Last Sunday, the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) and the Vancouver Peace Council organized a demonstration against the potential war with Iran in front of the US Consulate, which was attended by some supporters of the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM). While actions to combat imperialist aggression are increasingly necessary, this event should be heavily criticized for the dominance of revisionist groups, its choice of location, and its inability to deal with opposition, including fascists.
Perhaps the largest problem with this protest, and likely the root cause of all the other problems, was the fact that revisionists were effectively in control. The main revisionist group was one of the organizers, the Vancouver Peace Council, which is supportive of the Communist Party of Canada (CPC), and had several individuals from that party speak at the protest. While their rhetoric was superficially anti-imperialist, they failed to transform that rhetoric into anything tangible, and in that way are effectively no different from social democrats. Another major revisionist organization that was present was the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) (CPC(ML)). This group doesn’t really present a serious threat, and its membership does appear to be dying out, however they were able to position their banner in an extremely elevated position, above those of both the ILPS and the Vancouver Peace Council, which seems like something that the organizers should have been able to maintain better control over and is symptomatic of larger issues with this action. The only good organization at this event that was at all visible was the ILPS, however they were clearly overwhelmed by these other groups, and by the time one of their speakers attempted to tie this demonstration into the larger struggle, all of the militant energy that may have existed had dissipated.
Another issue with this action was the choice of location, in front of the US Consulate downtown. While the intent behind this choice is clear, in that the Consulate is a physical representation of the US government in Vancouver, this is ultimately an ineffective strategy. The US government faces mass protests almost any time the threat of imperialist war looms, and, unless these protests take on a genuinely militant character as they did with the Vietnam War, it is clear that, to put it bluntly, they could give a shit. A more effective strategy would have been to hold this protest in a working-class neighborhood, particularly one with a substantial Middle Eastern population, and to work to actually rally the masses behind us, instead of a few hundred activists.
The final, and probably the most concerning, problem was the inability to effectively deal with opposition to this demonstration. There were certainly people who presented no real threat, like the man who stood across the street with an American flag and a sign reading “Khameni’s next” and the woman who approached and started screaming at us. However, there were also real dangers, such as known doxxer with ties to the Neo-Nazi Heritage Front group, John Southern, who was filming and was able to capture the faces of several of the organizers, as well as some proud boys who joined the counter-protester across the street towards the end of the rally. While, luckily, nothing serious happened, it is clear that, with the possible exception of ILPS, none of the organizers were prepared to deal with this in any way, which left everyone in attendance vulnerable. This is an issue that must be rectified at future actions.
Hopefully, the issues with this demonstration were primarily a product of hasty planning and future events will be able to do better with more time to prepare. We live in a historical moment of tremendous significance, and it is key that we oppose imperialist wars effectively. We must take this as an opportunity to learn from our errors and to do better in the future.
– A Supporter of MER-RSM Vancouver