Going Down To Kananaskis: Fork in The Road for Our Movement (Part one)

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at tao.ca
Tue Jul 2 21:51:12 MDT 2002


_'It's a long road down to Kananaskis
 It's a short road back the other way
 If the cops pull you over to the side of the road
You won't have nothing to say
No, you won't have nothing to say

There's a man waiting down the Highway 40
And he's waiting with a rifle in his hand
 And he's looking down the road for an out-of-province car
And he thinks he's fighting for his land...

 ...Yes, he thinks he's fighting for his land'_

(Reworked from Phil Ochs: Going Down to Mississippi)


Going Down To Kananaskis:
Fork In the Road For Our Movement

  The "Endless War on Terror" was launched by the Bush Administration in near
unanimity with the "International Community" (a sleight-of-hand term for
imperial partners such as Britain, Germany and Canada) last October. The World
Trade Centre Attacks are obviously the starting point for an understanding of
most political events in our current situation. One of the very first
"predictions" (perhaps an attempt at self-fulfilling prophecy) was that the
Anti-corporate Globalisation movement would shrivel and die; That the few
remaining activists of the First World would quickly be lumped in with Al Qaeda-
and even the Palestinians and Colombian rebels-- as "terrorists". Indeed, here
in Vancouver, Canada it was made only days after the attacks in September by
columnist Michael Campbell in the Vancouver Sun, when he made the grotesque link
between a crudely vague "terrorism" and the members of our ranks who wear black
masks and get involved in direct actions against the symbols of the corporate
states.

   Many of us who had been heart and mind involved in this movement for several
years were deeply concerned about where our movement could go from here, if it
could retain itself at all. Were we not a shallow movement, without a viable
centre, without any connections to the communities in which we worked, a
movement of transient troublemakers that might have the right idea only in the
vaguest sense? Would we not completely drop off of the radar screen?

  Well, all apologies to Mark Twain, but the reports of our death have been
greatly exaggerated. By March 16, 2002 we had regrouped enough to have five
hundred thousand people amass in the streets in Barcelona, Spain against the EU-
the largest convergence yet up until that point in our movement. Our organising
also began to be able to make calculated choices based on what new situations
reality placed before us here in North America- in February in New York, groups
that were primarily anarchist-led put together a protest against the World
Economic Forum. In the streets of New York there was almost no one who was
willing to organise in the overwhelmingly hostile setting as it was laid before
them. The "anarchist" groups usually associated with "violence" and "immaturity"
put together an important demo of 25 thousand people in the very city that saw
the beginning of the new era of reaction. This represented a tactical retreat
into non-physical confrontation to simply maintain the existence of such
protests, while we regrouped to rethink what to do next. In other words, we were
developing a sense of thinking strategically.

  Perhaps the greatest aspects of our resurgence into prominence have been two
recent events. First was the April 20, 2002 demonstration in Washington DC. What
was originally to be a demonstration against the IMF and World Bank became a 100
000 strong demo in support of the heroic struggle of the Palestinian people
against the increasingly genocidal Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
Strip. Again on this theme, a group that is called the International Solidarity
Movement that sees itself as part of the resistance movement against corporate
globalisation policies has been operating in Palestine, putting their bodies in
between the civilians of Palestine and the advancing Israeli Defence Forces.
Such a massive growth in both dedication and analysis is without precedent for
us and speaks volumes as to the rising maturity of our movement. We are making
the connections as a movement between an amorphous "globalisation"- policies
that emanate from late imperialism and capitalism-with the horrid front lines of
imperialist assaults on people, in places from Palestine to Venezuela. Nothing
could be a more important growth, as what we truly need is to develop an
analysis to arm ourselves. At the demonstrations in Calgary that I will discuss,
we heard a slogan: "Viva viva Palestina, Venezuela, Argentina!" Accompanying
that was one that came out of New York back in February: "They are Enron, we are
Argentina". Such a noise was not made in the streets of Seattle in 1999.

   I had attended an anti-war conference in Montreal last May, and the
conference itself had been organised by the same sorts of people that had built
the more militant and anti-capitalist demonstrations at the Summit of the
Americas in Quebec City. The conference focused on almost every spot on the
globe, educating people in our movement from across the continent and involving
people from around the world. That such a principled and non-dogmatic conference
can come out of our movement is another sign of our advancing thinking. Aside
from being denounced by the "International Bolshevik Tendency" for
insufficiently fighting imperialism, the anti-imperialist, anti-war and
anti-racist conference was able to produce a lot of constructive dialogue and
opportunity for cross country, continental and planetary networking. Onward we
march.

   From there, I began to hitchhike back home to stop in as many large Canadian
cities as I could to help make further contacts with fellow activists. After
about a week and a half, I stopped in Calgary where the main convergences
against the G8 were slated to take place at the end of June. The first night I
met a law student whom was a national from Africa. He attended the university,
and after we debated the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD, an
initiative developed for the G8 Summit. While called African, it would be best
seen as made in response to the critiques made very public by our movement, so
as to gloss over their persisting neo-colonial relationship with Africa- and
lauded by people like U2's Bono) I spent the night on his couch in the
residence. The next morning, we had a much needed coffee and I headed into town
to make what I thought would be a quick opportunity to get in touch with the
local organisers as they prepared their multitude of creative demonstrations and
a counter summit. The counter summit was called the "People's Summit", the G6B
(they are eight, we are six billion).

   What I discovered was a repressive atmosphere that I had never experienced
before, except perhaps as a ten-year old tourist in Mexico in 1985 where
soldiers wandered the streets with machine guns. The difference, of course, was
that in Mexico those guns were ostensibly to "protect" people like myself, a
simple North American tourist. However, here in Alberta, the measures--
grotesque media slanders, by-laws against our rights to peaceful assembly,
"anti-terrorist" legislation and the refusal to grant any space in Calgary or
near Kananaskis for protesters to meet-were directed at folks like myself.
People were acting as if under siege, and the meetings were still more than a
month away. With suspicion was how I was greeted, chaos seemed to reign in the
organising (there were not many posters around, the city was working overtime to
bungle any attempts at inter-activist communication), fear was the guiding
factor and a feeling of impending doom prevailed. I had to walk around and ask
people who looked like they might be considered 'usual suspects' in order to
come into contact with radicals working in Calgary. I learned that some of the
coalitions for organising had already broken down, with people on all sides of
the different debates becoming married to certain "positions". I heard that the
entire city had co-ordinated to deny the organisers proper spaces to hold
meetings and that the use of ad-hoc spaces like college cafeterias was resulting
in the activists being chased out. No halls were rented to activists to hold
meetings during the summit, and that the few spaces that could be accrued were
separated by vast amounts of space. The trade union bureaucrats had also broken
off contacts, and all spaces applied for to be used for camping out-of-town
activists had been denied by the city. The unions were planning a march called a
"family march" for the afternoon of the 23rd of June. Even this seemingly
harmless march, three days before the start of the G8 Summit and guaranteed to
be peaceful, had not received a permit. A glimmer of hope was that the unions
had vowed to carry out their march regardless of the city's ban from Mayor David
Bronconnier (who had stated that public parks could not be used for political
purposes, despite the fact that he had used just such a venue for a barbecue to
kick off his last electoral campaign).

  The final and most significant measure used by the Federal Government to quash
the resistance of the people to their plunderous economic rule was the
systematic blocking of any attempt to set up the "Solidarity Village", a project
to allow a camp near the Summit site itself (near Kananaskis, often called
K-Country). The Federal Government had paid the Stony Nation $300 000 dollars to
prevent them from renting any space for the Solidarity Village, which was being
organised by the Canadian Labour Congress in conjunction with the Council of
Canadians. All other locations were on Crown Land, and were quickly and without
discussion, denied access to any single protester. After the cancellation of the
Solidarity Village, a real black cloud began to hover above the organisers- and
the city of Calgary continued to deny any place for use by the multitude of
people coming in from all over the continent (and even the world, to a small
extent). The plea made by activists in response to all of this was simply that
people are coming, and they can't be stopped.

   Even a full month plus before the Summit was scheduled to begin in K-country
people were being denied entry into Canada for declared spurious reasons and
never admittedly the obvious. They were, in reality, denied entry for being
opposed to corporate globalisation and coming to Calgary to voice their deep
anger at the institutions of the G8 and their governing leaders- as is their
right anywhere, whether governments recognise it or not. After tasting first
hand what kind of brutal measures were being meted out to all who dare speak the
truth to power, I decided that if we are to have any rights at all, they must be
used in Calgary, and maybe even in Kananaskis itself. When our movement is
confronted with draconian measures and manipulations such as these, both the
legal and the machiavellian, we must respond with a show of unity and defiance.
I decided to head home and try to organise people to come to Calgary to meet
this dropping of the gauntlet by imperial hypocrisy. We didn't make the decision
to have this summit simplified into an act of defending our rights to assemble,
but we can answer this call, and indeed we must every time.

   One of the greatest leaps in the analysis of many of our movements' people
has been the dwindling interest in "Summit Hopping". When you have a movement
that speaks of ending the economic suffering of the Third World, the AIDS
epidemic in Africa, the rapidly growing sector of the First World living in
absolute poverty, created by the advance of the G8, WTO and the post-Cold War
economic order of neo-liberalism, it is contradictory to base an over arching
strategy based on trying to mobilise people to travel thousands of miles to
attend mass convergences. This is one of the main reasons our movement, however
much it might resonate with all the victimised sectors of society, has been
overwhelmingly white, middle class, and economically privileged- secure enough
in employment or sources of revenue to take large amounts of time out from home.
Those who are not from these categories are people who have made a lifestyle
choice to be so immersed in organising that they continually live off of scraps
and dumpster-diving, travelling via train hopping and hitchhiking- again, not
something that can galvanise people from all walks of society.

   Another point to this is that we are no longer going to win the kind of
victories we had in the first couple of years. We caught them napping in
Seattle, which gave us the ability to shut that fucker down. That, and to see it
retrospectively, the actions of the Black Bloc anger-laced actions later in the
same day, put real politics back on the agenda and buried the notion of "the end
of history" once and for all, and good riddance to it. After that, in several
valiant showings of initiative we were unable to actually disrupt the meetings,
but we were able to continue the advancement of our movement through picking
clearly legitimate targets and successfully garnering our aims. We took down
that ugly blight on the landscape of The Wall in Quebec. We demanded our right
to assemble in Genoa, attacking that wall too- and the capitalist state showed
its true colours by killing our fallen comrade, Carlo Giuliani. Despite his
tragic loss of life, that demonstration was as clearly a victory as any of the
others. There were 300 000 people at the march, and even more the following day
protesting his assassination. We were not divided, even though some began to
call for such actions to take place, even within our own movement. However, now
that we have won the final victory of the convergence battles by chasing them
into the hills and fortress of K-Country in Alberta, we have continued to seek
the same strategic orientation as though we could do this forever. We cannot
catch them here. As heartening as it was to hear Fidel Castro ask if soon these
leaders would be forced to run away with their meetings to the moon, it still
appears to be the end game of attacking summit sites as a strategy for
galvanisation, winning victories of the will, and disrupting the real terrorists
' agenda for "business as usual". Summit Hopping in North America will lead us
to oblivion unless we can demonstrate what we have at every other turn: our
ability to grow, to be flexible in our strategy as much as we are in our tactics
on the streets.

   As well, and just as problematic, is the very nature of how Summit hopping
works. People who are not working on the grassroots issues of the city holding
the summit and the convergences against it are unable to contribute to a lasting
legacy in these locales that can produce further activism and new activists.
Community work cannot be done by people who are not part of that very community
itself. To leave the city where you live to go elsewhere is often to make
clearly counter-productive choices, though clearly not in every case.

  To speak of what I know, I live in Vancouver, BC, Canada. This is where the
most reactionary provincial government Canada has ever seen is in power (and
that is to say a heck of a lot). Gordon Campbell and his 'Liberal' Party are in
almost absolute power, holding 77 of 79 seats in the provincial legislature.
They have already ratcheted up massive racism, holding a referendum on the
rights of First Nations that are guaranteed by the UN. They have gone after
welfare, casting thousands onto the streets, they have attacked the labour code,
assaulted post-secondary educational funding, shut down women's shelters,
eliminated pay-equity legislation and even dropped the minimum wage to six bucks
(Cdn) for first time workers. This government has torn up existing agreements
with labour unions, which even raised the ire of our vastly right wing press,
who called it dishonest. They have scrapped and regressed almost all the
existing environmental regulations, weak though they were. They even cancelled
and are dismantling the provincial Human Rights Commission. They have created an
atmosphere of panic and anger among the populace after they were swept to power
in the wake of a reactionary and scandal-ridden (but relatively middle ground)
New Democratic Party. In many of the cases, as a result of the mismanagement of
the prior administration, the Liberals were pushing at an open door to make this
full scale, corporate globalisation assault on the people of this province. In
this atmosphere and with things here so urgent, what is the value in going to
Summits if one is a revolutionary? As has been said in a different context by
revolutionaries of days before, the number one enemy is at home. Yet, what is
this provincial regime here, if not the smug, smiling face of corporate
globalisation come to the homefront? What is our strength as a response to this
government, if we lose the real-life connection to what created it in the first
place?

  The governments of Calgary, Alberta and Ottawa had tried extremely hard to
prevent allowing what the APEC inquiry determined was our civil right: to see
and be seen by government leaders when we protest. They had gone beyond that,
and tried to kill our movement (or at least, to wound it severely) by preventing
people from even peacefully protesting in the city of Calgary itself. They have
gone so far as to intimidate churches into not hosting homeless travellers to
try and prevent people from speaking to this gathering of terrorists being held
over a hundred kilometres away. They want to destroy the cohesion of our
movement right while we are hitting a turning point. They know exactly what they
are doing; we must as well know what is being done and know how to respond. The
fact that these leaders feel the need to retreat to the woods is a victory in
and of itself, and that they fear our loud message enough to go to these lengths
to prevent it from being above a whisper. This kind of direct attack on the
aspects of our modern resistance to the attacks of capital that are global must
be met directly- proving and demonstrating our unity in their face, despite
their threats, intimidation and blackmail. We must always be prepared to stand
up for our brothers and sisters who live and breathe in the same movement; we
stand for a world that will be one, and we must reflect this thinking in our
movement as well. As I believe Mao once penned, _A good comrade is one who is
eager to go where the difficulties are greater._ While I have been assured that
the story was primarily a plant by the very hostile _Calgary Herald_ (the amount
of black propaganda in Calgary certainly outdid the work of the press in leading
up to the summit of the Americas in 2001, Quebec City), there was a report some
two weeks before the Summit quoting certain revolutionaries from Kansas, USA.
Supposedly, they had denounced the work of Calgarians and Edmontonians as too
scattered, too unorganised and responded that they were going to the better
organised demonstrations in Ottawa, the "Take the Capital" and "the "No One Is
Illegal" initiatives. I want to say, very clearly, to any who were thinking
along similar lines: Are you serious about revolution or not? We have no
business going out for "fun" or "tourism" in these situations where the vices of
the capitalist states are clamping down on our collective heads. If you are
truly concerned with building a revolution, you should be honoured to make the
difficult tasks succeed. That means going into the situations where whatever
skills you have are most urgently needed. Whatever my skills may actually be,
that was the final reason I felt the necessity to go into Cowtown.

  Our responsibility to not only attend, but to try and get involved in the
dirty, on-the-ground work of the demonstrations, the conferences, the running of
the Convergence Centre (banished to the edge of the city, in the prostitute and
industrial wasteland district, in a building marked for demolition in the near
future) is a reflection of the international character of our movement. It was
not "their" demos, which "we" attended, it is _our_ movement. If Calgary were to
suffer a great defeat at the hands of the Albertan fear mechanisms, or as a
result of disunity among our ranks, then all of our anti-capitalist organising
becomes weakened. We are as strong as the ties that bind us across the spectrum
of states and regions. Our movement does have multiple front lines, and these
include our homefronts, but this particular clash was a defining point of
advance, stagnancy or retreat for us all. That directly affects our ability to
work against the corporate globalisation agendas of our local situations. Once a
major amount of work had been put into calling people out to the location of the
summit and the nearby city centres, our future on the larger, global level hung
in the balance.

(continued in part 2)



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