URP leaderboard June 2024

Why we need the Peoples’ Social Forum

Canadian PoliticsSocial Movements

We are pleased to launch the first installment in a series of online viewpoints, “Visions of the Left.” In this first piece, author and activist Derrick O’Keefe makes the case that the Peoples’ Social Forum is a necessary venue for grassroots change.

In the coming weeks, the Visions of the Left series will present ideas and views from leading voices on the Left. They will discuss how to move forward in the face of serious ecological, social, military and economic challenges in the struggle for a better world. We look forward to sharing and discussing these views with you. Feedback and constructive engagement is highly encouraged.

Building toward the Peoples’ Social Forum

There are many important ongoing political struggles that demand our attention and action in Canada. In some cases, the resistance is even dynamic and inspiring – like the Indigenous-led wall of opposition to expanding the tar sands and building new export pipeline mega-projects.

But we need to be honest: there is a void in this country, the political silences are deafening. Beyond some very marginal formations and small publications, the left is missing. It’s just not there, organizationally. It’s barely there in the discussion at all, outside of a few major centres.

I know that this absence is part of a long-term trend, but I think we’re in a new phase now with the NDP acting more than ever as a “government-in-waiting.” With their parliamentary caucus more muzzled – or self-censoring – than ever, there is no political expression for many of the basic demands of the Left.

Even the far-Left has largely disintegrated organizationally; the old socialist sects barely exist anymore, and new more promising groups are only slowly beginning to emerge.

Given this somewhat dismal context, I think that the Peoples’ Social Forum is a very important initiative. More than a one-off major event, the Social Forum process has the potential to provide a framework for unity and coordination of all political forces opposing Harper and neoliberalism.

The fact that activists in Quebec – including veterans of the 2012 student uprising – are playing such a central role in the Social Forum makes it all that much more promising.

We need new extra-parliamentary organizations and networks, as well as independent media outlets, so that we can debate, discuss and articulate politics on the Left free of pressure from those currently steering the federal NDP. That’s why I’m looking forward to the Social Forum and the organizing process around it. Plan to be in Ottawa this summer, August 21-24.

Derrick O’Keefe is a Canadian Vancouver-based writer and social justice activist. He was the editor of until 2013 and former co-chair of in Vancouver, B.C. His published works include Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil? and Malalai Joya: A Woman Among Warlords (2009).


PSAC leaderboard

Browse the Archive