Labour should Probe G20 crimes, dispel anarchist delusions

On August 23, seventy-three of the 304 people facing charges at the Ontario Court of Justice in connection with the G20 summit protests had their cases either settled or dismissed. It appears that many of the other charges will be dropped, simply because the cops have no case – proving they never did have a legal basis for detaining more than 1000 people and stuffing them into wire cages for much of the weekend of June 26 and 27. The agenda of the police and their political overlords was to paralyze and criminalize dissent against the global corporate agenda. For that reason, socialists demand that all the charges be dropped, including against the 17 alleged ‘ringleaders’ of the vandalism that occurred on the fringes of the locked-down core of Toronto.

But there is much more to be said and done about this situation.

In the first place, a broad, independent, public enquiry is still needed. It should look into the decision to turn the city into an armed camp, into police actions that ranged from passively watching (and perhaps covertly instigating) property damage to sudden mass arrests, and most importantly, look into the harmful G20 agenda itself.

The labour movement is the social force that can and should conduct such an open enquiry. It would be foolish to rely on Ottawa, Queen’s Park or the police to investigate themselves and tell the truth. At least unions can be held accountable to their members, who constitute a large section of the working class, the progressive majority class in society.

A labour probe into G20 crimes against civil liberties, against working people and the global environment, will not only have the power to put the spotlight on the most important issues; it will dispel the delusions of anarchist sympathizers. Spokespersons for the Toronto Community Mobilization Network, the body that endorsed the opportunist ‘diversity of tactics’ that shielded the vandals of the Black Bloc, told a public meeting of 160 on August 17 that “we showed we could shut down the city”. “The resistence is now stronger than ever” said the TCMN’s Syed Hussan.

The truth is that ‘the resistence’ is now burdened with enormously debilitating legal expenses. Opposition to the global capitalist agenda has largely been diverted into a defence of liberal democracy. And the corporate elite is proceeding with attacks on working people and the environment at full speed. ‘Propaganda of the deed’ by a self-appointed group of privileged, mostly white male youths did not electrify the masses into anti-capitalist action. It did temporarily hike the popularity of the police, and it provided an apparent, albeit false, justification for Stephen Harper’s obscene expenditure of over $1.5 billion for ‘security’, preparing the ground for more repressive measures to come.

The Tamil community’s non-violent occupation of a downtown Toronto expressway in May 2009, and the year-long miners’ strike at Vale S.A. in Sudbury, did more to disrupt the capitalist economy than the actions of the anarcho-vanguardist Black Bloc could ever do.

The real power to shut down the city was demonstrated on October 25, 1996. That’s when a general strike by unions protesting the Mike Harris Ontario Conservative government kept a million workers at home or on picket lines, and mobilized over a quarter million people who marched and swarmed the Legislature at Queen’s Park the next day. (Even then, black-clad youths tried unsuccessfully to split off a segment of the huge protest march.)

The second, equally important task facing the workers’ movement today is to re-focus and step up the fight against the bosses’ austerity drive. A good place to start is the battle against Ontario Liberal Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s attempt to impose a two-year wage freeze on over a million public service workers. Punitive legislation should be met with mass job action. But we have yet to see any resolve from the labour leadership to move in that direction.

The widely read leftist monthly magazine Canadian Dimension summarized the post-G20 situation aptly with these words in its September-October 2010 editorial:

“While the Black Bloc eschews mass organization and accountability, organized labour is abdicating any leadership role in political struggle. That will change only by building mass organizations inside and outside the unions that can exert pressure on them and provide ideological leadership.”

We agree. -Barry Weisleder