After almost 3 months of constant struggle the fight within the Ontario New Democratic Youth appears to have reached a settlement. At the November 27-28th Ontario NDP Provincial Council the activist youth failed to hold the positions they previously won on the ONDY executive, but they won a much more important battle. Red-baiting and the de-chartering of the Toronto Young New Democrats have been decisively defeated, and an executive was elected that appears to be further to the left than the previous exec and committed to more activism. The activism of the Toronto Young New Democrats, and their successful fight back against red-baiting, has led to the whole of ONDY being moved to the left with socialists recognized as a constituent part.
On the Saturday of Provincial Council the youth moved to appeal the annulling of the Hamilton convention executive elections. Against attempts to deny them the right to speak, they passionately defended the new activism of the youth and pointed out that this re-vote would disenfranchise dozens of young members who had made the sacrifice in time and money to travel to Hamilton for the real convention, but would not be able to attend the re-vote on short notice. Despite not winning the appeal, many key sections of the party contacted the young activists to set up common work.
The ONDY executive re-vote occurred the following day. It was clear that a whole new layer of people had been brought out to this vote who were not present at the Hamilton convention. There was also a significant involvement of people who could be broadly described as activists connected with the Canadian Federation of Students. This is a section of the party youth that had been less active in recent years, allowing a right-wing red-baiting element to come forward. In total there were just under 70 voting delegates. These new layers of people were brought to the convention even though they were not previously involved. However, we welcome this as “the more, the better”. Socialists are always happy to discuss with new people, explain socialist ideas and hopefully with time win them over.
As the votes came in it was clear that those running against the supporters of the Toronto Young New Democrats and the executive elected in Hamilton had a majority in the room. Support was about 70:30 each way. However, what was significant was that the candidates coming forward were stating that the de-chartering of TYND was a mistake that would be reversed. That all were welcome and what ONDY needs is unity and activism. In an important symbol of inclusion, Jennie Ernewein, co-chair of the TYND, was elected GTA coordinator by a large majority.
The Toronto youth and their supporters have explained that they would be more than happy to be in a minority in a campaigning democratic ONDY where they had the right to be active and present their socialist ideas. That appears to have been achieved. It is also very encouraging that a whole layer of new youth were brought out who were not previously active; even though in the main these youth voted against TYND’s supporters. This is not surprising as the candidates for the positions only had 30 seconds to describe who they are and what they stand for – unlike in a real convention where there is 2 full days of policy debates and plenty of informal discussion in the bar. We do not know what horror stories were told to these new members about the “evil, baby-eating, devil-worshipping, socialists from Toronto”, but 30 seconds is obviously not enough to dispel such misconceptions. After a year or two of activity these new members will see who really does work on the ground. Encouraging all sectors of the youth to work hard to bring out more and more people is in many ways a victory for the Toronto youth. We sincerely hope that the new executive actually keeps their commitment to organize these people in real activity and not just use them as a passive voting block. TYND activists have repeated on numerous occasions that everybody, especially new members, are welcome to attend TYND meetings and get active in collectively decided goals.
We look forward to TYND being re-chartered so they can turn the page on this divisive and unnecessary episode and say, “never again!”. The youth are to be congratulated for holding together under constant barrage for such a long period. Now they can get back to opposing the real enemy, the Liberals and Conservatives, and fighting for an NDP victory in 2011. The Hamilton ONDY convention passed many excellent resolutions, for free education, on an activist party, against police brutality and G20 austerity, and this leaves a lot of room for rank-and-file activism within the NDP.
However, we must also raise a note of caution. Andrea Horwath was elected as ONDP leader stating that “We won’t check our socialism at the door.” Long-standing left NDP MPP Peter Kormos, who was a major Horwath supporter during the leadership campaign, even spoke of purging the bureaucracy and creating an activist party right after Horwath was elected. Unfortunately, there are growing signs that rather than purging the bureaucracy, Horwath may be coming under its sway. Three large posters were presented at Provincial Council as a preview of party messaging heading into the 2011 election. A serious looking Horwath stands below slogans such as, “Can balance a budget, in heels” or “More clip and save than tax and spend” and worse of all, “Knows “business” isn’t a four letter word.” No talk of why there are massive bailouts and tax-cuts for “business” while workers and the poor face cutbacks and unemployment. All these posters contained the final quote, “Not your grandfather’s NDP.” Many thought that these posters were demeaning to women, others commented, “What a shame…because my grandfather’s NDP was the NDP of Tommy Douglas!” If the NDP runs on a platform of denying its own roots then the next election is sure to be a complete disaster. It is not too late for the party and the youth to turn this around. For their part, we are confident that the young activists will do whatever they can to defeat the corporate parties; we only hope that the NDP leadership will put forward a platform that will actually inspire people to support the party.
Many of the youth are justifiably angry at what is seen as a bureaucratic manipulation of a legitimate convention where the left won. There is a growing feeling that there is one rule for the establishment and another rule for everyone else. However, the final results of this period can only be regarded as a victory for those fighting for an activist NDP youth wing. Red-baiting has shown itself to be completely discredited. Those who unleashed the attack on TYND never expected such a vigorous response, which had the effect of moving ONDY to the left and not the right. Two or three times more youth came out for the ONDY election(s) than in previous years and many are now committed activists. The ONDY passed a series of socialist inspired resolutions including the commitment to organize a campaign around free education and a genuinely democratic discipline process. And last but not least, TYND’s activist model of organizing has won recognition as a successful and legitimate constituent part of the party with the right to present its point of view. That is all the activist youth ever wanted, and that is what they have achieved.