June 23, 2013 at 2:44 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

I lived in Calgary for two years in the 1990s. I suppose if I were still there and blogging, this would be called Notes from Under Water. It’s surreal to see the streets of Calgary (and I lived downtown) under that much water. True, the Bow River was about half a mile from my apartment, but still…

On the other hand, without wanting to seem uncharitable or unsympathetic, it might be a bit of an exaggeration to call it, as did Alberta premier Alison Redford, “a tragedy.”  Especially since the news reports from India suggest as many as 1,000 may have died as a result of flooding there.

I moved to Calgary for a job in 1996. The job lasted two months, but we decided to stay. Two years later, we returned to Toronto.

When I left Toronto for the west, I could probably be described as a critical Trotskyist in transition to something else. The previous year I had quit the International Bolshevik Tendency, but was still broadly supportive (two months before I moved, I had sold the IBT press at one of the Days of Action rallies).Still, I was also a subscriber to the Discussion Bulletin and Collective Action Notes and was beginning to discover what I would later identify as council communism.

The left in Toronto is large, and has a large Trotskyist contingent. the left in Calgary does not. It took me a few months to discover the variants. It was not large.

  • The Communist Party – the Party as in other parts of the country had shrunk dramatically. Most of the members were elderly, but a few younger members had organized something called the Marxist Study Group which was less a party forum than a discussion circle.
  • The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) – I first encountered the CPC (ML) when I was a student in Hamilton. While the “Bainsites” were no longer pro-Albanians, they still seemed to have the quirky cult features down pat (the obits for leader Hardial Bains makes the ones Stalin wrote for Lenin perfectly normal).
  • The New Democratic Party – A little to the left of the regular party given its marginalization. There was also something called Prairie Rose News, promoted by NDPers
  • Labour Council – Made up of a mixture of the above. Generally open to anyone who wanted to be involved.
  • Food Not Bombs – the local @ group. I hung out with them, even though I was two decades older than most of them.
  • Me. I started to publish Red & Black Notes while I was living there

I should also mention that Edmonton, the provincial capital three hours to the north and known locally as Redmonton because they sometimes elected Liberals and New Democrats also had a socialist challenge group which was in the process of merging with the New Socialist Group and a member of Socialist Action. The International Socialists often listed contacts in each city, but it was usually a student writing to them and when they graduated that was that.

The odd thing about the left in Calgary was that possibly due to the seemingly totalitarian nature of the province’s view of opposition (“Alberta: love it or leave it”), we all more or less got along. There didn’t seem to be much of the bitterness and generally arsehole-like behaviour found in Toronto. Of course, the Spartacists weren’t there (sorry, cheap, but not entirely inaccurate shot)

While I was there, I worked on a couple of strike supports locally and helped organize tours for members of Women of the Waterfront and the Detroit newspaper workers.  We raised thousands of dollars for both.

In April 1998, I moved back to Toronto.


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