The following represent a random sampling of voices from those activists and organizers who participated in our research project. To see more, refresh this page. Use the tag cloud to the right to navigate by theme.
Sectarianism, violence, and authority
When I was involved in the sectarian left in the sixties and seventies the vision then was that we were going to take over control of the state and run society…[in order to] creat[e] equality and all of that sort of thing. There was never any clear understanding of how that was going to happen and the propaganda among those sectarian groups of one kind or another was always that in the Soviet Union everybody's got a place to live, and everybody's got a job, and they’ve got health care, and nobody ever looked at the fact that people were being shot everyday for virtually nothing. I think that most of these sectarian groups were characterized by the Stalin-type leader who was the ultimate authority.
Asserting ourselves effectively
We had massive demonstrations, for example, against the war in Iraq, massive protests all over the world. Massive protest, [a] vast [number] of people...against the war and yet...the invasion of Iraq [happened anyway]. So there's this institutionalization of protest, so people sit back and say, ‘okay, I get all this anger, and yet I have no power, I'm impotent in terms of affecting policy.’ So once again this raises the issue of how [do we] effectively assert [ourselves?]
Pulling up oppression by the roots
...removing patriarchy and sexism...would create such a ripple effect that there would be so much more potential. I think that a lot of what goes on that is negative can be traced to those roots.
Equity across time and space
Equity is a really challenging thing, when you're dealing with equity...on a geographic scale. I'm drinking a coffee, obviously someone had to like pick the beans, and it is a fair trade coffee so I have that sense that I've purchased a product and I'm able to see the connection, at least tangentially understand, that there's ways and means to creating more equitable distributions, but again that's...just relying on some of the functions and features of capitalism to solve problems that are fundamentally being precipitated by [it]. And then equity across generations is an even more difficult thing, especially when you're talking about climate change because...the decisions we're making now are going to have an effect on our grandkids.
Activism and marginality
Just looking at our immediate context right here in Halifax...looking at...the organizations that people have to fight through right now, the only ones that we see around us are these unions that right now are pretty backwards….[T]hey don't really fight anything except legal strikes which are almost nothing these days, small windows, pickets that aren't really challenging the company. I think for me it matters who is showing up, who are the people that are involving themselves and I'm seeing the activist community, a loose knit group of people involved in different NGOs in the city, people involved in student activism, that are showing up at all these different events but these aren't the actual body of workers that are out there. This isn't like a working class movement and if it's not a working class movement it doesn't really have the potential to transform conditions in our society.
Ducking for cover
I think the mistake the Left makes...is when they come under attack, to duck and get defensive instead of standing up saying who they are. Like the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the States [during] the McCarthy era, there were people who ran for cover and others who stood up and defied them. Well, the people that defied them are now recognized heroes for having the guts to do that and when they did take a stand they suffered for it but it opened people's eyes.
So our strategies are influenced by the [institutional] foothold we have and us wanting to hang onto that. And the strategies of this other [radical] group that might be coming up are in reaction to their perception of us failing at [being radical enough,] so they're going to do it. So their strategies and tactics are going to be different and I think in order for [social change to happen] they both need to be in place.
Hope in the dark
There's always going to be that kernel of good possibilities and I think it's going to be a lot harder for rich people to keep in this bubble that we're in right now which is not having to realize the incredible poverty and the incredible suffering going on in the rest of the world. Especially as climate change refugees start to come to North America. And as stuff in North America starts to get flooded and in Europe, so that part to me is hopeful. Unfortunately it's going to come with a lot of shit and we're probably going to end up killing a lot of people and I also think that neoliberalism cannot exist in that future, in that vision of the future, because something as powerful as the state might not be able to exist except through a huge amount of coercion or totalitarianism.
One of the things...I saw a little bit while working in other countries that had had big revolutions, like Cambodia for example or some Latin American countries, is sometimes the revolution is as frightening as what was there before. It may change the power...but it doesn't seem to change what happens to people in terms of violence in their day to day life [or allow better] access to the things that they fought for. So I guess some element of me is as leery of what we will do in the name of change...
I don't want to point to a specific example of an activist initiative and say that this is the guide to the future. My own feeling is that there are values that I think I'd like to see broadened to be values that people can work with. Things like solidarity, affinity, autonomy, cooperation over competition, these sorts of vague themes. And then there are various experiments with those which are sometimes inspiring, like cooperatives. Those sorts of things have those values in them.