence in the leadership of
that party. We defend an NDP government against the attacks of the
bourgeoisie, because we understand that the bourgeoisie is attacking the
working class through its attacks on that government. But we defend that
government through our own independent proletarian methods of struggle,
without expressing the least political confidence in that government.
And we continually place demands on an NDP government to meet the real
needs of the class, and attempt to mobilize the working class and its
allies in struggle against it for these demands.
What is the present situation in the NDP? Our work over
the past months has given us a better idea of what is going on. While
membership and union affiliation have not grown significantly, the NDP's
position as the government of three provinces and its position in the
federal parliament have given it a considerably strengthened weight in
Canadian political life.
The turn towards the NDP by the teachers movement in
Ontario is strong evidence of the ability of the NDP to attract newly
radicalizing workers. The break-off of about a thousand persons that
constitute the Waffle in Ontario and Saskatchewan does not seem to have
had a major effect on the NDP as a whole.
The leadership of the NDP is in firm control of the
party with no serious internal divisions. When push came to shove, the
leadership as a whole united behind the purge against the Waffle.
There is presently no organized broad left-wing current
within the party either of reformist or class struggle orientation. With
the exception of the struggle against anti-labor legislation in British
Columbia and the feminist forces at various stages of development within
the party across the country, there is little visible motion within the
NDP at this time.
While the situation varies from province to province,
the constituency organizations of the party are generally inactive.
There is a certain unease in the party at the role of
the federal caucus in parliament expressed for example, in the widely-publicized letter from Toronto Riverdale riding executive stating
dissatisfaction with the federal caucus's support to the Liberals.
Comrades in Winnipeg report that some unease with the provincial
government's inaction was evident in the party ranks at the recent
convention of the Manitoba NDP.
Such restlessness is widely dispersed and unorganized.
Certainly the development of a large cross-country left wing current is
But the recent experiences in British Columbia are a
solid indication of the impact that developing class struggles can have
and will have on the NDP. In Ontario the emergence of a militant
teachers movement will provide new openings for us in our NDP work. The
NDP leaders have been quick to support the teachers' struggle against
strike-breaking legislation. Many teachers in turn look to the NDP in
the process of breaking from the capitalist parties. Our influence in
this movement will permit us to play an important role in the teachers'
impact on the NDP.
Further developments in the class struggle will provide
us with big opportunities to deepen our influence among masses of
working people who are struggling against capitalism and who in the
process of their struggle are bound to confront the barrier posed by the
NDP leadership and program.
How can we best take advantage of the situation as it is
now? How much emphasis should we place on our work in the NDP at this
time? Certainly it would be an error for us, on the basis of our
knowledge that big struggles will occur in the NDP at some future point,
to make any dramatic shifts in the assignment of comrades to this area
at the expense of the deployment of our forces in more immediately
fruitful areas of work.
The branches have to work out the extent of their
intervention in the NDP so as to best take advantage of the resources of
the branch and maximize our flexibility. For example, in Vancouver a
younger layer of comrades has moved into positions of prominence in the
NDP through the work of the branch over the past year. While this has
strengthened our intervention into the NDP, the number of comrades whose
major assignment is in this area of work remains at a little over a
third of the branch.
Similarly, our capacity to capitalize on the decision of
the women's caucus at the federal convention to organize women in the
NDP across the country is limited by the situation in each area and
the state of our own forces, our own priorities in building the LSA/LSO.
In general, while keeping in touch with whatever developments there are
we have found that it is not possible for us to initiate and lead in the
formation of a cross-country women's committee in the NDP on a
continuing basis with permanent structures.
It is necessary of course that all comrades who can
obtain membership do so, keep them up to date, and maintain at least
minimal contact with their NDP constituency associations or their union
political action committees.
It is not possible to predict what course the
radicalization will take as it comes up against the NDP and trade union
leadership. What we are most concerned with is the struggle not the
structure the struggle and the demands around which these struggles
take place. We are trying to popularize an anti-capitalist program and
proletarian methods of struggle.
For example, it would be an error to say, "Well, the
Socialist Caucus was good for us between 1965 and 1969, therefore this
is the way to do it now." The evidence is to the contrary.
It was for this reason that at the federal convention we
did not set up a structured permanent caucus.
Our guidelines for work in the NDP have to be set not on
the basis of schematic projections, but on the basis of our concrete
experience and the situation we face in the NDP today, in the context
of our general appreciation of the place of the NDP in the
radicalization. With this in mind we can trace the outlines of our work
in the following way:
We will be working within the feminist movement in
the NDP, attempting to give it a non-exclusionist action perspective
as part of the feminist movement as a whole. We may be involved in
a struggle against the NDP leadership over the character and control
of the NDP cross-Canada women's conference slated for June at Port
In British Columbia we will be continuing the
campaign against the Bill 11 labor code both inside the NDP and in
the trade union movement. In Ontario and no doubt in other areas we
will be involved in struggles flowing from the radicalization of
teachers and other government workers, as well as the reflection of
this process inside the NDP.
We will work to unite the socialist left in the NDP,
bring it together in struggle against the leadership. We project the
need for a broad class struggle opposition. We seize opportunities
to launch formations or caucuses with this character. The federal
convention is a good example of doing what is possible in this
On one issue or another, whether the energy crisis,
inflation, or unemployment, we will have many opportunities to raise
our program against that of the NDP leadership. We may have the
opportunity to do this in a coming federal election. We will have
openings in the Alberta NDP convention slated for March and the
Ontario NDP convention slated for May. We want to find ways to raise
these questions at the upcoming convention of the Canadian Labor
Congress slated for April in Vancouver.
Through intervention in ongoing struggles such as
the grape boycott, which is supported by the NDP in most areas (with
the notable exception of British Columbia) we can come in contact
with NDP militants open to our views.
We want to deepen the involvement of the NDP in the
defense of Dr. Morgentaler and the defense of political prisoners in
Latin America. We must seize every opportunity to intervene in the
party in an educational way in an effort to reverse the party's
pro-Zionist position on the Middle East.
A consistent effort must be made to get our theory
into the hands of radicalizing elements in and around the NDP. Above
all, this means systematic sales of each issue of Labor Challenge,
as well as sales of Pathfinder literature. It means getting our
pamphlet, the only one giving the Marxist view on the NDP, into the
hands of as many NDP militants as possible. It means popularizing
and getting interested persons down to our forums. It means fighting
attempts by the NDP leadership to exclude us or anyone else, as we
have done in the case of the comrades in Ontario. It means
continuing the full coverage Labor Challenge has been giving
to developments in and around the NDP, so that the many persons in
formations like the Waffle or elsewhere have a source of information
and analysis on the NDP.
Above all we have the responsibility to ground our
movement and those coming to us in the radicalization, in the
fundamental class struggle principles that are the foundation blocks
of our tactical approach to the NDP. Effective polemics against our
opponents on the errors they will make on this question can only be
within this framework. Tactical skill and flexibility is useless
without such a grounding in the basics.
This is how our movement will most effectively be able
to take on reformism in this country at this time. It will not be done
by sectarian abstention from the struggle, RMG or Waffle style. It won't
be done by imposing schematic and artificial formulas on the actual
processes at work.
It will only be done by giving uncompromising,
politically clear leadership to the struggles we know are on the agenda.