Thanks for picking up the third volume of Mortar, Common Cause’s journal of revolutionary anarchist theory. In our two previous journals, the article topics that we chose to explore and expound upon were, more often than not, grounded in our own direct experiences, such as organizing in our neighbourhoods against gentrification, navigating the dynamics of Left/activist spaces, and confronting sexual violence.
This was a purposeful decision, and one that we came to for several reasons. We identified a number of gaps in our own organizing and political theory, and spent our time researching and writing Mortar as an attempt to start closing them. In other words, we selected topics that we wanted to learn more about, in order to help develop our politics. We also hope that we have something useful to contribute to conversations on subjects that we are in no way experts on, but which we nonetheless see as important facets of revolutionary struggle.
Common Cause is an organization with a small membership, spread across three cities in southern Ontario. We try to do our best as organizers, but at the end of the day, we have a limited capacity, and must pick our battles strategically. For many of us, our lack of involvement in particular struggles stems from a disagreement with prevailing strategies and tactics, some of which seem to us to be irreparable. We see structural problems in existing organizations, networks and activist campaigns that preclude them from revolutionary potential, because they have been built on reformist or even conservative foundations. We therefore find it to be a useful contribution to anarchist movements to put forward competing ideas about how such organizations could, and even ought to be structured. We hope that others engage with our analysis and ideas, either by testing them through practice, sharing your critiques and disagreements, or both.
The writing, editing, and designing of this journal remains a collective process. Every member of Common Cause is encouraged to participate in the production of each volume, from inception to completion. Topics that we feel are worth exploring are put forward and voted on by our members. Logistics are handled by a working group formed of elected delegates from each of our three branches. Multi-city writing groups are struck, and chairs are selected to bottom-line meetings for each article. The research and writing process spans over several months, and the arguments contained in each article are vetted by two organization-wide review meetings. We believe that this process, while difficult and stressful at times, is a worthwhile experiment in collective political development, and a practical expression of our anarchist principles.
This edition of Mortar begins with a discussion of the sorry state of the Canadian Left in 2015, which we view as being mired in a cycle of tawdry and ineffectual populism. Whether in whipping up last-minute support for a protest, expressing outrage designed to inflame progressive passions, or attempting to beat the Right at its own game, our over-reliance on populist mobilization strategies is a fatal flaw. Not only is populism a disingenuous and ineffectual means of garnering support – we argue that it is fundamentally authoritarian in nature. The fact that so many prominent leftists unthinkingly refer to the need to create a “base” belies a hierarchical structure in the offing. While some left-wing tendencies clearly have no issue with this sort of thing, it is patently anathema to the core principles of anarchist communism, and to anarchism more broadly. Selecting from a number of recent topical examples, the article demonstrates the capitulation of the Left to populism, and tries to chart a way forward that actually squares with the emancipatory politics we all profess.
The second article of this journal contends with the pitfalls and potentials of organizing around environmental issues in Canada, with particular focus on the Energy East pipeline project. In taking a closer look at demographic data related to extractive industries, we were led to some surprising conclusions which contradict many commonly-held assumptions about just who does this sort of work. Rather than absolving, condemning, or seeking to direct these workers towards a “bright green” economy, we suggest steps towards a new approach to environmental organizing that is rooted in the communities where they live, and relies intimately on their participation. Further, we take a critical look at solidarity activism in support of Indigenous blockades, arguing that by working towards the organization of strong working-class communities, we will be in a much better position to provide meaningful assistance when the time comes. As things stand, anarchists in southern, urbanized Canada have seemingly adopted a siege mentality with regards to blockades such as the Unist’ot’en Camp. We think it’s time to open up multiple fronts, starting where we live.
Next, we examine three reactionary tendencies currently festering within the Canadian working class: Islamophobia, men’s rights activism, and anti-Native sentiment. This piece seeks to better understand where these specific political currents came from, how they sustain themselves, and the role of the Canadian political and capitalist class in fostering and manipulating these divisions among the working class, to our collective detriment. The article makes the case that these three reactionary ideologies are liberal to their core, meaning that anarchists need to rethink our approach to how to confront and ultimately defeat them.
Finally, we wrap things up with an article on anti-police organizing. In the midsts of swelling levels of resistance to the systemic use of racist police terror in the United States, we examine the history and contemporary development of policing in Canada as an institutional outgrowth of a colonial, white supremacist, and capitalist power structure. This article explores the incorporation of modern principles of counterinsurgency into a domestic policing framework that seeks to maintain “law and order” while preserving ruling-class legitimacy amidst an increasingly tenuous social peace. The article concludes with an argument that organizing against the police means building an oppositional culture that permeates every facet of proletarian life.
As with the last two journals, the conclusions of the articles in Mortar should not to be taken as definitive positions of Common Cause or its individual members. Instead, these articles represent an attempt on our part to find sure-footing on topics that we feel deserve attention and honest engagement.
You can contact us and send any feedback you may have to firstname.lastname@example.org.