A great many terrible, inspiring, and momentous things have happened since the last issue of Upping the Anti. The articles in this issue were written both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the shadow of this global event in all of the work here will surely not be lost on the reader. However, we hope that there is some hope to be found in both these pieces, and also in the events of the last 14+ months since we spoke, dear reader.
It seems as though with every issue release, we list off the advances of imperialism and fascism in the prior months, peppering in small victories where we can find them. The events of 2020 have so often been described as “unprecedented” that it feels, at a minimum, trite to do so here, and perhaps even misleading. Reflecting on the events outlined in the introduction of previous issues, it becomes not only impossible to separate the course of 2020 from other years but politically untenable to do so. While many of us could not have anticipated the emergence of this virus, we can trace its horrific and unequal effects in the events of past years, both within Canada and globally.
Rising inequality brought on by the privatization and decimation of health care, and the assault on unions and tenants’ movements have brought the full weight of the pandemic down upon workers who cannot afford even a single sick day without losing income, facing eviction and falling into the cracks of a crumbling, underfunded healthcare system. The worsening refugee crises in Syria and Yemen and the continuing sale of arms from Canada have kept the government and arms industry afloat, while citizens have been cut loose to fend for themselves. The proliferation of violent right-wing nationalisms all over the world has fomented coup attempts, attacked anti-racist protesters in the streets, and created an atmosphere of abject terror. This is, of course, a small list of the many acute and chronic atrocities we watched unfold at the same time as a global plague.
Still, the past twelve months have been full of revolutionary anger too. 2020 began in Canada with nationwide rail blockades in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en and Indigenous struggles from coast to coast. As the pandemic spread into our neighbourhoods, communities sprung up around newly-formed mutual-aid networks, and many for the first time imagined a caring future outside of the state. In the summer months, we saw enormous rallies nearly every week, condemning police violence and anti-Black racism. The idea of abolition became a real political possibility.
While it is sometimes difficult to imagine a different future when we are so firmly in a bleak present, this last year has shown us that the spirit of the people will not be broken.
This issue focuses on the forms of organizing, uprising, and solidarity that, we hope, will get us to a future free from global and local class inequalities, land theft and imperialism, climate crisis, and the violence of racism. We are especially proud of the international scope of this content.
Our editorial for Issue 22 takes up the notion of mutual aid. We discuss mutual aid in relation to both revolutionary and emancipatory projects, as well the neoliberal state that is all too happy to abrogate its responsibilities to people and communities.
Following the editorial are three letters which respond to our previous issue. The first comes from Lesley Wood, discussing the 2019 Roundtable from Issue 21: “The Long Memory is the Most Radical Idea.” Lesley admits that there is a loss of certainty and strategy compared to the movements of 20 years ago, but urges us not to despair, and reminds us how generations of movement leaders emerge in cycles. Renée Nadeau writes to us about an article from issue 21 entitled “The Ground Beneath Our Feet”. Renée takes well-warranted issue with movements that aim to “reclaim the commons”, but do so without an explicitly anti-racist and decolonial lens. Samantha Ponting writes to us about the piece “Mining Makes This World Possible” discussing experiences in Nicaragua, and how “It is Possible to Ban Mining”.
We publish three interviews in Issue 22. In “Chile’s Social Explosion,” Pamela Arancibia speaks with Emilio Dabed and Pablo Vivanco about the recent Chilean uprisings. Offering a historical and current context for the uprising, this discussion traces Chile’s labour history, social movements, and political economy to shed light on how this South American country continues to shake the world in its struggle against neoliberalism and state violence. In “Rank-and-file Educators Organizing Against Ford,” Ryan Hayes and Mariful Alam interview Sarah Vance, co-chair of the Toronto District’s Communications and Political Action Committee, OSSTF member and TDSB teacher, who discusses Ontario Education Workers United, the fraught atmosphere in OSSTF in relation to recent (and not so recent) strikes, and the importance of pushing union leadership to more radical anti-racist work. Last, but not least, Alejandro Franco Briones interviews Yasnaya Elena Aguilar Gil, an Ayuujk researcher who carries out her activism in defence of the ancestral territory and her community of origin San Pedro y San Pablo Ayutla located in the state of Oaxaca in southwestern Mexico.
In the article “Activism in Dark Times,” Adrien Beauduin and Sara Swerdlyk discuss organizing in Hungary against Orbán’s fascist crack-down on trade unions and migrant rights, as well as on universities that take up these issues. Adrien and Sara take up this discussion with five activists from Budapest who discuss the student movements there, the state of anti-fascist organizing in the country, and electoral coalition tactics that can only be described as “Faustian.” In “Socialism from the Grassroots: new directions of leftist organizing in post-socialist China,” author Ian Liujia Tian outlines how a new critical socialism is developing in China. Tian retrieves ‘socialism’ from the hegemonic and centralized state back to the everyday struggles of workers and communities. We are also proud to include an in-depth article by S. Awâsis on Indigenous Anarchism. In this piece, Awâsis explores the existence and possibilities of anarchism to Indigenous political thought and practice and also offers a rich overview of Indigenous resistance and uprisings in Canada and all over the world.
We are also excited to publish for the first time a comic in this issue.“Iconoclasm” — a collaboration between Seth Tobocman and Maxine Allison Vande Vaarst — is the first of a series of comic strips that lay out struggles to topple racist Confederate monuments in the American south.
Issue 22 publishes three roundtables. In “British Columbia Fights Back,” Melissa Moroz, Gene McGuckin, Shane Calder, and Bob Wilson sit down with Sharmeen Khan to discuss their reflections on organizing the provincial-wide general strike which almost happened in the early 2000s in British Columbia. In “Global Uprisings and The Left’s Response,” Edward Hon-Sing Wong, Sardar Saadi, and UTA editor Niloofar Golkar discuss social movements in Hong Kong, Kurdistan, and Iran. They explore the ongoing and urgent need for leftists in the West to accept the challenge of cross-border anti-imperialist solidarity and to align themselves with left struggles outside of the West. Finally, we publish a round table on Youth Climate Justice Organizing with several members of the organization Climate Justice Toronto. In this roundtable, Kate Atkinson interviews youth climate justice organizers in Tkaronto. These youth offer an account of their recent climate justice actions, solidarity politics, as well as their personal journeys as new movement builders.
Lastly, we have three book reviews. First, Stuart Schussler reviews Shoshanna Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism and discusses how the book successfully documents the reach of big tech companies, but how the book could go further in a critique of the capitalist engine that drives the incessant drive to monetization in tech. Adam Rudder reviews Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada, edited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and Syrus Marcus Ware. Rudder discusses how the collection of writings serves to “complicate Black Identity itself,” and other personal reflections on reading the work. Finally, Neil Braganza reviews David McNally’s Blood Money. Placing Blood Money in the context of George Floyd’s recent murder, Braganza helps us understand the contemporary consequences of money’s bloody history, which McNally traces from ancient Greece through to the 20th century.
We hope that in these dark and confusing times, there is some hope to be gained from the insightful and high-quality pieces we have published here. This issue, like all issues of Upping the Anti, would not have been possible without the advisory board, whose direction makes cohesive and collected the diverse range of work in this journal. The editorial board is also excited to welcome Nisha Eswaran and Andrew Peters as new members. And, perhaps most importantly, we thank our dear readers and subscribers for their continued support, without which Upping the Anti would not have survived over 15 years.
If you value the rigorous and care-full work that goes into the production of a journal like Upping the Anti, we ask of you to continue supporting us through subscriptions and donations. Like most independent media, the burden of production and distribution falls on a small collective with limited resources available. Every subscription and sustainer makes a real difference in keeping this work alive.
In struggle and solidarity,
The UTA Editorial Collective