Radical media, politics and culture.

Macdonald Stainsby, "Neither Trade Talks Nor Peace Talks"

Macdonald Stainsby submits:

Rise like Lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number --

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you --

Ye are many -- they are few. -- Percy Shelley

"Neither Trade Talks Nor Peace Talks:

Notes On Resistance"

Macdonald Stainsby, July 2003

I: Introduction: By Way Of Analogy.

II: A Better World Is Possible: Practice It Now.

III: Nationalism: Canada and North America.

IV: Trade Unions, Imperialism and Revolution.

V: Analysis by Anecdote: Anti-war, Stopwar.ca and the City of Vancouver.

VI: On The Question Of Leadership.

VII: Palestine: What Kind Of World Are We Struggling For?

VIII: An End To Shame & A New Beginning.I: Introduction: By Way Of Analogy

So don't expect it all to happen

In some prophesized political fashion

For people are different

And so are nations

You can borrow ideas

But you can't borrow situations -- Billy Bragg[1]

This computer I sit at is constantly having this or that program added
it, and sometimes (indeed, too often) the way I do a particular installation
doesn't work. When that happens to someone, one must find a different way to
do the particular installation. I know that seems simple, but apparently not
for us in the 'first world left'. Are we currently trying to find a new way
out of this mess? Or has the answer been brought back, again, that we must
engage in "building" what is called "the movement"? Are we to do so in a
fashion that has yet to succeed in helping to develop a method that clamors
for power? That breaks from class-collaborationism at some unforeseen point,
way into the future?

Before I really get going, I want to first of all start by explaining a few
terms I use rather freely, because I have yet to come across substitutes for
the meanings they convey for me; they are rather precise in what I believe
they conjure so I have no substitute for them.

When I speak of "entropic capitalism" I am referring to the dimensions
within the global economy that are irreversibly breaking down at all times.
The precarious state of the global economy and the likelihood of further
Enrons (yet no event having in itself the political stamina to damage any of
the Bush Junta's major players) does indeed mean that the tendency of
capitalism to destroy itself, to create the very conditions that eliminate
its strength as such-remains with us in the most profound way, and more than
ever before.

When I speak of an "exterminist[2]" stage or phase, I speak of the
environmental reality being created by the miracle of modern fossil fuel
based resource extraction and the wars fought over these resources. As I
hold that the very fabric of modern society (late entropic capitalism and
imperialism) is woven with oil; oil is in the production of the tires, the
interior seat, the clothes on the driver as well as producing the car
itself- not merely that which is burned as fuel & bought at the pump. As our
current oil consumption is within an imperialist society, and as we are
commonly accepted to be beyond the peak oil production level, i.e. of
remaining oil reserves (and therefore also beyond the global economic system
's ability to maintain itself either environmentally or economically) we are
now entering a world era that will start to kill itself off in a fashion not
yet understood truly by those of us "on the left". Late imperialism will now
begin to exterminate life on the planet.

I do not want to give the impression I fancy myself a sort of economist, I
don't. Nonetheless, I am heavily indebted to these two concepts, both of
which are not the same but interconnected. I am also grateful to the late
Mark Jones who made many of these ideas clearer through his words and
research on oil[3]. He spoke of both these ideas and wrote about the
historical juncture we are at:

"This is the global context in which we have to think thru our revolutionary
politics. It is a worse crisis than 1914-1917, worse than 1941, worse by far
than any in the history of either the capitalist class or the working class.
We should find a political rhetoric, as well as an organisational mode,
which does justice to this."[4]

To this analysis, add my belief that the current Junta in control is no
longer legally accountable, either judicially or through electoral means.
'Junta' for me is the clique that has seized control of the United States
Empire through the following events.

I believe this group began groping for a seizure of power most clearly back
in 1997, with the "Lewinsky Scandal". Though Bill Clinton was as dedicated
to imperialism as any President, he did not share the clear ambitions of the
people who have signed or otherwise endorsed the "Project for the New
American Century[5]". This group (signatories include Dick Cheney, Paul
Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and Jeb Bush among others) was a part of what I
believe was a stolen election; stolen on many levels-particularly the
deregulation of thousands of black voters by a Republican-owned firm
contracted to deal with voter rolls (by Florida Governor Jeb Bush), all
completed quietly long before a single chad had dangled. Thousands of people
who had no reason to be denied the right to vote were, almost exclusively
black. Whole neighbourhoods were disrupted from proper voting. This brought
us the George W Bush Administration, almost all of whose most important
players received their positions as appointees. Every one is a
multi-millionaire and many are connected to oil. And since 9-11, we have
seen the emergence of what amounts to a ruling Junta in behavior and a
fascist-minded contempt for the people they ostensibly represent.

September 11, 2001 has many questions that still need answering. The very
least is that it became immediately a facilitator for what amounts to a
coup. Ever since the Twin-Towers collapsed all investigations into the
events of that September day have been suppressed by the very government
supposedly attacked. The military high command was re-shuffled, those who
were responsible for Defense were promoted (Richard B Myers became Joint
Chiefs of Staff Chairman, promoted from Vice Chair on October 1, 2001[6])
instead of fired and half the American Constitution was torn up in a series
of bills and de facto 'extra-judicial amendments'. The most ominous changes
were the passing of the PATRIOT Act as well as the rounding up of 1200
people immediately following the events on September 11. The same time as
all of this, the concept of "unlawful combatants" was introduced with the
holding of hundreds of Afghans and others in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base,
Cuba-and as of July 3 (would have been too ironic on the Fourth, one would
imagine) this year, it is now official that military tribunals for
non-citizens that have no legal standing anywhere in the world will begin at
the same naval base, 'Camp X-Ray'[7]. Civil rights have been eliminated, the
sovereign state of Iraq has been invaded without even a standard fig leaf
excuse, international law has been further decimated and what little was
left of the United Nations has been murdered. All of this while the American
economy is entering a freefall phase.

Recently it has become more common knowledge that computer run ballots and
counting mechanisms-i.e. without a paper trail- with a patent on the very
technique for the programmed machines owned by a Far-right Republican
conglomerate (The owners do not have to disclose how the technology works,
that's not public domain due to intellectual copyright law.)[8]-are to be
used for more and more elections at all levels of government in the United
States. So far, this fact isn't deemed relevant to many as part of their
analysis of what our strategy should be, but the relevance of this ought to
be impossible to overstate. It appears nothing is sacred except the
superficial appearance of normalcy. But what is to be done?

Are we then, as revolutionaries, to build around actually putting discussion
of a new society on the agenda? Or do we simply plea for less North American
Fascism? Well, in the last four-odd years somewhere between yes and no, but
ideals alone are getting us nowhere quickly. We have repeatedly demonstrated
an ability to get into what a first year psychology student learns is called
"fixation". A fixation in this manner is, for example, a child taking blocks
of different shapes with the obligatory little round wooden hammer and a
small piece of plywood with holes of a different configuration of shapes and
sizes. Then, the child must learn to take a four-sided block and put it
through the four-sided hole. This demonstrates not just the observational
skills of the child, but also the adaptation skills. If the child gets
frustrated when a rectangular shape cannot be put through a pentagonical
hole, sometimes the child will angrily take his or her little mallet and
start to beat on the four-sided block over the five-sided entrance. This
demonstrates a lack of being able to see that there is little to no point in
pursuing things the same way and rather than adjust the way the child is
looking at the problem, the tools, the plywood, the block-anything but the
approach to solving the problem gets blamed. What is really telling is not
the blame on something else, however. The true signs of fixational patterned
thinking are the repeated attempts to continue to beat a rectangular shape
through the hole, and an apparent inability to do anything else.

Fixations lead to an absolute freezing of progress at this stage, whether it
is in thought or action. North America has never had a revolutionary left,
although many revolutionaries have worked brilliantly and valiantly towards
particular reforms that were highly laudable some sixty-five years ago (and
on the rare occasion since). There have also been revolutionary inspired
struggles that have been taken up by movements or entire communities facing
a choice between annihilation or revolutionary response: the Black Panthers,
American Indian Movement and other indigenous activists defending their
sovereignty are a few examples. For 'normal' primarily white-conceived North
America since the end of the 1930's, and in a few cases the 50's, many of us
on this left have been fixated on whatever particular belief of how struggle
works that we embraced at the start of our political thinking. Most often,
this has a workerist[9] undertone. Part of the problem lies in how we
conceive of progress. We currently view this according to what we are
struggling for "in the long term", and what manner will be used to get

There are two types who engage in targeting reforms through quiet, primarily
mass oriented "movement building": One is the social-democrat who is trying
to reshape particular policies of the current state, often towards trade
unions in the imperialist countries. Sometimes the topics extend to
humanitarian missions for the worst victims of imperialist violence, in the
form of either wars or sweatshops and similar reform-oriented "anti"
campaigns. Resistance by "unofficial" members of this society-such as the
Woodward's Squat of 200 homeless people here in Vancouver or indigenous
sovereignty battles located at Burnt Church, or in the "Battle of Seattle"
with activists successfully "locking down" and shutting down WTO
meetings -are most often abandoned to fend for themselves. These social
democratic reformist activists can make wonderful allies on short-term
projects, but they cannot imagine a world beyond the current one of
competing classes, NGO's and imperialist multi-party systems of governance.
At the juncture when the movement is about to advance into either open
confrontation with the powers that be or accommodation to the framework of
the imperialist state machinery, the activism will inevitably be channeled
into pressure tactics, cattle-style marches to "demand" the importance of
the current lobbying issue and an over-all premium placed on keeping things
"respectable" and "avoid alienating" the popular masses who are in any case
insufficiently aware of anything but the narrow demand the social democratic
coalition adopts. So that there is no mistaking the reason I state this, let
me return to one important premise a couple of times: The nature of
social-democratic movements is historically inevitable and not to be
condemned. The days of the false dichotomy between suspending all
revolutionary or vision-oriented politics in order to "participate in the
mass movement" versus launching hapless attacks on the perceived leadership
of the social-democratic coalitions as if this were the arena for
revolutionary struggle must be cast aside. No, the old-time formulas in the
imperialist centres for mass movement building cannot be transformed into
revolutionary movements. No, revolutionaries and anti-capitalists should not
be waging a struggle against "reformist elements" in the movement, either.
We need to develop entirely new manners of thinking, entirely new ideas need
to shake our collective cobwebs, while we speak of and develop a new world
simultaneously. For reformist-oriented Trade Union Bureaucrats (TUB's
hereafter) and NGO-types, the using of methods outside the system cannot be
looked at as _the_ strategy instead of a mere tactic in the pursuit of this
or against that current reform.

There are also other "movement leaders" who want an end to capitalism and
imperialism. The mass movement building for these comrades then becomes a
means to an end. The basic idea seems simple enough: through coming into
open conflict with the state and achieving a series of reforms, the working
class (seen through the prism of trade unions or mass movements of social
democratic NGO's, small reform oriented "labor" parties, etc) will:

A) Be won over to one idea, struggle for it, then the next idea, move a
little forward, and so forth-down the course of things people will reject
the entirety of the system after rejecting it piecemeal over time;

B) Then, with the previous reforms having taught struggle first hand and
shown the need to take a confrontational approach not for one or another
policy decision but the whole system, workers and allies can then look for
revolutionary ways to fight the current order;

C) Taking a direct, confrontational approach would not be of strategic
value at this time, and instead serve to alienate other possible allies; the
need for radical attempts to stop the current everyday descent into
exterminist late imperialist capitalism is not understood by many people
beyond those of 'us' who will guide them out eventually.

This last one, "C" is not always the case. The premise that this sits upon,
however, must fundamentally be flipped upside down. People have a sense that
this entire existence is not sustainable. It is not a matter of the workers
of what must be the revolutionary class not seeing the world consumed by
disorder-it is that the current disorder seems impenetrable and people also
have been blunted by TINA (There Is No Alternative) thinking. It's the
prominence of TINA that must be combated: People often don't engage in
reformist battles because they see no point. Worse, we seek to tell them
that yes, the system can be reformed! Yes, it can. But the real battle lies
in the idea of a new world free from the aerial slaughter of innocents and
from the dead end trap of capitalism and neo-liberalism at home. We will
slow down the assaults here and there to establish the existence of an
alternative. Before something can exist as a real alternative it must first
be brought into the realm of the possible by practice.

II: A Better World Is Possible: Practice It Now.

For many reasons, the existence of a mass movement that is

in conception and character is far harder (in North America) than before 911
to conceptualize and tangibly come in contact with. The isolationism and the
unilateral adventures of the state both at home and abroad have helped build
a mass movement across North America that has more cohesion in concerns. The
trick of this reality is that organizers hopefully recognize this as a
historical outcome of the ultra reactionary conditions of the day. In other
words, just as it wasn't Naomi Klein or Subcommandante Marcos who inspired
people to protest late imperialist economic policies (called
"globalization"), it is not the work of organizers, no matter how hard and
dedicated, that produces the anti-war movement. It is George W Bush, Tony
Blair and Ariel Sharon. The simple fact is that the Iraqis, Koreans,
Palestinians and Fortress North America's home policies are continuing to
build the anti-war movement. Throughout Europe, the anti-corporate
globalization movement has continued to advance -- and the synthesis of the
participant's analyses from anti-war & anti-corporate globalization have as
well. Not here in North America, and this is a fundamental order of the day
strategically. This must be re-captured; we must see things as not Canada
and the United States but North America. Many of us already know that
anti-globalization and anti-war are both essentially anti-imperialist
formulations. This needs crystallization among our forces inside what Ch
once called the belly of the beast. Thus may a renewed Cross-Pond
consciousness rescue some segments of the "Anti-Globalization" movement in
North America, back to what it was before the WTC attack. This,
ideologically, is the greatest threat we face. Can North American radicals
start to re-imagine how the success of the struggle is determined by the
strength of our alliances internationally?

The people organizing the antiwar movement who have revolutionary goals and
try to impose them inside the social democratic movement are well meaning
but ill advised. Trying to revolutionize a social democratic coalition that
is by historical necessity playing a social democratic role and that serves
a separate purpose is a waste of energy. It is infused with a belief that
going to a social democratic event and talking about radical politics
somehow changes the nature of the event. Or, put another way, it confers a
belief that coalitions (with or without Martin Sheen) lead the movement
rather than are led by it. It also has an implicit premise that the job of a
coalition is something more than facilitation of space for anti-war
sentiment to go. If people feel disempowered by a lack of ideas about
actions to slow down the advance to war, you are not alone. We must not seek
to make enemies of the social democrats within the anti-war movement
(broadly defined) for doing what it is that social democrats do, whether out
of personal or political conviction. The question is what approach to
resisting the ongoing war, the attack on civil liberties and the ravages of
the neo-liberal economic agenda do revolutionaries need to use.

There is an old saying that goes approximately like this: If you don't use
your rights, they quickly disappear. However, even allowing for the initial
'shock' of 9-11 to wear off, this is precisely the tack taken by all sectors
of the two young continent-wide movements. Herein lies why the defeat of the
Calgary mobilization against the G8 of a year ago remains so strong and
demobilizing to all forces of resistance. The gauntlet was dropped at our
feet when the ministers went to Kananaskis: It was a total challenge to our
mobilizing strategy and our very rights to protest and resist. When the G8
ministers moved to Alberta's mountains and forests, the movement based on a
strategy of disruption had no answer. When the government moved in the
military and proclaimed the right to shoot demonstrators under
anti-terrorist legislation, the demonstrations mostly vanished. A challenge
went horribly un-met. Now, when the global anti-war movement sees that wars
and imperialist occupations are accelerated and carried out despite 30
million in the global street, we also must either retreat or escalate. A
similar junction is here: we must identify the defeatism currently underway
and regroup instantly, based I believe on a strategy of disrupting the
current flow of life "as normal". The alternative could be catastrophic and
the largest movement in history could have the greatest despair and
demobilization in history. From London to Berlin and from Vancouver to New
York-but more importantly from Berlin to Vancouver, we cannot "wait" for the
shift to take place.

The 50th anniversary of the Attack on the Moncada Barracks in Cuba is
approaching (July 26, 2003), so let us revisit Fidel on this very question:

"There are those who believe that it is necessary for ideas to triumph among
the greatest part of the masses before initiating action, and there are
others who understand that action is one of the most efficient instruments
for bringing about the triumph of ideas among the masses. Whoever hesitates
while waiting for ideas to triumph among the masses before initiating
revolutionary action will never be a revolutionary."[10]

This is compounded if you share my notion that people already
believe this system must go, and that it cannot be fixed. It is not the need
to do the changing, but the viability of the alternatives that hold back
momentum in our society. If this is true, then it also must be true that
restricting ourselves to pamphlets, slogans and non-tangible places of
struggle must also be brought into question. The reason that 9-11 was so
frightening to many was that by having once had such an act carried out,
such an act would hereafter be in the realm of the possible. The same is
true when we act to transform the world: we create the political space for
the opening of a dialogue on how to build a world worthy of human beings.
Nothing less is on the agenda of history.

What needs to be understood is that this is not to deny the
importance for many in being able to participate in the 'mass movement' (the
large demonstrations and rallies, with or without songs, organized by
historical necessity inspired coalitions). We must also note or that such a
mass movement doesn't exist as a rejection of taking a confrontational,
disruptive approach. This last point is almost never understood by either
the organizers (both the NGO and TUB types as well as the self-described
anti-capitalists) of the large demonstrations or the 'radicals' who denounce
them from afar. Taking a radically different approach to what it is that one
uses to try and mobilize those who would come to either the "mass movement"
or how to try and help create a political space for those who already oppose
accommodation to 'business as usual' for the present historical juncture
should be seen as complimentary to the existing anti-war and social justice
oriented movements; People indeed, as the story goes, need to feel they have
a place inside the movement and that can be a matter of acting directly as
surely as expressing their sentiment through establishing their presence at
a march. While surfing the internet for alternative information shortly
after the full-scale invasion of Iraq March 20, 2003 I remember coming
across the testimony of an individual in Chicago. The streets of Chicago
were flooded with people determined to disrupt daily normalcy so long as the
illegal war was under way. As in places as diverse as New York to San
Francisco and elsewhere, Chicago saw multitudes of these very activists
arrested. The gentleman started off by saying that he had not been a
participant in the entire lead-up to the war but instead had sat at home
quietly agreeing with the protestors. He saw the mass arrests taking place
on television and decided "he now had to get involved" as a result of this.
He was simply joining the marches as another body-but he had been inspired
to do so by the realization that other people were not going to allow
business as usual and had been taken to jail for their actions of refusal.
Here we have a man joining the "mass movement" as a result of the repressive
actions of the state on antiwar activists. By moving the whole political
debate into a new arena he was mobilized out of apathy. The political space
created because of militant disruption and confrontational tactics moved
such resistance from the realm of dreams or theory into the realm of
reality. Within those parameters, he joined the marches. The forms of
resistance are neither diametrically opposed nor even incidental. They are
complimentary and feed off of one another. Within all the left forces at the
outset of building a movement a general amnesty must be declared with an
understanding of this for the sake of the movement as a whole.

III: Nationalism: Canada and North America

If you haven't already heard, there was a massive turnout-yet again-in
Europe for an event that could not be termed anything other than "Anti
Globalization". For the last almost two years, that is since somebody flew
planes into the World Trade Center buildings, the 'anti-globalization'
movement in North America has seemed to be a caricature of the movement that
shut down the WTO in Seattle and ripped down the Wall of Shame in Quebec
City. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but the obvious one is that
this continent has been home to the new goliath of worldwide war mongering,
and the need to build an anti-war movement has, as a matter of necessity,
been elevated to the forefront. This is still very much the case, but it is
also still true (in both word and deed) throughout Europe, and yet Lausanne,
Switzerland has seen crowds of "tens of thousands" protesting the G8
according to the bourgeois press-over 120 thousand to many of the protest
organizers. How is it that the antiwar movement swallowed the anti-corporate
globalization movement here (both Canada and the United States) but hasn't
produced the same effect in Europe? Or, indeed, has that happened?

I will begin with part of what I believe has been partially the
cause of this paralysis in Canada. An "anti free trade" movement began here
in the late 1980's, a movement that was opposed to the FTA-Free Trade
Agreement-with the United States. Right from the beginning the Canadian
variant of this movement included a severe streak of nationalism that runs
very much counter to the spirit of what became the movement later on. And as
the "anti-free-trade" lobbying movement shifted rapidly to the
supra-national impulses of the better part of the "anti-globalization"
movement, throughout the imperialist world an analysis of the role of the
state was lacking in a manner that still hasn't been fully addressed. The
prism of nationalism combined with the decline of analytical thinking on the
effect of nationalism has seen a growth of all manner of the more repulsive
racist, paranoid and fascistic nationalists on the margins of "social
justice organizing" (loosely defined). As "corporate domination and the
dissolution of states" was the primary target of the anger of activists
against corporate globalization, the impact of the 'reaction' of the United
States to the events of 9-11 left, and still leaves, many confused. If we
are 'against' the disappearance of the role of the state, when the state
comes out in the most powerful manner ever in the history of humanity, we
are all at a bit of a loss for what all of this means. Yet, across both
Canada and the US bills were passed that allow citizens, for vaguely defined
'terror', to be 'de-naturalized'. They have set up 'departments of security'
that hunt down 'illegal people' across North America. There are 'third safe
country agreements' that have both countries working with the same
imperialist goals of creating scapegoats and using retrograde and
subliminally racist 'definition of citizenry' discourse that removes even
more mobility for those who fall outside of the fortress and claim refugee
status. It also dehumanizes in a manner that only a nationalist frenzy can.
Academic circles within the 'Canadian left', unfortunately, responded to the
criticism of this very definition of Canadian sovereignty by stating

"[The Canadian nation-building project] has been a failure: it has failed to
develop a Canadian economy that is anything but an extension of the U.S.
economy; it has failed to defend Canadian culture; [...][11]", ominous signs
that we are drifting in our analysis into a nationalism that has more in
common with David Orchard of the Conservative Party or ex-Prime Minister
Lester Pearson than it does any radical critique of imperialism emanating
from the Canadian State. While imperialism by name is criticized, the
definition we are asked to see is that in Canada, the manner of resisting
'imperialism' is by building a wall of sovereignty between this nation-state
and the US, despite the fact that Canada is overwhelmingly a member of the
imperialist camp. Though we on the radical left in North America, regardless
of which side of the 49th parallel we sit, are living inside the countries
whose basic relation to the world is the exploitation of peoples and the
maintenance of a super-exploitation-based imperialist-client relation with
Africa, Asia and Latin America, one is supposed to be guided by a notion
that the 'imperialism' Canadian leftists should resist is that on the
Canadian economy and 'culture' by the US. We must return to our roots and
recognize where this is all headed. As a hockey fan, I can attest to how the
late imperialist existence is ruining the sport and how that is mostly due
to American hegemony. But I am far more concerned with how Canadian banks
have destroyed entire communities in the Caribbean, Canadian corporations
have plundered mines and local peasant societies in Indonesia, and Canadian
imperialism continues to be a party to the rape of Mexico. Canadian
sovereignty has created federal bodies that pass motions against the
possibility of real independence for sovereign indigenous nations. These
have been accelerated through the methods of the Acronyms of Death: through
the WTO, NAFTA and the proposed FTAA and- for our cross-the-pond friends-
the EU. Imperialism uses these for the strong, rich countries at the expense
of the Third World colonies with even more poverty in real terms than in the
time after WWI. Yes, late entropic imperialism hurts "nation building"-but
trying to 'defend' such a nation building project in Canada weakens and
divides our ranks, not strengthens our activity. It is impossible to push
for recognizing the "rights" of an imperialist nation.

Canada was a creation of imperialism and the destroyer of hundreds of
nations, including even the murderer of rival settler-colonists, through
conquering and then subjugating the French. **Wherever "our rights too"
demands from "pan Canada" crop up, the recognition of "our" primary global
position as imperialist subjugators withers slowly on the vine. Another yes
also: the concept of "nation" in Canada is wholly shot through with
whiteness so thick it could be used on a chalkboard, that of a white settler
colony even more exterminist than today's Zionists.** Our future lies with
recapturing the essence of the project ahead for imperialist country
revolutionaries: a rejection of all that is imperialist in the name of

Now is for resisting the enemy on the home front. Many of the more
academically inclined among us want a term for the relation between Canada
and the United States. For those who want it, Gramscian notions of hegemony
will have to suffice: The American presence is omnipresent, but it doesn't
subject all peoples inside Canada to living in shantytowns and mass murder
as intimidation. It doesn't pour raw sewage down the main streets nor does
it pay people in pennies a day, seven days a week. Canadian capitalism, in
particular the neo-liberal version brought about by provincial Premiers
Gordon Campbell, Ralph Klein and Ernie Eves, is driving more people into
homelessness, unemployment and poverty for the benefit of both Canadian and
American corporations. Canadian capitalist policies have de-unionized large
swaths of the workforce and destroyed schools. Local provincial governments
are trying to privatize health care and create the same two-tier system that
the rest of North America enjoys. American Health companies are not suing
Canada or appealing to the WTO for this. Such things are not due to a lack
of sovereignty, but because Canada is a capitalist country and entering a
recession. The deregulation of public services in Canada is not a part of an
American imperialist conspiracy against Canadian sovereignty, but standard
bourgeois attacks against the working class and the public sector to help
maintain profits during a crisis of over production and falling profit
rates. Canada is subjected to a neighbouring hegemonic imperialism testing
weapons on Canadian territory. The rest of the world is subjected to
Americans and indeed Canadians testing weapons (such as depleted uranium) on
their populations. This is the basic relation to the people of the world for
Canadian imperialism: Not that of subject to American imperialist
super-exploitation but a continued repressor, mass murderer and accomplice
in protection of a system of imperialist plunder-whether the project is
bombing Afghan Villages, "peacekeeping" in the re-conquested Balkans and
Africa or as one of the world's highest proliferators of weapons in support
of the new arms race -- Canada is a G7 imperialist country from the British
Commonwealth and in present form a basic enemy of all peoples.

Canadian nationalist policies cannot address Canadian imperialism in any
real way. 'American hegemony' is unrealistic at best as a target for
mobilizing our struggle, and inherently racist at worst. Canadian
revolutionaries will simply be unable to resist imperialism effectively if
focused on sovereignty here. Our future is now, more than ever, intimately
tied to the future of any real revolutionary challenge to imperialism across
North America: 'we' oppose American imperialism not to make room for
"Canadian culture" but because in attacking American imperialism we help
mobilize against our own. We are internationalists. 'Anti-globalization' and
the new antiwar consciousness both have their great strength in coming up
with common cause across borders. We are a unit to defeat the monster, not
fighting one head of the Hydra over the other.

The anti-globalization movement in North America, formerly with a premium
placed on escalating stakes on the streets (but within 'understood'
parameters between participants and authorities) as a galvanizing strategy,
had a deep wound stuck inside it in two places:

1. In the wake of 9-11, North American governments were able to take
liberties with our rights to demonstrate, and

2. Many of our ranks were disillusioned by either 9-11 itself or the
dwindling possibility of immediate returns on activism because of the
shrinking attendance and the willingness of authorities to attack our ranks.

This culminated in what for both North America in general and Canada in
particular was a major defeat, even more clearly a defeat in hindsight than
at the time: The unmolested, only symbolically and barely contested G8
meetings in Kananaskis, Alberta at the end of June, 2002. The events in
Calgary left many disillusioned and wondering how to pick back up where we
once were. Therein some went about determining we needed to embrace a fight
for sovereignty. And this is correct: We need to re-establish not the
sovereignty of the state, but of the whole people. We are not fighting to
empower one bourgeois class at the expense of another, we are empowering
human beings who are angry and desperate about the track of the entire
planet into what more and more of us identify as fascism (including the
Communist Party of Cuba). We need inspiration not from Canadian health care
history, but from the practices of governments such as Bolivarian Venezuela
and popular movements like the Al Aqsa Intifada: true sovereignty rests with
the people. It cannot be negotiated away through either trade or peace
'talks'. If the state is imperialist, imperialist sovereignty is anti-people

Nationalism and the protection of sovereignty-say many Canadian left
academics-are the areas that we must see as 'areas for struggle' and where
'the Canadian Left' needs to spend time involved in struggle. It must be
stated now, and stated loudly at that: this is death to real revolutionary
politics in Canada. It is not only a false target, it is alienation from the
movement that has become a fused whole in the continent of Europe (that of
anti-corporate globalization and anti-imperialist war) and it is not
something that is even realistically reformist in Canada.

It is quite easy for people to explain the difference between
what happened to the anti-globalization movement in Europe after September
the 11th and what happened in the United States by saying "Well, nobody
attacked Europe." However, if Canadian nationalism isn't utterly useless, it
needs to be pointed out that nobody attacked Canada on 09-11-01. If Canadian
nationalism has a role to play, there is no excuse for the fact there has
been a wholesale retreat on the 'anti-globalization' front in this country.
Yet, while several hundred thousand people can still be mobilized to target
the institutions of the Acronyms of Death throughout Europe, in North
America if one thousand people go to a city almost one hundred kilometers
from the meeting place of the G8-almost a full year before Little Bush
invaded Iraq-the 'Canadian left' debates endlessly whether or not such a
mobilization constitutes a 'victory'! Clearly, the role of Canada is tied to
the point of being conjoined to the fate of all of North America. When we
start to deny that reality, evidently a million other little fantasies can
take hold as well. It is also abundantly clear that the Junta that controls
Washington wants to breed a vicious narrow nationalism-while such an
isolationist position is the one being brought forth, the only thing that
can counter-balance such a notion will be the internationalist catchwords of
yesterday, but brought into a relevance for today. Yet, the whole project of
a "revitalized Canadian sovereignty" seeks to combat Bushite nationalism
with national isolationist appeals of our own.

The Bush Junta has even recently started articulating that it has its own
'anti-globalization' agenda. Not of protecting itself from the ravages of
some new Kautskyite ultra-imperialism, but in taking away the evening
leverage for other junior countries provided by international trade
agreements and substitute immigration treaties in their place. Canadian
nationalism without anti-imperialism is currently trying to use the World
Trade Organization to resist the Junta's ongoing imposition of tariffs on
softwood lumber. The WTO as savior for the nation-building project! All this
while Canada has never been more involved in joint imperial projects,
exercising sovereignty by protecting Fortress North America from third world
workers who would attempt to follow their money to this continent. Any
political space created where an anti-capitalist movement can mature and
grow will be created throughout all of North America or it will not happen
to self-identified Canadians at all.

For these reasons and more, the recently proposed ideas of George
Monbiot[12], so often an eloquent spokesman for the burgeoning young
movements, to reform the WTO into a "fair trade" body must be resisted
ideologically. Such would be to ask a cat to come to the defense of
mice.[13]Such a program is to blunt our creativity, and discard the vision
of a new world we seek to build. Further, such a demand, even if embraced
globally by activists, is not tenable. Unfortunately, Monbiot sounds more
like the left-wing opposition of imperialism in this case and less like the
spokesman of a new world he has been many times before. His proposal happens
to overlap a narrow nationalist appeal (not to mention utopian
beyond belief) while obscuring the class content of the institutions that
WTO is only one of. We might as well ask the International Monetary Fund
to give straight-up grants with no strings attached; the problem with these
demands is that they are the opposite of the mandate of the organizations in
question. If something is built to serve and protect imperialist interests,
it cannot be used to undermine the same, whether the UN, the WTO or the

If we are to continue the ongoing fight against the slide into her majesty's
loyal global opposition, we need to reinvigorate our understanding of the
primary class contradiction of the day: Between the imperialist states and
the people of the world who are crushed by imperialism- through invasions
and bombings, property-owner lockouts and also through paper agreements like
the FTAA. In a small country but from the most powerful imperialist bloc in
the history of humankind, internationalism and a lack of country (no matter
how painful) are required as _the_ main arena for struggle and for the
entirety of humanity. And sovereignty not in imperialist states but in the
people as a guiding principle for our North American movement, as it grows
in the imperial heartland. I am a cynic about the ability of imperialism to
allow debate about the existence of imperialism. I am more cynical about the
narrow economism put forth by so many of the modern day Trade Union
Bureaucrats. This, too, inevitably drifts into narrow nationalist appeals,
ones that thinly disguise a veneer of pro-imperialism that merely wants a
better slice of the spoils. This has been the dead end of almost all
imperialist country radicalism since WWII, and it will choke and defeat our
movement today. Unfortunately, it is likely no accident that this
essentially imperialist formation-the North American trade union
leaderships, by and large-are both politically and personally closely allied
with the sectors of the 'Canadian left' that currently want a retreat into
the nation building project. In other words, their orientation wants another
try at the old failing game. Let us start to learn what solidarity means.
What solidarity means is seeing the struggles against the G8 in Evian as
part of our own. However, it also means recognizing that the struggles for
sovereignty separate from imperialism as our own, whether in Cuba, Venezuela
or Palestine. In Canada, there is no 'sovereignty' battle that is not fully
'for' the Canadian ruling class and divorced from the people of the US and
the rest of the world. Such 'sovereignty' is not a popular sovereignty-it is
popular oblivion. There are state sovereignties that do not rest on the
stealing of sovereignty from the people: Cuba and Bolivarian Venezuela to
name but two of the most stark and heroic. There are few absolutes, but one
exists: Canadian nationalism is backward, harking towards yesterday, and is
promoting a sort of 'isolationism within isolationism' approach. It is
absolutely poison to the development of the kind of supra-national
consciousness we need today, more badly than ever before.

In the nearly two years between the actions in Seattle and the 9-11 WTC
bombing, there had been a movement towards limited mobilizing by trade union
leaders in North America. This is vastly more significant than what had
occurred parallel in Europe; the dormancy of labour in North America has
been written about in so many column inches it needs no repeating. However,
if we identify this as something other than a historical phenomenon, we
begin to lose the ball.

IV: Trade Unions, Imperialism and Revolution

There is not going to be any direct challenge to the legitimacy of the
imperialist project as such emanating from within the Trade Union
Bureaucracies (TUB's). This reality is perhaps the most important 'heresy'
to the orthodox of the day that needs to be understood. Yes, Trade Union
leaderships will take up activism- but in response to only that part of late
entropic capitalism which hurts the interests of TUBs. When the rank and
file starts to come under assault by the impacts of neo-liberal capitalism
'too much' TUBs are forced into action. When the very union they control
becomes unstable and at immediate risk, TUBs will belatedly move. This is
almost always after other sectors of society have been pulverized, from
immigrants to non-union workers, etc. The same logic of resistance goes for
small business owners: as a last resort, and only to restore that comfort
that was lost. The question is how they choose to resist their siege
conditions. Only when pushed so far to the wall do you get any kind of
resistance to ruling class attacks-and then it stops after minor concessions
or personal deals are cut (such as workers in Air Canada recently
surrendering wages "in exchange for job security" that is now less secure).

Last Summer in Calgary provided a microcosm of both how trade union class
struggle develops and why, as well as how we misidentify it. By the weeks
leading up to the G8 summit, Calgary had become more of an armed camp than
anything ever seen at a Canadian location for primarily white activists. The
convergence for the 'dangerous' and 'militant' demonstration on June 26,
2002 was being repressed and it looked almost certain that, only a year
after Quebec City's FTAA protests had drawn 70 000 people (over 40 000 of
them trade union members being marched to a parking lot), Calgary would see
a demonstration fall to the mere tally of three digit figures. At this
juncture, Albertan Trade Unions-who have been almost wiped off the face of
the earth by the triple whammy of the reactionary political climate, the
timid nature of resistance strategies adopted and by the far-right economics
adopted by the provincial government of Premier Ralph Klein-demonstrated a
level of solidarity that must be seen as principled. With two days to go
until the summit and with no real indication from the participants-simply
because of painfully low numbers- that any manifestation of 'spontaneous
resistance' would be forthcoming on said march, the trade unions endorsed it
and came on board. It didn't put the TUB leadership in a risky situation,
but instead provided for breathing room that might help establish leverage
in a fight for survival in the Albertan political landscape. In other words,
going to the march was adopted by many of these people as a tactic. It must
be seen in relation to the historical position of the TUB's in imperialist
countries: that their tactics vacillate sometimes, and this historical
conjuncture practically dictated these actions on J26, 2002. However, this
instead has been seen as occurring because a new level of real solidarity
was founded that day. It would be wonderful (and if genuine, revolutionary
on any scale) but that's not what happened. It's not what will, either.
Marxists speak well of material interest: The material interests of a tiny
grouping that lives ensconced within the bureaucracy of trade unions was
protected that day, just as it was when John Sweeney ordered the AFL-CIO
march to abandon allies in the tear gas stained streets of Seattle for a
private meeting with Bill Clinton. Modern unions exist as a ship-sailing
bureaucracy inside the wealth of an imperialist state: they must not be
allowed to crash on the rocks of either out-and-out entropic capitalism, nor
on the shoreline of confrontational class struggle or worse: revolution.

TUB's ignore the existence of imperialism in order that they might extract
more economic concessions from it to spread to the home constituency. To
oppose imperialism would ultimately undermine their own existence as the top
of the 'house slaves', to borrow from Malcolm X. Yet the bureaucracies of
labour can be temporary allies when a revolution is not on the order of the
day and this must not be discounted simply because we identify their class
allegiance as not the same as our own. There are some unions that mobilize
the membership to come out to the marches against the war. The problem lies
not when TUB's take on organizer roles, but instead the meddling benefactor
role. Much as the Soviet Union once acted as lord and steward over fraternal
parties through wielding the financial contribution that the Soviet worker
was putting into the satellite party, so are the modern benefactors from
Trade Union coffers often quickly transformed into little dictators,
threatening to rescind their participation in and financial backing of a
coalition in order to secure that their conciliatory politics are adhered
to. Sometimes short-term projects are very appropriate for building
extremely cordial relations with TUB's, and when independent politics are
respected or when the short-term goal is the same, then allegiances on what
amount to a 'popular front' can be made. The question isn't one of
denouncing the TUB's for being TUB's, but rather of how we orient our
long-term planning and of recognizing whom these short-term allies are. We
must neither now nor later on orient our movement to the class interests of
the Trade Union Bureaucrats-we can build temporary alliances when time makes
it sensical for us to do so. That time is never always.

Hostility makes no sense for the simple reason that there is nothing to be
upset about when TUB's are TUB's. I will, however, promote the notion of
upset with our own people-that is, with self-described anti-capitalists and
revolutionaries-deciding to wallow in nationalism and reducing our ability
to collectively work on an international level. Working people and their
families need a Hell of a lot more than a raise.

(This article continues here.)