The third volume of Mortar, Common Cause's theoretical journal, is now available online. Inside you will find an editorial introduction, along with articles examining leftist populism, strategies for building working-class opposition to Canadian pipeline projects, an examination of MRAs, anti-Native activists and Islamophobes, and a detailed analysis of policing in Canada. We encourage feedback and responses, which can be sent to

On Contesting Populism

Two Toronto Members, One Hamilton Member, One Kitchener-Waterloo Member

In recent decades we, the Left, have had shockingly little to show for ourselves. Our various tendencies each have their own take on why this is, and the explanations are all familiar to us. Material conditions are not yet ripe. The Left is fragmented and sectarian. There is a crisis of leadership in the unions. Our activists lack the requisite commitment and discipline. The movement lacks militancy. Those of us with privilege have not yet become good enough allies. And from our class struggle anarchist scene, too often: the Left just needs to refocus on “class.” While there are no doubt kernels of insight to be found in some of these worn out tropes, let’s be honest. There are material conditions, and then there is the North American Left of 2015.

In Canada, neoliberal restructuring continues to erode the living standards of large sections of the working class. Urbanization, capital flight, and reaccumulation-by-gentrification have reorganized our cities. In Toronto, this reorganization pushes the growing lower strata of the class into the new inner-suburban proletarian districts. State immigration policies swell the ranks of a migrant worker underclass labouring under worsening conditions in the agricultural, manufacturing, and service sectors. All these pressures combine to fragment and re-fragment our class. We cannot overstate the Left’s failure to contend with this onslaught. Countless hours of internal debate have not produced a productive reorientation to these conditions. Our public forums, publications, and Internet presence are an echo chamber that deafens us to the very voices that should inform our politics: those of our neighbours and co-workers. Marginal, isolated and inward-looking, no matter our particular tendency we share a common affliction: our politics are ridden with populism.

Active Corrosion: Building Working-class Opposition to Pipelines

Two Toronto Members, Two Kitchener-Waterloo Members

Pipelines transport approximately 95% of Canada’s crude oil and natural gas, and are crucial to the viability of the petroleum industry. New pipeline construction is essential to the distribution of oil to other markets and in the profitability of an increased rate of oil extraction. This makes pipelines a linchpin in the struggle against climate change, not because of the act of construction or the transport of oil itself, but because of the increase in oil extraction that will occur throughout Canada if they are built. As the petroleum industry makes considerations about their growth, they trouble only one thing: can they build more pipelines? The industry’s predicted expansion is entirely dependent on whether or not pipeline projects will go forward, a process called “market diversification”. In The Decade Ahead: Labour Market Outlook to 2022 for Canada’s Oil and Gas Industry, a report put out jointly by the Canadian government and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, a lack of community support is identified as the main impediment to pipeline construction. They seek to engage community stakeholders and strengthen their “relationships with Aboriginal communities,” as this is “key to the sustainable growth of this sector.” Of course, increased profitability and not environmental stability is the “sustainability” desired here.

Combating the Reactionary Forces of Liberalism

One Hamilton Member, Two Toronto Members, Two Former Members

To be honest, this is not the article that we set out to write months ago. Our original intention was to take the three most potent reactionary tendencies that we see percolating under the surface of Canadian working-class culture: an emboldened, backward-looking misogyny, a domestically jingoistic nationalism intransigently opposed to anti-colonial struggle, and a supposedly enlightened secularism that only thinly conceals a deep seated racism – dissect them, and prescribe treatment. Relying on recent and more historical struggles against reaction and backwardness within our class, we intended to help light the way forward by contributing to a deeper understanding of what it is that we are up against, and how it is that we will defeat it. This did not come to pass.

Instead, what we have for you is less a treatment regimen for what ails the working class (and, by extension, the Left), and more of a diagnostic report of three salient examples of reactionary tendencies attacking its composition and consciousness: Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), anti-Native sentiment, and Islamophobia. We intend to take up how to mount a counter-offensive in a later article. It is imperative that multiple counter-offensives target these three reactionary tendencies and “movements” and defeat them.

Canadian Bacon: Opposing Police and State Power

One Toronto Member, One Hamilton Member, One Former Member

The past year has witnessed the emergence of a popular movement whose scale and intensity has surprised radicals and social conservatives alike, and which has provoked shock waves of reaction in the ranks of police agencies across North America. In the wake of the protests that erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, and subsequently spread to dozens of major American cities, there has been a corresponding increase in public awareness of police violence and its relationship to racial dynamics in Canada. Anti-police sentiment is on the rise.

When flagship liberal publications like Rolling Stone are publishing articles envisioning a world without cops, and tens of thousands of first-time demonstrators are taking to the streets across the continent to protest police violence and demand racial equality, something is definitely in the air. These are exciting times for anarchists, and all those who have long viewed the police as the violent goon squad of a white supremacist, capitalist state. But public perceptions are a fickle thing, and mobilizations themselves will not address systemic racism or police violence any more than much larger demonstrations were able to stop the Iraq War. While it is important for anarchists and other anti-authoritarian revolutionaries to actively participate in this developing movement for police accountability, we also need to consistently and emphatically push for a long-term organizing strategy with abolition as its goal.

For Tibetans, the Fight for a Home Continues in Parkdale

For twenty years, Parkdale has been a “destination” neighbourhood for thousands of Tibetan refugees. They've made their homes in the mid and highrise apartment buildings up and down Jameson, Tyndall, Dunn, and the other streets and avenues of this neighbourhood. Their kids go to the schools, play in the parks, and chill on the corners and planter boxes of their neighbourhood. They organize their rallies outside the Chinese Consulate from the local shops and they march from Cowan Ave. They access public services from Parkdale Community Legal Services, Masaryk Cowan Community Centre, Parkdale Project Read Program, and multiple other settlement and language service centres. Programs of mutual aid and support spring independently from the library, shops, and apartment units here.

If the property owners and landlords in Parkdale have their way, this will all be a thing of the past. The “sense of community” and “diversity” that Tibetan working-class families have helped build in this neighbourhood has now made it a “destination” neighbourhood for others. And landlords are looking to cash in by pricing all of us out.

While what's going on today is different than the Canadian government's recent attempts to ethnically cleanse Parkdale of our Roma neighbours, it will carve a similar hole from the heart of this neighbourhood. Whereas craven racist politicians and their CBSA systematically deported hundreds of our Roma neighbours - they would hardly bat an eye at celebrating the “diversity” of “Little Tibet”. Nonetheless the cold economic logic of the politicians' best friends – developers and landlords – demands the displacement of all those that can't foot the bill for a $1,100 bachelor or $1,400 one bedroom apartment.

Toronto Legal Clinics under Threat of Closure

In 2013 Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) announced that the province’s community legal clinics needed to “provide more clinic law services in a more efficient and effective manner.”[1] Fearing funding cuts, several Toronto legal clinic executive directors made a deal with LAO; they would develop a plan to make the legal clinic system more “efficient” and in the meantime, LAO would agree not to cut their funding. The Directors call their plan the GTA Legal Clinic Transformation Project. Its aim is to close the existing legal clinics and to replace them with three mega-clinics for the entire GTA (Greater Toronto Area). [2]

The seventeen legal clinics currently operating in the GTA provide legal defense to low-income people facing eviction, wage theft, deportation, and being cut off social assistance. A few of these legal clinics have a history of supporting community organizing and advocacy work such as tenant associations and campaigns for access to services for non-status immigrants and refugees. Legal clinics also offer a small number of fast-disappearing decent, public sector jobs.

Closing neighbourhood legal clinics will mean reduced access to legal services. People in need of legal assistance will have to travel greater distances to get it, and will be screened before ever receiving service. Legal clinic workers will lose their jobs and be forced to compete for employment in the new mega-clinics. Workers in the mega-clinics will be burdened with even heavier caseloads and will have a new layer of middle management to deal with.[3] Both the staff of legal clinics and the people they serve will be hurt by their closures.

Defending Legal Clinics


The second volume of Mortar, Common Cause's theoretical journal, is now available online. Inside you will find an editorial introduction, along with articles covering anti-organizationalist sentiment within the North American anarchist movement, anarchism and the Welfare State, a contemporary redux of the Bourgeois Influences on Anarchism, anarchist approaches to contending with sexual assault and a critique of contemporary anti-oppression politics. We encourage feedback and responses, which can be sent to

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.