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The Bourgeois Revolution of 1789 in France saw the rise of the developing capitalist class. Their rise was propelled by popular support which was in itself motivated by the will to establish an equal society which was to be based on the principle of the perpetual progress of human civilization -- infinite economic growth to the benefit of all.
It took only decades to realize that perpetual growth is not to the benefit of all. Outside of Europe the colonial genocide, upon which the new ruling class depended, roared on. Within Europe the egregious treatment of workers spread death and misery, and the crises of capitalist production displaced whole populations onto the "New World" in hopes of seeking a better life, but in reality to continue colonization. The Bourgeois Revolution has been displacing the worst outcomes of the capitalist system to the margins ever since 1789.
The French Revolution of 1789 was not the last to declare itself to be motivated by universal interest only to see the ascent of a new ruling class. The so called post-colonial regimes that rose to power in the 20th century did so on a platform that mobilized popular support in the name of national self-determination. With few exceptions, these movements were met with reactionary suppression as soon as a new domestic capitalist class had been established.
What from these examples do we have to learn about revolution? Revolution has often been driven by popular support for key demands understood to be of universal interest, but which are only in the interest of a few. Instead of universal freedom, France gained the freedom to work or to starve. Instead of national self-determination it had national self-domination.
Today a movement is building to resist resource extraction, another face of colonialism. There are as many angles as there are pockets of resistance. Yet surely there are none but the most frightened who would deny the nature of the times in which we live. Either we learn to strike a balance with nature or lose the chance forever. There are those who, because their imagination is either too small or their comforts too great, argue that we need resource extraction for jobs. Yet there are no jobs on a dead planet, and no green jobs under capitalism. Is it possible any longer to say that one is unaware rather than simply unwilling?
Those of us who recognize the untruth of the state and union chants must form a Coalition of the Willing. We are united by the universal need for survival, which will not be realized by the state or the economy. Neither will emancipation will be won with popular support for what is claimed to be a universal demand. Only a coalition of the willing, a coalition of the fragmented, is one that can support the struggle for the right to self-determination.
The work must be done to build such a network which would assure the ascendance of not one group’s interest in the name of the whole, but a coalition with the goal of mutual recognition of the specificity of different struggles against resource extraction. There is no one single solution or universal demand, only those who would fight for the right to determine the means to satisfy self-determined ends.
Furthermore, Indigenous communities cannot be allowed to struggle alone. We must recognize the interdependence of different struggles. So long as Indigenous communities struggle alone the state will become bolder in its violence, bloated on complacency. So long as they struggle alone the oppression reserved for indigenous peoples will spread outward -- the population of Quebec joined the student struggle when it recognized that the attack on students was an attack on all. It is not that indigenous communities need saviours, but that they are only the first in line to be deprived of their rights. A struggle for the water must be met with a struggle in urban centres in order to avoid the brutality for which the government prepares its police. Indigenous peoples stand immediately in the path of colonial developments, and because of this they are first in line.
To the end of the right for self-determination the casual fraternization of collectives will not be enough. Only a coalition of those who are willing to face the challenge of the times head on, only through the preservation of mutual recognition of difference in struggle and the guarantee of right to self-determination shall we be able to rise up to that challenge.
Joseph Leivdal is a student of the Humanities at Simon Fraser University and Associate of the Institute for the Humanities. He also works with Rising Tide Vancouver Coast Salish Territories to oppose resource extraction in Canada. He writes on politics, philosophy, and social movements.
Photo: flickr/Maggie's Camera
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