Posted by: Colin Anderson | April 10, 2009

The High Cost of Taking on the Corporate University

Radical anarchist physics professor Denis Rancourt stands for activist learning and a democratic academy.

Rancourt PosterOn April 21st and 22nd, internationally recognized and controversial professor-activist Denis Rancourt will be giving a series of talks on academic freedom and radical learning in Winnipeg.  Dr. Rancourt was recently dismissed from his position at the University of Ottawa, despite having tenure, to the dismay of academics and faculty unions across North America.  He will discuss the events surrounding his battle with the University of Ottawa, the need to democratize universities, as well as his highly controversial positions on global climate change and the role of violence in activism. He will speak and teach at two larger events and two smaller workshops over the two-day period.

Event Details:

This event will be hosted by: the University of Manitoba Graduate Students Association as well as the “Shaking The Tree: Activism, Change & the Environment” course also based at the U. of Manitoba (https://mbactivism.wordpress.com). All events are free and open to the public.

  • April 21 – High Cost and Benefit of Taking on the Corporate University – U. of Manitoba at noon (GSA Lounge, University Centre)
  • April 21 – Critical Pedagogy: Universities that Train but Fail to Educate – Mondragon Café and Bookstore at 7 pm (91 Albert St, Main Floor)
  • April 22 – Global Warming: Truth or Dare – U. of Manitoba at 10 am (218 Wallace Bldg)
  • April 22 – Risk Avoidance Pathology in First World Activism -Rudolf Rocker Center at 2 pm (91 Albert St, 3rd Floor)

Read More…

Posted by: Colin Anderson | March 30, 2009

Good Food Club Video

We have posted the first of the videos featured at the Shaking the Tree Video Celebration that took place at the Mondragon Bookstore and Coffeehouse on March 5th, 2009.

Food security exists when all people at all times have access to as much safe and nutritious food as they need in order to meet their dietary needs for an active and healthy life. The Good Food Club is a unique initiative centred in Winnipeg’s West Broadway that works with members of the community to provide community cafes, fresh food boxes, local farming opportunities, and a community vegetable market. Read More…

Posted by: Colin Anderson | February 25, 2009

Community video screenings and celebrations – come on down!

Shaking the Tree: Grassroots Activism in Winnipeg
A Video Celebration of Local Social and Environmental Change…

movie-night-march-5-v1

When: March 5th, 2009. Food at 6pm. Movies from 7-9pm.

What: a collection of community groups will come together to celebrate the debut of five videos celebrating local social and environmental change. Free food and fun.

Where: Mondragon Bookstore and Coffeehouse

Video shorts include: Community Gardens, Good Food Club, Bike Dump, Sustainable Greenhouses,  Local Food, and  Restorative Justice

Contact: shakingthetreemovies@gmail.com for more information.

Click here for more information.

Posted by: Colin Anderson | February 3, 2009

Violence as self-defeat

We are currently reading Ward Churchill‘s writing: “Pacifism as Pathology”. A short summary of the thesis could read: ‘by strictly using non-violent tactics, activists are only reinforcing their/our oppression’. The summarized argument goes:

  • PacifismAsPathologyDespite the fact that many activists are committed to challenging or even overthrowing the social order, pacifist tactics may in fact be reinforcing it.
  • Most activism is carefully controlled, allowed, a calculated amount of dissent to be practiced in sanctioned areas with proper permits.
  • Thus many or most activists engage in what Churchill would call pseudo-praxis; that is, working from within the limitations imposed through the dominant culture itself (typically through the state)
  • Churchill gives a number of examples of historical events where pacifists acquiesced, and suffered greatly. (Civil rights movement, holocaust, Indian Independence Movement [Gandhi]) His argument is that if they had fought back, they would have been further ahead.
  • He also argues that the apparent success of Gandhi and MLK and the survival of the Jews (as opposed to complete genocide) was a result of violent action (The Black Panthers for example in the case of MLK)
  • Finally, he argues that pacifism is inherently racist – basically, activists in the global north have the privilege to be pacifists while the oppressed in the global south face a much more violent state/system/culture and colonial influences from the North. Can we really stand in solidarity with the South if they are forced into violence and abstain from it (even though we can likely affect more change on our colonial policy/actions from within than can be done from the colonized regions)

First of all, I wouldn’t uncritically accept all of Churchill’s historic examples – this is his interpretation (which he is entitled to). Now, where do I stand. I believe that non-violent strategies and tactics should be, can be and will be at the centre of positive social change(s). I don’t believe that violence should be a part of a broad strategy for social change(s), however am not a pacifist, and recognize that, in isolated circumstances, violence may be the most appropriate way forward – but as a last option (but, who decides when you are at that “last resort” stage?). This position is rooted in a belief that violence is always oppressive and that it is unlikely (perhaps not impossible) that violent actions will lead to a more just world. In this entry, I will work through my current and evolving thinking on the subject. Read More…

Posted by: johnneufeld | January 29, 2009

A Summary of Rupert

In his article, “Gramscian (re-)vision of the politics of governance/resistance,” Mark Rupert attempts to rephrase western Marxism to align with the semi-globalized anti-capitalism movements coalescing throughout the world.  This class based interpretation seems to lend itself well to the growing dynamic of resistance throughout the global “proletariat.”  The similarities found between the Gramscian “intellectual-moral bloc” and the global anti-capitalism movement are striking, and even promising.
Gramsci’s vision of revolution, as interpreted by Rupert, grows out of what might be considered the opposite of Marx’s vision of capitalism.  Scott Solomon’s idea of the “dual freedom” of capitalism (quoted by Rupert), suggests that although capitalism liberates society of the politico-economics of feudalism it in turn enslaves the very people it emancipates through a different social structure of oppression.  Instead of being peasants to Kings and Queens, those oppressed are under the influence manufactured needs and commodities.  When economy is separated from government, as is almost the case in the USA humans become stock and lives become commodified, and although developed democracies limit the degree  to which their own population is subjected to such subservience there are few if any laws regarding the global south.  Globalization of this system has lead to a worldwide oppression, a northern kingdom built on the backs of a southern proletariat.
It is against this system that many of the anti-globalization movements Rupert describes have arisen.  According to Gramsci these movements are built from the bottom up.  Grassroots movements, growing and working off one another in a participatory fashion in order to be a revolution in the midst of repression.  A particularly interesting portion of Gramsci’s conjectures is the idea of a popular common sense.  In my view it seems that some have taken for granted the knowledge found in communities with no unversities, colleges or even formalized methods of education.  When grassroots movements from such places interact with those more “sophisticated” I would hope that a Gramscian vision of teacher/student would be central to the exchange.
Whether the anti-globalization movement and other movements around the world actually represent a Gramscian vision of revolution on a global scale or not has yet to be seen.  If Rupert’s interpretation of Gramsci is correct, then we should hope that it does.

Posted by: Colin Anderson | January 23, 2009

What is activism?

Our class took some time to think through just what “activism” means to us. Each of the 10(ish) participants contributed 3-4 sticky notes that described actions and ideas that wetools-of-social-justice-stephanie-mcmillan associate with activism. We spent 15 minutes or so clustering the ideas up on a white board, trying to tease out some common themes. Limited by time, we didn’t get a chance to really work through the ideas and we will likely need to revisit this exercise at some point. However, there were some key themes that came out, some identified by our group and some I am adding in:

  • Individual vs. collective action
  • Through the Market
  • Violent vs. non-violent
  • Active resistance versus passive resistance
  • Spirituality
  • Introspection Read More…
Posted by: Colin Anderson | January 14, 2009

The Course Site – Where to Go From Here

CalfTesting… Testing… Well, this seems like a pretty useful tool. I have started a wordpress (www.wordpress.com) site as a place where we can post readings, host on-line discussions, disseminate information, keep blogs, etc. It took me about an hour to get set up and could be a useful tool, depending on the groups inclination to use it. On the right hand side, I have installed a widget called box.net which is an on-line hard-drive where we can upload the readings and then download them. I can put all of the readings up and then set it up so anyone can add files (pdf, .doc, mp3s, videos, whatever).

The idea would be that we all could be editors and designers of the site, which could be a public site to disseminate information, recruit course participants and facilitate our internal dialogue. Or, it could just be a place to download the readings. Was thinking that if it were the former, that it might sustain beyond the course and perhaps be “picked up” by the next years crew and used in-between by anyone who might want to contribute. To that end, we can always add additional members as we go that can edit, design, contribute as they like. In this way, it is a completely non-hierarchical, participatory space free for all to use.

Having a public website would also be a great way to involve more people in the course and hopefully be a way to get more people from the community out to the Tuesday night sessions.

Another idea, would be to start a blog. Maybe, as a part of the course, we could each commit to writing at least one blog entry (this could also be a component of the course evaluation) about the course, the readings, a topical issue in activism, the campaign, etc.? Just a thought.

So:

option 1: Just use the site as a place to download readings from

option 2: Everyone learns the basics of wordpress and we use it as a internal/external communications tool for the course and possibly beyond. If we did this, it would require a commitment by all to contribute to it. If everyone does a little bit, it really wouldn’t take much effort to do this

Anyhow, if we want to give option 2 a shot, the next thing to do would be to add everyone as administrators of the site and I could take 15 minutes during the next class to teach the basics of wordpress (which is really simple, especially once you have already set up the site). If we choose option 1, I will maintain the site, and also teach Stef how to use it and it can simply be an accesible (more accessible to JUMP which excludes everyone but students/profs i.e. community) place to access readings.

Hope all is well.

Colin

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