COPE on verge of civil war

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      Former Vancouver city councillor Tim Louis is facing criticisms of stacking meetings of his municipal party with members of alleged cultlike groups.

      It’s the latest twist in bickering that’s tearing apart the Coalition of Progressive Electors. The squabbles have led to resignations from the party’s executive, and COPE’s only elected civic official, school trustee Allan Wong, has left the left-wing party.

      Now Louis, the internal chair, is being accused of using members of the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice and the Mobilization Against War and Occupation to influence votes during COPE membership meetings.

      “Fire This Time now comprises the majority of Tim Louis’s voting bloc in general meetings,” Stuart Parker complained in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight when he announced his resignation from the COPE executive last November.

      Parker attributed the defeat of his proposal that COPE adopt proportional representation as its internal voting system to the presence of Fire This Time members at a September meeting.

      In 2008, Vancouver activist Ivan Drury released an open letter about why he quit Fire This Time. He claimed that this collective of MAWO and other related organizations is “like a cult”. Drury also stated that Fire This Time is the “production of the vision of one man: Ali Yerevani”.

      Fire This Time was born out of a split within the Anti-Poverty Committee. It was also expelled from the peace coalition StopWar.ca in 2003.

      In interviews this month, COPE corresponding secretary Kim Hearty also criticized the involvement of Fire This Time and MAWO in the party’s affairs.

      “It’s just really hard to do anything, like, with Tim Louis, like, keeping such tight control over…general members’ meetings using MAWO,” Hearty told the Straight by phone. “It’s really frustrating.”

      Both Parker and Hearty alleged that the Fire This Time and MAWO network is just like a “cult” controlled by Yerevani.

      Louis pointed out that anyone who is a member of COPE is welcome to attend the party’s meetings.

      “I think it’s very important for all of us on the left to do everything we can to not be sectarian,” Louis told the Straight by phone. “One of the reasons that the left has had difficulties in the past is because of a pattern, an unhealthy and unfortunate pattern, of sectarianism.”

      The Fire This Time and MAWO circle includes the Vancouver Communities in Solidarity With Cuba. Louis is an admirer of socialist Cuba. “I’m not going to be critical of any organization that supports the positive achievements that have occurred in other countries around the world,” Louis said.

      Yerevani dismissed as an “ongoing slander” persistent claims that the groups he has identified with operate like a cult around him.

      “They have to prove it. The proof is on their side, not on my side,” Yerevani told the Straight by phone.

      An activist of Iranian heritage, Yerevani also goes by the name Ali Izadi-Kharrazi. Yerevani said he has been a COPE member for “more than a decade”.

      MAWO chair Janine Solanki said she participates in COPE meetings as a member of the municipal party. She asserted that MAWO as an organization doesn’t have anything to do with COPE.

      “I really wonder why these kind of baseless accusations are being made against Tim Louis when, instead, Kim Hearty and her allies could be putting forward their own platform,” Solanki told the Straight in a phone interview.

      COPE member Nicholas Ellan recalled in a phone interview with the Straight that “some people confronted Tim Louis” about Fire This Time and MAWO people at the party’s general membership meeting in September.

      Although Drury claimed in his public letter in 2008 that Fire This Time functions “like a cult”, he also said that dismissing it simply as a cult is problematic.

      “This designation denies the role of the young people who are the activist workers of the group,” Drury wrote. “Regardless of the negative impact of this group, it is not a universally negative group. The members of this group have committed themselves completely to work that they believe to be revolutionary and have done important work in forcing discussions on campuses and in some communities about issues of war, social and class struggle, and internationalist solidarity.”

      Comments

      27 Comments

      James Blatchford

      Dec 18, 2013 at 10:30am

      Happy New Year, COPE! Best wishes for 2014!

      Hey, why are these roman candles so big?!

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      Bruce

      Dec 18, 2013 at 11:35am

      "verge"?

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      Paulo Pasolini

      Dec 18, 2013 at 12:19pm

      For all the hand-wringing about FTT/MAWO among some former and current members of the COPE executive, they were more than happy to have their support at previous AGMs. Sucks when that enemy of my enemy stuff backfires, huh?

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      Tom Fitzsimmons de Montfort

      Dec 18, 2013 at 1:18pm

      Well said Paulo.

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      Sid Tan

      Dec 18, 2013 at 1:56pm

      As an almost 15-year member of COPE, my feelings are the internecine fighting is disappointing but necessary. There is a need for clarity in what civic parties are offering.

      I like that COPE does not take developers' money. It offers a clear choice on whether Vancouver citizens, and especially Downtown Eastside low income residents, will continue to be hosts for the ongoing developers' parties. In my opinion, the choice is currently Tweedledum and Tweedledumber.

      COPE's conundrum can be framed as what is being "sold" or offered to Vancouver voters. Common sense dictates some critical thinking should address what voters will "buy" or accept. What is ailing COPE maybe just confusion and perception. However, an evident conclusion is that voters are not buying it.

      Whether the result of ignorance, purity or mendacity, we know what happens when there is only a sellers’ market. There are a lot of sellers at COPE and many don't understand the goal of a political party is to elect its candidates. If this "civil war" continues, it is obvious voters will be confused about what is being sold. Worse, they will tune out what is being "sold." Exactly what COPE's political opponents want now.

      "Mushy middle" politics wins elections but I prefer clear principles and policies. My feeling is a majority of voters want the same with clear choices that will improve their lives, community and city. To win, COPE must engage and energize a party base to recruit good candidates and supporters to run a campaign rooted in ground offering clear choices.

      COPE is still struggling with being gutted by Larry Campbell, the late Jim Green, Tim Stevenson, Raymond Louie and the class of pre-Vision Vancouver kool-aid drinkers. They peddled and people drank. Many are coming down from that bad trip. Many of the kool-aid drinkers in COPE have moved away already with the final remnants leaving now. Some accept it was bad kool-aid, recovering and contributing to strengthen COPE.

      It's time for something more nutritious and filling than "kool-aid" for the good citizens of Vancouver. Hoping it can be COPE.

      I never drank the kool-aid.

      Just saying...

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      Stephanie

      Dec 18, 2013 at 3:51pm

      This is standard operating procedure for FTT/MAWO -- they push numbers into meetings, create hostile divisions, are absolutely impossible to work with if you disagree with them in any way, but when challenged act like they're being victimized and complain that everyone else is being "sectarian". I've seen their tactics for a decade or so and they are ugly and toxic. All of it is run by Yerevani (who is also the "political editor" of their newspaper); none of the FTT/MAWO cadre would be attending COPE meetings unless he gave it the green light.

      tl;dr Louis needs to go, now.

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      Bruce

      Dec 18, 2013 at 6:25pm

      Maybe it's a mistake to think that Lewis is making use of FTTFTT/MAWO. He could simply be another follower, unaware or unwilling to accept that all Yerevani has in mind is "cadre building" and the implosion of COPE as a bonus.

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      Nicholas Ellan

      Dec 19, 2013 at 5:18am

      No, it's very clear that Louis is the one mobilizing MAWO to meetings. They come when he needs them to vote a certain way in a meeting, and that is the full extent of their involvement in the party. And it's been this way for almost a decade.

      They simply turn up, vote in a block, and leave, all without speaking. They were instrumental in David Cadman's ouster in 2011, and more recently they successfully blocked the party's adoption of proportional representation as well other bylaw amendments to enhance candidate recruitment. The typical scenario is everyone says "Who the hell are those people?" and then they throw a monkey wrench into something nobody expected to be controversial. It's really wonderful then they randomly decide to burn months of work on some project because Tim Louis secretly dislikes it. Very good for member morale!

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      MD

      Dec 19, 2013 at 7:46am

      When COPE's push for ideological purity ends, and they get electorally obliterated again, who will Louis throw under the bus ?

      We all know it won't be because of anything he did.

      It never is.

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      'Verge of civil war?'

      Dec 19, 2013 at 9:00am

      As anyone with even a superficial knowledge of COPE knows, COPE has been in a civil war since there was a takeover of the party by a liberal/NDP alliance which ended with Larry Campbell being elected Vancouver Mayor in the early 2000s. In fact the Straight has been a main forum for covering this issue. So the premise of the article's title is deceitful to begin with. Ivan Drury is an effective activist, but when he wrote the 'letter' to Vancouver's 'left' (it is kind of silly to claim there is an organized 'left' anymore in Vancouver) about MAWO being a 'cult', he was showing his political immaturity. All political formations have a cult-like quality, the Republican party is the most cult-like of them all. There is a red-baiting quality to all this chatter. Who is a member, who is a fellow traveller etc? The local branch of the Communist Party of Canada has actively supported the COPE-Vision coalition. Does that make Vision somehow a Communist front organization? The article is another example of shallow liberalism and exhibits a lack of serious political analysis.

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