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A Response to the Solidarity Halifax conference

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
A Response to the Solidarity Halifax conference

A Response to the Solidarity Halifax Conference (November 2010)

On Sunday November 14th, I attended the Solidarity Halifax conference because it was described as an event aimed at building a “vibrant, anti-capitalist left.” Unfortunately, the way the discussions were framed was not conducive to a conversation about capitalism and how we might overthrow it.

Although I did not stay for the conclusion of conference, I was there for the entirety of the group discussions and the introductory panel. Despite the fact that the conference was described as being “anti-capitalist” there was very little critical discussion of capitalism during the event. To be frank it seems that the conference was organized in such a way as to avoid discussions around what capitalism is and how to contest it. With all of this in mind I can only conclude that the organizers of Solidarity Halifax's definition or understanding of the term anti-capitalist is this: we organized an anti-capitalist conference, thus anyone and everyone who attends is an anti-capitalist. In my eyes this empties the concept of anti-capitalist of all meaning.

I am not alone in thinking that;

If capitalism is wage-labour and the production of value, then to be worthy of the name anti-capitalism must be a strategy or strategies which lead to the abolition of these things. Yet, the ever-marginal left bestows the magic label "anti- capitalist" on any movement which passes in front of its eyes. Much of what is called anti-capitalism is in fact only opposition to aspects of capitalism. Many unions oppose aspects of globalization, such as tightening or relaxing of trade polices, because they fear it will have a negative impact on their members' jobs (save "our" jobs?), or their nation states. This is not anti- capitalism, but defence of national capitalism...Anti- capitalism has become a catch-all phrase taken to means any aspect of opposition to a particular capitalist policy. (All the worlds a rage, Red and Black Notes #12, 2000.)

During the conference we were asked to attend two different working groups out of a possible four. None of them directly addressed capitalism, however, I attended the two groups that I thought would be the most productive. The two questions which my break-out groups dealt with were;

1. What can we do to make the anti-capitalist movement one that people want to be involved in (ie. how do we make it inclusive)?

2. How can we more effectively recruit and retain new activists?

These questions take the existence of a coherent anti-capitalist ideology and its embodiment in a social movement as a given. When the question was introduced, “What can we do to make the anti-capitalist movement one that people want to be involved in?” I immediately thought to myself, “What anti-capitalist movement?” Obviously people can’t become involved in a non-existent movement. There are small groups and initiatives, some of which may be critical of some aspects of capitalism and wish to reform it, but nothing resembling a vibrant social movement. Where there is no coherent anti-capitalist movement in Halifax I would suggest that our discussions towards building one need to start with basic questions such as “What is capitalism and how do we go about overthrowing it?” Basic, shared principles are required before we can move toward action, let alone let people know what we’re asking them to participate in.

Another point regarding this first question: I don’t think we should preoccupy ourselves with being inclusive. Activists often worry about getting people of different backgrounds involved in their groups and initiatives. When their groups are predominantly white and culturally middle-class activists fear that they will be seen as exclusive and/or overly privileged. This preoccupation is based in liberal notions of diversity and multiculturalism which purport that social problems can be solved by “including” people from oppressed groups into “our” nation, institution, activist group, etc. Our main failing as a politicized minority is not that we are largely exclusive of people of different backgrounds than ourselves (not to say that we’re never guilty of excluding people based on race, sex, etc.), but that our activities are most often irrelevant to working class people generally. Our movement will only become relevant to workers when it begins to concretely address material needs, and only when we have a clear critique of we’re against, and a strong notion of what we’re for.

In all the discussions I tried to make the point that under capitalism class struggle is the reality regardless of the activity of politicized minorities. Working people continue to face exploitation and alienation and the natural world continues to be destroyed. Working people will at times resist their conditions and fight back, the recent general strike in France against pension cuts provides just one contemporary example. This ongoing class struggle is fundamental to capitalism.

The question for us as revolutionaries, is how do we intervene in existing struggles in such a way as to push them toward overthrowing capitalism? Again, the first step is for us to develop a shared critique of capital and what it could be replaced with. Here is a brief attempt at doing just that.

Capital and Communism

Capital is a system defined by private or state ownership of the means of production, that being the resources, machinery, offices, factories and other sites of social and material production. In this system of ownership those of us who do not own property, businesses or other capital from which to generate wealth must work; we must sell our our living activity (labour) for money in order to make ends meet.

Even in the so-called Socialist states, countries we see as state-capitalist, this relationship is not fundamentally altered. The state owns the means of social and material production and the working class still toils in order to survive. For the working class, the boss simply changed his costume from that of a private capitalist to that of a state bureaucrat.

Communism is not state ownership of the means of production; communism is the appropriation of the means of production by the working class. In 1844 Marx described communism as "the positive transcendence of private property, or human self-estrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being—a return become conscious and accomplished within the entire wealth of previous development.”

As workers we produce commodities - goods, services, technologies, art, information and infrastructures, all those things, material and immaterial, which make up our societies. A small portion of the value we create is returned to us in the form wages and services from the state and in turn we use these to get the things we need to survive. A larger portion of the value we create is taken from us. This expropriated wealth is reinvested by capital in order to grow its productive resources, expand its markets and impose its system of exploitation upon greater numbers of people.

Capital imposes a class relation whereby the interests of workers (whether employed or unemployed) are pitted against those of capital. As workers we struggle to work less for more money while capital drives us to work longer and harder for less pay and time off. This class struggle is always present but is not always visible. However, when workers enter into open conflict with capital through strikes, occupations, riots, and when we self-organize through workers’ councils, neighborhood assemblies and the like, the opposing class interests lay themselves bare. In these situations capital will take whatever measures it must to defeat the self-organized working class and to re-impose its system of class exploitation, often by offering the carrot (concessions, reforms) or the stick (violent repression). However, in this period of austerity, where the concessions of yesterday are being put to the axe, to expect dangling carrots instead of baton blows is simply delusional.

The material conditions of today that necessitate revolt and rebellion by the world's masses are planting the seeds of a new society based on human need. Communism is “the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence”. The struggle of the working class to impose its needs over the needs of capital is the real movement towards communism.

History shows that forms of social organization incompatible with capitalist social relations are thrown up in the course of working class struggles. Examples include but are not limited to the two month long revolutionary government of the Paris Commune of 1871, the soviets that emerged during the 1905 revolution in Russia, the socialization of the countryside during the Spanish Civil War and much more recently the assemblies and occupations that characterized the Greek Insurrection in 2008.

To varying degrees, such organizations engage in a process of communization - however limited, they begin to seize the means of production away from capital. They occupy workplaces and destroy or abandon others, they squat living spaces, they turn the sites and resources of capitalist production over to human need and expression. These types of working class organizations, coordinated internationally, have the potential to seize the means of production and make an international working class revolution that could bring about communism. Communization is not a program instituted by a party or a state after seizing power but rather immediate revolutionary activities that begin to abolish the rule of capital, waged labour, money and the market.

The content of a communist society is the negation of capitalist social relations towards the fulfillment of all human need and the maximization of our creative potential. In a communist society the means of production is held in common, it is not owned privately or by the state. All production is toward meeting human needs and not for the accumulation of private or state controlled wealth. “Work” and “consumption” in a communist society become what Marx described as “all-sided activity” where it would be “possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner”.

Basic Principles of Revolutionary Organisation

A shared critique of capital is essential toward building movements toward communism. However, a shared critique is not sufficient in and of itself. For revolutionaries to begin to intervene in existing struggles we need principles which can form a basis for our collective organization and intervention. The following principles were authored by the libcom.org group based in the UK.

Communist: We are against all forms of capitalism whether private, state or self-managed. In its place we want a classless, stateless and moneyless society based on solidarity, co-operation and the principle ‘from each according to ability, to each according to need’ - a libertarian communist society.

Class struggle: Capitalism is characterised by the creation of a class of people, dispossessed from the means of production and subsistence, who are required to work for a wage to get by. This condition pushes us to resist - to do less work, for more money. However, our employers want us to work more for less money to increase their profits. The struggle resulting from this contradiction sets our human needs and desires against those of capital. This struggle also lays the foundations for a new kind of society, based on the fulfilment of our needs.

Opposing all discrimination and prejudice like sexism and racism by attempting to unite the working class is just as much a part of class struggle as striking for higher wages. Direct action and solidarity are the basis of working class strength.

We support the actions of our class in our own interests. We are opposed to all those who claim to be our representatives, like the trade unions or political parties which seek to manage capitalism supposedly on our behalf.

Internationalist: Our class is global and so should be our solidarity. We oppose all nationalist movements, whether openly conservative or supposedly progressive and ‘anti-imperialist’ in nature as both are based on the unity of workers with their rulers. We never take sides in wars between states or would-be states, instead always supporting mutiny, fraternisation and the working class fighting in its own interest.

Everyday life: Whether waged or unwaged, it is our everyday activity as workers that reproduces capitalist society. And it is through disrupting this activity that we can challenge and eventually replace it. As such, our activity as radical workers should always be based primarily on issues rooted in our everyday lives and experiences.


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Comments

Stepping It Up

"This is not anti- capitalism, but defence of national capitalism...Anti- capitalism has become a catch-all phrase taken to means any aspect of opposition to a particular capitalist policy. "

Pretty sure we as organizers very explicitly said that we don't want to repair a broken welfare system. The point is how do we do that? That is something you fail to broach. I am disappointed in you cole, for not only how you behaved during the conference but also your general lack of patience and ability to listen to people. If you think intervening in the conference was a waste of your time fine. If you want to critique the conference fine. If you want to rehash libcoms definition of the working class, communism or whatever fine. Do what you do cole and see how far that gets us, you and the working class. But there are some of us who actually want to build something and empower people and this will happen with or without you.

anarcho communist for life

dave bush

Cole you are more annoying in

Cole you are more annoying in five minutes than Solidarity Halifax was in 8 hours.

http://privilegedenyingdude.tumblr.com/post/1590419234

 

No personal attacks please

Please refrain from personal attacks. 

thank you.

It might be more productive

It might be more productive to engage with ideas and arguments that one disagrees with rather than shooting the messanger. 

For example,if folks disagree with the statement, "there is no coherent anti-capitalist movement in Halifax I would suggest that our discussions towards building one need to start with basic questions such as “What is capitalism and how do we go about overthrowing it"", it might make sense to articulate why that is not an ideal starting point for movement building, discussion, etc.  

As an attendee of the

As an attendee of the Solidarity Halifax conference, I must say that I was frustrated as well by the lack of coherence to the discussion.  But, as the organizers stated, this was only meant to be a "baby step" conference to be built upon by more solidarity halifax conferences to come.

I am looking forward to the next one!

A few ideas on how it could be improved:

-At the next conference, try to formulate some principles such as the ones stated above, by which we can measure our progress or regression as an anti-capitalist left.  At the conference after that, discuss whether we have stuck by these prinicples and whether we feel they are still working.

-Mix it up a little bit.  Have a few speakers deliver talks every now and then.  Screen interviews featuring critical figures from the anti-capitalist movement... much of the work has already been done, we should try to build on it, not start from scratch!

-Have some sort of online forum (like this one) which people can discuss the event well in advance, so as to better inform the conference organizers of what people want out of the conference

 

Cole, Dave, you strike me as ideal candidates for potential speakers!

 

Also, I think that Cole raises a very good point:

perhaps before we have conferences to address the question of "how do we intervene in the class struggle?", we should first have a conference on the more abstract and fundamental question: "what principles do we stand by and judge ourselves according to when intervening in class struggle?"

Keep this discussion going!

snore

Damn, when will white men stop trashing 'inclusivity' and recognize their movement (as stipulated above) does nothing to confront patriarchy and white supremacy. Denouncing anti-sexist and anti-racist struggles as mere liberal left fodder (i.e. inclusivity) just reinforces their own privilege. It also invisibilizes the work of anti-capitalist women of colour thinkers who situate capitalism side by side with patriarchy and white supremacy (i.e bell hooks, Outlaw Culture, 1994), and who have played a critical role to our understanding of capitalism. 

So they (this author and his ilk) get to sit back and tell everyone else how to organize, and to put aside their struggles for the sake of someone else' class struggle; namely, his. They're too busy convincing us that their struggle is the most important, they don't have time to stand in solidarity with those who face the worst of the excesses of capitalism. Nor can they see that capitalism will never be torn down and smashed without also smashing colonialism and gender oppression.

It's always hierarchy with these types: capitalism is on the top, and we've got to take it down because they said so. We'll smash patriarchy and everything else nasty AFTER they get their little revolution.

They never analyze their own situatedness with respect to relative power over others. You'll never hear a white male anti-capitalist like this author say he will prioritize other struggles  when those struggles threaten his own privilege vis a vis others.

Confronting power structures in our movements and denouncing them as we organize is central; it's not going to wait for after some grand revolution or something. To those like-minded folks to this author, wake up: you'll never have people joining your ideology if they have to wait for you to speak before they get a say in how to organize or what to organize for.

Solidarity fail

I was also in attendance at

I was also in attendance at the surprisingly large – to me -- conference and participated throughout. I also am employed in an activist organization (NSPIRG) that I include, implicitly, in the critique below.

Cole brings up a good point about the concept "anti-capitalist" being employed in a rather vague sense on Sunday, and also the false implication of there an anti-capitalist movement existing here. I think it's important to be honest and self critical to actually overcome the barriers to revolutionary activity that clearly exist.

But I'd like to point out, before going any further, that I'm not saying anyone organizing the event was necessarily disingenuous, just that certain crucial issues were not approached, which ends up being counterproductive. How we got to the point is not as important as the point itself. I am offering these ideas for constructive criticism, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered at all. It seems obvious to me that Cole was doing something similar.

"Anti-capitalist", by itself, does not really give one much information about what you mean. I have, in the past, used this label to describe myself and certain organizations, but don't anymore without significant elaboration. It became clear how presumptive I was being in assuming people would somehow know what I meant by using the term. It was clear that there were major differences of opinion that the label "anti-capitalist" did NOT draw out. This problem should not be fed into. Without actually stating what you are for, in a concrete manner, you are leaving so much room for interpretation that no movement can really be built in any significant direction. Cole listed an example of principles that give some direction, those from Libcom.org. I would not lay out my principles with the same words, and have some alterations of the ideas themselves, but I would pronounce myself as a libertarian communist.

But the issue of labeling is not the most significant concern. The more important issue is implying that something is there when it actually isn't. To be fair to movements that actually do, and have, existed, we should not call whatever was represented at the conference, in part or whole, any kind of existing social movement with any cohesion, let alone one against capitalism. Nothing is actually moving, other than capital. Obviously, most / all people in the room on Sunday want there to be a social movement, and maybe that is what the organizers really meant; however, that was not clear to me.

I also felt that if it was indeed more than just a minor, cosmetic adjustment, but the actual building of something – out of almost nothing – that was desired, the organizers would have posed different questions. Cole gave some important reflections on what such questions should be, but I would add others. Such questions would be been geared towards critical evaluation of the structures of the organizations we are presently part of, and the barriers to actual revolutionary activity that they are surrounding us with. Structure and function are intimately intertwined. And the present structure-function came from somewhere.

We have to remember the roots of the organizations, and activism in general, that largely characterized the crowd on Sunday.

Essentially, the futility of such organizations, and of present activism, has a  lot of do with their origination during times of rights based movements (women, queer, student, anti-racist, etc) who were seeking reforms in a developing (between WWII and end of 1960s or so), then eroding (early 1970s til today) welfare state. There was an idea of  "everyone can improve their lot", really the idea that there could be some negotiation with capital. The Labour movement, through unions, played into this, in addition to other social movements. They became (further) entrenched with a reformist character. The unions agreed to more limitations on strikes in exchange for various concessions and more defined negotiating powers. Gone from the labour movement was the articulation of a struggle against wage slavery and capitalism itself. Look in the historical records, including of Cape Breton, and you'll find how the language -- and action -- was fundamentally different, even revolutionary at times, in generations gone by.

Of course, it is true that even as the welfare state came into being, there were currents that attempted to push the rights based movements towards more revolutionary directions, and there were those that acted on their own – various anarchist strands that still exist in various forms today – but the development of large non-profit organizations and more entrenched union bureaucracies far exceeded their presence and overall effect.

Make no mistake. There were large social movements at that time, and they were in a way all trickling into a river: the creation of the non-profit industrial Complex (Complex) -- and I would include the modern union (in Canada and the US) as part of that, due to their serving the same function, presently, as the others. Non-profit organizations made up of lefty activists exploded in presence during the days of the welfare state, making the Complex quite significant in influence. There were suddenly more causes than you could count. The increased affluence in society post WWII, in general – which had some demobilizing effect of its own -- helped enable the Complex with funds. Other funds were accumulated through grants based on tax revenue. This Complex helped resonate a conveniently manufactured hope – one that developed a wide public acceptance -- that the eroding welfare state kept feeding people: "fight for your rights, but do it within the legal limits of the system, and maybe you'll get somewhere". This hope placed more power for change in the hands of the State, displacing it from the grassroots.

The groups that form the Complex developed legal standing (and limits) and particular functions within the evolving capitalist social order. This seemed to be functional at the time because progressive alterations to the laws and policies were taking place. People also developed privilege within their paid positions in the Complex, and volunteers a sense of hope that they were part of efforts for social change.

A culture of reforming capitalism – which the system only allows as is consistent with their primary interest of ensuring profits – has developed ... Rallies, press releases and lots of lobbying ... But all the while, the welfare state has been retreating, starting in the 1970s as a response to another profit crisis of capitalism, and went on the offensive again with the neoliberal phase.

Obviously, I'm skipping over a lot of important historical moments (I'm not trying to write a book). Of course, there are exceptions to this reformist character, for example, the indigenous struggle at Kanasetake in 1990 (as part of a larger native sovereignty movement), amongst many others. Those should be recognized. But my purpose here is pointing out a general character in present activism in the Complex, one lacking much of any leverage to change anything in a revolutionary direction.

Currently – with the crisis well in progress -- the welfare state is gone and there are no more attempts to hide its disappearance. It is clear that there is no interest whatsoever in Capital and the State making concessions as a response to persistent lobbying and public rallies. They have too much at stake to simply give things up without an actual fight. The concessions of the past – pensions, better pay, etc – are being expropriated by capital.

Unfortunately, while the welfare state has shed its cloak, the activists and Complex they are interconnected with have not changed – in any significant sense – in word or deed. They have been mired in a futility that cannot be disconnected from a feeling of security that the Complex offers, and not wanting to lose that. Also, those in the Complex have been socialized to continue the behaviour that they were born into (organization mandates, etc), an inertial character of their structure-function .

But obviously, the failure to really win any kind of concessions in recent times doesn't bode well for gaining any support from the majority of working and poor people – so the people instead elect right wing politicians like Ford in Toronto. People don't place their hopes on losers.

However, there are many who felt that temporarily, some leverage ws being rebuilt in recent times. Some talk about there being a movement in the late 1990s - early 2000s in the form of the movement for global justice, which seemed to be gaining ground while expressing “anti capitalism”. But in the US and Canada, those “movements” were largely based around summit protests and had engendered a weak anti-capitalist identity that had a vagueness in the usage of “anti-capitalist” similar to what I described above and what Cole said in his comments. These global justice currents were easily dried up in our part of the world since they never really held a revolutionary fibre – a basis in people's daily struggles for control over their lives. The same problem applies to the recent anti war movement that died.

If we recollect how the welfare state even arose in the first place, it was to try and co-opt revolutionary currents in working class movements. Workers were continually defying the capitalist laws in their struggles for better conditions and control over their lives and the capitalists were concerned. So the state threw concessions at the workers. The concessions were a bone to chew on. But the State, along with increasingly coopted labour organizations, built cages around the workers.

It is important to recognize that concessions were won through struggle, struggle that was associated with threats to the social order. Without that stick, nothing of significance would have been surrendered in the first place.

So, in the present moment, those who actually want to end capitalist social relations and work towards values based on “solidarity, co-operation and the principle, 'from each according to ability, to each according to need’”, would need to understand the importance of being part of movements that actually bare teeth, fundamentally challenging the capitalist laws in the course of advancing. This doesn't mean reproducing the welfare state! That would bing people back to where we are today, a shitty place.

And I don't want to overplay the significance of organizations that are a part of the Complex, but they have been playing a role. Things are already happening out there on a grounded level. Working and poor people struggle daily for any semblance of dignity. There are little ways people offer up resistance to the brutality of capitalism – squatting, skipping work, skipping rent, scamming the government, shoplifting, etc – which concede nothing to the State or capital, but neither are they actually challenging them fundamentally. These people are just taking risks as individuals. And unfortunately, these days, whenever individual incidents of being treated like shit from bosses, landlords, corporations, cops and the State begin to coagulate into collective actions, members of the Complex are often there to take leading roles, ending up doing so in counter-revolutionary ways: ensuring that actions are organized to be well behaved / legal so that their organizations, paid organizers and key activists don't look bad in front of the corporate media and lose support and/or money. Activities are being managed. This Complex behaviour is a byproduct of the structure-function that has developed, lingering from earlier years like a bad habit.

We all know what must be done with bad habits ...

All this entails eventually testing the outer limits of the organizations themselves, not being afraid to risk their legal / total existence as part of cooperating with the rising anger of working and poor people. It is a positive thing if walls are destroyed in the course of developing revolutionary movements.

It would be foolish to suggest that there are revolutionary movements in existence right now, where we live. So, it seems the real task for those entrenched in activism, at present, would be to start with the questions Cole posed, or something similar, calling for more specific articulation of what people want. Then, put to question the nature of the organizations that constitute this Complex and other loosely constituted activists that are stuck in the muck -- those that are talking about challenging capitalism. What are the barriers that prevent theory from going to practice?

 

Asaf, Tom and Cole, it is not

Asaf, Tom and Cole, it is not that I disagree with having more discussions about capitalism. Nor do I disagree with having a shared critique of capital. In fact I understand and accept most of your critiques. However the problems with this piece in my mind are:

-it fails to understand that the conference was a beginning and that to develop a shared critique of capital requires work, time, patience and solidarity.

- A shared critique of capital is not a stagnant thing but constantly evolving.

-You can't simply work off a simplistic platform if you actually want to build a collective analysis it should be reflective of a collective process.

-Collective processes take time.

-The morning was a space in which people were talking about capitalism. Hopefully those discussions can be furthered. (Though we can't further them if we don't work together)

-You have to create space for people to voice their opinions about some things that are barriers to their activism.

-Critiques are important but they must come from a place of love, respect and solidarity

-You can't have a shared critique of capital, if you are unable to work in a collective setting.

-Solidarity is a requsit for working together and therefore must be something that is talked about 

-The person writing this piece behaved like a child at the conference and was the subject of numerous complaints.

-I believe this piece is not coming from a place of love, respect or solidarity. It seems like it is coming from a place of more radical than though behaviour that frankly needs to be called out. Tearing people down, ridicule and not listening to others will gets us nowhere.

-Fundamentally this piece is impateint in all the wrong ways and with all the wrong people. Revolutionaries should be impatient with injustice but always patient with those whom they share struggle with.

-We need to build not simply parastically intervene.

-I don't think this is the proper venue for this discussion nor is the author the proper person to initiate these discussions

struggles against racism, sexism, etc.

In response to the anonymous author of post #6 of this thread;

What the libcom.org "basic principles" state, and what I articulated in the conference discussions regarding struggles against racism, sexism, etc., is that these are integral to class struggle, of no less importance than strikes or other actions around economic demands. I think that both economic and identity-based struggles are susceptible to co-optation and recuperation when they lack a revolutionary critique of capital. I support the struggles of working people regardless of the race or sex of those in struggle because it is in my class interest to support them.

On this note, I think the recent open letter authored and circulated by Feminist League for Agitation Propaganda in defense of sex trade workers and advocating for their improved working conditions is a very worthy act of class solidarity.

When do we create an economy beyond capitalism?

I don't have the time or energy to get into a huge debate over ideology or inclusivity. It seems to me that's how we remain splintered and in our own ivory towers, even though they may be crumbling at the foundations. Who cares? When do we get beyond this infighting, realize that we are all poor, all fed up with bowing down to dollars, and go beyond it? When do we creat our own system, based on barter, talents, and sharing? When do we realize that the very tools to do this are right here, right at our own fingertips? This city is big enough, mature enough, to begin a city wide coop. Where lesbians with garlic trade their wares with a tranny carpenter. Where a black man in a wheelchair babysits kids in exchange for homecooked meals prepared by a Micmaq single mother. Where a gay electrician wires a Palestinian's house in trade for language lessons. You get my drift. Does this happen, or do we all just sit around going "I'm a poor guy, woe is me", "I'm a poor woman, woe is me."

We need to address and tear down the laws that limit our own ability to trade and barter. This is what's important. Limits on what we can do with our own gardens. Limits on keeping chickens. Limits. Limits. Limits. I'm so tired of these limits, put in place by a government that claims they are there to protect us, but who consistently demonstrates they don't have our interests in mind whatsoever. We need to collectively start breaking these laws, and stand in solidarity when our government tries to enforce them. When one of keeps chickens inside city limits, we need to all show up in court if/when the case comes up. We need to be able to rally, and stand together. This is our platform, right here, this Halifax Media Coop, and all we're using it for is to debate semantics and call each other names. I look at workers in Argentina who take control of their own factory, and make it work, and keep government forces out. I look at protests in the streets of France, hundreds of thousands, to protest a mandatory retirement age of 62. I look at these things, and I am sick and tired of this navel gazing Canadian mentality. Shame! Are we still here, really, wondering why the government's breast milk tastes a bit off? Is that it? When do we blink and wake up? This is the Halifax media coop, our platform for social change, and we're infighting over specifics.

Argh!

I find this post largely

I find this post largely insincere and condescending.

Cole, you had access to the questions posed at this conference and the schedule long before it was released - you are on the listserv that this conference was organised now. In this case, as well as with your critiques of anti-G8 organising in Halifax at the Dominion launch, your criticisms are ill-placed and ill-timed.

You could have questioned the value of the conference's questions long before the conference. You could have spoken to the organisers in advance. You could have come to a meeting. It seems like you would rather spend time launching critiques at people who are doing things, without actually engaging with the organising that people are doing.

Being relevant to other "working people" (who are we talking about here?) is about struggling with them, being patient, and listening to their struggles. I question your account of "inclusivity." I am not confused by liberal notions of multiculturalism. Rather, I accept and recognize that I live in a society that is racist and values white supremacy. Unless I actively resist those ideologies in my community and in myself, then any claim I make of being anti-racist or supporting sturggles of racialised peolple is bullshit. The same goes for sexism. Unless your fight against those things in yourself and in your community is active, then it's just lipservice.

This doesn't always mean that we need to make sure people are included, sometimes it means that we need to figure out how we can support other struggles around us, and this takes work, hard work.

It's easy to dismiss everyone as "paid activists" as you said at the conference, but I want to ask if you even asked who was on the organising committee. If you had, you would have found: a couple of contract workers, a couple of people who are unemployed, a municipal worker, and a couple of people who work for community organisations. Why are these people, who may be politicized, not part of your working class?

There are a lot of critiques that can be made of the conference. I am not opposed to critiques. I am jsut skeptical of where these are coming from and what the goal of this post is.

paid activism

Kaley,

I feel you misrepresent an argument I made in the conference discussions.

I did not intend to dismiss people who work as paid activists. As you know, I do some activist-type work as part of my own employment. And I never claimed that paid activists dominated the conference organzing committee.

What I criticized in that discussion was the valorization of a particular "activist skill-set", a concept put forward by a few people, and one which I believe was implied in some of discussion questions.  Somone suggested that there were certain "activist skills" which we need to train greater numbers of people in, the implication being this would be a boon to the size and effectiveness of "the movement". I commeneted that I did not think there was a particular skill-set relevant to activism, organizing, or particpation in social struggle, but rather that the widest range of human skills and capcities should be encouraged, fostered, and employed in every struggle. I suggested that the idea of there being a particular "activist skill-set" comes from the perspective of paid, professionalized activism where activism becomes, at least in part, a job description, a set of qulaifications, a pay cheque (ie. work).

"And I never claimed that

"And I never claimed that paid activists dominated the conference organizing committee."...

"The Halifax G8 Welcoming Committee is organising demonstrations around the G8 meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada later this month -- it includes the the staff of the Canadian Labour of Congress national, the executive of the local labour council, Council of Canadians, peace coalition, Communist Party of Canada - Marxist-Leninist, etc. More a committee of union leaders and professional left /liberal activists than a grassroots coalition, I think."

It would be better if you said what you wanted to say to people's faces. This discussion is boring and not helpful. Please speak with one another face-to-face and spare the rest of us. I enjoyed myself at the conference and I'm withholding judgement until we all can see what's going on. Who judges something in a public forum after one meeting? Move on and move off the internet.

good job cole!!!

for dave to suggest that he is disapointed in cole,suggests a paternalism from Dave and an inability to discuss stratagies. Dave if you cannot have debates on stratagy and have to resort to paternalim in an attempt to make others feel "bad", then thissuggests to me that you think that revolutionary movements should be based on morality rather then strategy. It is sad that some think the middle class in morally superior to other classes. Cole has come from a working class community and probably knows more about working class then you ever will. Yes some of the sexist, homophopic, raceists steroetypes may be true in some working class communities but too often the middle class often judge the working class on that rather then analyse why it is so. From my perspective, when workers have their surplus labour stolen, within that surplus labour, there is the ability to create an indepenent morality that is not tied to the dominent morality of the day. Like the surplus labour, that is reinvested to strenghten capital, the stolen morality is re-invested in the middle class, that is to say middle class morality comes from the theft of the workers surplus labour. Cole I have always had the deepest respect and admiration for you as a revolutionary and am glad to see you are still involved. The thing about solidarity is, it is a group set up by trots that will not really amount to much, just like mobglob

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