by Barry Weisleder
"Marxism versus Anarchism" was the biggest draw at the third annual Socialist Action Trotsky School in Toronto, November 19-20. The Saturday afternoon debate featured SA-USA leader Adam Shils, from Chicago, and Mick Sweetman, a member of the Ontario-based anarchist group Common Cause. It showed how such an encounter can be respectful of differences, and at the same time sharp and informative.
Both sides, including numerous audience participants, rejected the Black Bloc tactic of inflicting damage on commercial property, defended all victims of police violence, and argued in favour of mobilizing working people "at the point of production" against the current capitalist austerity drive.
Although serious differences remain over the need for a revolutionary party and a workers' state to lead the transition to socialism, this all-too-uncommon conversation confirmed there is a basis for Marxists and anarchists to work together. That includes efforts to end the wars of occupation in the Middle East, campaigning to free U.S. political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, and working to build a class struggle opposition in the unions to end labour concessions and to foster union democracy.
In all, over fifty people attended the two-day Education for Activists Conference held at the University of Toronto. The Friday evening talk on "James P. Cannon -- Building the revolutionary party under North American conditions" was preceded by a rousing fund appeal by two Ontario New Democratic Youth Executive-Elect members. They collected more than one hundred dollars to subsidize travel for NDP youth members planning to attend a 're-vote' conference imposed by Ontario NDP officials (at the behest of the deposed ONDY right wing) in an attempt to reverse the election of an activist, leftist slate on November 7 at the ONDY convention in Hamilton, Ontario.
Presentations on "The relevance of the ideas of Leon Trotsky" by this writer, and "What it means to be a Revolutionary Today" by Toronto SA executive member Julius Arscott, sparked animated and stimulating discussions.
The conference was capped by a very pleasant Social at a nearby pub. Participants kept the literature table staff busy handling a steady stream of purchases of SA newspapers, buttons and booklets. The welcome addition of one new member and three other people who expressed an interest in working closely with SA-Canada were additional signs of the success of the gathering. Our next major educational conference will be held in Toronto in May 2011.