On Contesting Populism

By 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. read more