Beyond the spectacular
Photo: Peter Blanchard on flickr, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
In the late ’90s, a movement emerged that was ready to name global capitalism as the enemy and employ large scale mobilising and direct action methods to challenge its agenda. It was not without political limitations but, at its best, it linked with movements of resistance in the oppressed countries and took its fight into communities under attack.
This development provided impetus to many social movements including those fighting poverty. In retrospect, as we reaped the benefits in our organisation, we underestimated the resilience of conservative misleadership in unions and social agencies, and their ability to contain resistance or divert it into safe forms that do not pose a threat to capitalism. ‘The long retreat is over’, we announced in 2001 as we tried to spark a generalised resistance to the hard right-wing Ontario Government of the day. We have gone on fighting and even won victories but, as we watch major unions brokering austerity for workers in the present economic crisis and see networks of NGOs reducing resistance to poverty to polite ‘constructive engagement’ with governments, we need to realise that the mechanisms of containment are a tougher nut to crack than we thought.
Capitalism is in great crisis and the conditions are emerging to challenge it decisively, but a spectacular but relatively thin radicalisation will not be enough. We must advance demands and employ strategies that open up the prospects of creating a real mass movement that rejects the ‘solutions’ of this system and fights for social transformation.
John Clarke has been active with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty since it was formed in 1990. Prior to his involvement in anti-poverty movements, he was active in trade union struggles as a hospital worker in England and as a production worker in Canada