Connecting and radicalizing struggles across low-income communities

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On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Herb Varley and Ivan Drury. They are organizers with the Alliance Against Displacement, a British Columbia group that is bringing together struggles across multiple low-income and Indigenous communities in the province, with the aim of helping them become stronger, less isolated, more able to support each other, and more firmly grounded politically.

Vancouver's Downtown East Side is one of the poorest urban neighbourhoods in the country, and also one of most politically vibrant. Several years ago, a group of community organizers in that neighbourhood initiated a province-wide alliance dealing with social housing issues. Though it did some good work, after a few years they became frustrated that it had not achieved the impacts that low-income communities in the province so urgently need, and a number of those involved engaged in a sustained period of collective reflection to figure out how to move forward. This took the form of a series of strategy meetings as well as more informal conversations that eventually resulted in a decision to start a new provincial formation: the Alliance Against Displacement.

The Alliance, as it has developed over the last couple of years, is working hard to address a number of the key weaknesses that have been limiting the ability of movements and communities, not just in B.C. but across the country, to actually win things. The group is a deliberate move beyond the fleeting single-issue campaign that is so often the basis of what we understand as grassroots politics. It is committed not only to mobilizing but also to organizing, and it is not allowing the rhythm of its activities to be set by chasing elections. It is building sustained presence and organization in communities, thereby building community power. It is challenging both the politically unhelpful stigma that poverty is only an issue in the Downtown East Side and the way that so many struggles remain isolated within local communities, by building relationships within, between, and among low-income and Indigenous communities already engaged in a range of struggles in a range of different places in B.C. against things like homelessness, gentrification, and colonial violence.

Moreover, the Alliance has a commitment to sustained, ongoing political development and political education that is integrated into its on-the-ground organizing in a way that allows all involved to strengthen their analyses and their alliances. Recognizing the twin importance of capitalism and class struggle on the one hand, and colonialism and anti-colonial struggle on the other, is central to the Alliance's orientation.

Herb Varley traces his heritage to a number of West coast Indigenous nations, and has been involved in political organizing in the Downtown East Side and beyond for the last half dozen years. Ivan Drury is a settler who has been involved in radical organizing of various sorts for about two decades. Both are deeply involved in the Alliance Against Displacement. They speak with me about the origins of the Alliance, its work supporting and building militant struggles in a range of low-income communities in B.C., and the radical political vision underlying it.

To learn more about the Alliance Against Displacement, click here

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact [email protected] to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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