On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Kevin Skerrett. He is a trade unionist and a member of the local Ottawa-based anti-austerity formation Solidarity Against Austerity.
The language of “austerity” is not necessarily broadly understood in Canada, outside of a narrow segment of people who already identify with the left. Yet it is a concise way to name a cluster of political phenomena that are central to much of what is happening in this country and that are having profoundly harmful impacts on millions of lives — phenomena that a much more significant chunk of the population care about and oppose, however they name them, from cuts, to schemes to exploit migrants, to environmental deregulation, to privatization, to attacks on workers, to much more. And whatever language we use to name these attacks on ordinary people, it’s no secret that, outside of Quebec at least, we do not yet have the models and tools for action that might be able to successfully oppose the austerity agenda in its entirety. And — without completely dismissing them — it’s improtant to recognize that the conventional repertoire of actions by mainstream trade unions and parties that at least nominally aspire to social democracy, have not been effective in presenting meaningful alternatives to austerity and in fact at times have been actively complicit in reproducing narratives that claim that there is no alternative.
Solidarity Against Austerity emerged out of organizing that happened in Ottawa in 2012, after a loose network of activists planned a successful May Day demonstration. They all recognized the urgent need to be mobilizing against austerity, and also the limits in the existing possibilities for doing so. After repeating their success in getting people into the streets on May Day in 2013, they started to have serious conversations about what sustained, ongoing anti-austerity organizing, and the organizational form to support that, might look like. And they’ve been at it ever since — organizing educational events and forums, pulling together demonstrations, supporting strike actions, and much more. They recognize that what they’ve been able to do so far is small and limited compared to the scope of the problems that they name and oppose, but they see it as a starting point that they hope will be able to lead to at least one kind of genuinely effective, politically independent, non-sectarian response to the urgent conflux of crises impacting the lives of so many ordinary people under the banner, named or not, of austerity. Skerrett spoke with me about austerity, the origins of the group, the actions it has taken, and the ways it hopes to grow.
To learn more about Solidarity Against Austerity, click here.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.