Introduction

Nicole Cohen, Aidan Conway, Kelly Fritsch, Tom Keefer, Sharmeen Khan, Clare O’Connor, AK Thompson

We are very pleased to present the seventh issue of Upping the Anti. In this issue, we continue to highlight important discussions within contemporary social movements. In our effort to locate these discussions in our current political context, our editorial focuses on the question of catastrophe. After evaluating some of the main currents addressing the new capitalist disasters facing the planet, we highlight the importance of framing the discussion in relation to the problems arising from the history of production. Here, it becomes clear that many “solutions” to catastrophe are in fact merely processes of deferral. In opposition to these solutions, we highlight the importance of bringing about what Walter Benjamin once described as “a real state of emergency.”

Without fail, letters from our readers shed light on questions raised in past issues. Dan Berger responds to Monaghan and Walby’s article on the Green Scare, offering suggestions for cross-movement solidarity. In response to Mutulu Olugbala’s interview, Shana Calixte reflects on the implications of being both a feminist and a hip hop head, and argues that revolutionary hip hop isn’t so revolutionary if it remains uncritical of sexism, misogyny, and homophobia. Katy Rose offers her perspective on settler solidarity work on the island of Kaua’i, Hawai’i. J. Sakai offers a critical evaluation of UTA 6, encouraging more rigorous theoretical engagement as a necessary step in the effort to develop effective social movements. Caelie Campbell and Corrie Sakaluk add to the debate about the current state of the Canadian Federation of Students and suggest possible next steps.

In our first of three interviews, Sharmeen Khan talks to Clayton Thomas-Müller, a Cree organizer with the US-based Indigenous Environmental Network. Müller offers insight about community organizing, analyzing the links between environmental justice struggles, neoliberalism, and imperialism. Stressing the importance of bringing analyses of race, class, and gender into environmental struggles, he concludes by emphasizing the need to take organizing seriously by maintaining accountability in the struggle to build effective political power. In our second interview, Emily van der Meulen interviews Toronto-based sex worker and activist Kara Gillies. Gillies, who has been advocating for sex workers’ rights for two decades, discusses the efforts of various groups working to decriminalize sex work in Canada, the relationship between sex workers rights and feminism, and the interaction between organized sex workers in Canada and their international counterparts. In our final interview, Tom Keefer talks with Chris Harris of the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC). Harris discusses the relationships between gangs and political movements and evaluates BADC’s current efforts in organizing around black-on-black violence in Toronto.

In our effort to highlight 2008 as the 60th year since al Nakba (the Catastrophe),UTA 7 also features three pieces about Palestine Solidarity politics and organizing. During 1948 and early 1949, Zionist forces destroyed 531 Palestinian villages and towns. More than 750,000 indigenous Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes or fled the threat of the invading forces. For Palestinians struggling today for basic human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, those living as second-class citizens within Israel, and Palestinian refugees denied their right of return, 2008 marks 60 years of land dispossession and ethnic cleansing.

Distortion and denial of the Nakba have been central features of the Zionist project since the founding of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948. These efforts have been extremely effective in Canada, where the Israel@60 celebrations in Toronto were able to assemble under the slogan “Party like it’s 1948!”

In their article about Labor Zionism, Matthew N. Lyons and Nava EtShalom explore the history and strange resilience of this contradictory political current. They examine ways in which the assumed moral legitimacy of Labour Zionism has contributed significantly to broad patterns of obscuring Israel’s ongoing oppression of Palestinians and misrepresenting the history of the Zionist colonization of Palestine.

Despite this ongoing distortion of the Nakba, some Palestine Solidarity organizers in Canada are working on a movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid. Among the organizations leading this movement is the Toronto-based Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA), a group that insists that justice for Palestinians means justice for all Palestinians, including those whose families were displaced in 1948. We are pleased to present CAIA organizer Kole Kilibarda’s take on the state of Palestine Solidarity in Canada. In his article, Kilibarda describes the successes of the BDS campaign, and reflects on the importance of solidarity with indigenous peoples on Turtle Island.

Reflecting on priorities for BDS organizers, Kilibarda highlights the importance of alliances with unions. In Canada, the BDS campaign began gaining momentum when CUPE Ontario passed Resolution 50 in 2006, thus formalizing the union’s support for BDS. While Canadian labour solidarity has offered important support for Palestinians’ struggle for liberation it has also served to revitalize unions themselves. International solidarity union work appears to be helping to rejuvenate Canada’s significantly weakened labour movement. To examine this relationship, Caitlin Hewitt-White and Clare O’Connor initiated a roundtable discussion with four Palestine Solidarity labour activists. Roundtable participants include Dave Bleakney of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Iliam Burbano of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Jenny Peto of United Steelworkers, and Andy Griggs of the United Teachers of Los Angeles.

Building on questions of labour and organizing, Kimiko Inouye presents a roundtable on migrant worker justice in Canada. Bringing together organizers who have worked with migrant domestic workers and farm workers, the roundtable highlights the difficulties facing migrant workers trying to organize themselves without the support of allies. Roundtable participants include Evelyn Calugay and Tess Tesalona as well as Adriana Paz, Aylwin Lo, and Chris Ramsaroop who work with Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW – a grassroots collective with groups in Toronto and Vancouver).

Other issue contents include Tom Keefer’s report on the unfolding dynamics of struggle at Six Nations. In his article, Keefer argues that Six Nations activists’ use of direct action constitutes an effective strategy for struggles around sovereignty that is having a significant impact on a variety of non-native environmental and class conflicts.

We conclude this issue with reviews of four books that analyze and question the ways in which political groups engage.Neil Balan reviews In Defense of Lost Causes by Slavoj Žižek. Žižek posits that “resistance” is both insufficient and a false hope in the post-political moment of liberal humanism and unrestricted virtual capitalism. Instead, Balan reports, Žižek asks for a reappraisal of past revolutionary events that still hold possibilities for present day activists. Charting different territory, Alejandro de Acosta reviews Simon Critchley’s Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance. In this text, Critchley considers what is promising and what is a dead end, both ethically and politically, in certain approaches to radicalism. Acosta argues that Critchley’s thought is ultimately limited in its ability to map out future actions.

Following the very different takes of Žižek and Critchley, Jen Angel explores the significance of commodity culture for activists in her review of Stephen Duncombe’s Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy. Finally, Bryan Doherty reviews John Hagedorn’s A World of Gangs: Armed Young Men and Gangsta Culture, in which the author reconceptualizes gangs through the lenses of street politics and urban history.

Thanks to everyone who contributed their time, energy, and insights to this issue. As our project continues to grow, we are pleased to welcome Kelly Fritsch and Clare O’Connor to our editorial committee. We would also like to thank former editor Caitlin Hewitt-White for all her work and her valuable contributions to the journal.

No introduction would be complete without our plea to you, good reader, to send us money. Please visit us online at www.uppingtheanti.org in order to get a subscription or to make a donation to ensure that Upping the Anti continues.

Issue Eight is scheduled to come out in May of 2009. If you are interested in contributing, please send a pitch or draft to uppingtheanti@gmail.com. Pitches are due on or before November 17, 2008. The deadline for first drafts is January 5, 2009.

We hope you enjoy this issue of Upping the Anti and we look forward to your letters, reviews, story ideas, and subscription requests.

In solidarity and struggle,
Nicole Cohen, Aidan Conway, Kelly Fritsch, Tom Keefer, Sharmeen Khan, Clare O’Connor, AK Thompson
Toronto, October 2008