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

Combating the Reactionary Forces of Liberalism

By 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.

In taking on the work of better understanding the political underpinnings of our adversaries, it gradually became clear that we are not faced with the forces of reaction our political forebears struggled against. Further, in our colonial, North American state of affairs, we cannot uncritically adopt strategies and analysis from our anti-fascist contemporaries in Europe without recognizing major differences in historical and political context. Our enemies today are not the neo-fascist boogey men we make them out to be; they are liberals – through and through. Make no mistake, we are not claiming that this political alignment makes them less of a threat to the interests of the working class. In fact, they may present more of a threat, in that we (the Left) continue to misread them as we fail to mount an effective response. These reactionary currents destabilize the working class by attacking its more marginalized segments, opposing working-class interests and struggles, and shifting liberatory politics even further into the realm of the liberal. read more