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Founding of Common Cause - Ontario

category north america / mexico | anarchist movement | feature author Thursday October 11, 2007 01:05author by Alex - Common Causeauthor email ontarioac at gmail dot com Report this post to the editors

New Anarchist Communist Organization in Canada

On September 29th in Toronto a new Ontario anarchist-communist organization, Common Cause, held our founding conference. Preparation for this founding conference had taken place over several months culminating in a speaking tour of six Ontario cities under the title 'Building a Popular Anarchism'.

Press release announcing the formation of Common Cause an Ontario-wide Anarchist Communist organization; also presents the basic core policy and contact info.

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Founding of Common Cause

Ontario Anarchist Communist Organization

On September 29th in Toronto a new Ontario anarchist-communist organization, Common Cause, held our founding conference. Preparation for this founding conference had taken place over several months culminating in a speaking tour of six Ontario cities under the title 'Building a Popular Anarchism'.

The conference agreed a basic policy document (below), a constitution, a structure for the specific conditions of Northern Ontario, affiliation with and a basic publication plan both online in terms of a website and a free printed newspaper which will be distributed in large numbers. The name 'Common Cause' was selected for the new organization and individual officers were elected to fill various administrative tasks.

In advance of the founding conference, a statement of intent had been circulated which included "Our intention is not to build yet another small group of a dozen or so people but to begin the process of building an organization of thousands that will have a presence in every town, workplace and neighborhood across the province."

By the time of the founding conference we were still a long way from this eventual goal but dozens of people in ten Ontario cities have become involved with developing Locals in Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Sudbury, Windsor and Kitchener-Waterloo as well as other members around Ontario. It is our hope this will greatly expand in the days, months and years to come. We hope you will unite and struggle with us to build a world free from exploitation, oppression, ignorance and war.

To get there, we think and feel in the most earnest way, in the bottom of our hearts, organization and commitment to tactical and theoretical unity will strengthen our ability to achieve our goals. Collectively we will struggle daily in our workplaces and communities to improve our conditions and move forward towards social revolution.

This is not a revolution that will come by summit hopping or singing and dancing in the streets. It will come by organizing every workplace and neighborhood for change. When regular working people come together and fight for what we are due then the world will change.

If you're in Ontario and want to get involved in Common Cause please read the statement below and then, if you agree with it, contact us at

Basic Policy Of Common Cause

Anarchism will be created by the class struggle between the vast majority of society and the tiny minority that currently rule. A successful social revolution will require that anarchist ideas become the leading ideas within the working class. This will not happen spontaneously, it is up to anarchist militants to participate in the existing social struggles as an organized force.

A major focus of our activity is work at those crucial points where working class people are organizing together for control over their lives, the decisions affecting them and against oppression. These areas stretch from workplaces activity in the unions, to neighborhood activism, an ecology movement that remembers class and in community resistance to forms of oppressions targeting particular identities.

We also see it as vital to work in struggles that happen outside the unions and the workplace. These include struggles against particular oppressions, colonialism, imperialism and indeed the struggles of the working class for a decent place and environment in which to live. Our general approach to these, like our approach to the unions, is to involve ourselves with mass movements and work within these movements, in order to promote anarchist methods of organization involving direct democracy and direct action.

We actively oppose all manifestations of oppression such as racism, sexism, [religious] sectarianism and homophobia and we struggle against them. We see the success of a revolution and the successful elimination of these oppressions being determined by the building of such struggles in the pre-revolutionary period. The methods of struggle that we promote are a preparation for the running of society along anarchist and communist lines after the revolution.

We oppose imperialism and colonialism but put forward anarchism as an alternative goal to nationalism. We defend grassroots anti-imperialist movements while arguing for an anarchist rather than nationalist strategy.

We recognize a need for anarchist organizations who agree with these principles to federate on an regional, national and international basis. However, we believe the degree of federation possible and the amount of effort put into it must be determined by success at building organizations capable of making such work a reality, rather than a matter of slogans.

To achieve balance between humanity and the natural world, we must create a society which is based on the satisfaction of true needs such as food, shelter, water, and community. Modern environmental destruction is a result of capitalism's strive to commodify the natural world, for the wealth of a small minority. We recognize that social transformation is the first step towards ecological balance, not lifestyle changes or technological innovations. We recognize that the destruction of capitalism is the only avenue towards rescuing the planet's biosphere, and by extension, ourselves.

(as agreed Sept 29 2007)

author by a johnstone - socialist party of great britainpublication date Thu Oct 11, 2007 23:12author email ajsc21755 at blueyonder dot co dot ukauthor address edinburgh , scotlandauthor phone naReport this post to the editors

Any effort to increase workers awareness for a new society - a commonwealth - has to to be viewed favourably . I hope your endeavours has the success that many previous attempts have failed to achieve.

Yet in the back of my mind there exists those discomforting echoes that in your statements there exists just that little bit of the vanguardism of the Leninist-Trotsykist.

"We defend grassroots anti-imperialist movements" ..., how different is this from all those on the Left who offer support and succour to national bourgeoisies such as the Islamic fundamentalist resistance of Iraq or to the ex-Baathists in the name of anti-imperialism ( a term that has not quite been defined and in danger of simply being a re-hash of Lenin's ).

Again , not too far adrift from the accepted Trotskyist tactic of entryism is your statement :-
"work within these movements, in order to promote anarchist methods of organization involving direct democracy and direct action"

I wonder just how this is compatable with the maxim that workers struggles should be determined and controlled by those actually involved and not by outside interference , except , of course , on the simple principle of support and solidarity and the practical logistical help that can be offered .

I may be over critical and apologies if i am over emphasising ambiguities in your statement .

I see the problem that yourselves and we of the free-access socialist movement face , is that the working class do not require to be instructed on the class struggle , something they must learn and do learn in the course of their of their daily lives without the lecturing and hectoring of political groups , but that there is a necessity to discover the lessons of such struggles - that it will be a never ending class war unless it is taken to the next level - ie changing present society for a new society .
Again , here , a slight disappointment that there was such little elaboration on what type of world is required and desired in your statement .

In the words of the Socialist Party of Canada

" order to fit themselves for this task the workers must acquire the consciousness which alone can enable them to do so. This consciousness must comprise, first of all, a knowledge of their class position. They must realize that, while they produce all wealth, their share of it will not, under the present system, be more than sufficient to enable them to reproduce their efficiency as wealth producers. They must realize that also, under the system they will remain subject to all the misery of unemployment, the anxiety of the threat of unemployment, and the cares of poverty. They must understand next the implications of their position – that the only hope of any real betterment lies in abolishing the social system which reduces them to mere sellers of their labor power, exploited by the capitalists.

“They will see then, since this involves dispossessing the master class of the means through which alone the exploitation of labor power can be achieved, there must necessarily be a struggle between the two classes – the one to maintain the present system of private (or class) ownership of the means of living and the other to wrest such ownership from them and make these things the property of society as a whole. This is the struggle of a dominant class to maintain its position of exploitation, on the one hand, and of an enslaved and exploited class to obtain its emancipation, on the other. It is a class struggle.

“A class which understands all this is class-conscious. It has only to find the means and the method by which to proceed, in order to become the fit instrument of the revolution.”

The new issue of the SPC journal , Imagine , 100 years of Socialism and articles on the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike can be read at :-

Related Link:
author by UKpublication date Fri Oct 12, 2007 20:10Report this post to the editors

"We defend grassroots anti-imperialist movements"

I'm afraid I have to agree with the comrade from the SPGB, this is plain and simple leftism and it would be a pity for a promising anarchist organisation in North America to go down the road of unqualified support for nationalist bourgeois gangsters who have nothing do with class struggle politics.

author by Makhnopublication date Sat Oct 13, 2007 01:29Report this post to the editors

Good to see the tradition of Empire socialism is alive and well in the 'United' Kingdom of 'Great' Britain. Your fine socialist advice to the lesser peoples in the colonies is as always appreciated. We have heard about the magnificant movement you fine subjects of Mrs Windsor have built and are keen to follow your example.

author by ajohnstone - SPGBpublication date Sun Oct 14, 2007 22:25author email ajsc21755 at blueyonder dot co dot ukauthor address Edinburgh ,Scotlandauthor phone naReport this post to the editors

No need to go into all the inherent political contradictions that can be derived from Mahkno's short , witty ( ? ) post but just to add a bit trivia , this from wikipedia .

"...Great Britain may well be a translation of the French term Grande Bretagne, which is used in France to distinguish Britain from Brittany (in French: Bretagne)..."

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author by UKpublication date Tue Oct 16, 2007 21:06Report this post to the editors

I'm sorry to hear that you feel oppressed by comments I and other anarchists on the other side of the Atlantic may make. Clearly I didn't take into account the rampant British imperialism that is currently ravaging your nation, something that "we" are all a part of. We will refrain in future from any political criticism of decisions anarchists in Canada choose to make.

author by José Antonio Gutiérrezpublication date Wed Oct 17, 2007 13:17Report this post to the editors

First of all, I'll start by saying that the discussion of the relationship between class struggle and other forms of oppression (ie, national oppression and anti-imperialist struggle in this case) has been given at some lenght in another thread, so there's no need of repeating the same discussion once again here:

In relation to Johnstone's question

"We defend grassroots anti-imperialist movements" ..., how different is this from all those on the Left who offer support and succour to national bourgeoisies such as the Islamic fundamentalist resistance of Iraq or to the ex-Baathists in the name of anti-imperialism"

I think it is necessary to say that this is actually replied in the very sentence Johnstone calls to question -unless the word "grassroots" does not have any sensible meaning to you.

There's certainly an abuse of wording in Johnstone's post- mentioning frequently resemblances with leninism, it is not clear in what specific ways this may be the case. Even the accusation of entryism is wrong, as this term applies particularly to entering other leftist parties and its rendered absolutely meaningless when it comes to grassroot movements or organisations -or anarchists proposing to enter trade unions should be considered entryism also?

On tactics, Johnstone objects our comrades saying that they will promote anarchists ideas and practices in the social movements by saying that "the working class do not require to be instructed on the class struggle , something they must learn and do learn in the course of their of their daily lives without the lecturing and hectoring of political groups". This is old fashioned and meaningless spontaneism. If the working class (in abstract, taking without historical perspective and assuming that revolutionaries come from Mars) wouldn't require the active involvement of the revolutionary movement to achieve revolutionary goals, then revolutionary agitation, propaganda and organisation would be futile. Would there be any point for a Socialist Party of "Great" Britain to exist?

The truth is that revolutionary organisations are part of the working class, they exist because they represent accumulated experience by the working class in the course of class struggle (so there's no need to reinvent the wheel time and again) and we are quite willing to assume the humble role of representing a libertarian point of view amongst and as part of the oppressed and exploited. The anarchist position has been matured in a long history of sacrifices and hard learned lessons -there's no need for each individual generation of workers to go again through the same failures, mistakes and hardships. If we can't learn from our own history, if we cannot pass experience from one generation to another, we are doomed to make the mistakes all the time. This does not invalidate the process by which individual workers arrive to similar conclusions or by which theory expands and is in a constant process of development thanks to practice.

Last but not least: it is funny to see how Mr."UK" and Johnstone resort to, maybe unconsciously, defending their national identity (whether defending the concept of "Great" Britain or assuming a defensive position on the UK's quite obvious imperialist credentials). The truth is that Makhno in his witty comment -at least I giggled with it- has quite a fair point. It is much easier to deny the importance of anti-imperialist struggle when you are living in the invading and not the invaded country. Maybe if Mr."UK" was instead Mr."Iraq" things would look slightly different. Imperialist ideology takes a firm root in the frame of mind of vast sectors of the population of imperialist countries (talk to your average French, English or US worker and you will check this out), and denying the importance of anti-imperialism could be reflecting partially this. In the same way as it is easier for males in the left to deny the importance of women's issues. This is natural and no one is free from the influence of bourgeois ideology- the problem is to let it pass unchallenged. But this has been discussed in the link given above and it is not my intention to repeat the same arguments here.

author by a johnstone - Socialist Party of Great Britainpublication date Thu Oct 18, 2007 06:10author email ajsc21755 at blueyonder dot co dot ukauthor address Edinburgh , ScotlandReport this post to the editors

Simply to clarify some things .

I take it , Jose , that you and Makhno are members of Common Cause .
( I have nailed my political colours to the mast , after all . )

And yes i do think that a term such as "grassroots anti-imperialism" requires some elaboration , simply tacking on "grassroots" doesn't make it so .

Perhaps , for just my better understanding , can you offer some actual examples of such grassroots anti-imperialism movements that require to be defended by anarchists .

My own view on anti-imperialism can be found at my blog link .

Related Link:
author by José Antonio Gutiérrezpublication date Thu Oct 18, 2007 06:59Report this post to the editors

I'll clarify for a start that I'm no member of CC. In fact, I don't even live in Canada so my contributions should not be taken as necessarily reflecting the views from CC.

Surely a term like 'grassroots' can't be taken for granted and requires further elaboration. Whenever you have a situation of imperialist domination you have the downtrodden rebelling against this form of imposition without necessarily compromising with the local elite. Thus was the position of both Korean and Cuban anarchists during the struggle against Japanese and Spanish colonial rule, respectively.

Although it is true that most of the national liberation movement have been hegemonized by bourgeois nationalism this fact does not undermine the justice of anti-imperialist struggle per se; and you'll see popular organisations carrying extremely heoric struggles against occupations in such distant places as Haiti or Palestine. Indeed, the best example I can think of anti-imperialist grassroots movement is the struggle against the wall in Bil'in, from where we were receiving for long weekly reports. Surely there are more, but the important thing is not to confuse anti-imperialist struggle with the nationalist elite which has traditionally hijacked it.

author by Nilpublication date Thu Oct 18, 2007 08:23Report this post to the editors

Wow, it's been a while since I visited here, but when did "plain leftism" become an insult on a site that describes itself as representing the anarchist-communist tradition!

author by Andrewpublication date Fri Oct 19, 2007 02:36Report this post to the editors

Anyone can post here so from time to time you get people who think calling people leftist is an insult. Often they are US conservatives, sometimes they are west coast 'post leftists' and this crop appears to be British 'lets ignore imperialism' socialists - the sort that have always found comfort in the assertion that rebellion in the colonies is no better than rule from London.

The reality is that almost any anti-imperialist struggle will include grassroots organizations and tendencies which identify working class liberation as part of their struggle. RAWA would provide a relevant example in relation to the ongoing example of Afghanistan. Anarchists need to critique that perspective because the outcome of such anti-imperialist struggles is often (but not always) one that leaves a faction of the old ruling class in charge and a new deal with imperialism. But the idea that we should ignore such tendencies or pretend such outcomes are inevitable really only makes 'sense' in a context where you fear challenging the pro-imperialist attitudes which are often popular in the working class of imperialist states. Anywhere a large section of the working class accepts the big nation imperialist rhetoric of its ruling class you will find a left that finds some theoretical justification to drop anti-imperialism from its program.

Canada has troops occupying Afghanistan and and also has an internal colonial relationship towards the indigenous population within the borders of the Canadian state. It would seem a requirement of an Ontario anarchist organisation that they take a position in opposition to this. It has very real effects on working class organization and solidarity in Ontario and in Afghanistan, how could it just be ignored?

author by AJOHNSTONE - socialist party of greeat britainpublication date Sat Oct 20, 2007 17:17author email ajsc21755 at blueyonder dot co dot ukauthor address Edinburgh , scotlandauthor phone naReport this post to the editors

"...This crop appears to be British 'lets ignore imperialism' socialists - the sort that have always found comfort in the assertion that rebellion in the colonies is no better than rule from London." - Andrew

And to which i counter-pose this quote to point out that anti-anti-imperialism has a long INTERNATIONAL history and is not simply the preserve of some sort of alleged psychological adherence to imperialist ideology by some Brits .

" To oppose imperialism demanded, then a total rejection of all forms of nationalism, even that of the victims of imperialist aggression. Nationalism and imperialism were inseparable and had to fought with equal fervor. " - Paul Mattick on Rosa Luxemburg . ( )

Related Link:
author by Andrewpublication date Sat Oct 20, 2007 22:43Report this post to the editors

Your being a bit selective in choosing to reply as if I'd said it was only the British left that suffers from this curious blindness. As I already pointed out although the condition is perhaps best known amongst the British left because of the British states long and once global imperial history it is a general condition found in sections of the left that are organising where workers are under the influence of their states imperialist ideology. Its a theoretical justification for not having to take what can be an unpopular stance.

And in this thread both you and the other guy (who actually called himself UK!?!?!) simply repeat standard imperialist propaganda that the only alternative to their rule is some as bad or worse. This in case you have not noticed is the justification your state uses for its continued occupation of Iraq.

author by ajohnstone - socialist p[arty of great britainpublication date Sun Oct 21, 2007 19:00author email ajsc21755 at blueyonder dot co dot ukauthor address Edinburgh , Scotlandauthor phone naReport this post to the editors

"...a theoretical justification for not having to take what can be an unpopular stance..." Andrew

Andrew , are you being serious ? That the SPGB determine their political positions from a premise of what is popular with the working class. .

You have to be joking , Andrew , and a review of the SPGB's history would demonstrate just how wrong you are . The SPGB has hardy succumbed to populist opportunism to gain support or attract members . Our politics are a bit more principled than that.

Nor would i say that you are empirically correct with your judgement about the Left political scene . Again , a brief survey of the British Left or those of USA , France Spain Italy Germany ( excluding the incumbent Labour /Social Democratic Parties ) would reveal almost a 100% subscription to some form of anti-imperialist theory . And the SPGB anti-nationalist and criticism of anti-imperialism has often made us somewhat political pariahs to those on the Left and Right .


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author by Global Dissidentpublication date Mon Oct 29, 2007 08:44author email reid9001 at gmail dot comauthor phone 519-471-9001Report this post to the editors

All self critical semantics aside, this is a great idea. I hope Common Cause becomes a major player in the Ontario radical scene. I hope to see a few members in downtown London, Ontario this May Day.

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