Charted and Uncharted Territories: Common Cause and the Role of the Anarchist Organization

1 Kitchener-Waterloo member, 1 Toronto member, and 2 Hamilton members

I. On the Question of Organization

The decision by a group of people, no matter how few, to commit themselves to collective and protracted struggle and to reject 'on the go' politics, shapes everything that follows.
Grace Lee Boggs (1972), Organization Means Commitment

These days, the phrase “anarchist organization” is widely seen as a contradiction of terms. For those whose opinions of anarchism are shaped by dominant society, this is perfectly understandable. In the crude caricature fashioned by capitalist media depictions and reinforced through popular culture, anarchy is synonymous with chaos, spontaneous violence, and a vicious, Hobbesian state of nature.

However, more pertinent to us is that even within anarchist circles, the idea of an anarchist organization is often seen either as an oxymoron, or more commonly, as an inherently authoritarian structure somewhat akin to a Leninist cult. And as anarchists who have derived considerable practical benefits from our participation in a formally structured organization, we feel that much of this confusion boils down to a misunderstanding of terms and history.

Anarchism, the Welfare State, and Social Assistance

1 Toronto member, 1 former Toronto member, 2 Kitchener-Waterloo members

Unemployment is a permanent fixture of capitalism. It is not simply the outcome of those who make bad life choices. There are no “cracks” to fall through when the entire foundation is designed with gaping holes. Mass unemployment is not merely a failure to apply a more compassionate capitalism, or a more Keynesian economic model with progressive taxation and better state provisions for the working class. Even the major structural reforms that brought about the post-World War II establishment of the Welfare State never ended unemployment. In fact, in hindsight we can see that these reforms merely set up a system whose subsequent dismantling has left a pacified and disorganized working class in its wake.

For too long, many anarchists have adopted a defensive posture to these issues, focused on the short-term and immediate needs of the unemployed and those on social assistance. Reformist goals cloaked in militant tactics have drawn anarchists like moths to the flame, and have born little reflective analysis on how appeals to the State could ever truly prefigure our broader goals of mutual aid and revolutionary dual power. In this article we've attempted to find contemporary and historical examples than can potentially aid in realigning this tendency towards a broader revolutionary strategy.

Defining Parameters

Bourgeois Influence on Anarchism - Redux

1 Hamilton member, 1 Toronto member, 1 former Toronto member

Reading Luigi Fabbri today, an anarchist of the revolutionary communist bent in Canada may feel a sense of smug satisfaction coupled with a dash of arrogant resentment. The way he set his sights on the debasement of our political tradition might have us thinking we're reading the words of a kindred spirit. How very accurate and tragically humorous his polemic feels to us. All the more because it was penned nearly a century ago. However, have we really earned the self-satisfied head nodding and chuckles that accompany our reading of Bourgeois Influence on Anarchism? Fabbri took to task the growing sentiment within the anarchist tradition that glorified the outlaws, bombers, and assassins of his day. We read on with our own anarcho-rogues gallery of anti-organizationalists, black bloc puritans, and deep green resisters playing in our head. But are these really the contemporary correlatives of bougiefied anarchism?

Luigi Fabbri is among the ranks of dead anarchist communists of years passed. With his comrade Ericco Malatesta, Fabbri not only shared Italian birth and revolutionary zeal, but also a remarkable talent for political analysis and the turnings of phrase. The following passage from his above-mentioned 1917 essay should suffice as testament to his ability and a brief explanation of its content.

Taking Account of our Politics: An Anarchist Perspective on Contending with Sexual Violence

Editor's note: This article discusses some of our members' experiences of sexual assault and accountability processes. Where we have included specific details, we have only done so with the consent of those parties involved.

1 Hamilton member, 1 Toronto member, 1 former Toronto member

In the fall of 2010, several female members of Common Cause took on the task of developing a sexual violence policy for the organization. At the time, and as far as we were aware, there had never been an instance of sexual violence in Common Cause. Our drive to write the policy came from some members' past experiences of being sexually assaulted while participating in other organizations, from a desire to do better, and from our own readings on sexual violence and accountability processes generally. Since then, we have, unfortunately, had to make use of the policy to address issues of sexual violence as an organization. There have been situations in which our members have been sexually assaulted, situations where members have been aggressors, and situations outside our organization where we have been asked or felt compelled to offer our perspective.

With Allies Like These: Reflections on Privilege Reductionism

2 Hamilton members, 1 Toronto member

Over the course of the last several decades, anti-oppression politics have risen to a position of immense influence on activist discourse in North America. Anti-oppression workshops and reading groups, privilege and oppression checklists and guidelines, and countless books, online blogs and articles make regular appearances in anarchist organizing and discussion. Enjoying a relatively hegemonic position in Left conversation, anti-oppression politics have come to occupy the position of a sacred object—something that expresses and reinforces particular values, but does not easily lend itself to critical reflection. Indeed, it is common for those who question the operating and implications of anti-oppression politics to be accused of refusing to seriously address oppression in general. A political framework should be constantly reflected upon and evaluated—it is a tool that should serve our struggles and not vice versa.

This is Parkdale

Editor's Note: Parkdale is a historic working class neighborhood in west-end Toronto and has been a first home in Canada to many successive groups of immigrants to the city. Since the late 90's Parkdale has undergone gentrification, though not to the same extent as other downtown neighbourhoods. Along with Toronto's Downtown East, Parkdale is one of the most difficult downtown neighbourhoods to fully gentrify. This is largely due to its high concentration of rental housing, including many apartment buildings in deteriorating condition.

By a member of Common Cause Toronto

To the east, developers have swallowed up every viable square foot of available land and packed them with condos at a break-neck pace. Up and down the north-south streets, rental houses, duplexes, and triplexes are being “updated”,“flipped”, and renovated into “homes”. The last of the rooming houses are giving way to real estate agents and their contractors. The past year has seen the systematic removal of almost all Roma residents through deportation, eviction, and rent increases. Renovations on mid and high rise apartment blocks are quickly followed by harassment or eviction of current tenants - with huge rent increases for their replacements. When called, police show up by the truck-load. When left to their own devices they troll the streets like ne'er do well teens – but with guns and bats. Two consecutive years of staff reductions at the three local schools. Staff, hours, and program cuts at neighbourhood community services and library. It's all been said before, and more.

Police and Mental Health: Exactly who's traumatizing who?

In response to ‘Opinion: For Ian’s sake — change’

by ANONYMOUS

Update: This letter was sent to the Hamilton Spectator on January 15, 2014. Although they did not publish it, they did write two more stories about the fragile mental health of police officers in the three days following. It originally appeared here on the Toronto Media Co-op

In response to the anonymously written piece by 'a concerned cop' (View original article here:http://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/4301925-opinion-for-ian-s-sake-change/) I would like to offer the following points.

The op-ed published by the Hamilton Spectator was just as likely to have been penned by the Hamilton-Wentworth Police public relations department in order to elicit public sympathy for police and increase pro-police sentiments, as it was to be written by a local officer struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). That said, this is only one hypothesis, which I can neither currently support nor refute, and thus I will assume that an actual local officer did in fact submit it.

Myself? I will also remain anonymous, not due to the potential impact on my career, like the reason Concerned Cop cited for anonymity, but for my own actual safety.

Reflections on the Waterloo Region Against Line 9 Campaign

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The following article is a personal reflection on how a group of anarchists from KW experimented with running a professional looking activist campaign. Armed with a Declaration of Opposition that organizations could sign and a separate petition for individuals, we essentially lobbied local politicians for the Waterloo Region's municipal government to take a stand against Enbridge's plan to pump tar sands oil through the region. While we had some successes, we had trouble bringing people into our coalition, and were unable to get municipal politicians to take any real action beyond a statement of concern. The Waterloo Region Against Line 9 campaign was essentially a liberal activist campaign with a radical message that most people in our region could not identify with.

2014 Kitchener-Waterloo Anarchist Bookfair Call-out

2014 kw anarchist bookfair

March 1, 2014

10am-6pm

Location: Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

120 Duke St W, Kitchener

Announcing the 2nd annual Kitchener-Waterloo Anarchist Bookfair! Taking place on March 1 2014 on Six Nations of the Grand River territory, we will once again welcome anarchists and non-anarchists alike for a day of workshops, presentations, info tables, book sellers and social events. With introductory discussions about anarchism in addition to deeper conversations around the ongoing relevance of anarchism and its implications for on-the-ground organizing and everyday struggles, the KW Anarchist Bookfair will be a space for radical ideas to thrive for curious folks, seasoned organizers and everyone in between.

Call for Workshops:

From the practical to the theoretical and everything in between, the Bookfair Collective is seeking workshop and presentation proposals. This year’s bookfair theme revolves around contemporary strategies and tactics that anarchists can use to engage and build social movements with a revolutionary aim in mind. We are particularly interested in proposals that focus on how anarchists organize, or how you think anarchist should organize in order to build a revolutionary movement that will cast away the chains of oppression. We are looking for workshops that aim to foster a growing anarchist movement, contribute to critical dialogue, and facilitate strategic discussion. This can include (but is in no way limited to) presentations and discussions on topics such as: intergenerational organizing, anarchism without adjectives, examples and lessons of prefiguration, white supremacy and anti-racist organizing, class-consciousness and intersectionality, queering anarchism, radical parenting and family inclusivity, ecology, gender violence and community accountability, prison resistance and abolition, anarchist decision making-models and political organization.

Roma Tenants Organize Against Slumlord

By a member of Common Cause Toronto

On August 15, Roma tenants living in three low rise apartment buildings in Mimico, a neighbourhood in west-end Toronto, decided to take matters into their own hands, and occupied the law offices of their landlord, lawyer Leroy Bleta. After weeks of their phone calls and complaints being ignored, the tenants decided to bring their demands directly to the landlord's place of business. They were joined by supporters including members of Common Cause and IWW Toronto, as well as workers from a local legal clinic.

“We decided to take on the landlord because of the behaviour of the building superintendent,” explained Krisztina, one of the tenants involved in organizing the action, “I asked him to fix the door to my apartment which was broken when I moved in, but he refused. He said 'all you people do is complain'.”

Like thousands of other Hungarian Roma people who have arrived here in recent years, Krisztina came to Toronto as a refugee three years ago, fleeing paramilitary violence by groups associated with the neo-nazi Jobbik party, and systemic discrimination from the Hungarian State. Refugee claim success rates amongst Roma claimants is very low; Canada considers Hungary a Designated Country of Origin which respects human rights and offers state protection to persecuted groups. Krisztina's family continues to face anti-Roma racism in Canada. “He [the superintendent] harasses my son and has hit children playing outside the building. He tells us to our faces that he hates Hungarians (Roma).”

While Bleta himself was out of the office at the time of the tenants' visit, they made their demands clear to the other lawyers and support staff present. Demands included firing the building superintendent for his abusive and racist behaviour toward tenants and their children, as well as a number of repairs including fixing faulty plumbing, broken windows, and water damage caused by frequent flooding.

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