Saul Alinsky & the dangers of Antifa (+ happy 100 CP & walking away from NAFTA could be good for Canada too?)

Sep 3rd, 2017 | By | Category: In Brief

Yesterday down at the beach it almost seemed that the great storms down south were making  some of their way to the northern woods.

I had in any case already started this past Friday before Labour Day 2017 with brief notices from the east and west coasts of the impressive “too much geography” that is Canada today.

From The Guardian in Prince Edward Island on the Atlantic Ocean : “Front-row seat to history: National news agency The Canadian Press marks 100 years.” (And for somewhat more depth see also this more central Canadian article from late 2010 : “Major publishers invest in Canada’s oldest news agency … The owners of The Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and La Presse have invested in The Canadian Press.”)

And then from the Victoria Times Colonist on Vancouver Island this past Friday : “Opinion: Call Trump’s bluff, walk away from NAFTA.” (A thought that regularly occurs to me as well lately. It could actually be good for our northern North American economy … maybe? And for another central Canadian gloss on the attractions of multicultural Canada today see also, on You Tube : “Hot Girls Dancing Gangnam Style in a Toronto Supermarket.”)

Meanwhile, the more serious issue at the back of my mind lies somewhere in the middle of these late August 2017 headlines : “Unmasking the leftist Antifa movement” (Sara Ganim and Chris Welch, CNN) ; “Masked counterprotestors violently drive out right-wing demonstrators at Berkeley rally” (Toronto Star) ; “The Democratic silence on antifa is dangerous” (Chicago Tribune) ; and “Violent demonstrators in Berkeley are thugs, not activists (Los Angeles Times)”.

You can find a more sympathetic view of the “Antifa movement” in “‘They have no allegiance to liberal democracy’: an expert on antifa explains the group … Why a loose network of militant activists is confronting fascists.” This is an interview with Mark Bray, “a historian at Dartmouth College and author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.”

Mr. Bray himself opines : “Will a lot of people see antifa and their methods as a poor reflection of the left? Absolutely. But I also think that these are not people who were going to vote Democrat anyway. If you read the news … you know that Nancy Pelosi has nothing to do with antifa. This group loathes the Democratic Party, and they don’t hide that … So anyone who blames the Democrats for antifa is likely already disposed to vote Republican anyway.”

“Eugene Antifa” (in Oregon).

I am finally myself left with some passages from an article on the late great American “Anti-Fascist” radical democrat and community organizer Saul Alinsky (1909—1972) by my friend Frank Bunting, that first appeared on this site back in the fateful year 2010.

As Bunting explained then : “there was in Saul Alinsky’s concept of building ‘people’s organizations’ none of the ‘glorification of violence’ as a political ‘cleansing force’ that Maurice Cranston saw as a key feature of the New Left  … At one point [in an interview with Playboy] …  Alinsky was talking about organizing tactics that demonstrated all ‘the elements of good organization – imagination, legality, excitement and, above all, effectiveness.’ The Playboy interviewer jumped in with ‘And coercion …’  But Alinsky quickly came back: ‘No, not coercion –  popular pressure in the democratic tradition.’”

Frank Bunting concluded with : “In Rules for Radicals Alinsky also stressed, as one recent friendly commentator has put it, ‘that people should not underestimate the room to manoeuvre in democratic systems.’ Alinsky’s community organizing, he urged himself, could only survive in democratic societies underpinned by a working rule of law. Adding the white middle-class mainstream in America to the black ghettoes and Latino barrios was the wave of his radical organizing future.”

Leaders from Lake County United peoples’ organization in Libertyville, Illinois, at meeting on selling 19 acres of local township property for affordable housing, July 2017.

An entire section of Marion K. Sanders’s minor classic of the mid 1960s , The Professional Radical: Conversations with Saul Alinsky (originally in Harper’s magazine), is entitled “The Making of an Anti-Fascist.” Alinsky wore what was once this 1930s-1940s political terminology with serious distinction.

Those who want to wear the same clothes today should take a tip from former US President Barack Obama, and study the legacies of America’s great radical democratic community organizing guru much more closely. That at least is what I think when I hear people like Mark Bray talk about “Anti-Fascism” in Donald Trump’s America of 2017. (O … and Happy Labour Day 2017 too!)

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