By BARRY WEISLEDER
TORONTO-Over 400 people, some traveling hundreds of kilometers on a hot summer-holiday long weekend, gathered to celebrate the life of our departed comrade Joseph Flexer.
The meeting to celebrate his life was held on Saturday, Aug. 5, nearly filling the main auditorium of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, in Toronto. The gathering was organized by the family and friends of Joe, and by Socialist Action (Canada), of which Joe was a central leader and a member of the SA newspaper editorial board.
Joe passed away on July 31 at Toronto General Hospital. Joe was 67 years old when his new heart failed him, about six years after receiving a transplant.
Joe was a revolutionary communist to the core, an unparalleled internationalist, and a remarkable worker militant and unionist. He was the epitome of Antonio Gramsci’s idea of the “organic intellectual of the working class.”
For decades Joe was a dedicated activist in the Canadian Auto Workers’ Union, a leader in his plant and in CAW Local 112. He was a respected national figure in the CAW, at the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, and across the workers’ movement which he so loved, from Palestine to North America.
Joe was a founder and federal Co-Chair of the NDP Socialist Caucus, a movement he embraced optimistically and to which he gave unnumbered months of devotion and activism.
Messages of solidarity and tribute poured in by e-mail, phone and fax from around the world, and continue to arrive. Each person received a printed program for the memorial event proclaiming the theme: “Not Some Ordinary Joe.” In addition to the agenda, the folded leaflet shows two pictures of Joe, one at a demo wearing his beloved CAW jacket, another attending to his barbeque at a backyard social.
Donations are welcomed, naming both the Union of Injured Workers, and “A fund for publishing Joe”s works,” established by Socialist Action (Canada).
Official greetings were received from a number of organizations, including: CAW Local 112, a Toronto area club of the Communist Party of Canada, the Workers’ Communist Party of Iran, the New Socialist Group, and Socialist Action in the United States. Similar events in tribute to Joe are being planned for venues in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Winnipeg.
Dan Lovell, a young member of Socialist Action (Canada), reflected on Joe’s inspiring example for the future of the movement, and invited students and young workers to join in the effort to launch a revolutionary socialist youth organization in Canada in the coming months.
What more fitting tribute could there be to Joe Flexer than to politically arm the next generation of fighters, to continue the struggle for a socialist future? Can’t you just picture him smiling?