On the first night of the Labour Party conference in the British seaside town of Brighton, there was a blood red moon in the sky. Superstitious types may have viewed this cosmic event favourably. Others, perhaps, with foreboding. With the left wing MP Jeremy Corbyn taking to the stage as the newly elected leader of the Labour Party, was this the sign of a new dawn for politics in Britain?
The New Democratic Party may be poised to make a historic breakthrough in the current Canadian federal election. In 2011the NDP won more seats than it ever had before, becoming the Official Opposition for the first time. Now polls suggest that they could win even more seats, possibly forming a federal government for the first time ever. It is important to ask if this represents a shift to the left in Canadian politics.
In the following piece British socialist Dan Swain builds on Hal Draper’s classic discussion in the essay “The Two Souls of Socialism” of socialism from below vs socialism from above and shows its relevance to the contemporary period. We are republishing this article because we think it makes a useful contribution. But we also think it is important to note that the article does not address lessons learned since the 1960s about the importance of anti-oppression struggles in creating conditions for democracy within social movements. This is perhaps reflective of broader political weaknesses on the contemporary left. We believe it is critical to be attentive to the ways in which racism, sexism and heterosexism structure power relations within society – including within movement organizing – and limits the discussion around what it means to practice the politics of socialism from below today. Socialists need to actively promote anti-oppression politics – anti-racist queer feminist socialism from below!
– NSW editors
It is gut-wrenching, watching Syriza [the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left] beg, and plead with the creditors not to crush Greece. Too late did they realise that they weren’t negotiating. They had nothing to do negotiate with, no cards to play. They went looking for the ‘good euro’, and found only ruthless, mercenary capitalist enforcers. They sought compromise and were given fiscal strangulation.
Review of Steve Fraser, The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2015)
All of us on the left are all too familiar with the capitalist offensive of the past forty years. Under the banner of “neo-liberalism” capital has rolled back almost every gain working people across the world have made since the 1930s. All sorts of public industries, services and institutions have been privatized, social welfare programs that protected workers from the worst insecurities of the labour-market have been rolled back or simply abolished and unions and working class political parties that had traditionally organized and represented working people have been severely weakened.
By David Camfield
There has never been more talk about human rights than there is today. Social media is full of calls to sign petitions or send e-mails about human rights causes. Almost no one says they’re not supporters of human rights, from radicals on the left to people on the hard right like Stephen Harper. Governments of Western countries justify war in the name of defending human rights. We now have a Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.
By Steve D’Arcy
Review of Chris Dixon, Another Politics: Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements (University of California Press, 2014)
If there’s one thing that activists often lack, it is opportunities to reflect about what they’re trying to do, and how it might be done differently and better. Often overworked and pressured to focus on pragmatic and tactical questions under urgent timelines, it can be difficult to give political and strategic reflection the attention it deserves.
Just in the past couple of years, however, a number of widely discussed and important books have been published, inviting serious thinking and sometimes rethinking about what left activists are up to when they organize for social change.
On January 25, people in Greece will go to the polls. But this is no ordinary election. The situation in Greece is being widely watched because the election could be won by SYRIZA, a left-wing party pledged to end the austerity measures that have caused such harm in the country since 2010.
By David Bush
At the end of 2014, RankandFile.ca, an online labour news publication, ran a competition for Scumbag of the Year. While we received many nominations of bad bosses and terrible politicians from across the country, unsurprisingly it was Stephen Harper who topped our readers’ list to win this prestigious award.
By Stephen D’Arcy
Strikes are only one form of struggle, and perhaps less and less important as the years pass. But the disappearance of strikes — documented in the accompanying graph — is not an anomaly. It reflects a pattern of diminishing overall levels of oppositional social mobilization. Although there aren’t (as far as I know) statistics on it, it is obvious that levels of social struggle generally, in the Canadian state, are lower now than at any time since written records have been kept.
By Salmaan Khan
As election day draws nearer, the race for Toronto’s Mayoral seat has narrowed down to three out of the initial 65 registered candidates. Benefiting from selective corporate media exposure, John Tory, Olivia Chow and Rob Ford have managed to build themselves campaigns that regurgitate many of the same vague promises: less traffic; greater accountability; transit relief; tackling youth unemployment; supporting businesses; and of course, talking taxes. The obsession with tax rates has become so normalized that even the “progressive” alternative has found it a useful mantra as all three candidates clamor for votes.
Image source: hindustan times
This is Part 3 of an interview with Himani Bannerji by New Socialist Editor Salmaan Khan on the outcome of the Indian elections. This final portion of the interview focused on the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI[M]) which fared poorly in these past elections, securing only nine seats out of 97 candidates – a progressive decline from the last two national elections and the lowest since the formation of the party in 1964 – followed by a discussion of the difficulties that come with organizing people according to a formula derived from outdated and inappropriate conceptions of industrialization and capitalist development. Part 1 of this interview, “India and the Rise of Religious Nationalism,” is here. Click here for Part 2, “Masculinity, Islamophobia and Neoliberal Politics in India.”
By Sabrina Fernandes
Rally held in June 2013, Brazil. Source: MidiaNinja media collective
The general commentary regarding Brazilian politics is that the “politicians are all the same” or “there is no political alternative” and that even the good ones get corrupted once they reach power. It is no wonder then, that the massive protests of June 2013 throughout Brazil, which were filled with diffuse voices and eclipsed by broad demands, revealed what many termed a crisis of representation.
By Brian S. Roper
Review of David Graeber, The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement (Allen Lane, 2013)
Was the Occupy movement an anarchist movement? David Graeber certainly thinks so and dedicates much of The Democracy Project depicting it in these terms.
In reality the influence of Anarchism as a diverse political current was highly uneven across the hundreds of occupations that took place globally in September, October and November of 2011. The relative influence of anarchists, socialists, feminists, Indigenous activists, greens, social democrats, left nationalists, and others varied largely according to the relative strengths of these currents prior to the emergence of the Occupy movement, and how they conducted themselves during the course of the encampments.
By Alan Sears
These are challenging times for the anti-capitalist left. Despite the enormous attacks being waged in the name of austerity, there is little in the way of sustained resistance in the streets, workplaces, neighbourhoods or schools. The Left’s limited resources are being strained to the limits in struggles to organize against the tide.
By Dru Oja Jay
Across Canada, movement organizations are preparing for the People’s Social Forum, coming up in August. There’s a buzz of excitement and anticipation in the air as committees elect delegates, and strategies are debated. When hundreds of activists gather in Ottawa in a few months, we will be drawing from a rich, long-simmering cauldron of theoretical discussion and insight issuing from astute on-the-ground observations.
By Alan Sears
Review of Richard Seymour, Against Austerity: How We Can Fix the Crisis They Made (Pluto Press, 2014)
Richard Seymour’s new book is an unflinching and insightful analysis of the current situation in which the radical left finds itself. These are hard times for radicals in Northern Europe and North America. You would think this would be a period of mass radicalization, given the glaring inequality being produced by blatant attacks on social programs, wages, migrants’ rights and job security. Yet there are few effective fightbacks, and activist circles in some places are actually getting smaller.
By Jeremie Bedard-Wien and Alain Savard
Two years after the defeat of the Charest government, Quebecers have chosen to give a strong mandate to the Liberals (PLQ). As a backdrop, a dramatic election campaign saw the Parti Québécois (PQ) rise and fall precipitously. What lessons should progressives draw from the re-alignment of the Quebec electoral map?
By David Camfield
This article was first published by Canadian Dimension as part of a series of online viewpoints about challenges and prospects for the left.
Derrick O’Keefe recently wrote in a piece on the Canadian Dimension magazine website that “beyond some very marginal formations and small publications, the left is missing. It’s just not there, organizationally.”