It has been a long time since we’ve been back in your lives. A whole year, in fact. And while we wish we could blame this delay on our busy lives fomenting revolution, lately it has felt a lot more like we’ve been fighting to keep the small gains we have won. In our home province of Ontario, Conservative leader Doug Ford won a majority of seats and has already begun a systematic attack against Left movements. The Ford government has stopped the opening of new overdose prevention sites, cancelled clean energy programs, cancelled raises to welfare rates, and scrapped the province’s updated sex-ed curriculum. And he amassed his power using a familiar right-populist playbook: avoid real journalists in favour of your own media and mobilize the language of “The People” to justify austerity. Now, in the midst of a municipal election in Toronto, we’ve seen white nationalist candidate Faith Goldy mobilize leftist tactics of event disruption in attempts to gain entry to mayoral debates and forums. While notably fringe, the degree of organization and mobilization is concerning, espcecially considering she came third in the election with over 25,000 votes. Meanwhile, the Munk Debates—named after mining baron Peter Munk—intend to give Steve Bannon one of the biggest stages in the city in order to debate the merits of populism with none other than David Frum, George W. Bush’s speechwriter who coined the phrase “Axis of Evil” to justify US imperialism. Right-wing politics is in the air and it’s suffocating.
So, while we did not successfully mount an overthrow of this unjust system, the editors at UTA have been busy and unable to get this issue into your hands earlier. Five out of seven of us were pulled deep into the longest strike in Canadian post-secondary history. The 2018 strike between cupe 3903 and York University lasted 143 days and involved running eight picket lines, supporting a student-led reclamation of the university’s senate chambers, pressuring the provincial government at Queen’s Park, and paying visits to the Bay St. offices of York’s corporate Board of Governors. Despite the union’s fight against the university’s union-busting practices (they unanimously cut over 800 graduate student jobs) and its fight for job security for contract teachers, the university stonewalled the collective bargaining process and waited for the new Ford government to force us back to work with legislation. Now, in the aftermath of the strike, the senior administration of the university is threatening students with potential expulsion under the student code of conduct for engaging in protests. A student code that will likely worsen as Premier Ford has set a deadline for Ontario universities and colleges to develop “free speech” policies on campus to legislate platforms for far-Right speakers and squash anti-fascist direct action tactics.
Despite the bleak present, the future remains ours, and as the many contributors to this issue demonstrate, radical action is being taken on multiple fronts of revolutionary struggle. Our editorial begins this issue with a discussion of how the Left can better organize in solidarity with religious communities. As the Syrian refugee crisis worsens, there has been an increase in xenophobic and Islamophobic attacks on people of colour in the West. And while leftist movements must fight against and condemn Islamophobia in all its forms, many activists find it difficult to critique the sexism, homophobia, and transphobia that some religious spaces continue to reproduce. How do we both fight racist attacks on religious communities while sustaining a critical engagement with them as we struggle together for a revolutionary future? This is the orienting question of our editorial and we hope it is helpful to activists across Left and religious movements to better organize together.
We kick off the interviews section with two pieces about overdose prevention work in Canada. The first is an interview with Ann Livingston, a founder of the Vancouver Network of Drug-Users (VANDU) and a harm reduction organizer for over two and a half decades. Livingston recalls the story of Canada’s first unsanctioned and illegal supervised injection site in Vancouver, and talks about the development of harm reduction work in British Columbia since the 1990s. The second interview is with Fiona White and Matt Johnson, two members of Toronto’s Overdose Prevention Society (TOPS) which opened and operated the first unsanctioned safe-injection site in Ontario in 2017. Both interviews highlight the opioid overdose crisis in Canada, the inaction of government agencies, and the need for harm-reduction workers and drug-users to take matters into their own hands with direct action. Finally, we conclude this section with an interview with James Kilgore on prison abolition and electronic monitoring. An organizer since the 1970s, Kilgore recounts his involvement with the controversial Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), Left organizing in the us, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, and shares his thoughts on the current political climate of rising fascism and prison abolition work.
Our first article is by editorial member Mariful Alam and Matt Cicero called, “Political Policing and the Surveillance Matrix.” In this article, the authors explore the experience of being infiltrated by undercover police officers, the role of political policing, the challenges posed by security culture practices, and the ways in which organizers can resist state surveillance. In the second article, “History Never Ended,” Shane Burley recounts the recent revival of far-Right politics in the shadow of Trump, as well as anti-fascist movements that have fought these forces in the streets. Next, in “Holograms, or, Learning from 70 Years of Resistance in Myanmar,” Nisha Toomey brings to bear her own experiences working with activists in the Myanmar democracy movement. She traces its history from British colonization in the 19th century to the rise of Suu Kyi as the leader of the National League for Democracy and the recent Rohingya genocide in the western state of Rakhine. Her account is interspersed with reflections from Dr. Naing Aung, a long-time Burmese democracy activist and founding member of the All Burma Students Democratic Front—an armed wing of the resistance movement. Toomey gives careful consideration to the history of struggle in Myanmar and its implications for other resistance movements combatting colonialism, capitalism, religious radicalism, and xenophobia worldwide.
Next is a roundtable discussion of sexual violence and other human rights abuses stemming from Toronto-based firm Barrick Gold’s mining operations in Papua New Guinea. Adapted from an interview aired on the We Are U of T radio show hosted by Ellie Ade Kur, Everlyn Guape and Joycelyn Mandi of Porgera Women’s Rights Watch are joined by Sakura Saunders and Catherine Coumans to discuss their organizing efforts. Guape and Mandi describe how Barrick Gold and its employees are responsible for brutal gang rapes and other forms of violence against members of their community, and how the mining company has inflicted severe environmental degradation to the rainforest highlands. In response, these activists have worked tirelessly to support more than 100 women victimized by the firm’s employees, to draw attention to the scale of the abuses, and to hold the firm legally and financially accountable.
In our reviews section, Élise Thorburn reflects on Ajamu Nangwaya and Michael Truscello’s Why Don’t the Poor Rise Up? Organizing the Twenty-First Century Resistance, a collection of essays on revolutionary movements among marginalized populations at the periphery of capitalist accumulation. Thorburn contextualizes her review in light of her own position at the edge of Northern Atlantic anti-capitalist struggles in Newfoundland and Labrador. Next, Corvin Russell reviews Shiri Pasternak’s, Grounded Authority: The Algonquins of Barriere Lake Against the State. According to Russell, Pasternak’s book is an incisive critique of settler colonalism, as well as an example for settlers on how to best work in solidarity with Indigenous movements for sovereignty and decolonization. Finally, Jacqueline Ristola reviews Austerity Apparatus, the final installment of J. Moufawad-Paul’s trilogy of texts exploring the limitations of contemporary approaches to movement building. In the book, Moufawad-Paul evaluates austerity in the context of recurring capitalist crises, most recently in the form of the 2008 financial crisis.
Also, this issue includes a special section on activist horoscopes! In “Astrology for Movements,” Shaunga Tagore looks to the stars for insight into the current challenges we each face as organizers.
We are also happy to include copies of the the zine Damage Control by the Toronto Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (misn) in our mail-out of Issue 20. In the zine, members of misn recount their experience of kicking out police infiltrators from their group in the lead up to the 2016 Pan American and Parapan American Games in Toronto. We are glad to pair this zine with Alam and Cicero’s article on political policing and hope to spark important discussion on security culture.
Special thanks to all those who volunteered to copy edit and help make this issue a reality: Stacey Berquist, Alie Hermanutz, Jeremy Withers, Annelies Cooper, Kieran Hart, Tyler Chartrand, Lana Goldberg, and Robyn Letson. Sadly, we have to say farewell to Shelagh Pizey-Allen as she moves on to a full-time organizing position with ttc Riders. Shelagh played a key role in organizing our website fundraiser and was a valued member of the editorial collective. You’ll be missed! Happily, we welcome new editorial member Brett Caraway to the team. We’d also like to thank the folks at Unit 2 for letting us host our mid-strike fundraising party. And, as always, we want to send out a big thank you to the Advisory Board. Without their direction and support we could not put together such a rigorous, high quality journal. We also send our love to the many subscribers and sustainers of the project.
And finally, we would be remiss if we did not use this opportunity to implore you, good reader, for your support. Until the revolution comes to pass, it still takes money to make Upping the Anti happen. But hey, we’ve got a new website, making it easier for you to support the cause! Thanks to everyone who donated to our IndieGoGo campaign. After a couple years of planning and redesign, we’re happy to launch our new and improved online presence. Come pay us a visit at: uppingtheanti.org
In struggle and solidarity,
Jasmine, Mariful Alam, Brett Caraway,
Devin Clancy, Karl Gardner, Niloofar Golkar,
Sharmeen Khan, and T.H. Vega