Canadian socialists: `The goals that unite us are vastly more important than our differences'

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Ian Angus addresses the World at a Crossroads conference. Photo by Alex Bainbridge.

By Ian Angus

[Ian Angus is an associate editor of Socialist Voice (Canada). He was a featured guest at the World at a Crossroads conference, organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective and Resistance, and held in Sydney, Australia, April 10-12, 2009. Below is Ian Angus' speech to the final session of the conference: ``World at a Crossroads -- Fighting for our future''.]

I want to begin by thanking the Democratic Socialist Perspective, the Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly for inviting me to participate in this inspiring event. I have of course known of your work from afar -– Green Left Weekly is one of the very best English-language socialist publications in the world -– but this is my first visit here, and I have to say that your work and your dedication is even more impressive close up. I and the other comrades from Canada have been extremely impressed with the conference -– and the many comrades I have met from other countries have said the same thing.

Socialist Voice is a small current in Canada, a network rather than an organisation, that is committed to rebuilding and regrouping the left on a non-sectarian basis. This conference has been an invaluable contribution to that process. It was an opportunity for us to meet and exchange ideas and experiences with activists not only from Australia, but from many countries. With this event, the DSP has set an example of practical, working internationalism that we can all learn from, that all of us, in our home countries, should report, explain and above all emulate.

There are many academic conferences on Marxism these days, but this has been a conference of activists, of people of people who are actually fighting on the front lines, for climate justice, for indigenous rights and sovereignty, against imperialism, and for workers' power. If there is one thing that has been crystal clear at this meeting, it is that the revolutionary left now faces new opportunities to grow, to build and lead struggles far beyond what has been possible for some time. We need to break out of traditional ways of operating, to escape business-as-usual, to find ways to work with individuals, groups and social layers beyond our usual circles of influence.

And, as a comrade said in this room yesterday, there is no justification any more -– if there ever was –- for backbiting, bickering and gossip. Why? Because we have a world to win, a world to change –- and that task is just too important for us to waste time with petty foolishness. The goals that unite us are vastly more important than any differences we may have.

In Canada, where the neoliberal offensive and the collapse of the socialist bloc severely weakened the Marxist left, we are rebuilding –- not as quickly as we'd hope, but nevertheless we are moving forward. We owe the DSP a great debt for the example it has set. We have published Green Left Weekly articles in Socialist Voice, and we've been pleased and honoured that Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal have seen fit to publish some of ours.


In my remarks this afternoon, I want to particularly address a challenge to the comrades who are here from outside Australia. It's too easy for us to sit back and let the DSP organise conferences we can attend, to let the DSP write articles we can reprint, to let the DSP organise international brigades to Venezuela, and so on. What I would like to see as a result of this conference, is for all the comrades who are here from outside Australia, to commit themselves to extending this practical, working internationalism.

Some of us come from very small groupings, some from fast-growing revolutionary parties –- but all of us have a role to play in building a working international movement.

What we need to do above all is to create ever more opportunities to do what we've done this weekend, to share experiences and ideas on a continuing basis.

For example, I was very pleased to be able to spend a week before this conference speaking on climate change in several Australian cities, and in the process meeting and learning from a wide range of climate crisis activists. We need to do much more of that, not just on a bilateral basis, but multilaterally. It would be wonderful if a conference like this could be organised in India, or South Africa, or even, one day, in Canada. Not all of our organisations have the resources to do that today, but we can all begin moving in that direction.

We also need to expand our exchange of articles, documents and publications. The internet is a great resource that we do not use nearly enough. When the comrades in India publish a pamphlet, for example, it could be instantly available for printing in other countries –- that wouldn’t require huge effort, but it would greatly expand the resources all of us can call on.

Much of the most important revolutionary thought and analysis in the world today is being developed and published in Spanish –- in Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. Through cooperative efforts, we could expand the amount of that material that is well translated and widely disseminated, perhaps in printed form, but definitely in electronic form.

I'm very sure there are other ways that we can expand the exchange of ideas and experiences. To some degree, what we need to do is simply to consciously and deliberately take advantage of tools we already have -– websites, discussion forums and so on. But more than that, we need to make a commitment to allocate real resources, to expand our own material contributions to the practical internationalism we've seen here.

International collaboration

Please understand, I am not in anyway suggesting that we need or should create a new international organisation. None of us wishes to be, and none of us should accept, any kind of “leading party” or international centre”. No toy internationals, no standardised international tactics. That hasn't worked in the past, and we know it won’t work now.

But we also know that every current, every group and every individual in this room, has much to offer and share, and that each of us will be stronger if we can share the work with others. We will build an international movement not by setting up artificial structures, but by finding every possible opportunity to exchange visits, articles, experiences, concrete support and more. My challenge to the international guests here –- and I definitely include my comrades from Canada –- is that we move beyond accidental and occasional collaboration, towards a deliberate effort to work together on a regular and continuing basis.

Comrades, this conference could not have been better named. The world is at a crossroads. The choice between socialism and barbarism has never been so stark, or so immediate, or so pressing. All of us are conscious of what a huge task we face, of the immense responsibility that rests on our shoulders, on the shoulders of the publications, groups and parties we are part of.

We have an historic obligation to do everything possible to build a global movement to rid the world of capitalism forever. This meeting is a step towards that sacred objective, and I urge everyone here to build on this success, to make practical internationalism a key part of all of our political work in the coming year.

Together -— and only together -— we can win.