08) ANGELA DAVIS IGNITES CLC HUMAN RIGHTS FORUM
PV Ontario Bureau
One consequence of the change of leadership made at the 2014 Canadian Labour Congress convention was that the new CLC leadership felt confident enough to invite Angela Davis, a leading black liberation activist and former Vice-Presidential candidate for the Communist Party USA, to address the delegates and other social activists at the May 7 Human Rights forum on the eve of the 2017 Convention.
Interest was high as hundreds of delegates lined up to attend; only after they were seated were the public allowed into the hall. CLC Vice-President Marie Clarke-Walker welcomed social activists from Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance, the Migrants Workers Alliance and the Workers Action Centre, who were eager to hear what Angela would say about the state of the struggle for progressive change in the United States in wake of the election of Donald Trump as President.
Angela did not disappoint. She noted that we were meeting on unceded indigenous land, and that no struggle for social justice could exist without the indigenous struggle at its core.
She noted and thanked the support of the Canadian labour movement when she was a fugitive facing the death penalty from the American imperialist legal system, at a time when Richard Nixon was President, Ronald Reagan was Governor, and J. Edgar Hoover was head of the FBI. The international campaign which led to her freedom showed that a movement can defeat the most powerful people in the world.
She said the topic of her speech was how to revitalize the labour movement. “The labour movement must be at the centre of any radical programme. While the election of Trump with his racist, sexist and Islamophobic agenda represented a crisis for social justice, it also represented an opportunity for radical change”.
cited that fact that one day after Trump was sworn in as President, hundreds of
thousands of women filled the streets of
To revitalize the labour movement means we must challenge its hierarchy. We must bring into the movement jobs that have traditionally not been part of the movement, jobs that have traditionally been considered women’s work. Citing the analysis of Frederich Engels in Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, women’s work has historically been reproductive labour, i.e. in reproducing the working class. She said that without women’s work, no other labour is possible.
She cited the role of the women domestic workers in the forefront of working
class struggle in the
Angela said the feminism that will infuse the struggle for social justice is that of her mother, who was a domestic worker before going to high school and college. It is not the feminism of Hilary Clinton who wants to shatter the glass ceiling at the top, but the struggle for transformation from below.
Her life-long struggle for the abolition of prisons is informed by her Marxist
analysis. Prisons are both a form of institutionalized racism and a punitive
and restorative method of capitalist control of the proletariat. Of the 2.5
million prisoners in the
The election of Donald Trump was based on appeals to defend what have
traditionally been the jobs of white workers. His attacks on immigrants from
She said what is needed is a movement that involves all workers. It must be a struggle that is feminist, anti-racist and proletarian. Men must take on the anti-racist and anti-sexist fights, not adding to the already overburdened struggle of women for their liberation. It must be global in scope - she noted that most of the workers in the globalized maquiladoras are women.
She ended by saying that she knows that many in
Finally, it was quite refreshing to see hundreds of activists cheer and clap when she asked how many Marxists were present in the room. As she put it, “after all, there is no post-Marxism because we still have Capitalism”!
above article is from
the June 1-15, 2017, issue of People's