Remembering the Waffle

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Michelle
Remembering the Waffle

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.

[/quote]

Issues Pages: 
KenS

[quote=Michelle]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.....[/quote]

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 Unionist's picture

Has anyone heard how the 40th anniversary conference went yesterday in the Peg?

remind remind's picture

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

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

Michelle

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

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

KenS

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.

George Victor

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

jimmyjim

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.

remind remind's picture

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?

 

skdadl

[quote=jimmyjim]

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.

[/quote]

 

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.

skdadl

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.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

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

[quote=Judy Rebick]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.[/quote]

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 [i]survival,[/i] and the fundamental threat is external, not internal.[/quote]

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 remind's picture

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.

 

scott scott's picture

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

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

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 remind's picture

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

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 Unionist's picture

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

Anyone have a link to the podcast??

jrootham

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.

 

 

Fidel

[quote=M. Spector]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 [i]survival,[/i] and the fundamental threat is external, not internal.[/quote]

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.[/quote]

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?

remind remind's picture

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

 

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 M. Spector's picture

[quote=remind]

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[/quote]

I defy anyone to explain what that sentence means.

remind remind's picture

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

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 Boom Boom's picture

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 Ken Burch's picture

[quote=skdadl]

 

 

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.

[/quote]

 

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 N.Beltov's picture

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 remind's picture

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.[/quote]

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.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Well, I doubt women who were to the RIGHT of the Waffle were that critical.  Once you get into "party establishment" mode, you pretty much check your principles at the door, no matter who you are.

remind remind's picture

You can't be serious can you?

You just imposed a patriarchial mindset upon women's rights actions and took our personal fight for agency away, and gave it to someone else, and you felt you had the knowlege  and right to do so.

 

You have neither ken, and I do not mean that nastily.

 

It is a herstory, not a history.

There were lots of women to the right of the waffle and they were every bit as critical, to the development of the woman's movement if not more. Some actually had national public visibility.

 

 

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

It was a universal statement about anyone who gets into political leadership.  And it was based on last year's campaign, when we had a woman here who ran as the establishment candidate and whose victory would thus no longer have had any femnist implications.

 

Having said that, I'll said no more.

It's only the people working from below who really matter.

skdadl

[quote=Unionist]Has anyone heard how the 40th anniversary conference went yesterday in the Peg?[/quote]

 

I can't tell from Judy's piece whether she was in Winnipeg or is referring to another seminar? Anyway, like Unionist, I would like to listen to the podcast too when it becomes available. From what she says, the discussion might help to answer some of the questions people have above about the interaction of the Waffle and the labour movement, which was complex.

 

People may know that Laxer was already a serious student of the Canada-U.S. Auto Pact. I can't fairly summarize his analysis any longer, but his arguments in defence of economic nationalism grew out of that work, and some of the labour movement would have been reacting to him/us on that score. I assume that the podcast will explain that better than I can, especially if Jim was on the panel with Judy.

 

The Waffle took on a broader life of its own, though. Briefly, we were still able to pretend that the sixties would never end, so we were just generally being a New Left group, doing the things New Lefties did. I think it's interesting that Judy stresses how strong the women's caucuses became, because that's not the first thing that outsiders would have known about the Waffle, although it was indeed a central experience for me, and sometimes a very difficult experience with the male heavies -- typical for the times.

 

I sit to be corrected, but as I recall, there were a number of active Waffle groups across the country, notably in Saskatoon and Regina, in Ottawa, and in Toronto, where there were three sections, each with a distinct character. I was one of the West Metro Crazies.  Wink The others called us that because there was a growing interest among some in the West Metro group in Trotskyist politics, and the leadership did not want that. Mel and Kelly had the thankless task of trying to keep us in line, but at the end I'm sure they welcomed the split. I don't want to say more about that because it was a long time ago, it feels gossipy, and most people here will know how these things keep happening on the left.

 

I believe that Judy had begun working on Central and South American politics at the time -- the one time I met her in those years she was giving a seminar on the topic. It would have been Jackie Larkin who told us about her and got us to that meeting. Like Judy, Jackie was (and is) a formidable socialist feminist. In the mid-seventies, she moved to BC, qualified in a skilled trade, and became a feminist labour activist. It's funny to hear someone like Jackie referred to as being treated like a rock star; she's one of the most radical socialists I've ever known and she has really lived her politics. She also has a huge heart, and I will admit that she used to remind me a bit of Janis Joplin, although there was nothing self-destructive about our Jackie.

 

Remembering Judy's long commitment to Central and South American politics brings me to M. Spector's first comment above, about the contrasting roles of economic nationalism in neo-colonial and imperial societies:

 

[quote]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.[/quote]

 

Judy was certainly more knowledgeable than many of us were about neo-colonialism in this hemisphere, more focused on those problems, so I can see why she found Canadian economic nationalism harder to take seriously, or however she would put that. I disagree with M. Spector (and perhaps Judy) that the opposition is as stark as he puts it -- I see ranges or sliding scales when I think of Canada's place in imperial oppression; to me, the reality of the U.S. (and now of China) trumps just about anything anyone else can even attempt, one reason it is so hard for us to convince people to believe in socialist political possibilities here (which clearly we have failed to do -- see our current NDP). But it is the economic nationalists I know who are most likely to recognize our own compradors when they see them (everyone stick out tongues at John Manley). That kind of class understanding was always very much present in the Waffle as I knew it, and nobody had any illusions about our own ruling class. We definitely weren't promoting unholy alliances with them, which might have been one of the reasons we acquired our very own RCMP moles. I even knew one of them -- I'd drop his name if I could remember it. Wink

 

Similarly, I'm a bit befuddled when Judy says that she could see Canadian cultural nationalism ("so that we were not totally overwhelmed by US culture") but not economic nationalism. How do you separate them? Culture is an industry in this country, a huge industry (for us). Try surviving in it for a while, and you'll learn international economics very quickly. Our cultural industries,  which used to employ so many skilled trades and craftworkers, have long been an early-warning system of what is happening to our economy. Watch them slowly sink beneath the horizon -- I've been watching that my entire working life.

 

As I say, though, I can see where Judy and M. Spector are coming from, and I stick my tongue out at John Manley too.

 

Please forgive the long post, but a lot of questions arose above. I know this history mainly as a foot soldier, one of the bodies who showed up. I've never minded being just one of the bodies who show up, since without us there is no point, but I've never understood the resentment against inspirational leaders who were able to do much more than I ever did, partly because of their special knowledge or talents, partly just because they put in more time and effort.

 

When Judy says that Waffle women played "a critical role" in shaping the women's movement in this country, I don't think she is denying that many other women also played critical roles, not at all. She can't mean that -- she wasn't in the Waffle. She wrote an entire book on the women's movement(s) in Canada, Ten Thousand Roses, and it is not mainly about Waffle women, as you'll know if you've read it. It is definitely true, though, that even in 1970, to be one of the thirty women of the Abortion Caravan (few if any Waffle women) who chained themselves to the seats in the gallery of the Commons (and forced its first closing in history) took exceptional guts. Just organizing that caravan took commitment above and beyond what most of us ever can or will do. So how does it hurt me to say that those women played "a critical role" in waking the public up about a crucial issue? Or: have you watched the video of Judy herself protecting Dr Morgentaler from an attacker with a weapon? How does it hurt me to acknowledge the heroism of that moment?

 

Of course the women's movement gained its power from all the women who began to change their own lives and communities and riding associations; of course it did and does. If anything, I thought that Judy's book was valuable because it countered the North American pop perception of feminism as conveyed, as usual, through glossy USian publications and personalities -- not that I've got anything against Gloria Steinem, but there's something wrong if that's the first association young Canadian women were making, and for a long time, it was.

 

I've done my time fighting pretentious political heavies, but I've also done some time watching very fine people sniped away at jealously simply because they put in the time and effort to accomplish something, and I think the left is very mistaken to give in to that kind of pettiness.

 

And a PS: Judy didn't mention the one attempt that has been made since (that I know of) to form a socialist ginger group in the NDP, although it was very much a presence on rabble/babble during our first year or so. I can't write much about that because it happened just at the time that I became a full-time caregiver, but I think that its history would be an interesting postscript to the story of the Waffle, would tell us a lot about the social/political differences between then and now. Perhaps Judy or rasmus could be talked into talking about same?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Victor

Indeed, how to separate cultural and economic nationalism.  And yesterday, the argument for monetary union with the U.S., a common currency, was again raised in a Globe article.

A major force in Peterborough New Democrat circles invited me (then heading the riding association) to a dinner with Jim Laxer, and from the discussion that took place, it seemed we might be making headway.  And then came the banning.  One does not easily get over such events. 

 

From my review of Christina McCall's postumous work in the Book Lounge: January 23, 2009 - 9:30am #7 (permalink)

 

"As noted, Christina McCall wrote a piece "How Mel Watkins brought socialism to the NDP", sympathetically written in the age of nationalism, and obviously included by husband Stephen Clarkson, liberal, in a jibe at New Democrats - since Watkins was banned from the party as a Waffle leader.

Today, Mel Watkins appears again in The Globe and Mail's lead letter to the editor. "Not since the heady days of left natiionalism in the 1960s and 1970s has one read such compelling statements of the abject dependency of Canada on the U.S. as those of Jeffrey Simson...and Michael Kergin and Allan Gotlieb."

 

"Canada's elite," writes Watkins, continue to sell out "Canadian sovereignty and morality."

But Watkins is not anti-American: "It is vastly discouraging to see the election of an American president who is a breath of fresh air after decades of staleness being seen as simply a challenge for Canada," he concludes.

 

One wonders how McCall would respond to Canada's political situation today.  Sure like to see an article on Stephen Clarkson's views on the Liberal Party of Canada - not a tome, just a little retrospective by a top-notch journalist like his late partner.

 

Michelle

Wow.  Amazing post, skdadl.  Nothing to add, just answering a question raised - yes, Judy was in Winnipeg speaking about the Waffle  - and I believe she did speak about the NPI as well while she was there, at another event later that day.

George, were you also involved in the Waffle?

George Victor

A supporter in the Peterborough riding, Michelle (it was easier there, with the UE still the strongest union presence in town, a strong nationalist presence in itself, like the communist party  :) ). Sitting down to dinner  with James Laxer (I was a mature "re-tread" student) and taking political mental notes for use later at U of T grad school, was a political high point.

remind remind's picture

[quote]think the left is very mistaken to give in to that kind of pettiness.[/quote]

Oh... how I have missed your wonderful ability with words,  editor that you are, to infer without infering.

It would be hoped that the moderators will so over look others posts, who  may want to do the same style of attacking.

 

Now, I find it very unusual, that people here can excoriate,  the words of Mallick, or Herbert, or Antoina, without being childishly accused of "jealousy" and "pettiness".  I mean seriously.... those words come straight out of the Republican hand book, on why people do not like the USA for gawd's sake.

Talk about thought terminating cliches. :rolleyes:

 

"The left" really need not go there.

 

But now we see, when it comes to Judy, one cannot take exception to her turn of phrase, and portrayal of the lived events of other women across Canada. Without it for some reason being personalized.

Is she so far "up" there, that her words cannot be looked at critically?

 

Of course not....no correct thinking socialist, or feminst would agree with that.

 

When one uses thought terminating cliches like "tearing the heart out" one must think about this and what is evoked mentally.

First thing I saw mentally was Tommy and Stephen Lewis standing on a Meso-American pyramid, ripping the hearts out of women members of the NDP, sacrificing them of the alter of patriarchy and NDP advancement.

That portrayal of events at that time, with that kind of terminology, is insulting to people who actually lived through it too, and saw things very differently.

And  those who did, have every right to  freedom of conscience to say so, no matter who said it,  without fear of childishly being labelled jealous, or petty.

And on that note, I can handle attacks like that, they roll off of me, but what about another woman  here who lived through that times, and who may to express her alternate views of it? She would be silenced now, out of fear of  being labelled petty and jealous.

 

Class solidarity closing ranks, image being made; the underclass must be feeling jealous and want to strike out at their betters.

Good grief and for shame, seriously!

 

People have a right to their opinions on other's public words!

Critiques on them are not personal attacks.

 

If I can laud Judy most of the time, here, and in real life, I most certainly can take exception to her words, when I do.

And I expect that when I do, I should not be personally attacked over it.

Wilf Day

I am biting my tongue, because there was a lot of pain at the time, and I wasn't part of that, because I had opted out of the Waffle, agreeing with most of what was being said, but fearing that it was organizationally a dead-end.

As indeed it turned out to be. But that sounds like "I told you so" which is not the case -- I didn't tell many people so. I just was busy with other things. Anyway, I expect almost everyone involved understood the risks of sectarianism, but thought they could dance creatively along the edge of it -- as indeed they did for a while.

Since most intelligent people in the Waffle went on to do very worthwhile work, in most cases within the NDP, I don't get as excited as some about rehashing that history. But as to the conflict with unions, from my perspective that was largely a conflict of workstyles: the "academics" versus the "real world." Many unionists were just as militant as Wafflers, but would have said they were more grounded. 

remind remind's picture

[quote=wilfday]Many unionists were just as militant as Wafflers, but would have said they were more grounded. [/quote]

exactly...

I did not see any waffle women working the green chain, or outside picking ice in -50 weather under the stacker, at  saw mills here in BC, so women could get into a leg into the well paid male union world of the forest industry.

Nor did I see them when home care workers fought and struggled to be a recognized industry requiring specialized training, and unionization to stop exploitation.

And numerous industries could be listed for other examples here, too.

All done by women on the front lines of life, so women could have jobs that paid well, to get them out poverty cycles they were in.

These were the critical actions for the majority of women, and they mirrored ones going on in other provinces inother industies, across the nation.

It was not the educated elite who did that, it was the front line women workers,  who did it, in a hands on manner, not those who were just speaking about it as theory, in cafe's, located in trendy areas.

 

For the educated elite to try and co-opt these herstories, is......

 

 

 

 

skdadl

[quote=Wilf Day]

as to the conflict with unions, from my perspective that was largely a conflict of workstyles: the "academics" versus the "real world." Many unionists were just as militant as Wafflers, but would have said they were more grounded. 

[/quote]

 

There was some of that -- there always is. Sometimes it's justified; sometimes it's just an easy way to undermine the left.

 

But some of the unions were with us; many union members were. And it's kind of hard to dismiss people like the Laxers and the Penners, with their labour and political histories in Canada, as "academics." I knew a number of other Wafflers with a lot of labour cred -- Joe Flexer, eg, who worked for the CP organizing Palestinians on the West Bank in the sixties, not a job for the faint of heart, eh? Not that any of those CP backgrounds would have helped with a lot of union leaders, as we discussed above.

 

Anyway, that's one of the reasons I'd like to listen to the podcast.

Wilf Day

[quote=skdadl]And it's kind of hard to dismiss people like the Laxers and the Penners, with their labour and political histories in Canada, as "academics." [/quote]

I would never dismiss academics. That's why I put quotations marks around the word. That is, so-called "academics."

And in fact I was trying to avoid sounding dismissive. That's why I was afraid to post anything in this thread. I was, and am, in no position to dismiss anything or anyone, which is just what I tried to say.

I don't even remember the excuse for ordering the Ontario Waffle to disband. Was it that it had started to collect membership fees, or in some other way was a parallel structure? But the Left Caucus had been allowed to operate ever since 1961, and soon continued, or at some point took the name "Socialist Caucus." It wasn't that caucuses per se were banned. So Stephen Lewis and the rest of the leadership felt it had gone too far, presumably for a combination of several reasons, and most people I worked with agreed. But I don't recall anyone wanting any individuals expelled.

In that way it was quite different from previous discipline events. Around eight years earlier I had been on the Ontario Youth Section executive when we expelled a dozen or so Trotskyites from the Youth Section, and the party copied. They were expelled for being actual members of another political party -- the clause in the constitution never changed -- and we actually planted a spy in the Young Socialists, the youth wing of the League for Socialist Action. We discovered that one woman who looked like a fellow-traveller with the Trots was not a member -- they discussed at their meetings their failure to get her to join -- so she was not expelled. But that was nothing like the disbanding of the Ontario Waffle. 

skdadl

Well, that was the strange thing, Wilf. No, nobody was expelled. We were ordered to "disband" if we wanted to stay in the party, and then it seemed to be up to us to decide what that meant.

 

You'd have to ask Jim or someone who was still privy to his thoughts why he decided not to disband but to take the Waffle as a group (more or less) out of the party. In a way, that was a decision not to fight the party establishment, if you see what I mean. Defying them by staying in the party would have meant forcing expulsion, and he did not do that. I've always believed he did not want to do that, but I don't know.

 

Why did we bother Stephen Lewis so much? Well, you might remember that Jim had given David Lewis a serious run for the leadership of the national party in 1971; I think that that really bothered a lot of ... what should we call them? the party establishment? All that Stephen ever said publicly was that we had become a party within a party. There were a lot of old political histories banging up against one another, but I don't know how much that was still influencing the Lewises. I think it's significant that Jim decided not to challenge them any further, but I don't know what that means either. Maybe he just recognized that he'd lost.

Unionist Unionist's picture

[quote=skdadl] I knew a number of other Wafflers with a lot of labour cred -- Joe Flexer, eg, who worked for the CP organizing Palestinians on the West Bank in the sixties, not a job for the faint of heart, eh?

[/quote]

I was quite young when I met him. His name was "Yossy Flexer" at that time, and he was organizing in the anti-war movement. He had served in the IDF and been wounded - in the Suez War, I would imagine. He ended up in the CAW, I believe. He was an extremely vibrant personality. Brings back memories.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

[quote=Wilf Day] They were expelled for being actual members of another political party -- the clause in the constitution never changed -- and we actually planted a spy in the Young Socialists, the youth wing of the League for Socialist Action. [/quote]

Would this be the League of Young Socialists in the 1960s? I flirted with joining them for a while, and sat in with them in a demo against the Viet Nam war in front of the US Embassy in Ottawa, and was detained by Ottawa Police for a while.

Polunatic2

[quote] 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. [/quote]If you're asking, what have they done lately, here's a couple of things. Judy was the moving force behind the founding of rabble.ca which provides this platform for progressives to discuss feminism, the environment and pretty much anything else. Yes, a lot of other people were also involved in the formation of rabble.ca but I'm pretty sure it was Judy's initiative. 

Jackie Larkin recently developed this climate change course for union audiences (working with a number of people). 

For me, that does add weight to what Judy (and anyone else who's hung in all these years) has to say about past, present and future. Doesn't automatically mean we have to agree with everything. 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Waffle]Wikipedia[/url] says that in 1972 "Stephen Lewis (David's son) accused the Waffle of being a [i]party within a party[/i] and the party's Provincial Council passed a resolution ordering the Waffle to either disband or leave the NDP."

That corresponds with my recollection. 

 

Somebody above mentioned Joe Flexer. [url=http://www.socialisthistory.ca/Remember/Profiles/Flexer.htm]Barry Weisleder recalls:[/url]

[quote]Joe settled in Toronto in the early 1970s. He became a provincial organizer for the left-nationalist Waffle movement in the New Democratic Party. I believe that one of his political assignments was to counteract the radical socialist wing of the Waffle in Ontario. Some of its key elements exhibited the growing influence of Marxist and Trotskyist ideas.

But a funny thing happened to Joe between the meeting hall, the library, and the bar. He became convinced that the Canadian nationalist and left-reformist leaders of the Waffle were wrong, and that the young revolutionaries, fresh from the anti-war, student and feminist movements, were much more his political cup of tea. Always an ardent internationalist, this was no great leap for Joe Flexer.

He helped to found the Red Circle, a Marxist group within the Waffle. When Ontario NDP Leader Stephen Lewis issued the famous ultimatum to the Waffle in 1972, and the Waffle debated what to do and then walked out of the NDP, Joe and the Red Circle campaigned as part of the Stay and Fight Caucus. But the repression of the Waffle took its toll, and for a generation the NDP was depleted of intellectual ferment and radical activism.[/quote]

Fidel

So let's settle an old score and bring down the NDP! Then what?

Unionist Unionist's picture

[quote=Fidel]

So let's settle an old score and bring down the NDP! Then what?

[/quote]

No one's attacking the NDP here, Fidel. It was Stephen Lewis, following in his father's footsteps, who carried out the purge. Someone should ask him if he would have done the same thing today, or if he had it to do all over again.

 

skdadl

[quote=Unionist]

[quote=skdadl] I knew a number of other Wafflers with a lot of labour cred -- Joe Flexer, eg, who worked for the CP organizing Palestinians on the West Bank in the sixties, not a job for the faint of heart, eh?

[/quote]

I was quite young when I met him. His name was "Yossy Flexer" at that time, and he was organizing in the anti-war movement. He had served in the IDF and been wounded - in the Suez War, I would imagine. He ended up in the CAW, I believe. He was an extremely vibrant personality. Brings back memories.

[/quote]

 

There's at least one very good memorial tribute to Joe around online somewhere -- I'll see if I can find it.

 

Yes, Joe was special. As you might imagine, we had a bit of a time edumacatin' him about teh women's lib, but he learned to do a kind of shuffle and blush when we all suddenly shouted at him for one infraction or another -- he had a good heart. His partner in those days was a terrific younger woman who didn't put up with nonsense but somehow managed to make it all work -- she and I used to dance together at parties, laughing at all the guys, and Joe would roll his eyes, but I think he clued in to the joke.

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