An Evening with the Communists

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One September night, I attended a reading of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles’ Communist Manifesto at UofT. My friend who goes to UofT invited me, and I have to admit my first instinct after his invite was to trivialize the idea of going to the reading. Thinking to myself; Why would anyone support mass starvation, or the loss of personal property, who in their right mind would stand by a regime that suppresses individual freedoms? These concerns are built into people born in representative democracies. These ideals must be broken to prevent ignorance. So, I straggled along for the journey and spent an evening with the communists.

As we entered the classroom all the eyes in the room seemed to shift towards us at the exact moment. Not an intimidating stare, just an unfamiliar one.We sat in the corner of the second row, away from the everyone else. The class was like any other university classroom. There was a podium, computer, and a desk. On the chalkboard was written “Fightback! A reading of the Communist Manifesto” and below was “End White Supremacy. Walk with us at Queens Park.” The desk had an assortment of socialist-centric readings, such as Communist Manifesto Pamplet, Leo Trotsky essays, Nietzsche on Communism, and a text on Rosa Luxemburg. The woman sitting at the desk quickly came and greeted my friend and myself. She was wearing a black T-Shirt with “Bolshevik” printed in bold red letters accompanied by a glorious red star. She introduced herself—we can call her Mary—and asked what brought us here, how we heard of the event, whether we are interested in joining the organization and other general questions regarding our attendance. She went back to her desk and began the session.

Mary began with a brief summary of the Communist Manifesto, outlining the central tenants of Marxism. She distinguished the Bourgeois (ruling class) and the Proletariat (working class), and said we are all essentially the Proletariat. She argued that ideals formed in the text seem antiquated, but are in fact more applicable today. Then she analyzed the phrases in the Manifesto and what they mean today. For example, the term “class” today is a simple categorization based on earnings and  lifestyle: lower, middle and upper. In Marx’s time class was an absolute power struggle. An aristocracy controlled properties and business, in turn the lower class could do nothing but obey. A few of the students in the room would occasionally reiterate one of the points with equal or greater understanding and a small discussion would break out. One in particular caught my attention.

A woman in front of me who was obviously a professional interjected when Mary brought up protest. She said this past year her union went on strike for a higher salary. As soon as the dispute began, her district manager quickly hopped the fence and got a job at a corporate location downtown. She continued saying her manager was always very kind and one of her favourite bosses. But at the end of the day a manager’s job is to maintain the workplace designed by the company. This is a prime example of the Managerial Proletariat. After this discussion, I asked the classroom the repercussions of the newly legislated $15/hour Minimum wage. I was confused because if minimum wage is rising $3.60, will other low-income jobs also raise $3.60 or will all low-wage workers earn the same amount? For example if I’m currently earning $15 will I make $18.60, or will I still make $15? The result would either be mass firings, or the incentive of promotion will mean very little for low-wage worker the employee. If the former is true, I’d much rather make $11.40 than be fired. Almost immediately after my final comment, two women turned and replied to me. One said “Ya, its a hard game sometimes,” the other “that’s one of their tactics.”

After the discussion we walked to the Duke of York English Pub across from St. George station. We ordered a few pitchers of whatever was on special. Mary sat right between me and my friend. She asked if we’d like to put our name on the email list, we politely declined. Shexplaied to us how the “Fightback” collective is comprised of over 130 individual Universities in 30 countries worldwide, the headquarters is in London, England. They have a flyer which is released every month for whoever subscribes called Fightback: The Marxist Voice of Labour and Youth. Apparently, there is a substantial Communist population in Yukon. “Fightback” cannot guarantee uniformity in every individual sub-sect, but they can guarantee an impending social revolution. They believe, when revolution strikes Communism will be the option people flock to because for them the revolution has already begun. Therefore, it is the most developed option for future economics.

The “Fightback” collective is a passionate organization that wants nothing more than human equality. “Fightback” is there to educate students that capitalism is not the be-all-end-all solution to politics. Any student may join and prior knowledge of Politics is not required. A member merely needs a will to learn. One fellow I met told me he graduated from York with a Fine Arts degree a few years ago. I asked if he did anything after and he told me “Fightback” is practically his graduate studies. They provide reading lists and are in constant discussion. If you would like to broaden your political consciousness or believe socialism prevails over capitalism, go to a few meetings and test the waters. Just keep in mind that opinion is not knowledge and politics will never be agreed upon.