“A World in Revolt” Really Rocks!

(Report on Toronto Conference)

by Barry Weisleder, Federal Secretary, SA/LUS

[This article has been edited somewhat for Labor Standard.]

I asked Cuban scientist, writer, and educator Celia Hart what she thought of the international conference “A World in Revolt — Prospects for Socialism in the 21st Century” held in Toronto, May 22–25.

“It was a wonderful, dynamic, rich experience, with a logical progression,” said Celia, hardly ably to contain her enthusiasm.

The logical progression to which she referred was the route traced through the agenda by Permanent Revolution, the political strategy articulated by the Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky in the early years of the 20th century.

Celia ably employed this concept to explain the triumph of the Cuban Revolution nearly 50 years ago, the convergence of Che Guevara’s theory and practice with that strategy, and the challenges now facing the revolutionary process in Venezuela and across Latin America as the limits of elections, referenda, and economic reforms come up against the stern resistance of foreign and domestic elites.

According to the strategic concept of Permanent Revolution, it is only by radical independent political action of the working class and its allies that genuine sovereignty, agricultural and industrial transformation, and popular democracy can be achieved by the nations oppressed by imperialism. The concept also emphasizes that socialist revolution cannot in the long run be successful within the borders of just one or a few countries, but that it is an international process whose completion will ultimately be assured by the victory of the working class in the advanced capitalist countries.

Permanent Revolution was the common thread that linked all the conference sessions, from Palestine and the global boycott of Israeli apartheid, through discussions on Feminism, Anti-Racism, Immigrants’ Rights, Eco-socialism, the political situation in English Canada and Québec, and in Venezuela and Latin America, the Failing U.S. War in Iraq and the Deepening Crisis at Home, the state of the labor movement across North America, and the inspiring revolutionary tradition of James P. Cannon, a founder of the American Communist movement and key leader of the left opposition to the Stalinist degeneration of the Communist International on this continent.

Participation at “A World in Revolt” exceeded all expectations. Nearly one hundred and fifty people from four countries attended all or part of the four-day gathering at the University of Toronto. At the peak, over 115 were present for the Friday evening panel and discussion on Venezuela and Latin America. There were ten sessions in all, including a special luncheon with Celia Hart and Esteban Volkov Bronstein, the 82-year-old grandson of Leon Trotsky. He told the harrowing tale of his injury and survival of the first assassination attempt on the life of his grandfather in 1940 at the Trotsky family compound in Coyoacán, a southern suburb of Mexico City.

A delightful bonus was the screening, during the Saturday supper break, of a new film from Mexico titled “Trotsky and Mexico: Two Revolutions of the 20th Century,” which Esteban kindly delivered. The 90-minute documentary (in Spanish, with English subtitles) presents highlights of 50 years of war and revolution, tracking the career of Leon Trotsky through the Russian Revolution, the rise of Stalinism and fascism, and the anti-imperialist upsurge in Mexico in the 1930s. It introduces viewers to the scene of Trotsky’s last exile and assassination, and to the permanent Trotsky Museum in Coyoacán which is visited by thousands annually.

“A World in Revolt” was cosponsored by Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste (Canadian state), Socialist Action (United States), and the Socialist Unity League (LUS) of Mexico. Videographers recorded all presentations, which will be posted on the worldwide web. For details, check: www.socialistaction.org/ca.htm

[A video of Celia Hart speaking in Spanish, with simultaneous English translation by Gerry Foley, can be accessed here.]

Compañeros Ismael Contreras and Francisco Valledares, leaders of the Mexican LUS, significantly enriched the discussions on Latin America, migrant workers’ rights, ecology, feminism, war, the food crisis, and the current economic recession. Celia Hart amplified her views on the continuity of revolutionary Marxism in Cuba.*

Representatives of the governments of Cuba and Venezuela honored us with their presence and warm greetings. Paul Loulou Cherry, President of the Haitian Workers’ Federation (CHT), was a surprise visitor who addressed the gathering during the very informative session on “Eco-socialism or Barbarism,” led by Ian Angus.

Socialists in the unions described incipient signs of rebellion against labor concessions that they forecast will grow into a fight against the corporate agenda. And a great debt of thanks is owed to the dozens of Youth for Socialist Action and other members of SA-US who streamed into Toronto from Connecticut, New York, Minnesota, Missouri, and California, and who contributed so much to the discourse, as well as to the organization of the gathering.

Following the conference, SA/LUS met briefly in a federal convention to discuss and adopt plans for the coming year, and to elect its Pan-Canadian leadership. The convention voted to accept applications for provisional membership from five persons, welcomed a new dues-paying supporter, and noted that another five persons are actively considering membership in SA/LUS. Three contacts of SA-US who traveled to Toronto also asked to join the American party.

Clearly, “A World in Revolt” inspired many to take up the challenge posed by decaying world capitalism — a system hurtling mindlessly toward human and environmental destruction. The conference stands as a militant and passionate appeal to build a socialist alternative based on workers’ power, the liberation of women, gays/lesbians, and oppressed nations, and the construction of a global cooperative commonwealth. Let’s see what progress we can make, and let’s pledge to meet again in 2009!

* Celia Speaks
Literature sales were brisk at “A World in Revolt,” with close to a thousand dollars spent on the purchase of mostly small booklets, newspapers, and magazines. Of the five newest titles issued by Socialist Action, the best seller was “The Cuban Revolution and a World in Revolt – Celia Hart Speaks, Selected articles and interviews 2005-2008.”

(To order Celia Hart Speaks, published jointly by Socialist Action and Labor Standard, send $4.00 to Socialist Action, P.O. Box 10328, Oakland, CA 94610.)

The Celia Hart booklet was followed in popularity by “An Injury to One is an Injury to All! – What’s at Stake in the Fight for Immigrant Rights?” by James Frickey and Andrew Pollack, “Stop the Occupation of Iraq! Bring the Troops Home Now!” by Jeff Mackler and Andrew Pollack, “The End of the Blue Collar ‘Middle Class’ – Ramifications of Historic UAW Surrender” by Bill Onasch, and “Revolutionary Socialist Politics Today” by Jeff Mackler.

Purchasers of books and revolutionary posters besieged Celia Hart and Esteban Volkov for their autographs, and many impromptu photo ops.

Celia Hart captivated the crowd with her fiery prose and poignant analysis. The following excerpt from “Celia Speaks” is representative of her talks in Toronto:

“Ernesto Guevara made me a Trotskyist. When I had access to Trotsky’s writings, very belatedly for my liking, I realized that many of these things had already been told to me, from my childhood onward, by Che. From the first pages, I had the confirmation of what I had so many times felt in reading Che: that the revolution has nothing to do with national idiosyncrasy; that there is no room in socialism for the pronouns ‘our’ and ‘your’; that revolutionary theory, like the laws of physics, is a universal language. As Armando Hart (Celia’s father) stated in another epoch: ‘Our struggle is not only for Cuba, but for all the workers and the exploited of the world. Our frontiers are moral. Our boundaries are those of class.’

“What I appreciate most in Trotsky is his way of speaking, the passion that his discourse always awakens in me. It is the same thing that won me to Che Guevara. That is why I am fighting in Trotsky’s army, as well as in Che’s, without betraying anyone. Both of them express with the same truth the word, the gun, and the heart.”