Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rebuilding the Left: Reflections from the Saskatchewan Waffle

Forty years ago a manifesto entitled “For an Independent Socialist Canada” was published by a group of left NDP activists. This movement, strong in Saskatchewan, came to be called the Waffle.

Rebuilding the Left aims to have participants reflect upon the experience of the Saskatchewan Waffle and discuss what the left needs to do to rebuild a movement here to challenge the growing attack from the right.

To register for the conference, contact Joe Roberts at sjroberts@sasktel.net or phone 352-9289.

The Conference is free. Lunch provided but donations will be requested to defray costs.

Bookmark this page as more information on the agenda is developed.

Facebook page.

Draft Agenda for Rebuilding the Left

Saturday, January, 30

Conference Begins 10:00 a.m.
Chair - Hugh Wagner, former Waffle member


Brief Presentations on the Waffle Experience
Speakers  - Lorne Brown, former Waffle member and historian
                  - Don Mitchell, Waffle candidate
                    in the 1970 provincial NDP leadership election
Brief Presenattions on left activism today
Speakers   - Cara Banks, feminist and trade unionist
                  -  David Mitchell, Briarpatch editor and activist

Questions and Discussion will follow the presentations


Facilitator - Adriane Paavo
What can the left do?

Adjourn 3:00 p.m.

Recommended Pre-conference readings:

Statement on Rebuilding the Left: Reflections from the Waffle

Forty years ago a manifesto entitled “For an Independent Socialist Canada” was published by a group of students, young faculty and social activists in Ontario. It was soon endorsed by many who sought the same goals across Canada, including Saskatchewan. Strangely, perhaps, 1969 was not a time of economic crisis in the capitalist world that might explain such a manifesto. But it did come at the end of a decade in which the crisis of democracy had become glaringly apparent.

Recently there have been invitations issued for gatherings in Winnipeg and Toronto to celebrate the memory of the Waffle Manifesto. The Waffle experience in Saskatchewan arose differently and had different effects from other places. Many who participated in that movement and were influenced by the experience remain politically and socially active today.

Now Canada and the world are in the grip of a severe economic and social crisis of capitalist development. To those who experienced the mobilization forty years ago it must seem strange that there has been no similar uprising of protest and demand for change comparable to what the manifesto in its innocence proclaimed. For as alarming as the present crisis is, it is far worse that no voice of challenge has arisen from a left demanding a new social system.

So some obvious questions seem to present themselves: for those who experienced the Waffle here is there anything useful to be said about the present state of affairs? Would it serve any purpose in stimulating initiative to gather and discuss the present crisis?

Of course, many issues unexamined during the Waffle era have now become evident and contribute even larger threats than the cyclical economic crisis. The most awesome is environmental breakdown. But the development of industrial agriculture which began to be evident forty years ago is now a scourge globally as well as in our own neighborhood. The long record of injustice to the aboriginal population, generally overlooked by the left in the past, is today inescapable. These and other changes significantly affect the landscape now faced by us who felt confident of change in those past decades.

Yet it is also true that those who are no longer with us have been replaced by others who, as if fellow travelers, aspire to a society – a world – no longer in thrall to capital accumulation, war and class rule. Of necessity this message is addressed initially to those who experienced the Waffle call, but those who emerged subsequently with similar views are invited to respond to this initiative.

1969 Waffle Manifesto: For an Independent and Socialist Canada
Link here.

1973 Saskatchewan Waffle brochure
Link here.

Socialist Project: What Should We Do To Help Build a New Left?
Link here.

SaskOil Campaign
Link here.

Next Year Country: Bureaucracy vs Democracy - The Meaning of Woodrow Lloyd's Resignation

1 comment:

  1. I am writing to wish those in Regina all the best at the Rebuilding the Left conference. A special hello to my dear friends, Lorne Brown, Don Mitchell and Joe Roberts. The Waffle reunion in Toronto was very successful, pointing the way to the future, not just remembering the past. I'd join you in Regina, but I'll actually be out of the country on January 30. Various sessions on the Waffle across the country have struck a real chord. Oddly enough, the memory of the Waffle seems to have outlasted the memory of many of those who sought its expulsion from the NDP. Forty years later, we have learned much, and our concerns are much broader than they were then. That said---For an Independent Socialist Canada---sounds good to me.

    Jim Laxer