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“Life is not an easy matter… You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea.”

— Leon Trotsky

"LET'S RENT A TRAIN!"

Life in the Toronto Branch of the League for Socialist Action, 1961–1977

Life in the Toronto Branch of the League for Socialist Action, 1961–1977

“LET’S RENT A TRAIN!” film credits

“LET’S RENT A TRAIN!”

Life in the Toronto Branch of the League for Socialist Action, 1961-1977

– video 93 minutes –

“LET’S RENT A TRAIN!” is an unprecedented historical film about the rise and fall of a militant revolutionary group that profoundly altered Canada’s political landscape.

During the social upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s, several hundred highly disciplined activists led Canada’s antiwar movement against the U.S. invasion of Vietnam, and exposed Ottawa’s financial and diplomatic complicity with the Pentagon.

The League for Socialist Action (LSA), also played a key role in winning the abortion rights struggle, and defended Dr. Henry Morgentaler when he was jailed for defying Canada’s abortion law.

The film’s sixty interviewees include these noted dissidents:

  • Don Tapscott (best-selling author, technology innovator and entrepreneur)
  • Alice Klein (journalist, co-founder Toronto’s NOW magazine)
  • Judy Rebick (author/broadcaster, abortion law repeal leader)
  • Mitch Podolak (founder, Winnipeg Folk Festival, Order of Manitoba)
  • Ann Thomson (activist/author Winning Choice on Abortion)

“LET’S RENT A TRAIN!” was written, produced, and directed by TV production veteran Douglas Williams. It features paintings by renowned artist Mike Alewitz, and a provocative music score by composer (and multiple Juno Award nominee – as Lotus Wight) Sam Allison.

65 Comments

  1. Jewelz That's me

    I have yet to watch this documentary as I have only just found out about it, but as soon as I am able, I will do so.
    I did however read all of the comments in this thread and due to being a part of the 2022 Freedom Convoy, I feel we should (somehow🤷‍♀️) follow your lead, and create a new political party.
    No clue how to do this, but I am definitely in for being a part of helping, to create one!
    Stay well, stay FREE! 🤞🙏😎👌👍🤙💎

    Reply
  2. Bob Small

    A must see for present day Canadian activists.

    Reply
    • Douglas Williams

      Thanks, Bob!

      Reply
  3. Grant Hargrave

    A very impressive film Doug. I was carried back to my experience in the LSA in Toronto, after having moved there in the early 1970s from Vancouver where I joined the YS and the LSA. It was a joy to see and hear so many comrades from back then and to revisit the struggles we went through together. Thanks for your contribution to preserving an important period of our history.

    Reply
    • Douglas Williams

      THANKS GRANT!

      Reply
  4. Sarah Armstrong

    This excellent film serves as a political activist’s primer on Socialist organizing in Toronto in the 60s and 70s. It helps put things into context. The passage of time can dull the perceived importance of the many wins of activists of the time.Truly an inspiring film.

    Reply
    • Douglas Williams

      Thanks Sarah, A perfect review!- Doug Williams

      Reply
  5. BrendaLee Lennic

    A well produced, informative piece! I had no idea this happened in Canada bcs of our (US) involvement in the Vietnam War. As a veteran who became a member of Veterans For Peace after retirement, I am thankful for those whose activism years ago and today continue to try and keep our legislators on track for a warless world. I would be interested to see something like this produced with American activists. Our younger generations need this inspiration and guidance today more than ever!! #WinWithoutWar

    Reply
  6. Douglas Williams

    I watched your film with great interest because I was in Canada in the 1970s working at UBC living on Vancouver. There were lots of American young med and partnership and sometimes children all against the war. There was no movement formed. However, it is interesting to see now how people lived a socialist and communicative life, politics were not part of that revolution as in Toronto. However, comunes were set up, people lived off the land, became very creative in their lives, lots of theatre, art, writing and being closer to the art and culture of indiginous peoples.
    London where people are more involved in formal política lt was interesting to watch.
    The film and interviews were amazing, it has reminder me of our recent burst of socialism here in UK with a Labour Party that was very closely aligned to a very innovative and highly popular party of the left.
    Unfortunately the international left is not as united and organised as the establishment international right. What is interesting in your film is how energised and still committed the interviewees still are.
    I wish you the best and would like very much to see more. I will forward your film to younger political budding revolutionaries, of who There are many here in London. The are on need of inspiration after the organised defectos of our budding left wing Labour Party. The young here are aligning themselves to, what seems to be growing left wing union membership. There are constant strikes.
    An awareness of us becoming very fascistic and divided in UK is frightening. Your film was inspirational and I will share it certainly. Thank you so much.

    Reply
    • Douglas Williams

      The generous comment, above, was gleaned from FB Messenger, and now I’m unable to post its author. Thanks very much, whoever you are!

      Reply
  7. Phil

    Well made, thoughtful and well worth watching. If you are Canadian.

    Reply
    • Douglas Williams

      Hopefully, even if you aren’t!

      Reply
  8. Douglas Williams

    Bash Theba
    Let’s Rent a Train
    An excellent memoir to a valiant struggle by the Toronto branch of the League for Socialist Action in Canada from 1961 to 1977.
    Brilliantly written, produced, directed, catered- ‘you must be joking’, and everything else by Douglas Williams. A labour of love, commitment, and Trotskyite activism as relevant today, as it was 50 odd years ago.
    Without knowing anything of the Canadian political landscape of the era, Trotsky’s Internationalism is what binds all struggles.
    The policy adopted by the LSA of ‘entryism’ in its participation with the NDP; as a left alternative within the NDP. Using the metaphor of, ‘the NDP as an obstacle to Socialism, and a vehicle to Socialism’ (I’m paraphrasing), was a strategic choice with the objective conditions prevalent at the time.
    Struggling against Apartheid in South Africa under repressive conditions, constantly monitored by the Security Branch forced us to adopt similar strategies.
    The victories achieved by the LSA developing and raising political consciousness leading to mass protests in Canada are historic!
    In particular the Anti-War Movement, Women’s Reproductive Rights, the struggle for Gay rights, and defending the Cuban Revolution, amongst other struggles.
    And in any struggle one competes for ideological dominance.
    The documentary traverses all the ideological nuances with succinct interviews drawing a canvas for the viewer, interwoven by the fabric of struggle art, with an unobtrusive subliminal musical score.
    With the finale of the most delicate rendition of the ‘Internationale’.
    The League for Socialist Action successfully gave agency to Canadians in all terrains of struggle. From labour, women, gay, anti-war, patriarchal to challenging Imperialist Capitalism. Albeit with unique challenges and the final demise of the Movement.
    ‘Let’s Rent a Train’ is a colourful, sometimes humourous, often painful, but brilliant documentary of a period when Socialism ‘could have prevailed’ in Canada. But….
    “Life is not an easy matter…You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea.”
    Leon Trotsky

    Reply
  9. Douglas Williams

    FROM ROBERT ARGUE

    Brother Williams:
    I have just watched your wonderful documentary ‘Let’s Rent a Train.’ I found myself at many points with tears in my eyes, remembering the Left as it was, and remembering a few old friends who you interviewed and are now gone. While I was never part of the LSA, and was sometimes irritated by Trotskyist fervor, I could not help but admire their (your) organizational effectiveness. My experience on the Left started in Saskatchewan: I was CCF spawn (4th generation). By the mid-60s I was, as I recall, pretty much simultaneously, Vice-President of the NDY and Chair of the Regina Campus branch of Student Union for Peace Action. The adults in the NDP had an enormous paranoia about ‘Trots’ and entryism, which I had difficulty understanding, since the only ‘Trots’ I knew were named Engler, or were in a relationship with someone named Engler. By 1965, all our organizational energies were absorbed by opposition to the American War on Vietnam, as the Vietnamese so accurately call it. We had our first demo in March of 1965, and that’s where most of our energies went for the next many years: demonstrations, support of deserters, you know all that.

    Anti-Vietnam action attempted a broad coalition of left NDP (including many former Sask cabinet member) Co-op activists, and members of the Sask. Farmers Union and the CP (which was the only significant non-social democratic force in Sask at that time. The Sask Waffle grew out of that coalition, the leading sectors of which had come to understand the war in terms of anti-imperialism. So, I got Toronto, enrolled in a doctoral program at the industrial wasteland of York University. Within weeks, I was huddled behind the ramp of the Ross Building with my friend John Warnock, watching a PRO WAR MEASURES ACT DEMONSTRATION!!! Bloody, fucking hell! So that was my introduction to Toronto. I don’t think my morale ever quite recovered. But I doubled down on my Waffle activities and remained active with the group until we were expelled from the ONDP in 1972. (The Sask Waffle pre-emptively expelled themselves.) After that, well, small scale organizing, often on the fringes of the CP (politics are often determined as much by affinity as by reason), peace activity from time to time, etc. We all (or most of us) did what we could. As the current situation shows, it was never enough.

    I could, but won’t, go on and on. I now see the 60’s and 70’s as the high point for all of us on the left. We made the triumphalist (and undialectical) error of thinking that progress would be linear and that we would be part of it, if not lead it. That clearly wasn’t to be. Nonetheless, I’m reminded of something Pete Seeger used to say: ‘Never feel sorry for the guy who struggled and lost. Feel sorry for the poor sucker who never struggled at all.’

    Reply
  10. A. Addis

    Excellent documentary. What is your group doing now to counter US hegemony? The workers must all be united but not within the Democratic Party.

    Reply
  11. Tina Willis

    My consistent comment on the Swingin ’60s ‘Love Generation’?

    Cynically killed by 1968-ongoing far-Right NixonNazi & Co criminals generating hate in plain-sight with their False Flag/Inside Job FAKE ‘War On Drugs’.

    A de-facto ‘War On Love’ against anti-War Hippies and civil rights Blacks. By swamping the U.S. with South of The Border contraband airlifted in on C130s to USAF airfields, and sold nationwide on the streets with vast profits laundered by corrupt Wall Street.

    Check Dan Baum, ‘Harpers Magazine’ April 2016, “At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

    https://harpers.org/archive/2016/04/legalize-it-all/?fbclid=IwAR3GNrX0DCEHb5_k9-PBXLJ5lQc7glMlZvVEG7F67aspHGUAq-FGacYqIqk

    Reply
  12. Matt Hoke

    Reminds me of my old days being in a Trotskyist group in the 2000s. This really does give an inside look at what being in one is like, pretty much the best documentary I’ve seen about what it’s like to be a modern Trotskyist. I’ll definitely be sharing it with some Baby Boomer hippie friends who were active in the 1960s.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth Allen

      FANTASTIC film! My 60s struggles in US ANTI WAR WOMENS LIBERATION ETC ETC IN USA brought back the love camraderie devotion to change precisely what’s needed now. At 80 am to old but this film teaches the young what must be done again if humans and planet to survive.

      Reply
  13. Don Samantha

    I am Don Samantha from asiacommune.org website. i watched this great film several times. It serously mortivated me to be taken a practical actions today .I will talk with William & I love a lot ‘LET’S RENT A TRAIN’ Thanks Really!

    Reply
  14. Angie Lina daniel

    Thanks for revealing our history.
    It’s gonna be a great impact on people. I really love this.

    Reply
  15. Michael Morrissey

    Great film, and makes me curious about what these people would say about the current situation with the US/NATO fighting a proxy war against Russia that could have been so easily prevented. That would be a great sequel!

    Reply
  16. Ferdinand

    So lovely. Congrats!

    Reply
  17. Yemeni Proudly

    awsome film Good Luck

    Reply
  18. Rosalie Ferguson

    Loved this …I attended Atkinson College during this period of time. Between working full time, building a house and travelling it took 13 years to get a degree. But this documentary brings back a lot of great memories
    of lefty university professors but also some horrible memories of coming home from work and checking that days body bag count on the news.
    Thank you for your anti war activism . It’s desperately needed again.
    I’m getting tired of being the “ putinista “ in my group of seniors who seem to take CBCNN.as gods truth .

    Reply
  19. Katherine J. McNeill

    I enjoyed your film very much. I’m a Californian, and I saw many parallels with the anti-war and civil rights movements here during the 1960s and 70s. It was good to learn more about the committed activists of the LSA, the Trotskyists and other groups on the Left in Canada. I admire the hard work and courage of these activists. Thanks for sharing this history in your film. We are still fighting many of the same battles here in the US today, which has regressed with the rulings of a right-wing Supreme Court, with book banning, curtailment of women’s rights, white supremacy, mass shootings, and capitalism run amok. There is much that must change here.

    The film’s soundtrack was very good, and the film was well made. Thanks for making it easy for us to see it.

    Reply
  20. Douglas Williams

    May Day Books Blog
    Not making a profit since 1975! …And since 2007, one of the Best Left-Wing Book & Culture Review Sites on the Net.

    Friday, July 21, 2023
    Dear Marat: “We Want a Revolution Now!”
    “Let’s Rent a Train!” documentary by Douglas Williams, 2023

    This is a story of a Canadian Marxist group, the League for Socialist Action (LSA) in the heady period of 1961-1977. The title comes from the plan they carried out to rent a train from Toronto to Ottawa, the Canadian capitol, for a demonstration against Canadian complicity in the American war in Vietnam. It includes 60 interviews of LSA members, observers and historical footage. The LSA was a militant, national and active organization that had an outsized effect on Canadian politics. Remember, Canada is less populated than the U.S. so small radical groups in the right situation and area could have a bigger punch.

    PHOTO: Ross Dowson, first leader of LSA
    They took up struggles against war-making by the U.S. and Canada, for abortion rights, for indigenous, Quebecois, civil rights and against racism. They worked inside unions and within the New Democratic Party (NDP), while also running independent candidates in various ‘ridings’ (electoral districts for you Yanks…). Their entry into the NDP, which is a labor party based on the trade unions, allowed them to reach more working-class people. They also worked directly in unions, including the Teachers where they formed a significant caucus. Young LSA members were expelled and purged by the NDP in the 1970s in various red hunts. The LSA promoted the ‘new-left’ in the NDP, the early 1970s oddly-named “Waffle,” which mounted a huge challenge to the NDP bureaucracy. Waffle candidates almost won the election for president of the NDP in 1972.

    The LSA were key activists in the abortion rights struggles in the early 1970s and defended Dr. Henry Morgentaler when he was arrested for defying Canada’s anti-abortion laws. In the 1960s Canada would not allow unmarried women to have birth control pills, rent an apartment without a man signing for them. They dissuaded women from getting a STEM education. There’s even a remembrance of a personal comment by the Frankfort ‘School’s’ Herbert Marcuse when he told a woman comrade that ‘girls’ should not be in academic life. (!) There is another about how a man’s feminist books helped him ‘get laid.’ Women’s conscious raising sessions occurred in the organization, leading to forming a women’s caucus for a time. This, again, was common in other Left groups. By the way, it took until 1988 for Federal Canada to make abortion fully legal. (!)

    The Canadian economy is heavily dominated by U.S. corporations. The LSA acted against U.S. nuclear tests that affected Canada. Their work in the NDP’s Waffle was partly oriented against U.S. corporate control of Canadian economic and political life.

    Of note is the fact that members who joined the LSA learned many skills useful in any setting –speaking, art, writing, organizing, negotiating, defense tactics, running meetings, printing, working with different types of people, studying various topics, reading, glad-handing, theory, practical maintenance, electoral work – you name it. This is similar to other Marxist groupings by the way. Some members discuss their radicalizing moments, others their political reminiscences, others their problems.

    The Waffle – Fighting the right trend in the NDP
    LSA politics were in the tradition of Trotsky, Lenin, Marx and Engels and as a result they were in conflict with the reformist Canadian Communist Party, anarchists and various Maoist grouplets. The organization’s history started in 1928 when Maurice Spector read the suppressed Platform of the Left Opposition at a Comintern meeting. During the period of the documentary the LSA was first led by Ross Dowson and tied internationally to the U.S. SWP and the United Secretariat of the 4th International. Insulting hatred of the ‘Trots’ by mainstream and reformist types was frequent when they veered to the left from liberalism on various campaigns … abortion, labor struggle, Quebec independence, indigenous rights, socialism in the NDP, etc.

    The documentary confusingly and partially describes a 1973 split within the LSA, which led to the formation of the Revolutionary Marxist Group (RMG). The RMG was evidently based on a more student-oriented / youth-oriented and ‘ultra-left’ perspective according to some interviewees. The RMG did not carry out real campaigns, yet at the same time labor activism was dropping within the LSA. The interviews describe the factionalism of that time, reflective of an across-the-board Left downturn in the later 1970s- early 1980s due to the decline of the labor movement, the end of the Vietnam War and the growing strength of corporate neo-liberalism. There are touches of romanticism and illusions about the closeness of a revolution – things shared across the Left. I am not an expert on the Canadian political scene, so I can’t opine on their errors or correctness. They do not seem to be a mirror image of the U.S. SWP however.

    The documentary is professionally done, the interviewees interesting and the topics still relevant. Graphic visual art is provided by Mike Alewitz, who also did great work for the U.S.-based Labor Party in the late 1990s. For those who went through the school of organized Marxism of various types during this period, events and issues will seem very familiar. When the next period of upheaval happens, this documentary can give clues as to how to win against capital, especially starting in smaller contexts like Canada.

    Link to the documentary, which is free: https://www.letsrentatrain.ca/

    Prior reviews on this issue, use blog search box, upper left, to investigate our 16 year archive, using these terms: “On Canada! – Reflections on Canada,” “A Less Modest Proposal,” “Slaughter on Target Avenue,” “Northland,” “Tar Sands,” “Canada,” “Cornell West in Toronto, Canada,” “NAFTA 2: USMCA,” “Stop Tar Sands Oil Straw,” “USMCA Fraud.”

    Der Kultur Kommissar

    Reply
    • Douglas Williams

      Many thanks to May Day Books Blog for drawing attention to our film and for your detailed rendering of its content. Although a challenge with such intellectually-dense subject matter, the production’s ambition was to be an extended “advertisement” promoting militant socialist struggle. Dry renderings of socialist ideas – as found in pamphlets, newspapers and discussion bulletins – have limited success in drawing current radicals to socialist organizations. The film’s “professional” gloss is an effort to compete with corporate capitalism’s media dominance. In creating “LET’S RENT A TRAIN!” we realized that esoteric feuds regarding historical issues are NOT effective tools for attracting radicalizing young people. So we avoided overly-detailed explanations of the splits that destroyed the LSA, while sounding a cautionary note about sectarian pissing contests. Today, the Right is having appalling success in channeling contemporary rage at neoliberalism’s crimes into reactionary expression. Our task – if we hope to stanch the fascist juggernaut – is to address that rage on its own turf and intervene with ideas presented in an aggressive popular style.

      Reply
    • Ken Hiebert

      I also was not satisfied with the examination of the split(s), but I’m not sure I could have done any better. Any brief presentation of a political dispute will be unsatisfactory. Beyond referring to a split and saying what it was about, there’s not much can be done in a documentary of this sort.

      Those who wish to understand more may have to plow through the documents of the time.

      Reply
      • Douglas Williams

        And those who will plough through the documents will be counted on one hand, I expect. The broader point I wanted to make was that the splits were unnecessary and driven as much by youthful ego and self-importance (aka male pissing contests) as crucial political differences. Little was really at stake; revolution wasn’t imminent. However, it should be recognized that the splits provided well-documented experience for the Canadian labour movement’s political history, and furnished an important lesson: unity is not to be squandered over opposing views that could easily be accommodated under a single banner. Rigid centralism was experimented with, and perhaps mis-applied. But any discussion of such topics is of secondary interest to the film’s contemporary audience. It’s the LSA’s demonstrable achievements that I stressed, quite justifiably in my view.

        Reply
  21. Ken Hiebert

    Further reading;

    Judy Rebick
    https://houseofanansi.com/products/heroes-in-my-head
    For the most part this is about other matters, but it does touch on political activity.

    Cynthia Flood
    http://cynthiaflood.com/books/the-animals-in-their-elements/
    Her short stories cover many different experiences, sometimes political activity. Eg. in this collection the story A Young Girl-Typist Ran to Smolny

    Susan Riley is a novelist and memoirist in the UK. this book recounts her involvement in a Trotskyist group in Nottingham.
    https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/c/winter-bookshop-sylvia-riley

    Reply
  22. Joan Moore

    I recognized Mike’s artwork right away and knew this was going to be an excellent documentary.
    Congratulations to everyone involved and especially Douglas Williams.
    Loved the music too, especially over the closing credits. Good work Sam Allison.

    Reply
    • Douglas Williams

      Thanks for your kind appreciation, Joan. best, Doug

      Reply
      • Aneurin Davies

        “Evertime we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence, and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves, and those whom we love” Julian Assange – Free Assange Now!

        Reply
  23. Jan Holbrook

    Your film is amazing! Thank you so much for letting me view it. I knew nothing about what was going on in Canada at that time until now. I had heard about Agent Orange but had no idea of the harm it was causing to people, especially unborn babies. No wonder there was such an outcry when the herbicide RoundUp came on the market, seeing that the same company, Monsanto, make both RoundUp and Agent Orange.

    Reply
  24. Barbara Bell

    Comprehensive, intelligent, courageous and inspiring. The working class ALWAYS ends up oppressed and betrayed despite the best of ideologies and intentions. Again and again and again. The working class has always become their own worst enemy. Through indoctrination, propaganda, ignorance, apathy and fear. “History teaches us that we never learn from history”. Tale as old as time. Bless these fine, good and courageous people. An informative and touching documentary. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  25. Ken Hiebert

    The filmmaker starts by introducing himself. This is appropriate as it helps us to understand that this is one person’s view, not an official view, or the product of a committee. Of course, he may have been influenced along the way by those who collaborated with him.

    I am including a number of links that may be of interest to those who want to explore this experience even further. Some of these are obituaries, but I find them inspiring.

    https://johnriddell.com/2018/03/19/a-life-for-socialism-bea-bryant-1922-2006/

    https://johnriddell.com/2023/02/06/remembering-george-bryant-1931-2022/

    https://www.socialisthistory.ca/Remember/Remember.htm
    This will lead to a good number of reminiscences and obituaries.

    http://cynthiaflood.com/books/the-animals-in-their-elements/
    The short stories of Cynthia Flood cover a wide range of experiences, including her time in the League for Socialist Action. Her first collection of short stories included A Young Girl Typist Ran to Smolny.

    Reply
  26. Stephen Bray

    Socialism…it has to be lived, it has to be taught and it has to be defended. It is so self evidently preferable to systems based on greed and division that it will always fall foul of vesteted interests – ever since wealth redistribution was promoted in the Classical World (both Greece and later Rome). Good to learn yet more of our shared history…a history that is demonstably cyclic, so it WILL return.
    Here’s to that future.

    Reply
    • Fadl Jadili

      Thank you for choosing me to comment. It’s new to me to know about the socialists activities in Canada during that period . Here I think you did a great historical and essential done . I hope this work will cause extra motivation for the futer too, not only to remember how and what the fathers did …
      Thanks.

      Reply
  27. Denver Johnson

    An excellently edited, compiled and produced work, weaving so many interviews together coherently, on the fascinating topic of organised opposition to imperialist rule from a Canadian and Internationalist perspective. Thank you very much for inviting me to view it, I only hope that it may inspire more organised rebellion, all over the World, in our current troubled times…

    Reply
  28. LOUISA Sedin

    Louisasedin@outlook.com
    VERY IMPRESSIVE MOVIE WHY DId YOU STOP We need to Socialize the world Imperialism is war socialize for peace Thank you for Sharing

    Reply
    • Douglas Williams

      Thanks!

      Reply
  29. Gregor Gall

    I was only dimly aware of the Trotskyist left in Canada – having only know about the International Socialist Tendency grouping – before watching this. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have learnt more. However, having looked at the fissparous nature of the LSA and attempts at regroupment I found the explanation for the divisions with the RMG a little incomplete.

    Reply
  30. Dorin Gheciu

    I am not surprised the LSA had little success. Not only you were lacking resources and access to the mass media (that was firmly in the hands of oligarchs; it still is in Canada, the US and the rest of the western world), but you couldn’t give an example of a prosperous socialist country: Soviet Union, China and other socialist countries had a standard of living much lower than developed capitalist countries. On the other hand, countries like Germany and Scandinavian countries did well when led by social democrat parties, like the NDP used to be (now it moved to the centre and became an ordinary capitalism-supporting party). Today a leftist party could also point to China, that is led by a communist party but it is actually a combo of capitalism and socialism. It had great success with lifting about 700 million people out of poverty and developing the second strongest economy in the world. So perhaps the NDP proffered mission of reforming capitalism is a better, proven way to go. Unfortunately it has moved sharply to the right.

    Reply
  31. Dorin Gheciu

    A very interesting video! You were a group of young, idealistic people who found flaws in the capitalist system and militated to make Canada a socialist/communist country. I have no doubt you were well-meaning and not power hungry. I commend the author for publishing this video so these people will not by completely forgotten. I’m curious why some of you declared loyalty to Trotsky, and not to Marx, Lenin, Stalin or Mao. Was it because he was advocating revolutions all over the world? I am familiar with his tragic life and death at the order of Stalin, but I’m not aware that he was a prolific writer like Marx or Lenin.

    Reply
  32. Ken Hiebert

    A documentary like this must necessarily be incomplete. If it were three hours it would still be incomplete. And I’m not sure that a film such as this can give a satisfactory account of theoretical and strategic debates. All that can be documented is how various of us understood those debates.
    Even so, it is well worth the many hours that went into it. 7,000 viewers? I hope many more people will see it. I think it could legitimately be attached to a political science course. And it should be seen by students of the sociology of small groups.

    There are important revelations in the film. The role that our organization played in the abortion struggle and the role we played in the struggles of teachers in Ontario.

    I have passed it along to some young people at a college near me. I have not had a reaction from them. I think it will develop an audience through word of mouth and that may take time.

    I hope to add more later. In the meantime, some supplementary material.

    https://www.amazon.de/-/en/Ernest-Tate/dp/0902869698

    https://www.socialisthistory.ca/Remember/Reminiscences/Hiebert.htm

    Reply
  33. Julia Barnett

    Thanks for sending the link to Let’s Rent a Train. I loved the graphics/ art work and and the various contributions people made. I’m glad the LSA initiative and the various struggles named were contextualized and some of the view points on the demise of the LSA was presented. It’s an important contribution to Canadian, Left, Marxist struggle.
    Its unfortunate that lack intergenerational reciprocity, lack of intersectionality, and Centralism, we’re factors that led to its demise as well as, other key related realities of the time.

    Reply
  34. Mick and Anne Barry

    We thoroughly enjoyed the film. It brought back great memories of the 10 months we spent in Vancouver in 1970/71 and the enduring friendships and comradeship ever since. The graphics were excellent.We wondered what happened to the LSA and now we know. It was well worth watching
    Brighton UK

    Reply
    • Douglas Williams

      Thanks for your kind comment.

      Reply
  35. June Simmons

    WONDERFUL!!! & relatable to my own similar experiences of revolutionary party activism in England. I would Never have joined the LP before Corbyn stood for Redistributive Internationalism as leadership candidate in 2015, and I could Never be a member of the Starmer-Establishment party now! – & a Perfect Finale – The stirring Internationale (which Used to always be sung With Gusto at LP National Conferences) – VERY Well done!!!

    Reply
    • Clive Healiss

      The Labour Party sang the Red Flag, not the Internationale.
      No doubt in some meetings and groups the Internationale may have been sung.
      In these days of millionaire and billionaire sponsors of the Labour Party under Starmer, there is a very good chance that Starmer will forbid the Red Flag being sung.

      Reply
  36. Des Whitney

    I watched the first 20 minutes of this excellent piece on your quite remarkable group. I hope your group or on like it succeeds within the Anglo Sphere as this is needed. I could say more but do not want to say too much. Thank You, from the UK.

    Reply
    • Douglas Williams

      Please say all you like! Comments welcome!

      Reply
  37. cathi bond

    I’ve just started this doc and so far, it’s great. I knew nothing about the LSA, although I do know Judy and she often talked about her Trotskyist roots. Do you know about the League For Social Reconstruction? It’s fascinating and, I think, important to understand how many feeder groups helped to create the NDP. Thanks for sharing Doug!

    Reply
    • Douglas Williams

      Just read about the LSR – sounds like something Canada could use today. Time to put the NDP to bed, I think, and found a real socialist party in Canada. Thanks so much for your kind note. LMK how you feel about the rest.

      Reply
  38. Ron Schulz

    Nice job on this! On my side of the border, US, I hadn’t heard of this interesting group, and am writing my own memoirs of the time, SDS-Weatherman, & White Panther, communes in Wisconsin, etc. For what it’s worth, my books, 1 out, waiting on 2 more, are published by a Canadian press, Tumbleweed Books, but I keep working on the next.

    Reply
    • Ronald Schulz

      I very much enjoyed this. We need more documentaries.

      Reply
  39. Terry Lawrence

    Thank you so much for tracking down all these old comrades and bringing their voices and faces back to life, Douglas.

    Took me back half a century to a time when the left was full of optimism. Socialism was just around the corner and we were the vanguard bringing it about.

    There’s a great song about that by Leon Rosselson called”Song of the Old Communist”. Google it. Perfectly describes our situation today.

    But on the positive side there’s lots of young people and new organizations like LeadNow picking up where we left off. In the words of a postal workers union button from a 1960s strike, “The Struggle Continues”.

    Reply
  40. Douglas Williams

    Marv G.2 months ago
    Thanks so much for making this fine bittersweet documentary, Doug, together with Daryl, Diane, Bonnie, and the rest of your team. It was moving to see old comrades again – some sadly gone before the production was finished – and to hear them reflect on their experiences in the League. In my my decades of political activity, you’ve always been my closest political kin. Such differences as we had, which the film brings out very well, were intense largely because we believed history was moving in our direction. It’s unlikely we’ll see a revival of a mass working class socialist movement in our lifetime where the question of power is again posed in many countries, but I expect the strategic and tacitical questions which so preoccupied us then will again become urgently relevant, and your documentary will have added to that historical legacy.

    Reply
  41. Faith Hindl

    Brilliant evocation of a time and place, with a fascinating look at a little known slice of Canadian history. Though it discusses political action taken over 50 years ago, its ideas are as important now as they were then. Doug Williams has brought together a brilliant group of activists who take us inside the League for Socialist Action through inciteful interviews interspersed with stunning political art and stirring music. As he so eloquently puts it in his opening narration, Mr. Williams made this film because this is a story that needs to be told.

    Reply
  42. Joe steinbok

    Thanks for reveling our history for Canada

    Reply
  43. Ross Ashley

    I remember about half of you comrades … we in the Labor Action Committee, who became the Toronto group of the Socialist Workers; Group/Groupe Socialiste des Travailleurs, were pretty close to a lot of you, on the outside. Some few of you joined us for a little while (naming no names.)

    Reply
  44. Brian Waite

    In this virtual time-machine, you’ll be transported back to the sixties and into the seventies by the voices of the participants themselves, the living repository of a period in Canadian history then in the making.

    The vibrant art work by Mike Alewitz is fittingly reminiscent of that by revolutionary artists such as Diego Rivera. Sam Allison’s score brings the right notes at the right time to the project, adding depth and emotion to the storytelling.

    This film was a labour of love by producer-director, Doug Williams. Although himself a participant in the campaigns, after a short introduction, he returns to his place behind the camera leaving others to complete the narrative. Months on, he undertook the herculean task of editing hundreds of hours of interviews into the engrossing piece of filmmaking before you.

    Although it does not shy away from explaining the forces which brought the demise of the LSA/YS, this is no elegy for a revolution lost. Rather, events of the day are recalled with a celebratory pride worthy of the battles won – which successes remain inextricably woven into the fabric of Canadian civil society to this day.

    Today’s radical activists will find valuable insights into the importance of building relevant organizations, determining winnable strategies and promoting slogans which will bring a broad cross-section of the citizenry on board. With today’s existential crises putting young lives and futures in the balance, this documentary could not be more timely.

    Reply
    • Alice De Sousa

      Very important period in Toronto’s
      Social political history.
      Thanks for Shaaring.
      Will wstch the film.

      Reply
      • Zubair

        Lets rent a train movi is brilliant of aspects very important scenes are highlighted and social political history also showed this movi

        Reply

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