Fighting to Win
People’s University organized by the Nouveaux Cahiers du socialisme and Canadian Dimension
Plenary, Friday afternoon, August 22nd, 2014
The contemporary period is marked by a major paradox. On the one hand, vast popular movements are raising the banner of justice and democracy all over the world. Not only do they take to the streets, but they also win many battles of ideas and discredit the ongoing expropriation of wealth by the 1%. Virtually every week we see a new awakening, a new Spring -- Arab, Québécois, Turkish, Thai, Brazilian, Spanish, Greek, American. On the other hand, opaque systems arising from the intersection of political power and the economic elites, step up their assaults on the people, behind the thin veneer of ostensibly democratic institutions.
Building social movements requires patience, determination, and strategy. Alliances are forged; innovative means are deployed to outsmart the adversary. Small victories are won. But the opposing side wields a wide variety of tools. The media has become a veritable weapon of mass destruction aimed at vilifying and criminalizing the very idea of social justice. In many election campaigns, the game is rigged to produce the semblance of a changing of the guard: the extreme right, the civilized right, and the centre that now presents itself as the left. There is little debate, little space, yet despite that, the voice of the people manages to break through from time to time, as in the case of Québec Solidaire, Syriza (Greece), MAS (Bolivia) and elsewhere.
These are some of the issues we want to address in this session, and here are several questions to launch the discussion:
- Why have recent social movements such as the Québec student movement and Idle No More succeeded in winning the support of broad segments of the population, in consolidating direct democracy, in developing strategies and acting in a disciplined and concerted way to avoid falling into the numerous traps set by the regime?
- How can we intervene in the political and institutional arenas with the aim of reaching the public, without compromising our radical spirit and making accommodations with a rotten system, and without appearing to be big mouths with nothing concrete to propose? What are the political alternatives?
- Since the emergence of Idle No More, those who were invisible have become visible. First Nations have organized themselves as a force to be reckoned with. What will transform the nascent solidarity with the First Nations into a movement of people capable of leading key struggles in Canada? How can we re-envision the State through the prism of social emancipation and the right of peoples to self-determination?
- Benoît Lacoursière, President of the teachers union at Cégép de Maisonneuve in Montreal and member of Profs contre la hausse (Teachers against the tuition fee hike)
- Françoise David- Co-spokesperson of Québec Solidaire and member of the National Assembly for the riding of Gouin
- Clayton Thomas-Muller- founder of Defenders of the Land, campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network, co-director of the Polaris Institute Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign
- Tony Clarke- Writer and founder of the Polaris Institute
- Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, writer and activist
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