Monday, May 30, 2011

The CLC: A Tale of Two Conventions

By Sam Hammond
People's Voice
June 1-15, 2011 issue

Ken Georgetti
For the 26th time since its founding, the Canadian Labour Congress met in Convention May 9-13 in Vancouver, BC. President Ken Georgetti welcomed the 2500 delegates with a speech that probably won't be remembered for more than a few days, if at all.

The speech did not reflect the anger and anguish the people are going through across Canada, or the dangerous reality of a new Harper majority in Ottawa. That reality had to come from the floor, and it did several times during the week.

The structural changes that will effectively reshape the CLC into a consensus of the largest private and public sector union leaders were adopted as expected, with only mild squirming from the Labour Councils which are left out of the new structure completely.

Ken Georgetti managed the microphones with clumsy prejudice. Early in the convention he twice cut off Dave Pritchett from the Longshore Union, while CAW leader Ken Lewenza to go four minutes beyond the speaking time. On Tuesday morning, Georgetti apologized for his sins the day before, but throughout the week he continued giving speakers at pro mikes preference over speakers at con mikes. The chairing became quite a topic of discussion in the food courts and even in some of the caucuses. Many new affiliates and first‑time delegates were particularly upset.

More than at any other CLC convention, the several hundred resolutions sent in were grouped into watered down composites and squeezed into debate times that were severely compressed by a line‑up of guest speakers, cultural presentations and discussion panels. Some of the delegates who took part in the Action Caucus estimated that in the week‑long convention, only about nine hours were allotted to floor debate on resolutions.

One of the guest speakers was Jack Layton, who understandably was on a high over the NDP election success, and of course received a resounding welcome from the delegates.

The Action Caucus had its first meeting on May 8, before most delegates had not arrived. Regular daily meetings of the Caucus began in earnest the next day. The main thrust of the Action Caucus was to get adoption of an "Action Plan to Resist the Harper Agenda". A petition to get the Action Plan on the floor was signed by over 500 delegates, the most effective work done at the convention. Although the Action Plan did not make it to the floor, it was in tune with the feelings of the majority of delegates. Much of it was incorporated by the executive into "Good Jobs, Better Lives: A Workers Program to Defeat the Right‑Wing Agenda," an action resolution which was passed and is now policy.

Because of the behind the scenes work of the Action Caucus, the language of the "Good Jobs, Better Lives" resolution is militant and emphasizes the need to support unions in struggle and under attack such as CUPW and PSAC, to promote "public demonstrations" and "direct action where necessary to defeat the right‑wing agenda".

The resolution states, "We will work with affiliates, federations and labour councils to build a strong progressive workers movement to counter the right‑wing corporate agenda in this country. This will include engaging in member‑to‑member campaigns, public outreach and direct action..."

It also states, "At the 27th Constitutional Convention in 2014, the CLC will bring forward a political plan to defeat the Conservative government and to elect a federal New Democratic Party government." This is a much different posture than two conventions back when Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton got equal billing.

The members of the Action Caucus brought militancy to the mikes, reflected the urgency of delegates who want a stronger fightback, and built respect and prestige for the left, for the ideology of struggle against capital and unity of working people.

In the words of one member of the Action Caucus, "It was as if there were two conventions going on at the same time that did not connect."

This is an accurate observation. The thrust from the top is to prepare conditions for the election of an NDP majority in 2015. The thrust from the left is to fight every day over the next four years, to prevent the Tories from implementing their pro‑corporate, pro‑war, pro‑imperialist agenda.

The youth, the homeless, the disenchanted, the unemployed and the abandoned, our entire working class, cannot wait for social democratic salvation in 2015. Thanks to the Action Caucus and the militant delegates the "Good Jobs, Better Lives" resolution gives equal billing to both agendas. It has the potential for unity and resistance.

(The above article is from the June 1-15, 2011, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)

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