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Socialist message kicks off LGBT Pride week

Published Jul 3, 2006 3:12 PM

More than 500 people showed up June 18 for a sold-out event in Toronto, Canada, to hear Workers World Managing Editor Leslie Feinberg kick off Toronto’s Pride week.

The Toronto Women’s Bookstore—which also serves as a multinational, multicultural lesbian, gay, bi and trans community center—hosted the event at an auditorium at the University of Toronto. Many diverse community-based organizations, university groups and departments co-sponsored.

Significantly, so did many Canadian labor unions. Union sponsors included the Canadian Auto Workers; Canadian Union of Public Employees, Locals 3903 and 4400; Canadian Women in Science & Engineering—Ontario Institute for Stu dies in Education; Ontario Public Service Employees Union; United Steelworkers Toronto Area Council and Steel Pride. Fein berg is herself a member of Pride At Work/AFL-CIO, a national steering committee member of the LGBT Caucus of the National Writers’ Union/UAW, and an asso ciate member of the Steelworkers’ Union.

Struggles by Canadian unions have led to court decisions in Ontario and other provinces that require employers to provide equal benefits to same-sex spouses, including bereavement leave and medical, dental and pension benefits. (www.uswa.ca)

The website of the Canadian Auto Workers states: “We have proven that fighting back does make a difference and Pride season is one of those times that we can fight back. This year will be no exception to that history, we intend to not only celebrate Pride but politicize it. This is your opportunity to join the LGBT community and be part of the struggle for equality.” (www.caw.ca)

‘An injury to one is an injury to all!’

Dan Irving—a contract faculty member at York University, a trans male and a Marxist—introduced Feinberg as a revolutionary organizer, a theoretician and a comrade, and thanked her for consistently and courageously speaking as a socialist.

The crowd cheered when Feinberg’s first words expressed solidarity with Arab, South Asian and Muslim immigrants in Canada and the U.S., support for the Haude nosaunee (Six Nation) people struggling to defend their land against Cana dian state repression, and a salute to Toronto transportation workers for their recent wildcat strike.

Feinberg said she thought the thing most appropriate for someone from the U.S. to raise was the need to build a militant movement against the imperialist war in the Middle East.

She warned that big-business propaganda makes imperialist wars seem like “humanitarian” interventions, “but they are wars of conquest by the fused power of the banks and corporations—the same bos ses we are battling on the domestic front—who are trying to expand the domination of their capital in order to squeeze every drop of profit and secure global positioning.”

Feinberg said that in the early 1990s, U.S. imperialism drowned in blood the Afghan Revolution against feudalism that was liberating women, yet in 2001 it characterized its invasion as an attempt to liberate women there. Anti-Soviet attitudes amongst those who view themselves as progressives in the U.S. kept them from supporting the Afghan democratic revolution of 1978, Feinberg emphasized.

Similarly, anti-communism holds back the working-class struggle in the United States and Canada, she said. “We cannot fight for economic and social justice if we accept that capitalism is the end of history. Look around at all that we have built with our work, and that of our laboring ancestors. We have to collectively tear up the deed that says a few families own it all.

“We need to bring the anti-capitalist struggle out of the closet. We are on the eve of momentous struggles. We need to put a movement-wide discussion about socialism and its higher stage, communism, on our agenda now in order to position ourselves in this battle,” Feinberg stressed.

She concluded that we can’t wage an effective fight against our bosses unless we are fighting oppression, and that means that fighting racism, sexism and LGBT oppression have to be critical components of the agenda of labor and the progressive movement. “An injury to one is an injury to all—that’s the granite truth the labor movement is built on,” she said.

The audience gave Feinberg’s message a prolonged standing ovation. No opposition was expressed during the long question and answer period. In fact, one person in the audience said she came to the event with doubts about what she thought Feinberg was going to say, but left with an attitude of openness and admiration for the ideas.

An event organizer stated, “We heard what we needed to hear tonight.”

After the event, organizers and participants expressed great satisfaction in the fact that the large audience contained a broad representation of workers and oppressed peoples’ organizations and other activists, including from the anti-war movement.