Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Right Wing Coup overturns Socialist Win at ONDY Convention

by Tyler MacKinnon, ONDY former executive member-elect

On the first weekend of November, up to seventy students and young workers met in a small hall in Hamilton to make big changes. It was the convention of the Ontario New Democratic Youth (ONDY). It occurs once a year to debate, discuss, and resolve issues within the Ontario New Democrat Party, and ensure a strong voice for party members under the age of 26 years.

Although the aim of the conference was a united voice for the party's youth, from the moment one entered the room a clear division was evident. This was mainly due to the effort made by right wing social democrats to deprive the Toronto Young New Democrats (a downtown-Toronto-based group) of its club charter. Why? It was due the hostility of the outgoing ONDY Executive to socialist ideas, which they claim 'misrepresented the party', and to the alleged TYND "allegiance to a Marxist magazine, Fightback".

This clear violation of democratic principles fostered great tensions throughout the weekend and shaped the debates that took place. Due to the attack on internal democracy, members of TYND, Fight Back, supporters of Socialist Action and the broad NDP Socialist Caucus rallied youth to the conference and worked together to see every pro-democracy and pro-Socialist resolution passed. This included support for policies favouring free post-secondary education, free dental care, condemning both the G20 Summit and the police brutality that accompanied it, as well as reversing the attempt to exclude TYND. By the end of the conference, every leftist resolution was adopted. On the Sunday of the conference, it was time to vote for a new executive to lead ONDY. Under the banner of a 'United Slate for a Democratic and Activist ONDY' the leftist youth worked together and won every position on the executive.

Alas, the win was short-lived. The losers complained to senior party officials, who overturned the results on a technicality. They claimed that a few of the voters and candidates joined the NDP less than 30 days prior to the vote, although the party staff doing registration at the Youth convention did not raise this concern until the very last minute. Their demand to re-register all seventy participants was a delay tactic designed to scuttle the election on Nov. 7, and was rejected as such.

Subsequently, the party's top Administrative Committee imposed a Nov. 28 re-vote on the ONDY. It was conducted at the site of the ONDP Provincial Council, to which most of the original voters could not afford to travel to vote again. There, right wing social democratic youth took 17 out of 20 positions on the ONDY Executive. The margin favouring the right wing was about 50 to 20 for most positions contested. Many of the 50 never before attended an ONDY convention, and probably never will again. They were rallied by the party establishment to return the Youth wing to the role of a subordinate election training school, as opposed to a year-round campaigning organization that fights alongside young workers and students against capitalist rule and for real socialist change.

To put the ONDY back on an activist footing, and to win the NDP to an activist, anti-capitalist perspective, groups like Fightback and the TYND cannot do it alone, as the coup in the ONDY demonstrated. They need to join with radicals, young and veteran, in the Socialist Caucus, the common front of the NDP left. In any event, the shameful right wing coup that seized control of the ONDY will not be soon forgotten.

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