This is the final post of a four-part series of posts. For the context of where the following fits into my participation and withdrawal from the organization Social Housing Green Deal, see the first part Exposing the Intolerance and Censorship of Social Democracy, Part One: The Working Class, Housing and the Police.
People’s Pandemic Shutdown
I sent the following email to Ms. Jessup at 816 a.m. (Toronto time), May 23, 2021, the same day that we were to have a general zoom meeting:
Hello Anna,Attached are some questions I have about the Draft Action outline of the People’s Pandemic Shutdown. I would appreciate it if you would circultate it to others.Thanks.Fred
No one, as far as I am aware, ever discussed my questions and concerns. Such is the nature of the “progressive left” here in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (and undoubtedly in many other parts of the world).
The following is my inquiry and critique:
People’s Pandemic Shutdown
We Demand Everything
(Draft Action Outline)
Long Term Objective
Politically compel a wealth transfer, from police, military, and big business, into stabilizing, publicly owned infrastructure, capable of responsibly managing disease, and ensuring genuinely healthy and safe living conditions for all on Turtle Island.
Embolden communities in Tkaronto, with the moral imperative, to occupy public space, and interrupt commerce, to achieve this long term objective.
Build solidarity, by highlighting the connections among peoples’ struggles.
Questions about “Long Term Objective”:
a. To what are they referring when they speak of Turtle Island?
What do they mean by “publicly owned infrastructure?” Current public infrastructure, such as schools and welfare services, are oppressive in many ways. Should the left be demanding the transfer of power to such oppressive structures? Or should it be demanding the simultaneous transfer to and restructuring of public infrastructure? Will this need to restructure oppressive publicly owned infrastructure be addressed?
For safe living conditions for all, it would be necessary to abolish the power of employers, would it not? Is there any such demand in this document? Could such an objective be immediately achieved? Or would it require years if not decades of organization, discussion and critique?
- Meet with abolitionist and anti-capitalist allies to develop comprehensive demands and an outline of what our social infrastructure must look like.
- Mutually supportive promotion of the event and of each others struggles
- Emphasise our commitment to publicly gather, with distancing and masks, to get the infrastructure we need, for all of us to be really and truly safe.
Infrastructure/programs to Consider in our Demands
- Health care
- Long Term Care Homes
- Public Education
- Harm Reduction
- Food Security
- Social Housing
- Disability support programs
- Paid sick days
- Free Transit
- Recreation, parks
- Equity Based Social Work
Questions for the “Strategy”:
Who are these abolitionist allies? Anti-capitalist allies?
Would not the formulation of comprehensive demands require a critique of current demands that not only fall short of comprehensive demands but include arguments or references to less comprehensive demands as fair or just, such as the phrase “$15 and Fairness?” Or “fair” contracts or collective agreements? Or “decent work” and other such phrases? Will the need to engage in critique of other, reformist positions form part of the discussion?
“To get the infrastructure that we need, for all of us to be really and truly safe,” will require years and indeed decades of struggle, discussion and critique for all of us to be really and truly safe. For example, I was diagnosed twice with cancer (invasive bladder cancer, and then a few years later rectal cancer—with subsequent metastatic liver cancer). When I asked the doctor why I had cancer again despite taking measures (such as healthier eating habits), his response was: “Bad luck.” Furthermore, as the documentary “Pink Ribbons Inc.” indicates, funding for most cancer research focuses on treating cancers once they arise rather than preventing cancer in the first place. Safety at work and in the community requires us to take control over producing our lives—and that requires abolishing the class power of employers. Will that be addressed?
Re Infrastructure/programs: How are these demands to be met unless we control our life process? And how are we to control our life process without abolitioning the class power of employers? Will such abolition be front and centre of the strategy?
Re Health care: Is it really possible to care, not just technically, but socially and emotionally, for those in need of health care in a health-care system characterized by, on the one hand, a hierarchical division of labour of nurses’ aides, nurses and doctors and, on the other, budget restraints dictated by the overall need to ensure that there is a constant flow of profit and accumulation of capital? Furthermore, the health-care workers work for a wage. What implication does this have for providing, not health services, but health care? Will these issues be addressed?
Re: Public education: Is it likely that there will be any proposal for abolishing grades or marks or notes that oppress children and adolescents? Will there be any proposal for restructuring the curriculum such that it becomes meaningful for most children and adolescents? For example, John Dewey proposed and put into practice a curriculum that centred on the common needs of most human needs—for food, clothing and shelter. Learning to read, write and to develop and understanding of science emerged through engagements with actually reproducing various forms of human lifestyles in history. In that school, there were also no grades, marks or notes. Assessment occurred, but it was for the purpose of aiding children and adolescents to improve the quality of their work and not to compare one student’s achievements with the achievements of other students.
Or will such proposals for change merely be “add-ons” to existing oppressive public educational structures, such as those proposed by the Chicago Teachers’ Union in their document Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve?
Re Social housing: As I pointed out in my email concerning 33 Gabian Way, when 23 police showed up, the situation involved social housing—which can be just as oppressive as market housing. Will the oppressive nature of such housing be addressed?
Re: Paid sick days: This demand assumes the continued existence of a class of employers, does it not? It may function as a tactical demand, but it is hardly on the same level as abolitionist demands, which are strategic. Is there any indication—or will there be—that even if there are paid sick days, this will hardly be sufficient since workers as a class will still be exposed to dangers at work over which they have no or little control since it is the employers who have power over the purchase of equipment and the organization of work?
Re: Equity-based social work: What does this mean? Can social work really be equity-based in the context of the class power of employers?
Workers’ Demands to Build Upon
- Status for all workers
- Paid sick days for all
- Genuinely safe and healthy working conditions for all
- Livable wage for all
Questions for “Workers’ Demands to Build Upon”
- Re: Genuinely safe and healthy working conditions for all: to achieve this objective would require the abolition of the class power of employers. If this is the case, will such a demand be raised? If so, does not such a demand oppose many among the left who seek only reform and not fundamental structural changes? Would it not be necessary to engage in criticism of those who seek only to reform the class structure rather than abolish it?
Foreign Policy Demands to Build Upon
- Cease all participation in illegal wars
- Cease all monetary support to state governments known to commit war crimes or participate in illegal occupation, including Saudia Arabia and Israel
Questions for “Foreign Policy Demands to Build Upon”:
Is there such a thing as a legal war? Why the reference to illegal at all? Why the reference to “law” at all? Does not the legal system oppress us in one way or another? Will this issue be raised and discussed?
Re “illegal occupation”: Is there then such a thing as a legal occupation? Same questions as in 1.
Draft Itinerary for Day of Action (June Xth)
- Defunding of oppressive corporations
- Defunding oppressive police and military
1PM Toronto Police HQ 40 College Street
-Occupy the street, banners of connected struggles, chants
-Physically distant, masks
1:30PM Walk to Bay and College
-Occupy the intersection
-We Demand Everything: speakers connect the struggles and demands
Questions for “Draft Itinerary for Day of Action”:
Re: “Defunding of oppressive corporations”: If all corporations are oppressive, then is the demand really the abolition of the existence of corporations? Or does the demand just mean: “Defund particular corporations that are particularly oppressive?” There is a world of difference between the two kinds of demand. Furthermore, what does it mean to “defund” a corporation? Nationalize it? But nationalization has hardly meant democratization. Nationalized corporations can be just as oppressive and exploitative as private corporations. ‘
Re: “Defunding oppressive police and military”: Does that mean that all police and military are oppressive and should be defunded? Or just particularly oppressive forms of police and military structures? If all police and military are to be abolished—would that not require the abolition of the class power of employers as well since the main function of the police is to maintain the existing social order, with its class, patriarchal and racist structures, internally? And the military’s main function is, at a minimum, to maintain the existing social order externally? (and to extend the power of the government territoriality sometimes, if need be, in order to maintain social order)? Will such a demand be forthcoming? If so, will there be simultaneous critiques of those who seek merely to reform the class power of employers but not abolish such power since those who seek only reforms themselves would oppose such an abolitionist stance?
The meeting was supposed to be at 3:00 p.m. I expected, as usual, an email zoom link to be sent before the meeting started. I did not receive any such email.
I waited until 4:38, at which time I sent the following email to Miss Jessup:
Frederick HarrisSun 2021-05-23 4:38 PMTo:
- Anna JessupHello Anna,I will no longer be attending the zoom meetings.Fred
I did not think about looking on the organization’s Facebook page since the custom since February was for Ms. Jessup to send the zoom link by email.
I was curious. Was this just a mistake in not informing me that the zoom link would be on the Facebook page? I did look at the Facebook page–and then saw that the meeting was still being held–from 3:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.–a double session. I was not informed about the change in zoom link location, and I was not informed about the substantial extension in the length of the zoom meeting? Why was that? There started to exist evidence that this was a conscious effort to exclude me from participating:
The social-democratic or reformist left are a clique; they refuse to engage in serious inquiry about the demands they raise. If there is such criticism, they refuse to consider them, and they may even resort to censorship in order to avoid reconsidering their approach.