Other Voices: The Connexions Newsletter

March 12, 2015

This Week: Organizing

The focus of this week is organizing.

We know that our world is going in the wrong direction and that fundamental change is necessary. But we are confronted with entrenched structures of economic and political power. How can we challenge and overcome them?

Our own source of power is our latent ability to join together and work toward common goals, collectively. That requires organizing. Power gives way only when it is challenged by powerful movements for change, and movements grow out of organizing.

Organizing is qualitatively different from simple “activism”. Organizing means sustained long-term conscious effort to bring people together to work for common goals.

In this newsletter, we feature a number of articles, books, and other organizing resources. Many more can be found on the Connexions Organizing Resources page at /CxL-ORG.htm.

Also in this issue, we have Edward Snowden on the government’s “anti-terror” legislation and John Pilger on the rise of fascism in what used to be called the liberal democracies.

Seeds of Fire for March 12 recalls the birth of William Lyon Mackenzie, the radical leader of the 1837 rebellion in Upper Canada; the victory by 32,000 workers, most of them young female immigrants, in the 1912 “Bread & Roses” textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts; and the beginning of the “Salt March,” led by Mohandas Gandhi, in India in 1930.

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This Week on Connexions.org

Edward Snowden's Warning to Canada

Whistleblower Edward Snowden talks about Bill C-51 and the weak oversight of Canada's intelligence agencies.
Quote: "When [the NSA leak] first happened, I thought this was going to be kind of a three-day story, and everybody was going to move on, nobody was really going to care. But we've seen that this matters a lot to people. When we talk about mass surveillance, when we talk about the un-targeted collection of data about millions of individuals, whether domestically within your country, or around the world, this really changes the relationship between the government and the people that it governs, and other people, foreign people, with whom it has relations."
Read More. Watch the video here.

Keywords: National Security - Surveillance

Why the rise of fascism is again the issue

John Pilger warns that fascism is not ancient history; it is on the march today, in the so-called "liberal democracies" whose chosen methods are war, and the threat of war, coupled with increasing repression and police status apparatuses at home. Read More

Keywords:Fascism - State Violence

Farmer Cooperatives, Not Monsanto, Supply El Salvador With Seeds

In the face of overwhelming competition skewed by the rules of so-called "free trade", farmers in El Salvador have managed to beat the agricultural giants like Monsanto and Dupont to supply local corn seed to thousands of family farmers. Local seed has consistently outperformed the transnational product, and farmers helped develop El Salvador's own domestic seed supply-all while outsmarting the heavy hand of free trade. Read More

Keywords: El Salvador - Seeds

Being an Organizer and Being an Activist is not the same thing

On the difference between activists and organizers. According to Al Giordano, activists tend to focus on events and protests with no long-term plan except to hope that others will hear about the protests, an organizer is someone who knows that you have to win the hearts and minds of the public in order to make real changes. And you have to look for, and convince, the people who still don't agree with you or are apathetic about the issue, and you have to have to strategize about how you will find them and how you will attempt to persuade them. Read More

Keywords: Activism/Radicalism - Organizing

Community organising - a new part of the union

In Britain, the Unite initiative is bringing together union members and people from working-class communities - the unemployed, pensioners, students, and others without jobs. Unite's community branches take on issues facing working-class people in their communities, such as housing, evictions, benefits. Says Liane Groves of Unite, "It's about collective solidarity and finding our solutions." Read More

Keywords: Community Organizing - Workers' Centres

Organizing with Love: Lessons from the New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Campaign

Great organizing campaigns, says Ai-jen Poo, are like great love affairs. You begin to see life through a different lens. You change in unexpected ways. You lose sleep, but you also feel boundless energy. You develop new relationships and new interests. Your skin becomes more open to the world around you. Life feels different, and it's almost like you've been reborn. And, most importantly, you begin to feel things that you previously couldn't have even imagined are possible. Read More

Keywords: Labour Organizing - Workers' Rights

From the Archives

The Praxis Affair: There's a reason we put limits on spying within Canada

Paul Weinberg writes: "This is a cautionary story of what might happen if we return to the bad old days of the RCMP Security Service, which was caught disrupting and using dirty tricks against a wide range of unsuspecting groups before it was eventually disbanded, its spying responsibilities handed to a newly formed Canadian Security Intelligence Service. It is important to remember this period in light of proposed legislation that would expand CSIS's investigative powers as well as the types of activities its agents, and the RCMP, will consider as threats to the country." Read More

Keywords:National Security - Police Powers

People’s History: Palestinian Memory and Hope

A group of activists are working to create a Nakba Museum of Memory and Hope in Washington, D.C. The project aims to tell the Palestinian refugee story, one that has been silenced or ignored for too long. Its goals are to:

* Empower refugees by finally inviting them to tell their stories and share their experiences,

* Educate Americans about the Nakba and its continuous impact on present day life of the Palestinians,

* Build international solidarity and empathy with the Palestinian refugees who are scattered around the World,

* Make it known that the Nakba is not only an historical event; it is an ongoing process that has continued since 1948,

* Build a legacy that speaks to both peoples that sharing the land is indeed possible.

They are raising funds to launch the museum. To contribute, or for more information, see https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/nakba-museum-project-of-memory-and-hope

Keywords: Nakba - Palestine

Execution of Paris Communards Foreshadowed Mass Murders of 20th Century

The short-lived Paris Commune of 1871 lasted only a little more than two months before being ruthlessly crushed. A new book by Yale Professor John Merriman, "Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune," provides a remarkably detailed account of the uprising that Karl Marx hailed as the first working-class revolution. Read More

Further reading: Karl Marx, The Civil War in France

Keywords: Paris Commune - Revolutionary Moments

Topic of the Week: Organizing

The Connexions Organizing Resources page features a wealth of experiences, ideas, and information about organizing. Additional resources can be found on specific pages in the Connexions Subject Index, such as Community Organizing, Labour Organizing, Workplace Organizing, and Organizing.

Website of the Week: Labor Notes

Labor Notes is an American media and organizing project that is a voice of union activists "who want to put the movement back in the labor movement." In addition to its website, Labor Notes publishes books and a magazine, and holds conferences and workshops. They promote organizing, aggressive strategies to fight concessions, alliances with workers' centers, and unions that are run by their members. Labor Notes is also a network of rank-and-file members, local union leaders, and labor activists who know the labor movement is worth fighting for. They encourage connections between workers in different unions, workers centers, communities, industries, and countries to strengthen the movement -- from the bottom up. Visit them here.

Keywords: Union Organizing - Workers' Rights

Book of the Week: A Troublemaker's Handbook 2

A manual for workers who want to take control over their lives at work. In hundreds of first-person accounts, workers tell in their own words how they organized and struggled to do that. The stories run from how to ridicule a pompous boss to a years-long campaign against a multinational corporation. The workplaces represented include factory and white collar, public and private, in the U.S. and Canada. Each chapter ends with questions designed to get users thinking strategically about how to apply what they've read in their own workplaces. Read More

Keywords: Labour Organizing - Workplace Organizing

Film of the Week: Harlan County USA

Directed by Barbara Kopple. An Oscar-winning documentary film which covers the "Brookside Miner's Strike" in Harlan County, southeast Kentucky. The coal company's refusal to sign a contract when mineworkers form a union leads to a strike which lasts more than a year and which includes both daily organizing and pitched battles between miners and their families, and guntoting company thugs.

More Information

Keywords: Strikes - Solidarity

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Seeds of Fire

March 12, 1795

Birth of William Lyon Mackenzie (1795-1861), Canadian journalist, publisher, reformer, politician, and rebel; leader of the 1837 Rebellion in Upper Canada.

March 12, 1912

Workers led by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) win the Lawrence, Massachusetts “Bread & Roses” textile strike after 32,000 workers, most of them young female immigrants, half of them under the age of 18, stay out on strike for nine weeks demanding a wage increase, double time for overtime, and safer working conditions.

March 12, 1955

A Salt Satyagraha (Salt March) led by Mohandas Gandhi protests the British-imposed tax on salt in India. Gandhi and thousands of others walk 388 kilometres from Ahmedabad to the sea, where Gandhi himself makes salt from the sea in violation of the British edict. Feeling their hold in India threatened by this mass disobedience, the British imprison more than 60,000 people.

Read more →

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Thanks to Tahmid Khan and Ulli Diemer for their work on this newsletter.


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