• Co-ops, collectives and communes: Can we live the revolution
now? – Sid Lacombe
The threats facing the planet and its population have become so grave
that many people are already taking action to build alternatives to
global capitalism. From local food and housing co-ops to regional
fair trade networks, co-operative systems of organizing continue to
spread. What is the potential of these alternatives? This session
will consider whether we have to wait for a revolution before we start
building a socialist society.
• What would socialism look like? – Brian
Some people say “socialism sounds like a great idea, but it’s
not possible in real life.” Yet capitalism clearly isn’t
working. This session will look at some of the key concepts of socialism—social
control of the wealth of society, production for human need and not
for profit, and the abolition of class divisions. How could a society
based on these principles tackle the pressing crises facing the world
today, from climate change and war to poverty and famine?
• Why we consume crap – John Bell
Workers with and without jobs consume a range of products of little
value, and often to the detriment of health, happiness and the environment.
From the food we eat and the clothes we wear, to the TV we watch and
the toys we buy: workers consume a lot of crap. Why do we do this?
This session will discuss Marxist concepts of commodity fetishism,
alienation and consciousness—as a means of making sense of our
world, and of building resistance to capitalism.
• Whose truth? Science under capitalism – Bradley
Following the great bourgeois revolutions of the 19th century, science
developed great breakthroughs in medicine and technology. But does
science always propel us forward? The “Green Revolution”
in agriculture also produced soil erosion and spread the use of toxic
pesticides. “Clean” nuclear power brought the disasters
of Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island. And now, the threat of human-induced
climate change looms over the planet. To understand the nature of
science today, we have to go back to the origins of science and capitalism.
• The radical roots of Pride – Christine Beckermann
The recent controversy over the City of Toronto's threat to pull funding
for Pride Day has raised a debate about the history and nature of
the fight for LGBT liberation. From the Stonewall riots of 1969 to
today's battle around censoring political participation in Pride,
this talk will look at how the fight for LGBT liberation has been
entwined with other struggles for emancipation.
Feminism, Secularism and Islam – Sedef Arat-Koç,
Gilary Massa & Benoit Renaud
Does secularism protect women’s rights? Do Muslim women need
the protection of Western feminists? The recent debate over ‘reasonable
accommodation’ in Québec and the world-wide controversy
over the wearing of headscarves have posed a challenge for progressive
forces. Join us for this panel discussion about women, secularism,
faith and the freedom to choose.
• Canada’s racist immigration policies
– Abbie Bakan
Capitalists and their money travel freely around the world, disrupting
local communities and creating displacement and migration crises.
Wars, persecution, environmental devastation and economic hardship
force millions to leave their homes and family. Around the world,
state immigration policies contribute to the exploitation and discrimination
faced by newcomers. Has Canada’s record been any better? This
session discusses the Canadian state's approach to immigration, and
how we can defeat racist legislation.
• Floods, famines and earthquakes: The rise of disaster
capitalism – Jesse McLaren
Numerous so-called “natural disasters” like the 2004 tsunami,
Hurricane Katrina and the recent earthquake in Haiti have captured
headlines. But are these kinds of disasters inevitable? This session
will look not only at the way capitalism takes advantage of these
crises, but also the way in which it creates the pre-conditions for
catastrophe, from distorting the economies of the Global South to
politicizing and militarizing international aid.
• After Cochabamba: The global fight for climate justice –
Clayton Thomas-Muller, Tar sands campaigner, Indigenous Environmental
Network; Andrea Harden, Council of Canadians and participant in Cochabamba
Climate Summit; Charlotte Ireland, editor, Socialist Worker
In response to what was largely seen as a failure of the Copenhagen
climate change talks last December, Bolivian President Evo Morales
announced his country would host an alternative Climate Change summit
in April, engaging social movements from around the world. Join us
for this evening discussion about what’s next in the global
fight for climate justice.
• Can the market solve climate change? – Jessica
Bell & Charlotte Ireland
As the reality of climate change hits home for growing numbers of
people, the private sector is trying to peddle “profitable solutions”.
In Ontario, the development of clean energy alternatives has been
relegated to the private sector, and both the federal and Ontario
governments have pledged to eliminate incandescent bulbs by 2010.
But most compact fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, are made virtually
by hand by poorly-paid workers in China, and then shipped by trains,
planes and automobiles around the world. This session will examine
market proposals to stop climate change, discuss the potential of
individual choice, and compare the economic power of consumers with
that of workers at the point of production.
• Tar Sands: The case against the world’s most
destructive development – Clayton Thomas Muller, Tar
sands campaigner, Indigenous Environmental Network
In northern Alberta, the tar/oil sands developments have completely
altered the landscape, with documented cases of toxic contamination,
de-watering of water systems and watersheds, and disruption to the
Aboriginal Dene, Cree and Métis cultures and their treaty rights.
Join Indigenous Environmental Network to discuss, share and learn
strategies on the emerging First Nations-led social movement to shut
down the tar sands.
• Marxism and ecology: is capitalism justly sustainable?
– Kim Kerridge
Karl Marx was a fierce critic of how capitalism alienated human beings
from nature. He understood that environmental ruin is at the heart
of capitalist production, but not an inevitable consequence of human
development, or a function of overpopulation. Instead, Marxism offers
an alternative explanation, and suggests strategies to stop climate
change and transform society.
• From South Africa to Israel: Histories of apartheid
– Joe Kelly & Clare O'Connor
It has been 20 years since the fall of South African Apartheid, yet
today apartheid continues in Palestine. This session will look at
Canada’s role in apartheid regimes from South Africa to Palestine,
identify the lessons of the South African experience and discuss strategies
to support Palestinian liberation.
• The New McCarthyism: Harper’s attack on Palestine solidarity
– Tim McCaskell, Diana Ralph, Khaled Mouammar, Rafeef Ziadah
Since the Israeli bombing of Lebanon and Gaza, growing numbers around
the world are re-examining their views on Israel. The call for boycott,
divestment and sanctions against Israel as a non-violent and peaceful
means of ending Israeli Apartheid has become the focus of a vicious
campaign to silence those building solidarity with Palestinians. In
March 2009, British MP George Galloway was prevented from entering
Canada to speak about his campaign for Palestinian solidarity. In
February 2010, the Ontario Legislative Assembly took the unprecedented
move to censure the Israeli Apartheid Week campaign, organized by
students on dozens of campuses in Canada and around the world. A similar
motion was introduced in, but not unanimously supported by, the House
of Commons. Join us for this discussion on next steps for the Palestine
• Zombie capitalism: Global crisis and the relevance
of Marx – Faline Bobier
While bankers claim the global economic crisis is over, millions of
workers around the world continue to face hardship and misery. Some
countries appear to have returned to growth, but there is growing
concern about a new debt crisis that could result in debt-default
in countries from Greece to Portugal—tipping the global banking
system back into crisis. Why does capitalism go into crisis in the
first place? This session will examine how crises are rooted in unplanned
competition and exploitation, and look at the new set of contradictions
currently facing global capitalism.
• Sinomania: Can China save capitalism? –
For the past decade or more, China has enjoyed double-digit growth,
and appears to be an unstoppable competitor within global capitalism.
During the global economic crisis, a slow-down in growth spurred the
Chinese government to introduce a massive stimulus package. The Chinese
economy improved and peripheral economies got a boost. Resource exporting
countries, including Canada, are betting that China’s appetite
for raw materials will continue unabated. Is this optimism realistic?
Will China save the global economy? What is China’s relationship
with the US? Will the Chinese working class resist?
• Can capitalism be fixed? Marx vs Keynes
– Jonathon Hodge
Can capitalism be reformed through the adoption of regulated markets
and regulated finance? Can it be fixed through the creation of social
programs and state intervention in fiscal policy? This session will
compare the theories of Karl Marx and British economist John Maynard
Keynes, and consider their relevance to today’s economic crisis.
RADICALS & REBELS
• Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution
– Octavian Cadabeschi
Leon Trotsky was a key figure in the successful workers’ revolution
in Russia in 1917. He devoted his life to fighting the rise of Stalinism
and preserving the theory of socialism from below. Eventually exiled
from Stalin’s Russia, Trotsky was murdered in Mexico City in
1940 by a Stalinist agent. This session will highlight some of Trotsky’s
most important political and theoretical contributions to the socialist
• Lenin: Democrat or dictator? – Ritch Whyman
Over the years, Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin has been labelled
both dictator and demagogue. This session will examine Lenin’s
contributions to revolutionary theory and strategy—including
his theory of imperialism and his concept of the revolutionary party—and
assess whether they are useful for today’s movements and struggles.
• Noam Chomsky: Media and mass action – Jason
Noam Chomsky is one of the most well known political dissidents in
the US. A self-described anarchist, Chomsky is particularly well-known
for his critique of the mainstream media as a business that must conform
to corporate and state interests in order to generate profit. This
session will discuss Chomsky’s political contributions and limitations,
while assessing prospects for mass action and revolutionary change.
• Clara Zetkin: The Communist Women's International (1921-1926)
– John Riddell
In 1921, four years after the Russian revolution, Clara Zetkin –
along with a brilliant team of women revolutionaries – set out
to build a world movement of communist women. Sadly, the network they
built was one of the first victims of Stalinism. This talk will focus
on the efforts and achievements of these revolutionary women in building
the Communist Women's International.
• Gramsci and Lukács: How do ideas change?
– Chantal Sundaram
Antonio Gramsci and György Lukács both explored Marxist
concepts of ideology, false consciousness and hegemony. Both were
interested in the interplay between material conditions and consciousness,
and both made important contributions to the development of counter-hegemonic
theory and practice. This session will explore their contributions,
and discuss the relationship between consciousness and revolution.
• Rosa Luxemburg: Strikes, reforms and revolutions
– Amelia Murphy-Beaudoin
Rosa Luxemburg, a Polish revolutionary living in Germany during World
War One, was among the greatest political and economic theorists of
her time. A respected leader who was killed during the German Revolution,
Luxemburg’s book Reform or Revolution is an invaluable
explanation of why capitalism cannot be reformed, and her theories
on the mass strike are still essential reading.
• Obama’s America: One year later –
Virginia Rodino & Eric Fretz
In November 2008, the election of Barack Obama as the first black
President of the United States raised expectations for a better United
States. But after nearly 18 months in office, none of Obama’s
progressive promises have been implemented. Meanwhile, troops remain
in Iraq and Obama has increased the number of troops in Afghanistan
as part of the new military surge. This session will survey the current
US political landscape, including the rise of the right, and discuss
the potential for American social movements to win radical demands.
• Should Socialists be in the NDP? –
Peter Leibovitch, Joel Harden & Pam Frache
In 1933 and in throes of the Great Depression, the Co-operative Commonwealth
Federation (the fore-runner to the New Democratic Party) launched
the Regina Manifesto: a sharp rebuke of capitalism and a call for
a fundamental redistribution of wealth. Thousands joined the party
for its radical vision and alternative to the market. Today, the NDP
has no such vision—even as workers face the worst crisis since
the Great Depression. This session will trace the NDP’s shift
from the ideals of the Regina Manifesto to today’s electoral
pragmatism, and will consider whether socialists should be inside
or outside the NDP.
• Democracy in Canada: Is it disappearing? –
Defenders of capitalism like to equate the “free market”
and democracy. Yet in Canada, a minority government: prorogued Parliament
to avoid accountability, ignored Supreme Court rulings to repatriate
Omar Khadr; parliamentary motions to allow Iraq War Resisters to stay
in Canada; and consciously disrupts parliamentary committees and processes.
Even such basic legal norms as “innocent until proven guilty”
and “habeas corpus,” won in the great bourgeois revolutions
of the 19th century, are being eroded. If capitalism developed by
extending democratic rights, why is it withdrawing them now? How can
we overcome the division between politics and economics inherent in
• From Cairo to Tehran: The fight for democracy in the
Middle East – James Clark & Niaz Salimi
Canada and the US maintain friendly relations with some of the world’s
most brutal regimes, from Mubarak in Egypt to the Saudi Royal Family.
At the same time, they demonize and threaten countries not under their
control—in the name of spreading democracy and improving human
rights. This session will discuss the growing movements for democracy
throughout the Middle East, the contradictions facing Western imperialism
and prospects for genuine liberation.
• From draft-dodgers to war measures: The real legacy
of Pierre Trudeau – Jessica Squires
Until 1970, only draft dodgers from the Vietnam War - not deserters
- were allowed to cross the border, and all Vietnam War resisters
faced hardships in finding jobs and housing. In October 1970, the
Trudeau government invoked the War Measures Act, and sent troops into
the streets of Montreal. What followed was 55 days of brutal repression.
This session will discuss this apparent contradiction, and consider
whether there really was a golden age of Liberalism in Canada.
• Revolutions and coups: Latin America today
– Paul Kellogg
The last 15 years have seen major upheavals and successful mass movements
all over Latin America, inspiring millions around the world. How can
socialists both build solidarity and share analysis for advancing
socialism? This session will discuss the dynamics of the movements,
as well as opportunities, contradictions and challenges, including
the ongoing threat of Western imperialism.
• The new ‘scramble for Africa’
– Abdi Dirshe & Ali Awali
Africa has been the target of colonial exploitation since the dawn
of capitalism. Today a new ‘scramble for Africa’ comes
on the heels of decades of imperialist and neo-colonialist intervention
in the region. This session will explore the current geo-political
interests at play on the African continent, examine imperial rivalries
between the US and China, and discuss prospects for self-determination
and liberation of African peoples.
• Afghanistan and Pakistan: Imperialism’s new
fault line – Salmaan Khaan & Judith Orr
As the war in Afghanistan sinks deeper into quagmire, the US has opened
up a new war front: Pakistan. Increasing numbers of civilian deaths
in both countries are escalating tensions in the region. This session
will assess the current war in Afghanistan, examine the shared ethnicities
of the peoples in the region and outline the dangers of the US strategy.
• Twenty years since Oka: The fight for indigenous sovereignty
– Ellen Gabriel & Valerie Lannon
Twenty years ago, the construction of a golf course on indigenous
lands created what became known as the “Oka Crisis”. In
the aftermath, a Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples made hundreds
of recommendations to improve the lives of Canada’s First Nations
peoples. Since then, poverty, infant mortality, access to services
and other social indicators have remained virtually unchanged. Join
us for this discussion about the ongoing resistance of First Nations
in Canada, and what we can do to build and spread solidarity.
• Canada’s ‘war on terror’: from secret trials
to torture – Christine Jones, Mohamed Harkat & Shanaaz Gokool
From secret trials and the indefinite incarceration faced predominantly
by Muslim men, to the latest revelations of Canada’s involvement
in releasing Afghan detainees to face torture, Canada’s basic
civil liberties have been compromised. At the same time, there is
growing opposition to Harper’s moves to curtail civil liberties.
Join us for this discussion of the impact at home and abroad of Canada’s
war on terror.
• Building a bigger left: Lessons from Québec
solidaire – Benoit Renaud & Monique Moisan
Thousands of people mobilized in the streets of Quebec City against
the Summit of the Americas in 2001. In February 2003, a quarter of
a million people demonstrated in Montreal against the Iraq War. Between
these events, in 2002, the Union des forces progressistes came together
to pose a popular, progressive electoral alternative in Quebec. In
2006, UFP and Option Citoyenne merged to establish a new political
party: Québec solidaire. In December 2008, QS elected its first
member to Quebec’s National Assembly. This session will evaluate
the accomplishments of QS, discuss its vision for the coming year
and consider the lessons for progressives in English Canada.
• Picket lines & protest signs: Canada’s working class
– Michelle Robidoux
While Canada and Quebec have rich histories of militancy and resistance,
we rarely read about it in history books. This session will bring
working class history to life, from the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike
to the historic and continuing battles at Vale Inco and US Steel.
• Crisis and resistance from Greece to the G20–
Kostas Katarahias, General Council, Federation of Hospital Doctors
Unions of Greece; Judith Orr, Socialist Workers Party; Carolyn
Egan, President, Steelworkers’ Toronto Area Council, leading
member of the International Socialists
In Europe, social democratic coalition governments are attacking workers,
attempting to cut pay, pensions, services and jobs. But resistance
has been remarkable. Greek workers, students and pensioners have mounted
general strikes. Similar strikes have taken place in Portugal and
Spain. The growing resistance could threaten the hegemony of the European
Union. In June, member states of the G8 and G20—the world’s
most powerful economies—will meet in Canada to discuss how to
save global capitalism. Thousands of labour and community activists
are expected to protest. Join us for this panel discussion of the
growing resistance from Greece to the G20.
• How do we build solidarity? – Steve
Craig, Cadillac Fairview 61; Pam Johnson
Solidarity matters: from the lockout of 61 employees by Cadillac-Fairview
and the blockade of Progressive Mouldings and Plastics (PMP) by non-union,
mostly newcomer workers, to the public and private sector strikes
in Windsor, Toronto, and Sudbury. This panel will discuss how we can
move small, isolated struggles into wider, more united fight-backs,
and why the workers’ movement is the key to winning real, lasting
• A tribute to Howard Zinn (post-talk evening
session) – John Bell
featuring excerpts from Zinn's Marx in Soho
• Introduction to the IS (lunch-time session)