Socialist writer speaks to students

Richard Dufour discusses the Occupy movement with students and Kingston locals in Dunning Hall

Protesters occupied St. James Park in Toronto this month as part of a wider movement advocating for global equity. The protesters were evicted from the park last week.
Protesters occupied St. James Park in Toronto this month as part of a wider movement advocating for global equity. The protesters were evicted from the park last week.
Graham Beverley helped ratify the Queen's chapter of the International Students for Social Equity as an AMS club in 2009.
Graham Beverley helped ratify the Queen's chapter of the International Students for Social Equity as an AMS club in 2009.

A representative for an international socialist group visited campus last week, dubbing the Occupy movement the new socialist struggle.

Signs in the auditorium read “Jobs for everyone!” and “For socialism!” The event garnered the most attention a socialist club has seen on campus this year. The Queen’s chapter of the International Students for Social Equality (ISSE) hosted the public meeting called “Occupy Movement and Beyond” last week.

The meeting attracted 12 people to Dunning Hall to hear Richard Dufour’s address.

Dufour writes for the World Socialist Website, an online publication of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI).

The ICFI was founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938. Sixty years later, the ICFI founded its website, soliciting Dufour to help with the launch.

The Kingston ISSE is one of 10 chapters of the Socialist Equality Party and ICFI.

“The ISSE is a student movement of the ICFI. This organization traces its roots to the movement founded by Leon Trotsky ... expelled from the Third International and the Communist Party around the world after Stalin came to power,” ISSE executive Graham Beverley said.

“Subsequently, our political movement [the ICFI] and life was subjected to a campaign of physical violence that culminated in hundreds of thousands of killings in the USSR.”

Beverley, ArtSci ‘12 wouldn’t disclose the exact number of group members, but estimated the figure to be “a couple dozen.”

“Our movement takes the security of its members very seriously,” he said. “In that sense it doesn’t willingly provide a lot of organizational information.”

He said the group of six executive members will host 12 more meetings before the end of the school year.

“We go through specific historical and political issues,” he said, adding that they are hoping to facilitate discussion on issues through the public meeting structure.

Beverley helped ratify the Queen’s chapter of ISSE as an AMS club in 2009.

“Fundamentally, the political options that we have offered to students at Queen’s is insufficient and the ISSE is here to fill that political vacuum in the left,” he said, citing a lack of information regarding Marxist and socialist theory in the classroom.

“We wanted to propagate those ideas and form an organization to act on that perspective,” Beverley said.

ISSE meetings typically gather about six people. Beverley attributes increased attendance at the latest meeting to Dufour’s discussion of the Occupy protests.

After nearly two months of protest, a decision on the eviction of Occupy Kingston protesters in Confederation Park will be put to vote at city council on Dec. 6.

Eviction of groups in the worldwide movement began in mid-November.

According to Dufour, the Occupy Wall Street movement is the beginning of a new socialist struggle.

“It raises very critical questions, in particular the question of massive growth of social inequality today,” Dufour told the audience at Dunning.

“The socialist movement is all about the struggle for social equality to the extent that social equality [is] carried out.”

He said the older, working class generations are important in the Occupy movement.

“Those who have perhaps gone through the experiences in the past ... will bring the lessons from those former struggles,” Dufour said, adding that energetic youth will play a central role in the new movement.

It’s this energy that can make or break the movement as its various chapters face eviction, he said.

Around 200 protesters in Zuccotti Park, New York, were evicted by city order on Nov. 15.

Dufour said that incidents like this, when the governing body seems to turn against its citizens, are related to events like the riots at the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto. Police violence at the riots continues to be heavily criticized.

“Basic democratic rights were basically violated,” he said. “People were shocked to see things like that could happen in Canada.”

Dufour said “anti-democratic measures” are gaining prominence in society.

“A number of laws have been passed under the cover of the anti-terror struggle,” he said. “Laws have been passed to allow the state to drop eaves on conversations, on telephone conversations, emails and so on.

“Increasingly, the state is taking on new powers to ... take measure against those who are protesting their policies.”

In 2005, the American government extended their Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to apply to public broadband networks. CALEA allows the government to pursue lawful interception for the purpose of law enforcement and criminal investigation.

“All these measures taken together represent ... the turn of the ruling establishment away from key democratic principles,” Dufour said. “The problem with that approach is society is still divided into various classes with various interests ... One cannot evade the class issues and class struggles.”

A lack of clear leadership caused the Occupy protests to fizzle out, Dufour said, adding that it was misguided for protesters to focus on appealing to their government.

“There was no real attempt to go into working class neighbourhoods, workplaces, factories, offices where workers work, and try to appeal to those and raise the issues of inequality, of the anti-democratic measures and so on,” he said.

Dufour said the people who should have rightfully pursued this cause couldn’t afford to leave their jobs for the protest.

“Of course, it is a complex issue,” Dufour said. “But we do believe a new period is opening up where the working class will again come into struggle, notwithstanding the complexities and difficulties.

“[They will] risk involvement in terms of jobs, but we do feel the spirit of self-sacrifice and solidarity will again re-emerge and play a dominant role in the outlook of everyday working people.”

Looming threats to Occupy Kingston are telling of an unsteady future, Dufour said, adding that smaller protests can add up.

“Obviously those who are involved in the Occupy movement, even in those smaller places like Kingston, have the right motivations to take action,” he said. “At the same time, we believe the movement or these issues go way beyond these small Occupy movements.

“The extent that they limit themselves to small protests [by] not looking outwards in particular to the general working population ... [means] connecting the issues of inequality with the everyday problems then becomes difficult.”

According to Dufour, socialism’s future will be marked by struggle. He said he predicts a fight against international demands for less funding in healthcare, education and social programs.

“[The class of] working people should develop its own social demands, its own advocates, its own rights — the right to a job, the right to healthcare, the right to education — their social rights,” he said.

“That’s why a political party is required to advocate those rights and fight for them and organize the struggle for them.”

— With files from Terra-Ann Arnone

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