As this issue goes to print – almost a full year after our last – European countries boil in a General Strike, Occupy Sandy Relief challenges the US government for primacy in disaster relief, and the Strike Debt Campaign launches a Rolling Jubilee, seeking to buy up and write off Americans’ bad debts. Coordination, organization, struggle. The success of the Québec student strike that kicked off 2012 came on the heels of 2011’s Occupy movement, demonstrations against Scott Walker’s union busting, and the energy of the Arab Spring; we are seeing collusions and collisions between spontaneity and organization play out – the dialectical back and forth that Rosa Luxemburg theorized almost a century ago. Coordination and organization are needed to pull off a cross-continent day of strikes and protests; structure is required for a months-long province-wide student strike; energy, spontaneity, and creativity are needed to make these events visible, to capture the popular imagination, and to push disparate actions into a revolutionary movement. How do activists conceive of spontaneity and organization? How does the interplay between the two move us closer to a sustainable revolutionary movement? We ask these questions in our editorial, seeking to understand what it would take to use spontaneity and organization for truly revolutionary ends.
Our interviews section begins with Robert Nichols speaking to lawyer, professor, and activist Dean Spade about critical trans politics and an appropriately strategic interface with the law. We then turn to Susie Day’s conversation with Josh MacPhee and Laura Whitehorn about the historical and contemporary roles of political art in social movements.
There are two articles in this issue: the first, by Ross Wolfe, takes on a key debate in left theory and struggle: the interrelated concepts of resistance, reform, and revolution. By understanding the historical lineages of these ideas, he attempts to better understand the converging role they play in the present. Next, Andalusia Knoll argues that activists should draw lessons from the of the 1999 student strike at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Though the strike was ostensibly defeated, Knoll demonstrates that scattered throughout the campus remains an important infrastructure through which movements continue to grow.
The next section is unique to this issue: we present highlights from Élise Thorburn’s extensive interviews with key activists involved in the Québec student strike. To our knowledge, this is the first English-language account of how activists built one of the most formidable movements in North America, detailing some of its internal debates and strategies. The interviews took place in May 2012, during some of the strike’s most catalyzing struggles. While much has changed since then, these interviews provide insight into how activists understood their movement, where it came from, and where they hoped it would go.
Two and half years ago, more than a thousand people were arrested in Toronto during the anti-G20 protests. While most charges were dropped, 17 activists were pursued as the movement’s “ringleaders.” After accepting a plea deal, six of the co-accused spent or are spending considerable time behind bars, while the others saw their charges dropped after living for more than a year under harsh bail conditions. Tom Keefer and Sharmeen Khan spoke with three of these activists: Mandy Hiscocks, Alex Hundert, and Johanna Adamiak. Taken together, their interviews present a debate on the import of black bloc tactics, state infiltration, activism behind bars, and the lessons we can take from the anti-summit mobilization and its fallout. Finally, we have book reviews: Neil Balan on Ilan Pappe’s Out of the Frame and Joshua Stephens on Gabriel Kuhn’s Sober Living for the Revolution.
Publishing a journal collectively and autonomously isn’t easy. After the launch of Issue 13, the UTA Editorial Committee decided to pause and undertake a restructuring process during the winter and spring of 2012. Over this time we thought a lot about how the project could better function as a tool for our readership and the broader movement. In response to feedback from our readers and comrades, we strategized ways of producing content more frequently and intentionally. While our dreams became more ambitious, our capacity diminished radically. Two of our senior editors, Clare O’Connor and AK Thompson, left the project at the start of the new year. One of UTA’s founders, Aidan Conway, and another long-time editor, Kelly Fritsch, were on leave for Issue 13 and subsequently decided that they could not return to the Editorial Committee. Lorenzo Fiorito, who joined us for Issue 13, also left to pursue other projects. The experience and skill of these editors has been invaluable to UTA. They are sorely missed, but we’re excited to see what’s in store for them. Finally, Tom Keefer is on an indefinite leave from the journal, but continues to assist with technical and administrative work. While our high hopes for producing a monthly pamphlet series remain unrealized, we continue to make it our priority to produce a high-quality printed journal with timely and rigorous analysis for those engaged in radical left struggle.
To that end, we’ve changed the structure of our Advisory Board. In order to make engagement more effective, we’ve reduced its size and limited members’ terms. With this change, we say goodbye to many board members whose contributions have been invaluable: Kheya Bag, Honor Brabazon, Bryan Doherty, Eton Harris, Heather Hax, Chris Hurl, Chandra Kumar, Mike Leitold, Tyler McCreary, Shourideh Molavi, Garth Mullins, David Shulman, Kim Smith, Kalin Stacy, and Lesley Wood. We wish them the very best. Remaining on our Advisory Board are Kieran Aarons, Rob Butz, Chris Dixon, Mandy Hiscocks, David Hugill, Karl Kersplebedeb, PJ Lilley, Thomas Nail, Scott Neigh, Robert Nichols, Robyn Maynard, Ander Reszczynski-Negrazis, and Brett Story, who have provided us with crucial support in producing Issue 14.
We are pleased to announced that Irina Ceric has joined the Editorial Committee, and that we have our first Associate Editor: Toban Black, who lives in Kitchener, Ontario. If you’re interested in joining the project, please visit our website or email us for details on how to apply.
Our commitment to independence means that we are entirely reliant on subscribers, sustainers, and donors. We urge you to subscribe or, even better, sign up to make a monthly donation as a sustainer; we wouldn’t be here without your continued support.
As always, we are eager to receive pitches for our next issue. Please send them to us no later than the end of January 2013.
We hope that Issue 14 proves a pleasurable, provocative read – and we look forward to your feedback.
For a revolutionary tomorrow,
Tom Keefer, Sharmeen Khan, Robyn Letson, Adrie Naylor,
Élise Thorburn, and Simon Wallace
Editors’ Note: We were much saddened to hear the news of Neil Smith’s death in September 2012. His work was influential to many of us on the Editorial Committee and Advisory Board, and we remain deeply thankful for his support of UTA. He will be missed.