The following is a response to the letter written by Mr. Marcus Mattinson in your issue from Sept. 22. I am a member of the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM), as well as a current board member of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), and I wish to shed some light on the rather misinformed and dishonest position brought forward by Mr. Mattinson.
First of all, there is nothing for us to be ashamed of in flying the red flag, emblazoned with the hammer and sickle. For hundreds of millions of people, workers and peasants across the world, this symbol represents both hope and the achievement of defeating capitalism and feudalism, oppressive systems that for centuries had most people slaving away to an early grave to enrich the privileged few.
Through socialism, they were able to build societies in which education and healthcare were accessible to all and not just a select few, in which people could live in peace from resource wars and safety from violence based on nationality, race, gender, and sexual orientation.The flag stands for anti-racist, anti-fascist, anti-ableist, LGBTQ2S*-inclusive, and proletarian feminist culture in both word and action and seeks to make politics open and accessible to working class students.
Apart from the general conservative cold-war platitudes and red-baiting used by Mr. Mattinson as arguments to denounce socialism, all the while holding up Canada as a “free” country of “hope and opportunity,” he conveniently omits many issues that one would expect such a strong advocate of human rights would consider.
He is willing to bring up the stain on the name of socialism and communism, but of course he doesn’t consider the hundreds of millions of deaths attributed to capitalism and colonialism.
What can be said of a country whose most prominent founder said “If you look around the world you will see that the Aryan races will not wholesomely amalgamate with the Africans and the Asiatics. It is not to be desired that they should come; that we should have a mongrel race…” and who contributed to the extermination of 1 million Indigenous people and their continued marginalization?
With appalling conditions in factories and mines, and not just in the 19th-20th centuries, modern Canadian mining companies have frequently enabled human rights abuses and environmental damage affecting thousands in their search for individual profit.
What to say of imperial wars of aggression on Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention those of the past in Vietnam and Korea where millions of innocents were murdered to maintain the hegemony of the West over the world?
What of Canada’s participation in funding right-wing military coups in democratic countries to preserve financial interests? Canada continues to be complicit in funding some of the most brutal regimes on the planet as long as they conform their policy to meet Canadian mining interests. Should we now accept the Maple Leaf as a symbol of terror and oppression?
I would like to briefly mention the organization mentioned in the letter, Tribute to Liberty. They are a right-wing think-tank group with many ties to the Conservative Party of Canada. Their so-called monument to the victims of communism was heavily endorsed by Harper and the then conservative multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney. It is clear that this piece of cold war propaganda is meant to serve the political goals of a party for whom Mattinson is a main campus organiser, as well as serve the interests of Tribute to Liberty’s board of directors composed of finance and industry leaders who have everything to gain from weakening the working-class in any way possible. The real irony (and hypocrisy) here is the fact that this monument will be built on public land using $1.5 million in taxpayer money.
Lastly, on the topic of OPIRG, I would like to make a few clarifications. It is true that the RSM receives funding and other forms of support from the organization, having applied for and received action group status, for which we are very thankful. We are also very thankful for uOttawa students to be funding this organization which does important work on our campus and in the wider the community. Since we have been involved there as the RSM, OPIRG has provided funding to dozens of groups and individuals, doing invaluable work in different fields, from fighting for stateless people’s rights to improving community food security.
OPIRG has also made a constant effort to maximize its visibility among students, reaching thousands of students through class presentations and holding events throughout the year, such as book launches and workshops highlighting issues faced by the most marginalized people in our society. It is not surprising of course that the Conservative Party would feel threatened by such initiatives and try to suppress this organization. If they really want to take on OPIRG though, they will also come across us every step of the way.
—Danik Dozet, RSM member, OPIRG board member, and first-year education student.