With Eyes Wide Open: Notes on Crisis and Resistance Today

UTA Editorial Committee

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste. For the last two years, the financial crisis and global recession have presented the left in North America with the best opportunity in recent memory to move beyond the defensive postures of “resistance.” Rocked by the most severe financial crisis since the 1930s, global capitalism reeled as the very premises of the neoliberal project were called into question. But despite this opportunity, no significant mass movement emerged, and the political and organizational
limitations of the anti-capitalist left were clearly underlined.

Financial crises have been a recurring feature of neoliberal capitalism over the last three decades. Until recently, these crises were largely confined or displaced to countries and regions outside the US (Argentina, Russia, Mexico, and Southeast Asia, for example). Between 2007 and 2009, however, crisis came home to roost. The very heart of global capitalism – the US financial system – sustained a direct hit. As Wall Street fell victim to its own excesses, large swaths of the working class were hammered. The credit crunch descended into a major recession. Mortgage foreclosures and unemployment reached levels not seen in a generation. An even more dramatic 1930s-style meltdown was only avoided because trillions of dollars in public funds were injected into the financial system and the economy.

For a brief moment, this debacle marked a major crisis of legitimacy for the capitalist class. And they knew it. A traumatized financial press announced the end of an era, conceded the need for extensive new forms of financial regulation, and even advocated forms of “strategic populism” aimed at forestalling the drawing of more radical conclusions. After all, longstanding policies aimed at subordinating societies to the dictates of capitalist accumulation had led to disaster, and governments that claimed they could not find the money to adequately invest in education, health, and welfare programs somehow found the means – almost overnight – to bail out financial institutions and big companies.

The bailouts extended to capitalist financiers came with relatively few strings attached. In contrast, those aimed at large industrial employers in Canada and the US explicitly made “sacrifices” by workers a condition for support. These events not only revealed the hypocritical character of neoliberal politics – austerity for workers and poor people, public support and largesse for capital -– but also made it clear who will be forced to pay for the crisis if the capitalists get their way.

One might have expected such a dramatic unraveling to embolden the left to articulate radical alternatives. Along with unprecedented public awareness of the threat of eco-catastrophe and the growing disillusionment with imperial adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, the crisis should have compelled us to act decisively in order to seize a rare political opportunity. However, with the exception of a few exemplary instances (including direct action against foreclosures and factory shutdowns), this opportunity has largely been missed. The openings that became visible during the acute phase of the financial crisis are rapidly closing. And, in the absence of a sustained challenge from below and from the left, capitalist elites will continue dealing with the crisis on their own terms and at our expense. The situation remains uneven; however, we do seem to be rapidly moving from conditions under which fundamental challenges to the system could have resonated strongly toward ones in which politics will likely be dominated by conflicts over how workers and oppressed people will be made to pay.

In an effort to salvage financial capital and prevent a slide into outright depression, massive public deficits are being racked up. But the piper, having played her trillion-dollar tune, must be paid. In the US, many states are on the verge of bankruptcy. The recent attacks on the public university system in California provide a taste of things to come. In Canada, governments at both the federal and provincial level are softening up the population with talk of the “difficult decisions” that lie ahead. As soon as private capital is stabilized, there’s little doubt that public austerity will once again be on the agenda.

Already, the Canadian government has engaged in attacks on pay equity, environmental regulation, and refugees. In Ontario, we have seen cuts to welfare programs, the withdrawal of funding to desperately needed transit projects, and talk of widespread privatizations. New anti-union labour laws have been introduced in Saskatchewan. More aggressive attacks are surely on the way.

Unfortunately, this is familiar territory for the left. Defensive postures of “resistance” to such attacks have dominated our agenda for much of the past thirty years. The failure to seize the day in
2007-2009 relegates us once again to a terrain likely to be dominated by defensive struggles. In this context, it’s useful to reflect on what we can learn from previous experiences in which defensive struggles coalesced into important episodes of collective action. In what follows, we consider the Solidarity coalition that formed in British Columbia during the 1980s and the Days of Action that took place in Ontario during the 1990s.

As different as these two episodes were, some important similarities stand out. In both cases, government austerity programs prompted alliances between the labour movement and a range of popular and social movement forces. These alliances culminated in significant challenges to right-wing governments. However, these promising mobilizations fell short of fundamentally altering the political terrain by failing to move beyond defensive struggles and toward the articulation of radical alternatives.

Each mobilization was comprised of both relatively “top-down” initiatives by organized labour and more “bottom-up” mobilization by social movement activists and anti-capitalist radicals. This combination of forces gave the mobilizations their dynamism; however, it also highlights one of the main reasons they ultimately fell apart. As the resolve of key sections of the union component dissipated, their leaderships abandoned the field. The remaining participants (including large numbers of militant union members) were unable to sustain the momentum or expand the struggle. To be sure, these struggles were inspiring and represented high-points of anti-neoliberal resistance. Nevertheless, sober assessment requires that we understand them as “heroic defeats.” These defeats are important: they highlight the crisis of organized labour and the ongoing difficulties faced by other oppositional forces aiming to mount effective resistance to capitalism.

Today, similar dynamics will doubtless come into play as governments try to balance budgets on the backs of the working class. However, our goal should not simply be to replicate the desirable aspects of our previous efforts. Learning lessons from past failures is important; however, we need to be equally sensitive to the dynamics of our current condition and to the ways that history, for better or worse, is unlikely to repeat itself.

As the 20th century neared its end, right-wing governments in BC and Ontario introduced bold neoliberal austerity and restructuring programs. Both regimes played a central role in elaborating the kind of “authoritarian populism” that’s now a mainstay of bourgeois politics in North America. However, these neoliberal offensives also created a compelling basis for trade unions, diverse social movement activists, and others to come together in coalitions of resistance.

During the early 1980s, recession provoked fiscal problems for BC. In response, the Social Credit government began attacking public sector workers in the name of managing the financial crisis. At the same time, they redirected public resources from social spending to subsidies for capital and infrastructure projects designed to attract international investment. After being re-elected on a platform of “restraint” in the summer of 1983, Social Credit quickly introduced a comprehensive austerity program that attacked trade unions and the women’s and anti-racist movements. These moves coincided with a more general restructuring of the state along increasingly centralized and authoritarian lines.

Spearheaded by public sector unions, the Solidarity coalition emerged later that summer with the goal of defeating the government’s restructuring program in the short term, and developing vaguely defined political alternatives in the longer term. The coalition’s immediate focus allowed it to cultivate broad opposition. However, while this approach led to large mobilizations, it also hindered strategic and tactical discussions and papered over important differences between the liberal, social-democratic, and anti-capitalist currents within the initiative. Differences also emerged between the coalition’s sponsors in the union
bureaucracies and its grassroots and rank-and-file membership.

Between August and October of 1983, the Coalition successfully organized demonstrations and engaged in disruptive tactics (including an occupation of the provincial cabinet offices). The series of strikes scheduled to begin on November 1 with the Government Employees’ Union seemed to herald a successful escalation of resistance. However, while there was significant support within the coalition for a general strike to defeat the government’s program, other sections of the movement espoused more limited objectives. For many trade union bureaucrats, the defense of seniority rights for public sector workers was viewed as a “winnable” demand. By drawing on the threat of spreading strike action, they thought they could secure the necessary leverage. The division between those calling for a general strike and those seeking limited concessions set the stage for the coalition’s collapse. After just two weeks of spreading mobilizations and strike activity, top labour leaders quietly sold out the wider movement by signing a deal reached in the Premier’s living room.

In many respects, the genesis of the Ontario Days of Action was quite similar. After the union-affiliated New Democratic Party (NDP) won a surprising election victory in 1990, it proceeded to junk its progressive proposals in the face of a recession. In this process, it went so far as to tear up public sector collective agreements. In the next election the NDP went down to defeat, and the infamous neo-conservative government of Mike Harris came to power. Inaugurating a self-styled “Common Sense Revolution” in 1995, the Conservatives began sacking public sector workers and cutting education, health, transportation, and welfare expenditures. Deploying a polarizing “suburban strategy,” the government targeted everyone from welfare recipients to public school teachers. -In this way, the broad-based and ideologically charged nature of the Conservative program helped to create an equally broad constituency for resistance.

As in BC, the fight-back was built in large part by an alliance between sections of the labour movement and a range of social movement and left activists. The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), several public sector unions, and a variety of social justice and left activists succeeded in pushing the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) into supporting a series of “Days of Action.” Aimed at different cities starting in late 1995, these one-day rolling strikes and mass mobilizations grew to impressive proportions. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets and set up picket lines against the government. For a growing number of people, escalating the protests into a province-wide general strike came to seem both necessary and desirable. More importantly, it also came to seem increasingly possible.

Once again, however, divisions within the coalition would ultimately undo it. Casting their lot with social-democratic electoralism, the more conservative private sector union leadership tried to keep a lid on protest. In opposition to them stood the CAW and several public sector unions who were spurned by the NDP’s about-face while in power. These forces were more militant, more serious about forging durable alliances with social justice activists, and more open to escalating the confrontation with the Harris government. However, they were unable to carry this position within the OFL, where the leadership was increasingly plagued by timidity and opportunism. In the end, the threat of a province-wide general strike and protest was quietly withdrawn and the Days of Action petered out.

Elements of the union-social movement alliance built during the fight-back persisted for a time in local networks and in the burgeoning anti-globalization movement of the late ‘90s. For a time, the CAW maintained its political and financial support for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) as it continued a fearless – but increasingly lonely – campaign against the Harris government. The CAW flying squads – impressive examples of working class self-activity – also continued to slog it out.

However, the CAW leadership had begun to move toward a more conservative and bureaucratic business-unionism. In the process, it jettisoned its own traditions of internal democracy and rank-and-file activity along with its commitment to resisting concessions and “partnerships” with employers. It put the leash on its flying squads and ceased supporting OCAP after they raucously occupied a Minister’s office. Around the same time, they began courting Liberal politicians in order to secure subsidies for bosses and shareholders at the auto companies. The now-infamous image of Buzz Hargrove sporting a wide grin while he put a CAW jacket on Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin at the high-point of the 2004 federal election – an episode that some in the labour movement still refer to as “jacket-gate” – offered bitter proof for anyone still in doubt about the union’s dramatic transformation.

It’s no doubt true that some of the momentum built up during the Days of Action was carried over – particularly among young people – into the anti-globalization movement that flowered in the late 1990s. However, despite the new spirit of mobilization, mass alliances between unions and the new social movement failed to emerge. This problem took on a tragic character when, during mobilizations against the Summit of the Americas in Québec City in 2001, union leaders led their members on an infamous “march to nowhere.”

As we consider today’s “post-crisis” political moment, what can we learn from the episodes sketched above? First and foremost, it’s evident that “sell-outs” by sections of the labour leadership were central factors in past demobilizations.(1) However, while there’s no question that these sell-outs betrayed both the union rank-and-file and the social movement left, conveying our failures as a story about “bad leaders” is too simplistic. In order to understand these failures in a productive way, it’s necessary to highlight the differences concerning tactics and strategy that pervaded the movement. These differences coalesced around questions of extra-parliamentary action and “illegal” strike activity and around whether – and to what extent – it was possible to have faith in electoral politics. In both BC and Ontario, movement actors remained uncertain about the prospects – and even the desirability – of any broader political project emerging from the coalitions they had forged. These divisions affected unions, social movements, and explicitly left components of the coalitions. In the end, however, the future of the movement was effectively decided by those labour officials who withdrew their support. In this way, they highlighted the inability of social movements and radical left forces to independently sustain and develop the struggle.

With its slide into bureaucratic economism and electoralism, the whole trajectory of trade unionism in the post-war period made the movements’ “betrayal” by labour bureaucrats highly likely.
Given that this is the case, what’s perhaps more surprising is how few capacities existed – within and across union memberships, within and across various social movements and community groups -– to provide a basis for sustaining the movement once labour officials defected. The coalitions were highly vulnerable to being sold out, then, because of the limitations of their own component parts.

In particular, these components failed to build broad, principled, and effective radical left formations across sectors of the resistance coalition. If such left formations had been present, they could have fostered vigorous tactical and strategic debates. In this way, they could have made sell-outs more difficult and ensured that the movement was not simply rolled up by union leaders once they got cold feet. As Bill Carroll and Robert Ratner have noted in their instructive review of the Solidarity experience, “in the absence of open debate over tactical priorities and strategic objectives, the stage was set for ultimate prioritization of demands in an opportunistic way.”(2) In the end, the BC and Ontario government austerity programs proceeded more or less as scheduled. In both cases, movement defeats set the stage for even more comprehensive attacks on workers, poor people, and the public sector. Although they were ruthless, these attacks failed to provoke proportionate resistance from the demoralized constituents of the defunct coalitions.

Given the historic role played by labour bureaucracies in these defensive struggles, it’s important to ask whether today’s official labour movement will adopt even the limited forms of resistance they did in the ‘80s and ‘90s. After all, labour has since suffered more defeats -– both self-inflicted and structurally-induced. Meanwhile, the main labour bureaucracies seem less interested in, or even capable of, fostering the limited forms of struggle that sometimes emerged at the end of the 20th century. Clearly at play in the “heroic defeats” of Solidarity and the Days of Action, the crisis of old-line trade union strategies has only deepened in recent years. And, despite the hopes of many workers and activists, the radical renewal of the labour movement seems – at this point – a distant possibility. With the degree of union immobilization and timidity on display in the face of the recent financial meltdown, it’s easy to be pessimistic. It’s a depressing situation, but activists who reflect on this history will likely enter future rounds of struggle with fewer illusions about what can be expected from labour officialdom when push comes to shove.

We are, however, not the only ones who can learn from past mistakes. The right-wing regimes of the 1980s and 1990s attempted broad-based austerity programs that targeted a number of important constituencies at the same time. This provided the basis for immediate alliances that, under different conditions, would have been more difficult and time-consuming to develop. The coherence of the attacks also provided movements with clear targets. Capitalist elites may have learned their own lessons from these experiences. If they have, the coming years will probably be marked by uneven, selective, and phased in attacks aimed at isolating potential allies and picking off targets one by one. The success of such divide-and-rule tactics can already be seen in the recent mobilization against public transit fare hikes in Toronto, where municipal politicians successfully drove a wedge between segments of the potential anti-hike coalition by offering an eleventh hour exemption to students. Student groups obligingly abandoned the fight and left the remaining opponents of the policy to go it alone. As might be expected, their efforts were unsuccessful.

Public sector workers will undoubtedly be a key target of the coming attacks; however, today’s rulers will take greater care to isolate them in order to avoid provoking potential allies. The financial crisis and its aftermath provide a golden opportunity for the right to target public sector workers and “sell” these attacks to other workers. In the absence of a credible counter-narrative, workers faced with mounting economic insecurity, job losses, wage and benefit cuts, decimated or non-existent pensions, and an overall intensification of their exploitation, are more likely than ever to rally around a perverse politics of resentment. As public sector workers increasingly find themselves among the privileged few with secure employment, decent wages, and good pensions -(things enjoyed by fewer and fewer members of the broad working class), they will be extremely vulnerable to isolation and being set up as scapegoats. Unless our defensive struggles against cut-backs and concessions are linked to broader and more radical visions of what public services could be (and, more broadly, what a democratic economy might look like), and unless public sector unions can demonstrate that they’re fighting for all workers and their communities, attempts to isolate them will likely have considerable traction.

In this context, we can count less than ever on principled action from the traditional private sector unions, especially those in “mature” or declining industries. Confronted by structural sea-changes and aggressive employers, many of these unions have resigned themselves to the conservative task of managing decline and trying to salvage jobs and pensions for older workers, often by agreeing to the demoralizing and futile strategy of accepting concessions as well as “two-tier” wage and benefit structures that sacrifice new hires. The current crisis has only reinforced the conservative reflexes that come with this orientation. If private sector unions seem less willing than ever to go to bat for others in the old ways, they are even less likely to adopt the new and more ambitious strategies demanded by the fight today.

Given the moribund character of today’s official union movement, the onus now falls squarely on those committed to building dynamic anti-capitalist formations. There is some hope in the fact that neoliberalism and the ‘free market’ ideologies will be harder to defend; blaming fiscal crises on ‘lazy workers’ and ‘welfare moms’ is more difficult in the current context of bailouts for the rich. And the bitter pills of bankruptcies, plant closings, and rising tides of unemployment and under-employment will almost certainly generate increasing discontent. But despite these changes in objective conditions, the need to build principled unity amongst anti-capitalist forces, increase our collective
organizational and institutional capacities, and develop a political framework that enables people to imagine and fight for real alternatives to capitalism is more urgent than ever.

What will this require? For one thing, efforts to overcome the sectarianism and fragmentation of the anti-capitalist left are clearly of the utmost importance. Some divisions – those clearly not arising from principled disagreement – can safely be put behind us with a little effort. Others are likely to remain “live” for some time, perhaps indefinitely. This means that greater cooperation – let alone forms of political regroupment – cannot be achieved by glossing over disagreements. Consequently, new political projects will have to create spaces where these disagreements can be debated openly and often. This is not a prescription for “getting along.” Rather, it’s a call for devising better ways not to. In order to succeed under current conditions, we need to build political cultures where even sharp disagreements can be welcomed as healthy opportunities for clarification. Institutional mechanisms that facilitate this culture are important; however, in the absence of a genuine spirit of political openness and generosity, they will not be enough. Such political generosity will be key when we confront those tensions that arise whenever forces with different political cultures and languages (not to mention different traditions of organizing and decision-making) come together to get things done.

Efforts to network and build mutual support between existing initiatives – to “support each other’s struggles” – are indispensable; however, both in their own right and as necessary first steps in building trust, they are not sufficient. New anti-capitalist efforts will need to move beyond the existing terrain of groups, struggles, and personalities. A litmus test of success for such initiatives will be the extent to which novel patterns of political affinity, practical activity, and leadership -– the building blocks of a new “we” -– can emerge from the radical left as it currently exists.

All of this is, of course, much easier said than done. But, difficult as it may be, concerted efforts along these lines are urgently needed. As the need to do things differently becomes clearer, it’s incumbent upon each of us to learn from each other’s efforts. It’s in this context that we highlight the efforts of the Workers’ Assembly of Greater Toronto. To be sure, the extent to which we can generalize from a particular context is always limited; however, there are important aspects of the Toronto initiative that deserve consideration.

Launched in the wake of the economic crisis and motivated, in part, by a perception of the limits of existing anti-capitalist groups and struggles, the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly gathers together many of the city’s existing socialist and anarchist groupings along with members of social movement organizations like OCAP, the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, and No One Is Illegal. The Assembly finds its roots in “Rebuilding the Left,” a Toronto-based regroupment initiative that briefly emerged around the height of the anti-globalization movement. One reason that Rebuilding the Left failed to gain traction was that component groups were reluctant to build an organization per se. For some, this was because, in the heady days of anti-globalization mobilizing, they did not see the need. For others, it was because they were keen to maintain their own organizational forms and reluctant to commit to something new. In the case of the Workers’ Assembly, however, such reservations appear to have been put aside for the moment. The organization was formally launched on the basis of individual membership; it is not simply a network of existing groups.

In terms of its political basis of unity, the Workers’ Assembly can best be summarized as a combination of “anti” politics – anti-capitalism, anti-oppression, and anti-imperialism. Its aim is to “build unity and solidarity amongst the working class defined in the broadest terms” whether unionized or non-unionized, employed or unemployed, with or without status, and all of those facing any forms of discrimination and oppression.(3)

In addition to the fact that it’s managed to come together at all, the Assembly has several features that make it promising as a new anti-capitalist initiative. For one thing, its geographic focus provides important opportunities to bridge the divide – so common in the radical movements of recent years – between relatively abstract “anti-capitalism” and relatively particular issue-based struggles. In this way, the Assembly provides a promising point from which to fill in the gaps of this divide and to develop a more comprehensive anti-capitalist analysis and practice appropriate to our times. It also provides opportunities to plug into, bring together, and reinvent political work already being carried out in a variety of areas.

Consider one of the main areas that the Assembly has committed itself to pursuing: a multi-faceted movement for free transit in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).(4) The cost of transit in the GTA has increased steadily over the past decade and constitutes a form of “regressive taxation.” Fares paid by poor and working class people disproportionately fund the system as a whole. As a draft pamphlet produced by members of the Assembly points out, the campaign for free transit has the potential to link up with and influence a whole range of movements:

[Our] vision includes vibrant, sustainable neighborhoods; clean air; participatory politics; equitable distribution of resources; and public space where we are free to speak, gather, play, create and organize. We want to build an understanding of transit users not simply as consumers of a commodity, but as members of the public entitled to participate in conversations about the kind of city we want to live in.

Local caucuses might bring together “workers, students, anti-poverty activists, environmentalists, and neighborhood organizations who might not otherwise work together.” Furthermore, transit issues intersect with many of the struggles that people involved in the Assembly are already working on – the environment, housing rights, migrant justice, opposition to privatization and the defense of public space, the right of access to city services, exclusion from the democratic process, union struggles, and so on.

Perhaps most important, however, is the fact that the transit campaign indicates how we might begin to move beyond a strictly defensive posture. There’s no question that public transportation will be an important political question in the coming years. The areas of Toronto least served by the city’s aging transit network are in the midst of an unprecedented population boom. Without public investment of the kind that the government of Ontario recently shelved, it’s inevitable that this issue will develop into a significant political pressure point. If ambitious and radical demands are pressed now by strong city-wide coalitions, it may be possible to shape how public transportation is understood and fought over when the politicians can no longer ignore the crisis.

Along with building organizational infrastructure, the growth of the radical left requires the development of anti-capitalist political programs that articulate our demands in a positive form. The politics of the “three antis” are the lowest common denominator of the radical left today. As such, they are an important starting point for any process of regroupment. Nevertheless, mass struggles cannot thrive without programs and campaigns that make radical ideas concrete. The transit issue shows how struggles to de-commodify key goods and services, for example, could help form beachheads for a renewed revolutionary politics for the 21th century.

Initiatives like the Workers Assembly are absolutely vital to renewing the radical left. However, we must recognize how modest our capacities remain – especially in light of our present political context. Can such initiatives grow and mature in the course of a larger fight-back, or will we be doomed to continue operating from our various “silos”? Presuming that we do overcome our sectoral divisions, how can initiatives like the Assembly address the tensions that led to the demise of the movements of the 80s and 90s?

The challenges and dangers are many. There’s the danger of falling into incrementalist and reformist positions in the context of particular campaigns; of mimicking the postures of union and social movement officialdom organizing around similar issues; of subordinating the development of a radical and independent class perspective to immediately “winnable” demands that don’t necessarily improve our capacity to expand the struggle; of falling into a narrow and “localist” politics of urban space and place. Paying heed to the lessons of previous episodes of resistance – the need for broad, principled, and effective anti-capitalist formations linking sectors and struggles, the need to promote vigorous tactical and strategic debates to forestall “opportunistic prioritization,” and the need to build capacities to act independently of mainstream union and social movement forces – will be helpful as we proceed.

Although the future is uncertain, new initiatives such as the Workers Assembly have the potential to become dynamic and relevant institutions attracting a broader sector of the currently unengaged left. In order for them to live up to their promise, initiatives such as these have to develop their own political capacities – including, of course, a funding base. They need to become institutions worth fighting for: centres of working class and movement power simultaneously engaged in building practical struggles, sharpening and expanding anti-capitalist analysis, and developing unifying visions of a post-capitalist future. In pursuing these objectives, they must also avoid falling prey to the dogmatism and top-down politics that have plagued many labour and socialist organizations in the past.

Some habits of contemporary radical movements will also have to be consciously undone. In a talk delivered to the Workers’ Assembly in April 2010, Rafeef Ziadah – a leading organizer with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid – pinpointed three debilitating movement habits that continue to limit our capacity to work together and connect to a broader social base. Ziadah called these habits the Politics of Guilt, the Politics of Purity, and the Politics of Misery. (5)

Initiatives like the Workers’ Assembly offer the possibility of building better political and organizational tools than we now have through common struggles against capitalism and all forms of oppression. They have the potential to become radical formations of the kind that were so needed but so lacking in the struggles against neo-liberalism waged in the past. Ensnared by our past, we may squander this potential through sectarian infighting. But this is not inevitable. And, if we face the challenges outlined above with eyes wide open, we may yet be able to rebuild a dynamic and transformative radical left capable of rising to the challenge of the present conjuncture.


1 See Bryan Palmer, 1987. Solidarity: The Rise and Fall of an Opposition in British Columbia (Vancouver: New Star Books); Michael Goldfield and Bryan Palmer, 2007. “Canada’s Workers Movement: Uneven Developments.” Labour/ Le Travail, 59.

2 Carroll, William and R.S. Ratner, 1989. “Social Democracy, Neo-Conservatism and Hegemonic Crisis in British Columbia.” Critical Sociology 16(1), p. 39. We have relied on this account for many of the details of the Solidarity episode.

3 See the Workers’ Assembly website at www.workersassembly.ca/vision for the complete vision statement.

4 Currently, another principal focus of the Assembly is developing responses to the anticipated attack on the public sector in the context of the economic crisis. The vision discussed so far by the Assembly quite rightly emphasizes the building of links between workers providing public services and the residents who rely on them.

5 See www.socialistproject.ca/leftstreamed/ls50.php for a video of Ziadah’s talk.