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Showing posts from May, 2011

Demanding the Impossible and Being Realistic: analysis of the 2008-2009 CUPE 3903 strike [Part 2]

Here follows the second part of my analysis of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903's [CUPE 3903] strike in 2008-2009.  In the first part I discussed the general context of the strike as well as the internal dynamics, but here I focus primarily on how the two-line struggle that would define the vicissitudes of the strike, eventually leading to the triumph of the bureaucratic-right line, emerged in the months leading up to the Strike Mandate Vote.


Although this might seem to be a boring history of a tiny local for most of my readers (those of us who spend a lot of time active within a local often start to imagine that our struggles are not as significant as we imagined), and I'm mainly reproducing this document because of the failure of the book to materialize and 3903 is about to enter bargaining again, I think the analysis is useful for a variety of reasons: 1) it demonstrates the need for something larger than trade union organizing; 2) it represents the limits o…

On Intellectual Elitism Yet Again

Several years ago, back when nearly all of my activism had become firmly embedded within the context of my union local, I remember a General Membership Meeting where we tried to pass a motion that would socialize graduate student research grants according to needs.  The argument was that graduate students who received grants, especially those who received the largest grants, did not receive this money because they were better or smarter than other students and that the privilege of social class (here broadly understood as intersecting with other oppressions) partially determined the way grants were parcelled out to supposedly "deserving" students.  Obviously my local, which was a local devoted to contract faculty and teachers assistants, did not have the ability to pass a motion that would affect the standards of our university employer; the motion was meant to be politically symbolic.  Unfortunately it failed to even be symbolic since several graduate students at the meetin…

Demanding the Impossible and Being Realistic: analysis of the 2008-2009 CUPE 3903 strike [Part 1]

What follows is the first part of an essay I wrote around two and a half years ago at the end of the 2008-2009 Canadian Union of Public Employees [CUPE] Local 3903 strike in which I participated.  This strike turned out to be the longest in our sector and resulted in back-to-work legislation.  One of its motivating reasons was, like so many other strikes these days, the casualization of labour and thus the lack of job security in the midst of a recession.


In any case the same local is entering its next bargaining term so I figured it was appropriate to post this essay (that was initially meant to be part of a post-strike book that failed to materialize), especially since I feel that some of the key insights many of us grasped at the conclusion of that strike, and that I tried to report in this essay, are now forgotten in this next round of bargaining–-a round which seems highly unlikely to produce a strike.


One of the problems with participating in a labour strike is that, unless it is…

American Left Exceptionalism

It is the prerogative of imperialist nations to see themselves as more advanced than the nations they dominate, and it is the prerogative of the leader of world imperialism to see itself as the most exceptional nation.  Since America is currently at the forefront of imperialism it behaves in an exceptionalist manner: it judges its policies and actions as the most moral and civilized, imagines that the entire world wants to be American, and reserves the right to place itself over and above imperialist international law.  Hence its occasional practice of making unilateral decisions in defiance of "proper" rules of imperialist behaviour and the moral platitudes regarding "freedom" that accompany these decisions.  And when it does deign to play by the rules of global capitalism that mediate the contradictions between imperialist nations, it does so in a self-congratulatory manner that highlights its exceptionalism: Obama is a nice guy, we are meant to believe, because …

Analysis of Structural Oppression Requires a Concrete Understanding of Structure

The fact that oppression is structural is something that most left activists claim they believe and yet fail to demonstrate it in theory and practice.  We all pay lip service to the concept of structural oppression, especially when arguing with annoying liberals, but generally don't know what the hell we mean when we slyly tell our liberal and/or conservative enemies "but you just can't understand that racism [or sexism, or heterosexism, or etc.] is structural."  Well, apparently, neither can we.

The structure of capitalism, both as a mode of production and a global system, articulates every oppression according to its logic.  The clash between proletariat and bourgeoisie within the imperial modes of production, retaining elements of colonial and patriarchal oppression due to the way it developed, inscribes class struggle with institutionalized racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism.  The clash between central modes of production and exploited peripheries contributes …

Post-Rapture

[Even though it is not yet midnight, I am posting this now in order to prove that, simply by the use of rational thinking, I am a better "prophet" than idiots like Harold Camping.]

Well the rapture didn't happen as Harold Camping, reactionary dispensationalist astrologer, was proclaiming.  Not that this will matter too much to Camping or his followers: like any cunning Delphic Oracle, his mystic pronouncements contained an escape plan––God being "tenderhearted and full of mercy" could possibly, according to Camping, choose to delay his doomsday.  Just as he did in 1988 and in 1994, the other two apocalypse dates Camping once championed.  And since Camping's delusions were proved wrong in the past, the failure of the Rapture to materialize on May 21st 2011 will just be another date to be worked into a more elaborate con, perhaps in another decade.





Harold Camping: soothsayer who was hopefully taken up to heaven yesterday, sometime around 9 pm EST, when he clai…

The Trotsky-Stalin Mimesis

Although I used to find it funny, these days I'm getting tired of Trotskyists using the insult of "Stalinist" to declaim communist movements and theoretical commitments of which they are ignorant.  The crude and simplistic Trotskyist rejection of Maoism, after all, is that it is "Stalinist."  And then, following this charge, very simplistic analyses of Maoism and the Chinese Revolution are mobilized (most of which demonstrate an utter ignorance of history and bizarre willingness to conflate revolutionary China with today's pro-capitalist China), along with spurious complaints about Maoists killing Trotskyists in third world settings for being counter-revolutionary.  Hence: Stalinist.

Earlier, in the context of another post, I briefly indicated that Trotskyism was flawed by an essentialist understanding of class; because of this the prototypical Trotskyist understanding of class consciousness, class position, and class struggle annihilates the possibility of…

A Modernity Critical of Modernity

These days, amongst radical academics and in chic activist circles, it is often considered progressive to oppose "modernity."  The post-modern and post-colonial paradigm, and its influence on large sectors of the left, has led to a wholesale rejection of modernity: the argument is that the epoch of modernity, the so-called "Enlightenment" which witnessed the rise of new sciences, due to its connection with the dawn of modern colonialism and European racism, is entirely eurocentric, totalizing, and oppressive.  Modernity is that era, we are told, that excluded the vast majority of the world to a harsh paradigm of science and vicious scientific intervention––modernity is the culprit behind capitalism, colonialism, racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, etc.  Post-colonial theorist Homi Bhabha, for example, argues that a radical project should be "a much more substantial intervention into those justifications of modernity––progress, homogeneity, cultural organici…