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‘Let’s Rent a Train!’

August 25, 2023

A new feature-length video on the League for Socialist Action and the radicalization of the 1960s.

By John Riddell: A dramatic feature-length video is now available online portraying the achievements of the socialist movement in Canada sixty years ago.

Let’s Rent a Train! is a unique film portrayal of socialist activism in the 1960s, now available online at

The 93-minute film, created by Doug Williams and Darrel Furlotte, offers a mosaic of video clips from sixty participants in the League for Socialist Action (LSA/LSO), describing the League’s activities during the 1960s and 1970s.

The film’s title recalls a dramatic episode in the early days of the movement against the U.S.-led war in Vietnam and Canada’s complicity in the killing. Ian Angus recalls that when the idea of organizing a protest in Parliament Hill in Ottawa came up, “somebody said, ‘Why don’t we rent a train!’ We rented a train and took a trainload of people to Ottawa!”

Many protests in Canada demanded an end to Canadian complicity and withdrawal of the U.S. military from Vietnam. “We needed something very focused,” recalls Pam Dineen in Let’s Rent a Train! ; something “very clear on exactly what we wanted: Bring the boys home!”

Don Tapscott remembers vividly the response he heard from the Vietnamese themselves during Don’s visit to Vietnam: “Thank you! You made a difference.”

Let’s Rent a Train! also takes up the League’s campaign in the 1960s to win the right of free speech in Toronto’s parks. Before this victory, Toronto’s police were routinely arresting poets that ventured declaim poetry in Toronto’s Allen Gardens: “They read their poems and as one was arrested another would take his place, and it made the cops look stupid,” Ian Angus recalls. “It got national publicity.”

Gary Kinsman, co-author of The Canadian War on Queers, notes that, “It was through the Young Socialists [the LSA/LSO’s affiliated youth group] that I learned about the ‘we demand’ demonstration, the first gay rights demonstration on Parliament Hill. We had influence in the gay movement because of our experience as organizers.”

The LSA/LSO also intervened in the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, created by the government Pierre Trudeau in 1967. The LSA submission covered all the main issues later raised by the women’s liberation movement.

A high proportion of LSA/LSO members were union members, and many of them worked in the educational sector. Liz Barkley recalls, “More and more teachers came to our fraction, that is, the group of teachers who were organized in the LSA, to get oriented on what to do.”

LSA/LSO members were also a dynamic force in building solidarity with Cuba through the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and in building a socialist caucus within the New Democratic Party.

Let’s Rent a Train! also describes the League’s initiative during the imposition of War Measures Act in 1970, when the Pierre Trudeau government suspended civil rights in Canada on the pretext of kidnappings in Quebec. Let’s Rent a Train! records that the LSA/LSO organized a protest in front of army barracks in Montreal, in which I took part, demanding repeal of the War Measures Act.

Participants displayed posters calling for withdrawal of Canadian army from Quebec and handed out French-language leaflets and posters. The action was a calculated provocation to prove that such initiatives could be carried out with success.

The film includes an apt summary of the LSA/LSO approach by Ernie Tate (1934–2021): “We were prepared to do what was necessary, with some imagination, to break through the old sectarian practices and to meet the political needs of the working class at that time.”

Let’s Rent a Train! can be viewed online at

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