WORLD PEACE FORUM TEACH IN A SUCCESS
Hundred of people took part in the World Peace Forum Teach In- ‘Ninety Years After The War To End All War’ held at the Maritime Labour Centre in Vancouver on November eighth, ninth and eleventh. In more than thirty presentations, workshops and plenaries, participants heard how the legacies and lessons of the First World War are still with us today and how they influence the dynamic of current world conflicts.
The speakers represented a broad and diverse body of opinion and experience. There were academics f decades of experience from professor emeritus Ed Shaffer, who spoke on ‘Oil, Blood, Money and Empire’- the role of oil in historic and present conflicts to Dr. Younes Parsa Benab, who analyzed the current war fever being developed by American foreign policy ‘hawks’ over Iran. There were sessions on the Russian and German revolutionary upsurges after the First World War, the anti-war activities of the Canadian labour movement, the failure of international law to prevent war and the questionable role of Canadian troops in ‘peace keeping’ operations. There were also cultural presentations that included a textile arts workshop by Vancouver artist, Elizabeth Shefrin, storytelling by refugee and immigrant youth and classic anti-war films from several countries. The Teach In ended with a staged reading of the powerful play, My Name Is Rachel Corrie, about the US peace activist killed in Gaza by an Israeli bulldozer.
Keynote speaker, Tariq Ali, veteran anti-war activist and author of many books on Central Asian politics flew in from London, UK, to speak to the Teach In. Dahlia Wasfi, a well known Iraqi/American doctor and anti-war campaigner came from Philadelphia, trade union leader, Clarence Thomas, famous for organizing the anti-war strike of west coast long shore workers attended from San Francisco and Denis Lemelin, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers came from Ottawa.
Denis Lemelin, speaking on a panel about the role of the labour movement in fighting for peace, underlined the need for trade union leaders to educate their members that their role is not just a fight for economic demands but to communicate a vision of a different world, one that has gone past the current economic and social system, “past the rule of capital” as he put it.
Comments made by many participants attested to the quality and relevance of the presentations. In many workshops there were spirited debates about the past, the present and the future and how to build a broader and more effective movement against war.
The presence of 26 high school students from Vancouver’s Windermere Secondary School was a breath of fresh air and proof that at least some young people are thinking about the world they will inherit and how to make it a peaceful one.
The ethnic diversity of both the presenters and the audience was notable and welcome. There were presentations by Vancouver Japanese, African, South Asian and Filipino organizations. The presence of the Iranian community was impressive. In general, the make up of the audience and speakers was much more representative of what Vancouver looks like than is often the case at these events.
Many of the presentations are available in written form or with links to video footage on the World Peace Forum web site- www.worldpeaceforumbc.ca
The organizers of the Teach In were very pleased with the results and announced that a second Teach In would be held next year on either the weekend of Nov. 7 & 8 or the 14 & 15. The theme of the 2009 Teach In will be the decade between the stock market crash of 1929 and the beginning of the Second World War in 1939.