Mini-Conference Successfully Held in Toronto, Sept. 22-23-24, 2006
By George Gruenthal
To prepare for the holding of the Third Worldwide Congress of the International Council of Friendship and Solidarity with Soviet People, and to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Northstar Compass, a Mini-Conference took place in Toronto. Once again the Canadian government, in subservience to U.S. imperialism and on its own, prohibited several Soviet representatives from getting visas, thus preventing them from participating. However, Vladimir Chechentsev, the Chair of the Soviet Society for Friendship with Foreign Countries, was able to attend. As the only Soviet representative he therefore had to bear the brunt of considerable comradely criticism from representatives at the Mini-Conference.
There were about 24 representatives at the conference, most from Canada, 5 from the U.S. (Including a comrade from Senegal who lives in New York), and comrade Chechentsev from Moscow. The first item taken up was the report (published separately) by Michael Lucas, Chair of the International Committee and Editor of Northstar Compass, and discussion of the Report. Comrade Lucas was critical of certain parties and organizations that had cooperated with the International Council in the past, but who now are taking a stand of deriding the idea of having a Friendship Society with Soviet People. Michael Lucas expressed the real need for material from the Soviet trade unions, which has not been coming on a regular basis.
Michael Lucas also pointed to the problems of collaboration between the host committee of the Third Congress, headed by Dr. Dzhohadze from the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Soviet Friendship Committee. Dzhohadze, as a member of a department of the Academy of Sciences, had offered the facilities of the Academy for the Third World Congress from November 6-8, 2007, to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the October Socialist Revolution. But now Putin, as part of the privatization program as well as a clear attack on the Third Congress, is implementing measures to dissolve the Academy.
The most important part of the Mini-Conference was the Report by comrade Chechentsev on the preparations for the Third Congress. In the course of the report Chechentsev pointed out that Dzhohadze, who is affiliated with Zyuganov’s Communist Party of the Russian Federation, is not yet a member of the Soviet Friendship Society, many of whose leading members are affiliated with the Russian Communist Workers Party headed by Tiulkin.
The Soviet Friendship Society has been publicizing the Third Congress by publishing articles in various papers with which they have good relations. They have also been trying to involve other parties and organizations in the work of the Friendship Society, with some limited success. As of yet, there has been no letter from the Soviet Friendship Society inviting other groups to participate in the Congress – instead the Society has relied on the work of Dzhohadze and the publication of news of the Congress in the Russian edition of NSC (of which 3 issues have appeared, and a fourth is almost ready) and in other progressive papers.
After much discussion it was decided that:
(1) A letter from the Soviet Friendship Society would be sent to all progressive organizations and parties calling on them to take part in planning for and participating in the Third Congress.
(2) A similar letter would be sent by the International Congress.
(3) Michael Lucas and Vladimir Chechentsev would make a joint trip to visit the Soviet organizations and parties to help encourage their participation.
Chechentsev stated that, with the carrying out of these tasks he was confident that a successful Third Congress can be held in Moscow. This was seconded by the resounding applause of all the representatives at the Mini-Conference.
George Gruenthal, secretary of the Northstar Compass web page, made a report on the Future of Northstar Compass (published separately). The report dealt with two main issues. The first was the importance of broadening the political scope and influence of NSC with articles appealing to the broader progressive movement, including the anti-war movement, trade union movement and national liberation movements, not just communist parties. The second issue was the need to make the editorial work of the journal a task of a functioning editorial board from several countries that could write, select and translate articles, while more comrades from Toronto would work on tasks such as stuffing envelopes and mailing out the journal, so that the whole responsibility of the work would not rest on only Michael and Helen Lucas.
There was also discussion of what to do regarding issues over which there were political differences, in this case about the letter published from the CPI (ML) in the September 2006 issue of NSC that mentioned "Soviet social imperialism." Ray O Light" of the U.S. pointed out that the credo of NSC stated that it was a united front organization and not a forum for debate. It was decided that the credo should be printed in the journal. This was agreed to, and it was stated that if the representative who objected to the statement in the letter wished, he could express his objection in a letter to NSC, which would also be printed, and that should end the discussion on this question.
In the discussion of the Russian elections, it was pointed out that in the new bourgeois "democracy," only about 25% of the population votes. The law on political parties gives less chance for opposition parties – one needs to have a certain financial backing or already have representatives in the Russian Duma. One cannot now run independent candidates in only certain districts. One is not allowed to vote against all parties, and it is illegal to call for a boycott of the vote. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for December of 2007, and the next presidential elections should be in the middle of 2008.
The Russian edition of Northstar Compass has been appearing since late 2005. The Russian edition, which also has its own website (www.ns-c.org) is the fruit of the hard work of the dedicated volunteers of the Soviet Friendship Society. The Russian edition will now be sent to the 240 people, organizations and parties in the former Soviet Union who now receive the English edition.
The meeting part of the Mini-Conference concluded with the adoption of the main slogan of the Third Congress: Forward to the Soviet Union! Forward to Socialism! Also a series of topics for resolutions were proposed which will be published separately.
In the afternoon of September 24, a banquet was held in honor of the 15th anniversary of the publication of Northstar Compass. Some 50 people, friends and supporters of NSC, attended the banquet, which was prepared by our own chef, a member of Canadian Friends of Soviet People. Much of the food and drinks for the banquet and the conference meals was donated by progressive restaurant owners who support the aims of NSC.
The banquet concluded with the singing of The International and the Soviet national anthem, and toasts were made to the success of the Third Congress in Moscow at the 90th anniversary of the October Revolution in November of 2007.
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