On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Kyle Buott. He is the president of the Halifax-Dartmouth and District Labour Council and a member of Solidarity Halifax. He talks with me about a recent gathering: 14 anti-austerity and anti-capitalist groups from across the country were hosted by Solidarity Halifax at a Congress of the Radical Left, to discuss building relationships and possibilities for pluralist, non-sectarian collaboration in the struggle for transformative social change.
Here are two hard facts of life. Number one: Although Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s quip that Canada has “too much geography and not enough history” is about as colonial a statement as you can find, its first half also captures the sad truth of a challenge that social movements in this country have yet to solve — our efforts are fragmented by the vast distances across which we are spread.
And number two: There are lots of people around who don’t really like the general direction of change that this country, much like the rest of the world, has taken over the last few decades. They don’t like the increasing poverty, the environmental destruction, the erosion of a sense of collective compassion and responsibility, and all the other toxic outcomes that we tag with labels like “neoliberalism” and “austerity.” But for all this simmering sentiment, there are few to no existing organizational options for us to give our time and energy if we want to resolutely commit to reversing these problems — not mitigating, but reversing. Even the political parties that draw on the energies of these dissatisfactions offer only quite mild opposition, and while that can have some real (if limited) impacts in terms of people’s lives, it still amounts to a softer version of the same.
So what’s a person to do?
There is no single answer to that, but one possibility lies in a new kind of organizing that has popped up in a number of cities across the country — a sort of open, engaged, multi-issue organization committed to pluralist anti-austerity or anti-capitalist politics that are given expression in concrete, grounded campaigns, and that are also committed to refusing the kind of divisive sectarianism that so destructively marked earlier generations of the left. Over the last couple of years, Talking Radical Radio has profiled a few of these — Solidarity Halifax, We Are Oshawa, and Ottawa’s Solidarity Against Austerity spring to mind. Only time will tell whether these tentative local experiments can follow the explosive growth of somewhat analogous projects in Europe, like Spain’s Podemos or Greece’s Syriza (notwithstanding the complicated turn of recent events in that country), or even the much more modest success of Quebec Solidaire. But the recent Congress of the Radical Left in Halifax was a small first step to effective collaboration against austerity and capitalism, across political and geographical differences in the Canadian context.
Buott talks about the origins and basis of this recent gathering, about the conversations that happened there, and about the very modest but still exciting steps that emerged from it.
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.