On Friday I had the good fortune of taking in the opening panel of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle conference held this weekend in Toronto. The panel entitled “Many Struggles One Fight” was large and extremely diverse – never before have I seen so many struggles brought together in one place, and never have I see so much emphasis on commonality and unity between struggles.
This is an especially welcome feeling for me because whenever I get back from Palestine my initial responses to the politics of this place is to feel disgust at the fragmentation, at the “me first” attitude, at the inability of groups to get along and see the common fight. And I think this attitude is something one is more likely to feel on the cusp between the third world and the first – on the exchange between living in a space of overwhelming oppression which binds people together, and a space of relative stability where oppression marginalizes people not only from the oppressors but also from other marginalized groups.
The panel included first nations speakers, historical and contemporary analysis of the six nations struggle and the reclamation and residential schools, french students from the quebec student strike, analysis of the Canadian working class and all its subdivisions especially undocumented and migrant workers, a Palestinian speaker discussing resistance and the rebuilding of the Palestinian national liberation movement, and a Canadian who’s mind has been criminalized for having a “criminal ideology” who will soon be spending time in prison for his beliefs. (Apologies, for I’ve probably forgotten a few). I’m not sure what the most moving moment of the night was – either watching Khaled Barekat and Francine Doxtator embrace after Khaled’s speech, or seeing my friend Gary Wasakesack stroll calmly back and forth across the stage, speaking with such conviction and ease, stringing together topics in a way he genuinely couldn’t when I first met him five years ago.
The analysis emerged organically, in-common between the speakers: anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, pro-resistance. But to describe it this way makes it seem something merely negative, merely reactionary. And certainly the injustices that are normalized today demand a reaction. But I would do an injustice to the night if I did not also emphasis the constructive project told by the different speakers, and the one that emerged across them – the project of anti-colonialism is not merely destructive it is also the demand to construct the uncolonized society, and for the colonizer to recognize its own redemption not only in reacting against the violence of colonization, but also in seeing in the colonized the truth in the human relations that exist outside of its commodification. And the project of anti-capitalism is not merely destructive either, but the challenge to build economies based on human rather than financial relations. And finally, resistance is not merely negative – because it is in resistance that the positive organs of revolution are motivated and formed. Khaled talked about the need for the Palesitinian national movement to be re-vitalized, and contrasted the factions today from the factions twenty years ago when they were infused with the life of the youth – most Palestinian youth today (according to Khaled) are not a member of a faction. “Faction” therefore is not a merely negative term but a potential positive depending on whether work, effort, life, and sacrifice is put into it. The positive aspect of the revolutionary’s gun is that it enacts the same sacrifice as any other form of work – the sacrifice of present enjoyment for the sake of the future.
The work of building cross-struggle alliances is not easy, and I did not actually attend the conference proper (occurred on Saturday), but it lifts my spirits immensely to see people doing this kind of work in a serious and cross-movement manner. There may only have been about 50 people in the auditorium, but when this many dedicated and serious people get together in a positive and collaborative way to talk about struggle, we can only be moving in the right direction.