January 1, 2014

365 Days of Struggle: Rebel Youth looks back at 2013

Special to Rebel Youth

Sometimes as activists in the youth and student movement it seems as if the meetings, the demonstrations, the article writing and news reading blend together, making it difficult to get a clear perspective on recent history.

This piece aims to synthesize important events in 2013 through coverage in Rebel Youth.  When we look back we can see that 2013 was a year of sharpening attack on the working-class globally, felt even more sharply by young workers and students, but it was also a year of growing resistance in Canada and around the world.

The following events of 2013 outlined below are not an exhaustive list, but a reflection of some of our coverage from the last year.  If you think we’ve missed something big please submit a comment or better yet, if you think there’s a hole in our coverage, submit an article.

So let’s take a brief look back on 2013…

Imperialist aggression intensifies

The year opened with direct military intervention in Mali, lead by the people of Mali’s old colonial oppressors; the French state.

In the Spring, sabre rattling from the United States hit a fevered pitch around events in the Korean peninsula, threatening a war with nuclear potential.

Some of the veil was torn off imperialism’s true face with the leaks provided by US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.  But the US state fought back, including trying to intimidate (unsuccessfully) progressive governments and leaders in Latin America, through the kidnapping of Bolivian President Evo Morales.

US backed “rebels” in 2013 were unable to tear apart the Syrian state, despite years of increasing support from imperialist governments.  By late Summer, a chemical weapons attack was used as a pretext by the Obama administration to move within a hair of direct military intervention. Mobilizations against the war in Syria sprouted up around the world, including across Canada.

Communist Party of Turkey activists in "Gezi Park uprising"
There was very notable resistance internationally.  This includes mass protest in Brazil over inequality, price hikes and poverty and in Turkey with the huge popular uprising, which began in Gezi Park.  Even just south of our border, strikes and days of action led by fast-food workers swept the United States demanding a minimum wage of $15/hr.

In December 2013, the year ended with a mass meeting of youth and students in Quito, Ecuador.  The 18th World Festival of Youth and Students brought together over 8 000 progressive youth under the banner of anti-imperialism and for peace, solidarity and social transformation.

The attack on youth and workers at home

The local face of imperialism has its current expression in the Harper Tories.  Their attack on workers continued to sharpen in the second year of their majority government.

This includes anti-democratic attacks on labour rights, such as trying to get rid of unions in federally regulated sectors and attempting to deter unions from political participation under the guise of “transparency”.

The Harper government deepened its agenda of austerity and has put Canada Post in it’s crosshairs with the proposed cancellation of rural delivery and other services paving the way for the privatization of Canada’s mail service.

Changes to Employment Insurance, with access and benefits tightened further by the Harper Tories, meant that a large majority of workers no longer qualify to receive benefits.

For students, tuition fees continued to rise across the country, except for in Newfoundland & Labrador, with debt loads becoming increasingly heavy.  While increasing numbers of young people are being shut out of education, it is more important than ever to put forward the case for cross-Canada unity and action from the student movement.  Students across the country continued to put forward the demand of free, accessible, quality public post-secondary education.

Workers fight back

These attacks and others did not pass without a fight and some of these fights were successful in driving the capitalist class back.

Protest in Quebec against Tory changes to EI
In Quebec and the East Coast there has been mass resistance to Harper’s theft of Employment Insurance.  In Ontario, migrant workers and their supporters fought back against the xenophobic restriction of EI’s parental benefits to seasonal migrant workers.  Students, backed by unions in Ontario organized against the racist exploitation of migrant workers by their employers and government policies that further marginalize them.

With unemployment rates at the same levels as when the crisis began and youth unemployment through the roof, young workers got together to begin organizing for the right to decent work and wages.  Campaigns against poverty wages and for a higher minimum wage sprang up and are ongoing.

At a provincial level, workers resisted governments that imposed contracts and attacked collective bargaining rights, including mass mobilization outside the Ontario Liberals’ convention in the Winter of 2013.

Resistance also began in the workplace with new strategies in organizing.  This includes a successful drive to organize barista unions in Nova Scotia.

The struggle for democratic culture and media continued throughout the year.  This included fighting against he militarization of sports and Rebel Youth’s own campaign to “Fire Kevin O’Leary” from the CBC, which got a great deal of coverage in other media and had over 1000 people sign a petition to fire O’Leary.

Aboriginal peoples rise up

Chief Theresa Spence
As 2013 began, the “Idle No More” movement ushered it in with demonstrations and actions across the country.  Chief Theresa Spence was still in the middle of her hunger strike which forced the Harper government to recognize the movement.

The Sisters in Spirit campaign continued with calls for an inquiry into the 600 murdered and missing Aboriginal women with actions on Valentine’s Day 2013.

In early Spring 2013, M├ętis people won an important victory with a Supreme Court ruling on the theft of lands, which took place 140 years ago.

The fight for a sustainable environment and against climate change

Resistance at Elsipogtog to fracking
Aboriginal peoples also played a leading role in many of the environmental struggles.  In Elsipogtog, First Nations’ members and members of surrounding communities in New Brunswick fought back against the dangerous practice of fracking, only to be faced with massive militarized police repression.

In Ontario and Quebec, there was a massive organized outcry against “Line 9” which is one of the many pipeline projects stemming from continued expansion of the Tar Sands.  Opposition to Line 9 included large protests outside government “consultation” and physically stopping construction from going ahead.

Days of action against Monsanto took place around the world, including in Canada, which fought against this mega-corporations’ environmental destruction, control over nature and attacks on the health of the people.

The struggle against state repression and for democratic rights

In Montreal, the police stepped up their repressive tactics of demonstrators using tactics of “kettling” and mass arrests.

In the Summer, police in Toronto murdered a young man by shooting him 9 times.  The murder of Sammy Yatim became a rallying cry for Toronto, especially victims of racialized police violence, and for an end to police impunity, including calls for civilian democratic control over the police.

In the Fall, a detention centre in Lindsay Ontario became the home to a lengthy hunger strike by immigrant detainees demanding better conditions and an end to indefinite detention.  Also in the fall, federal inmates went on strike to protest a massive decrease in their wages.

Anniversaries, “birthdays” and eulogies

In 2013 Rebel Youth marked some important anniversaries.  This included the 130th anniversary of the death of Karl Marx, the 96th “birthday” of the Russian Revolution and the 60th anniversary of Fidel Castro’s attack on the Moncada barracks which sparked the Cuban Revolution.

We also wrote and posted in the memory of some important figures and activists.  In the first part of 2013, Hugo Chavez, President of the Bolivarian Republic and hero of the international anti-imperialist movement died.  Harper, who never misses an opportunity to condemn progress and trumpet imperialism, mocked Chavez’s passing and insulted the Venezuelan people. 

At RY, we also commemorated the death of Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a Canadian hero and fighter for the reproductive rights of women. 2013 was also the 25th anniversary of the “Morgentaler” ruling by the Supreme Court, which legalized abortion in Canada.

The death of former British Prime Minister Margret Thatcher was celebrated publicly by many in the UK and by us at Rebel Youth blog, while recognizing that her ideas remain and urgently need to be defeated.

A year of scandal, corruption and startling revelations

Some interesting and startling things came to public light this year, which caught the attention of even the most cynical anti-capitalists.  These included historical revelations, such as proof that Aboriginal children had been deliberately starved and used in experiments in Canada in the 1940’s and 50’s.  Also, new research was released showing the systematic persecution of LGBTIQ, progressive and Communist Canadian government workers during the Cold War.

In terms of contemporary international revelations some of the tactics of Canadian and US imperialism were brought to light, including Canadian spying on the Brazilian government in the interests of the oil and mining industry, and the American NSA’s phone and email hacking of presidents and prime ministers around the world.

Rightwing politicians at home demonstrated new levels of contempt for the public.  As the Senate scandal and the sensationalized Rob Ford “crack scandal” blew up in the Conservative Party’s face, RY argued that we need to mobilize against the policies of rightwing governments, as scandals have a way of replacing people, but not necessarily effecting the class balance of forces.

On to 2014!

So there you have it, a brief look at a year on planet earth through the eyes of Rebel Youth.  A year that showed how low the ruling capitalist class can go to maintain the power to exploit with impunity, but also a year that demonstrated heroic resistance.  As we move into 2014 we look forward to covering the news and discussions of 2014 with the aim of bringing together these streams of resistance in the youth and student movement and to build the struggle for socialism!

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