This time last year, the effects of the Arab Spring had already inspired millions of people around the world to think about the possibility of revolution - and the role that they themselves could play in creating a better world.
While political pundits and right-wing leaders argued that the revolutions would never last (and that they had no connection to what was going on over here), activists had other ideas.
Occupy shines light on capitalism's inequality
By the end of 2011, Occupy had emerged in nearly 2,000 cities and towns in the United States, Canada and around the world - shining a giant spotlight on the global capitalist system, and adding momentum to ongoing struggles, such as the fight against austerity. So widespread were the protests, from the Arab Spring to Occupy, that TIME magazine named "the protester" its Person of the Year for 2011, a huge about-face for the mainstream media.
It's in this context that this year's Marxism conference takes place, and why we decided on the theme "global crisis, global resistance."
If 2011 was the "year of revolution," then so is 2012: the movements that emerged in late 2010 and early 2011 are far from over, and continue to develop, evolve and inspire new movements. In addition, more and more people now identify the global capitalist system as the root cause of the problems we face, from economic crisis and the austerity agenda to climate change and war and occupation.
In other words, if the crisis is global, we need global resistance.
So how do we build it? What can we learn from 2011 and all the major struggles in years past? How do we involve all those who want to get rid of capitalism, but don't yet see themselves as activists? How do we build a bigger, more effective struggle? Crucially, how does resistance become revolution?
Marxism 2012 aims to discuss these and other questions, by bringing together seasoned activists, and those just beginning to radicalize, for a three-day political conference that addresses the central debates of our movements.
Organized by the International Socialists, the conference features 30 talks and panels from Friday, May 25 to Sunday, May 27 at the Ryerson Students Centre in downtown Toronto. The talks are organized into courses by theme, drawing inspiration from the major events and struggles of the last year: 'We are the 99%,' anti-imperialism, anti-oppression, the Arab Spring, capitalist crisis, environmental justice, and radical culture. You can see all the courses here and the full schedule here.
From the Quebec student strike and emerging struggles in the labour movement to Occupy Wall Street and the campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline, our own experience shows the impact and potential of the new global resistance. As ordinary people in the Arab world continue to deepen and expand their resistance, we need to do the same.
Despite the predictions of the mainstream media, these struggles are just getting underway, and show the possibility of becoming something much bigger: a movement that won't be satisfied with "fixing capitalism," but one that aims to create a new system altogether.
Prominent local and international speakers
Marxism 2012 is a chance for all of us to share our ideas and experiences, to learn from each other, and to lay the foundation for a more united struggle. We invite you to join us and be part of the debate.
This year's conference features some prominent Canadian activists, as well as international guest speakers, including:
-Nikos Loudos, a Greek trade unionist and socialist, who will kick off the opening panel of Marxism 2012, "The global fight against austerity: from the ballot box to the street," which also features Monique Moisan, a leading member of Québec solidaire; Judith Orr, editor of Socialist Worker (UK) and eyewitness to the Egyptian Revolution; Andria Babbington, vice-president of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council; and Carolyn Egan, president of the Steelworkers' Toronto Area Council.
-Brigette DePape, the former parliamentary page who disrupted last year's Speech from the Throne, will speak on the Saturday evening panel, "Can we stop the Harper agenda?", along with Tasha Peters, climate justice activist and organizer; Ben Powless, member of the Indigenous Environmental Network; Hadayt Nazami, legal counsel for George Galloway and the Canadian Arab Federation; and Michelle Robidoux, a pro-choice and anti-war organizer.
-A member of Egypt's Revolutionary Socialists will join solidarity activists Yusur Al-Bahrani and Sid Lacombe on the panel, "Egypt and the Arab world: the year of revolution," and will also talk about "The role of socialists in Egypt's revolution."
-Quebec student activist Xavier Lafrance, Québec solidaire organizer Monique Moisan, and Montreal-based lawyer Sibel Epi Ataoğul will assess the 2012 Quebec student strike, and what we can do to spread it.
-Leading trade union activists will strategize on "Building rank-and-file resistance in labour," assessing recent strikes against austerity, including Toronto city and library workers; the Air Canada wildcat and walk-out; locked-out workers at Rio Tinto in Alma, Quebec and Electro-Motive Diesel in London, Ontario; locked-out postal workers, and more.
-Climate justice activists Ben Powless and John Bell talk about "Tar Sands, pipelines and Indigenous sovereignty"; while author, editor and socialist Ian Angus will address "Too many people? The return of the population bombers."
-Activists Melissa Graham, Patricia Reilly, and Michele MacAulay will join a panel called "From each according their ability: socialists and the disability movement."
-Leading Palestinian and BDS activists will discuss "Palestine: imagining the one-state solution"; while Nikos Loudos and anti-racism activist Chantal Sundaram talk about "Racism, Islamophobia and economic crisis."
Other talks include: "The radical roots of Hip Hop"; "Hacktivism, social media and revolution"; "How women won abortion rights"; "Quebec, First Nations and the Canadian state"; "The red in the rainbow: socialism and queer liberation"; the history of rank-and-file labour resistance in Canada and Quebec; new workers' struggles from Chile to Nigeria to Iran; the NDP under Thomas Mulcair and the future of social democracy; strategy and tactics for the Occupy movement; and much more.
With something for everyone interest in the multi-faceted global resistance, Marxism 2012 starts this Friday. We hope to see you there!
James Clark is an anti-war and Arab solidarity activist in Toronto, and a member of the International Socialists. He is part of this year's Marxism organizing team. You can follow him on Twitter @2jamesclark
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