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Remembering the Waffle

Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

This is really interesting.

Quote:

The Waffle was a youthful, radical, left nationalist and socialist formation within the New Democratic Party.  Formed in the heady days of 1969, the Waffle Manifesto was incredibly radical when read with today's eyes. 

Our aim as democratic socialists is to build an independent socialist Canada. Our aim as supporters of the New Democratic Party is to make it a truly socialist party.

Sigh...I wonder when the last time anyone in or around the NDP used the word socialist.  It is, of course, a document of its time, referring to "men" as a word covering everyone, ignoring Indigneous people altogether in its formulation of the founding two nations, and without a mention of equality for women, or women's liberation, as we called it in those days.

...

Yet the Waffle was an important factor in the development of these very social movements.  It was women in the Waffle who fought for the NDP to accept women's liberation and women in leadership.  They uniquely worked both inside and outside the party, creating a model of work that they also brought into the trade union movement.  The Waffle women played a critical role in the shaping of the Canadian women's movement. As a result, Canada's women's movement included working class women and Canada has among the most feminist unions and social democratic parties in the world. 

As a young woman I was attracted to the powerful women in the Waffle like Jackie Larkin and Varda Burstyn, both of whom remained active on the Left and in the women's movement.   Waffle leaders like economist Mel Watkins and political scientist James Laxer continue to be relevant critics of the NDP.

In my view when the NDP expelled the Waffle, they cut out their heart by expelling the youth.  It is true that the Waffle was sectarian towards the NDP, as was the culture of the time, and that the remnants of Cold War ideology made a rational response to this highly active opposition difficult, but still, it is hard to look back on the energy and creativity of the Waffle and not conclude that the NDP slit its own throat when they threw them out.


Comments

KenS
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Joined: Aug 6 2001

Michelle wrote:
In my view when the NDP expelled the Waffle, they cut out their heart by expelling the youth.  It is true that the Waffle was sectarian towards the NDP, as was the culture of the time.....

This is probably kind of nitpicking, because I'm only taking exception with Judy's flight of fancy on this particular bit.

But in expelling Waffle the NDP only expelled some youth. For that matter, a large portion of Waffle adherents, maybe most even, did not themselves leave the NDP.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005
Has anyone heard how the 40th anniversary conference went yesterday in the Peg?

remind
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Joined: Jun 25 2004

Funny, I was a radical NDP youth and I did not get expelled way back then, for my radicalness, nor ever actually.

And I am trying to think of someone I know who did get "expelled", and can't think of anyone.

Nor was it just the women of Waffle who fought for women's rights within the NDP framework, nice expropriation. :rolleyes:

Emotive with no substance.

 


jimmyjim
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Joined: Aug 22 2009

Broadbent was in the Waffle he seemed to do quite well for himself.


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

She didn't say all radicals got expelled from the NDP - she said the WAFFLE got expelled from the NDP.  Are you saying that didn't happen, remind?


George Victor
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Joined: Oct 28 2007

The Wafflers were expelled at the insistence of some labour elements and some of us lost interest in activism for many moons.


KenS
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Joined: Aug 6 2001

Just to be clear- not to underplay what happened:

No one was expelled. Whatever the technical terms, Waffle as an organization was banned. It was up to individuals whether or not that left them wanting to still be members of or close to the NDP.


remind
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Joined: Jun 25 2004

Exactly Ken.

Michelle, she personalized it with her use of "the youth",  and "them".

Thereby implying that actual people were expelled, when that was not the case.

What occured was an organization within the organization was barred from operations.

All that cutting the heart out  emotive stuff is just embellishing...well nothing.

She herself tesifies that the women who had been in Waffle went on to, do what they did, within the NDP framework, so they were not the heart that was cut out.

The youth were not rejected, they have always had a voice at the table, so they were not the heart that was cut out...

Really, who has been cut out, that could be considered to be the "heart" of the NDP? The mysterious youth, or "them" over there in some mysterious direction that was not specified?

Every which manner of activist has been, and is being, represented witin the NDP.  Those who want to be that is.

The NDP has always been ahead of the societal curve on social justice issues, and environmental issues, so if the heart was/is gone, torn out by self, how could that be happening?

 


George Victor
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Joined: Oct 28 2007

Yes, the activist element was banned - Canucks outlawed. You'd hafta re-read Watkins, remind, and nationalist opinion generally, from that time.


skdadl
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Joined: May 5 2001

Ooh, a bat-signal.  Smile

 

The ONDP ordered the Ontario Waffle ginger group to disband as an organized caucus within the party -- other provincial organizations and the federal party weren't part of what happened -- well, unless they were feeling supportive or something.

 

Shortly thereafter (summer of 1972), the Waffle itself split. The faction (probably a majority) led by Jim Laxer and Mel Watkins (I'm speaking very loosely here when I say "led") decided to remain an organized caucus and therefore to leave the party. Another group remained within the party for a time but kept heading towards a new kind of Trotskyist formation. At that point, some of us just floated away.

 

I do think that Lewis (Stephen) was mistaken to move against us. I've been in and out of the party several times since (I'm in right now), always vote for them, but I'm pretty sceptical about the party bureaucracy, having watched it up close 'way back then. I'm one of those people they take for granted because they know I have no one else to vote for, and they made that pretty clear at the time.

 

Jackie and Varda were good friends of mine back then. So were Krista Maeots and Kelly Crichton, partners to Laxer and Watkins respectively. So was Gord Laxer, who has gone on to do wonderful things at the Parkland Institute at U of A. And I should stop listing people -- there were too many wonderfully creative and committed people. I would love to see any of them again, although that's not possible in the case of the luminous Krista, who died in 1978. So many were shaken so deeply.

 

I'll always remember Pauline Jewett, who had just left the Liberals (over the War Measures Act) and become a New Democrat, speaking up at that provincial council meeting for us Wafflers, and then walking past us on the risers we were sitting on as observers, giving us a big smile of solidarity. The NDP needs more Pauline Jewett, always has.

 

Good article from Judy. I want to read it again and come back with further thoughts.


jimmyjim
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Joined: Aug 22 2009

You guys act like this is a new thing. You have to remember that in the 40's the CCF went to induvidal memberships so that the Ontario party could kick out the communists.


scott
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Joined: May 20 2001

What was done was expulsion of anyone who was a member of another political formation. Expulsions of (members of) leftist groups began as early as 1955 and continued after the Waffle banning, for instance members of the Forward group were forced out in the early 1970s.

The effect of this policy was to make it really hard to caucus outside the party, in effect splitting dissenters into those willing to work only within party structures, and those who had to leave the party to continue their organization.

The policy had an effect on people wishing to join the party. The application form had a clause that more or less forced you to sign off that you were not a member of any other political formation (I can't remember the exact wording). Now the clause says neither "member nor supporter of any other federal political party".

That one stopped me from joining at the time, and it probably stopped many others as well.

__________________________________
One struggle, many fronts.


skdadl
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Joined: May 5 2001

jimmyjim wrote:

You guys act like this is a new thing. You have to remember that in the 40's the CCF went to induvidal memberships so that the Ontario party could kick out the communists.

 

Yup. I hesitated to put Stephen Lewis's move against us down to the lessons he learned from his commie-hunting dad, but yes, there's a tradition.

 

It was also true, though, that a lot of the unions didn't like us. I'd have to work on my memories to explain that better.


M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

Judy puts her finger on the key problem with the Waffle - its bourgeois nationalism:

Judy Rebick wrote:
I never agreed with the idea that the main problem was that Canada was economically subordinate to the United States.  In those days, the Waffle argued that Canada was basically a branch plant of the US and would only be able to be independent though a democratic socialist society.

I never really understood Canada as a subordinate power.  A lesser power, yes, but not really under the thumb of the US.  I understood cultural nationalism that sought to promote and protect Canadian culture so that we were not totally overwhelmed by US culture, but economic nationalism never made sense to me.  In studying to counter their arguments at the time, I learned about Marxism, which made a lot more sense, and argued that nationalism in an advanced capitalist country was reactionary, while it could be progressive in a developing country.

How wrong they were when they wrote in their Manifesto:

Quote:
The major threat to Canadian survival today is American control of the Canadian economy. The major issue of our times is not national unity but national survival, and the fundamental threat is external, not internal.

Nationalism is largely a progressive force in neo-colonial countries, where the struggle for national sovereignty inevitably comes to pose a challenge to the rule of the native comprador class. But in imperialist countries (like Canada) that have established their national independence, nationalism is fundamentally reactionary. It serves to obscure the role of the domestic ruling class as exploiters and oppressors in their own right, and deters the working class from developing a class consciousness and its own independent forms of politics. Instead, it tends to throw the workers of one country into an unholy alliance with their own ruling class against the workers and ruling classes of other countries.

 


remind
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Joined: Jun 25 2004

Mockery and name dropping, and admitting to name dropping, all in one fell swoop, sweet, it makes it a double bonus for our reading pleasure.

 

Good to have ya back skdadl, keeps one on their toes. ;)

 

But we will have to agree to disagree about Judy's article, even though you are the professional in the field, and others should...well...I'll just leave it..at that.

I do not think any women have , or had, individual power within the NDP, with out all the other women standing with them.

Taking ownership of other women's endeavours in their home communities, that translated into a greater national movement, in order to name drop, as if things were only done by their efforts alone, and thus they were special, and thus those who know/knew them are special too, is extremely distasteful, to me.

It is classist, divisive, and patronizing.

 


skdadl
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Joined: May 5 2001

remind, I have no idea what all that means.

 

Krista and I were close friends from the time we met in Calgary at sixteen. I loved her very deeply. I don't care whether other people know her name, and I don't use it to "drop" it, believe me. One of her other close friends and I place memorial notices for her even now, so many years later, because we still miss her.

 

So stuff whatever hostility you are carrying over from other threads. I spoke up because no one else had pinned this down to an event that occurred in the ONDP, and I am not apologizing to you for my life.


Polunatic2
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Joined: Mar 12 2006

So is it safe to say that those who were in the Waffle thought it was significant while those were not don't see it as significant? I turned 15 in 1969 and was not part of any of it. By the mid-70's when I did begin to get involved with politics, it seemed like the national question (including aboriginal rights to varying degrees of lip-service) was one of the defining debates/issues of the new (sectarian?) left. The other major defining factor for many left formations at the time was how long it would take them to split or disintegrate. I would suppose that for every person who left politics altogether in disgust, there was another who joined the NDP. 


remind
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Joined: Jun 25 2004

Whoa, transfered hostility or what....skdadl

Will try to word it better, if you are having difficulties, getting what I meant...

 

though, I thought it pretty clear, and indeed not hostile at all, nor even written in the spirit of feeling that apologies should be given for any reason. As there is no reason to apologize, it was just your expression of your opinions.

So my apologies, for not wording it better and making you feel like you needed to apologize, or making you think I am bringing something over, when I am not.

 

I was addressing both, what I disagreed with in Judy's article, and with your re-enforcement of it, which I have every right to do. My lived experience was different. Broader awareness when  trying to speak about the NDP nationally is required, or one needs to make it area specific.

 So, as I said, we will have to agree to disagree, both about Judy's article, and about how we viewed life in the NDP framework in the 60's and 70's.

That is what freedom of conscience is, no? The ability to indicate one's own opinions and life's experiences, and accept others as being different.

 

For example, I grew up knowing both Dief, and Tommy,  but that is just the way life was,  because they both were from Sask, its a small province, and my parents were politically active.  But I do not use them to give authority to my voice, to control public optics, and opinions, when I am speaking to NDP broad based FAQ's.

My voice and lived experience has that authority on its own. Because that is what freedom of conscience and self determination is, at its essence.

 

Thus, for me personally it is distasteful, when I see people needing to add authority to their words, by name dropping and settingup hierarchy. But hey, I fully recognize that others need to see what they believe are bona fides...it is just that I, do not.

And I only mention it because I believe that Judy's article did that, when it needed not to have, again my opinion of her article, and that is what I was doing, giving my opinion of her article, and part of that was her detailing of what she believes is "herstory" within the NDP. And I do not  mean "herstory" in singular.

I believe the "herstories" within the NDP are much greater, than the select group  she indicated, as  the only ones doing something for the cause of women.  Aka, "tore the heart out".

They were just one of the many, just as you and I were, and indeed just as my mother and grandmother were.

Thus implying they, those specific women, did it all for Canadian women, and no one  else did anything, is divisive and alienating. It creates a power structure, by setting up hierarchy, where there should not be any. And it is a decidedly classist and patriarchial.

The NDP has no "royalty",  as a socialist party, no?

So...when your response opinion was registered, I merely rebutted those very same points that you were making, which Judy made, that I disagreed with.

Albeit, I could have worded it better.

 

Hope that is clearer, but if not, please do feel free to get me to try again...

 

 


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

Thanks for clarifying, remind.  I also felt like it sounded like you were saying that skdadl was name-dropping and mocking, and so did a number of others who wrote to me to complain about what sounded like an attack on her.  As someone who knows Judy well, I also personally don't believe she was "name-dropping" (since she's a "name" herself) - she was just writing about her experiences, and they include having interacted with the people she mentioned - but of course, you're free to interpret her article as you please, that's why I posted it.

I think it's great that skdadl's posting about her experiences here too, and I think it would be a shame to dismiss her first-hand historical account as mere "name-dropping".  If no one was allowed to post their firsthand experiences with significant events for fear of name-dropping, it sure would be difficult to learn our history.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Judy Rebick's blog wrote:
I am sorry more people didn't attend the event, and I hoping they will listen to at least some of the podcast.

Anyone have a link to the podcast??


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

M. Spector wrote:
How wrong they were when they wrote in their Manifesto:

Quote:
The major threat to Canadian survival today is American control of the Canadian economy. The major issue of our times is not national unity but national survival, and the fundamental threat is external, not internal.

Nationalism is largely a progressive force in neo-colonial countries, where the struggle for national sovereignty inevitably comes to pose a challenge to the rule of the native comprador class. But in imperialist countries (like Canada) that have established their national independence, nationalism is fundamentally reactionary. It serves to obscure the role of the domestic ruling class as exploiters and oppressors in their own right, and deters the working class from developing a class consciousness and its own independent forms of politics. Instead, it tends to throw the workers of one country into an unholy alliance with their own ruling class against the workers and ruling classes of other countries.

It's my understanding that Canada's billionaire class thought they would gain access to US markets with the trade deals of 1988 and 1994. Hurtig says some of them realize now that they were wrong. None of Canada's oligarchs have controlling interest in any sector of US economy. Meanwhile superrich Americans and supranational corporations have scooped up key sectors of our economy, energy and natural resources. Some on the pro-free trade side of things have switched sides and are now against NAFTA. As a socialist, I think the first step in regaining our economic sovereignty is to curb foreign takeovers of Canada and to dissuade our big banks from financing those US and foreign takeovers of Canadian corporations and crown assets and using Canadians' savings to finance those foreign takeovers. It's hard to tax profits once they've been carted off to another country or banks in the Caribbean, and-or used by supranationals to buy even more of Canada's precious resources and crown assets, infrastructure, health care amd other public services etc, paid for and maintained with Canadians' tax dollars. Once it's gone it's that much harder to get back. If Canadians insist on capitalism, then why can't we at least be more like capitalist China and dozens more, and declare certain key sectors of our economy off limits to controlling interest ownership and control by absentee corporate landlords?


jrootham
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Joined: Jun 14 2001

Couple points.  Economic nationalism was and is an issue in Canada, CAW and Free Trade, for example.

The expulsion of the Waffle hurt the ability of the NDP to credibly engage in the Free Trade debate.

The ONDP did not expel youth, but if you look at the age structure of the NDP there is a missing cohort.  I was 19 in 1972.  A few years after that, when I did get involved with party structures, I realized that there was nobody just younger than me in the party.  I don't have anything beyond that small sample to offer, but I strongly suspect that if you mapped the NDP age structure against the population age structure the gap would be very visible.

 

 


remind
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Joined: Jun 25 2004

Quote:
As someone who knows Judy well, I also personally don't believe she was "name-dropping" (since she's a "name" herself)

 

That is my point actually, cliques of "names", or even education . We all know that they are more than just names. They indicate whose who, and who is worth what, when used publically. It sets class parameters.

Yes, they are lived experiences, but not when used to indicate lines of power and authority by education or class, to dominante an opinion or set a conceptual framework.

A hierarchy, if you will, is definitely lacking,  by way of socialist thought,  and setting up the notion of one, is especially significant, when one is decrying lack of socialist thoughts and actions in others, as mentioned in the article, being critiqued, in this thread

When people start carrying on about their being the heart of the NDP and the NDP tore out their own heart, I pay attention, and do some thinking.

I know people who are the heart of the NDP,  some post here even, and they were most definitely not torn out. Nor would they make claims of being  either the heart, nor torn out.

In fact, I would bet many women NDPers in BC, would not have a clue who Rebick is. Only those who are political geeks, or into women's studies, would have any idea.

I give no more weight to Judy than I would EMay, both did things for the good of the cause they were involved in way back when, as a product of the times.

Their actions now, matter most to me as a woman, and a environmentalist. Their place on some hierarchial level of public worth means nothing in a socialist world.

 

I critique based upon what they say and do in the NOW, not based on emotional appeal from the past. Thus when someone comes up and supports that emotional appeal to the past, that may not be valid, nor appropriate, I pay attention too. It matters not one witt who it is.

 

Skdadl and I have never had any issues, that I am am aware of, so...I do not get where people are coming from with that.

Clique formation is never good, it creates  problems that have far reaching consequences politically and socially.

And people might as well be Liberals, if they want to go that grade school clique route. ;)


M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

remind wrote:

A hierarchy, if you will, is definitely lacking,  by way of socialist thought,  and setting up the notion of one, is especially significant, when one is decrying lack of socialist thoughts and actions in others, as mentioned in the article, being critiqued, in this thread

I defy anyone to explain what that sentence means.


remind
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Joined: Jun 25 2004

It is a bit awkward alright, but it embodies what I am getting at I think.

Setting up the notion of a hierarchy, like rock royalty, hollywood royalty, political royalty, literary royalty, is not a socialist endeavour.

My premise is that Judy's article, set a tone of hierarchial structure in respect to social causes in Canada, and the author, positioned herself clearly in the midst of this alleged hierarchy. While decrying socialist abscence in the NDP.

 

It is discontinuity of  thought and action. Talking the talk, but not walkin the talk in other words.

It is not socialist, nor feminist, to accept such as a acceptable way of life.

 

 


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

Well, if you think that Judy's not really well-known outside of feminist or NDP circles (and that may be true), then how can you say she's name-dropping?  I would submit that neither of those two women's names she mentions in her blog posting (Jackie and Varda) are well-known outside NDP circles either - in fact, I've never heard of them, personally, and I'm willing to bet the vast majority of Canadians haven't, either.

How can it be namedropping if no one's ever heard of them unless they're political junkies from the 70's?

I don't know much about the Waffle either, and I'll bet the majority of Canadians don't, much less know any of the names supposedly being "dropped". 

Also, how is it "dropping names" when you're asked to speak about your first-hand experiences?  Or, more clearly, how is it you're supposed to talk about your first-hand experiences with a historical event or time without mentioning any of the names of the people who were involved?


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

I enjoyed reading skdadl's posts, as they help me with faded memories of the Waffle and indeed the NDP from an interesting political period of this country.


Ken Burch
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Joined: Feb 26 2005

skdadl wrote:

 

 

Yup. I hesitated to put Stephen Lewis's move against us down to the lessons he learned from his commie-hunting dad, but yes, there's a tradition.

 

It was also true, though, that a lot of the unions didn't like us. I'd have to work on my memories to explain that better.

 

I'm not a supporter of "commie-hunting", but it's likely that David Lewis was driven to it in part by the way that the CP hunted HIM in the Cartier byelection.  Their literature there actually depicted Lewis wearing a Nazi uniform, for God's sake. 


What was the issue with the unions?  Were they just excessively obsessed with looking "respectable"(I.e, moderate, bland and useless0?

 


N.Beltov
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Joined: May 25 2003

The labour movement in this country largely CARRIED OUT the witch-hunting anti-Communist policies of government. Anything that "looked Communistic" was just another target to attack. So it doesn't seem all that surprising.


remind
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Joined: Jun 25 2004

I do see what you are saying michelle, well sort of.

But the article here, is not addressing the majority of Canadians, it is addressing a select audience.  There is an audience she is targeting  and it isn't Canadians at large, and I think both, you and I know that.

And I indicated my other points,  other than naming one, that also give the overall inference of hierarchy being touted.

 

For example this statement is about as divisive and alienating, as you can get:

 

Quote:
The Waffle women played a critical role in the shaping of the Canadian women's movement.

Really?

who knew, certainly not the rest of the women who were in the NDP, and not Waffle, spread across Canada.

They did not believe they were doing anything less than playing a critical role too.

And their role was critical, the women of waffle had no greater weight within the party,  some just were able to promote themselves into a higher public profile later, if only regionally, or in select groups.

As I stated, the article created a hierarchy with "the women of Waffle" in the "critical" aka,  top role.

This display of the class distinction effect, tacitly accepted hierarchial positioning, was enhanced by naming names, poorly worded by me before as, name dropping.

What I meant was, willingness to provide names, as in cite references,  infers a must be true, kinda testimony.

When indeed the names only provided cover for how intensely hierarchial and expropriating  the article was.

WOMEN were critical to the women's movement in Canada, and within the NDP, not just the "women of waffle",  which actually sounds like a floater for a new book title, to me.

And all of this  was enhanced by the drama of heart ripped out, thought-terminating cliché.

Definitely not socialist wording, nor an appropiate depiction of that time, it diminishes all other women who were critical to the woman's movement, at that time and even prior to that,  within the NDP and indeed across ALL parties lines.

It is a sloppy rendering of Canadian women's herstories,  with outright appropriation of all other women's roles in the women's movement and I do not appreciate it.

Writes them ourt of existence so to speak.  As "they" were not 'important' as they were not "critical", and that is just nonsense. It is not about who can promote themselves the best.

Every free thinking woman was needed back then, to take direct action in all spheres across the nation, it was not a a handful of women in an organization, within an organization, in a fairly regional setting, who  were critical to bringing women rights forward in Canada.

ALL women were critical.

Women of Saskatchewan  and Manitoba, were a lot more radical, a lot sooner, than woman in Ontario and indeed Alberta. But we do not need to run around saying this.

What would it mean?

Because ALL women  were and are needed for equity  change to occur.

If women just want to become, or stay, a part of  the patriarchial hierarchial system, fine, it is their choice, and I am good with that,  hell I have friends who do not even know there is patriarchy, let alone choose to be in it, so I am not a picky person, associate wise, but do not claim you are socialist,  and feminist, while doing it.

PS: no one should be talking this personally, cause it is Judy, as it is no different to me than any discussion on Heathers' or Antonia's public writings, that were/are posted here.

There is no sacred ground, as it just means hierarchy and privilege.


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