For Tibetans, the Fight for a Home Continues in Parkdale

For twenty years, Parkdale has been a “destination” neighbourhood for thousands of Tibetan refugees. They've made their homes in the mid and highrise apartment buildings up and down Jameson, Tyndall, Dunn, and the other streets and avenues of this neighbourhood. Their kids go to the schools, play in the parks, and chill on the corners and planter boxes of their neighbourhood. They organize their rallies outside the Chinese Consulate from the local shops and they march from Cowan Ave. They access public services from Parkdale Community Legal Services, Masaryk Cowan Community Centre, Parkdale Project Read Program, and multiple other settlement and language service centres. Programs of mutual aid and support spring independently from the library, shops, and apartment units here.

If the property owners and landlords in Parkdale have their way, this will all be a thing of the past. The “sense of community” and “diversity” that Tibetan working-class families have helped build in this neighbourhood has now made it a “destination” neighbourhood for others. And landlords are looking to cash in by pricing all of us out.

While what's going on today is different than the Canadian government's recent attempts to ethnically cleanse Parkdale of our Roma neighbours, it will carve a similar hole from the heart of this neighbourhood. Whereas craven racist politicians and their CBSA systematically deported hundreds of our Roma neighbours - they would hardly bat an eye at celebrating the “diversity” of “Little Tibet”. Nonetheless the cold economic logic of the politicians' best friends – developers and landlords – demands the displacement of all those that can't foot the bill for a $1,100 bachelor or $1,400 one bedroom apartment.

Toronto Legal Clinics under Threat of Closure

In 2013 Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) announced that the province’s community legal clinics needed to “provide more clinic law services in a more efficient and effective manner.”[1] Fearing funding cuts, several Toronto legal clinic executive directors made a deal with LAO; they would develop a plan to make the legal clinic system more “efficient” and in the meantime, LAO would agree not to cut their funding. The Directors call their plan the GTA Legal Clinic Transformation Project. Its aim is to close the existing legal clinics and to replace them with three mega-clinics for the entire GTA (Greater Toronto Area). [2]

The seventeen legal clinics currently operating in the GTA provide legal defense to low-income people facing eviction, wage theft, deportation, and being cut off social assistance. A few of these legal clinics have a history of supporting community organizing and advocacy work such as tenant associations and campaigns for access to services for non-status immigrants and refugees. Legal clinics also offer a small number of fast-disappearing decent, public sector jobs.

Closing neighbourhood legal clinics will mean reduced access to legal services. People in need of legal assistance will have to travel greater distances to get it, and will be screened before ever receiving service. Legal clinic workers will lose their jobs and be forced to compete for employment in the new mega-clinics. Workers in the mega-clinics will be burdened with even heavier caseloads and will have a new layer of middle management to deal with.[3] Both the staff of legal clinics and the people they serve will be hurt by their closures.

Defending Legal Clinics

MORTAR VOLUME 2

The second volume of Mortar, Common Cause's theoretical journal, is now available online. Inside you will find an editorial introduction, along with articles covering anti-organizationalist sentiment within the North American anarchist movement, anarchism and the Welfare State, a contemporary redux of the Bourgeois Influences on Anarchism, anarchist approaches to contending with sexual assault and a critique of contemporary anti-oppression politics. We encourage feedback and responses, which can be sent to mortar@riseup.net.

Charted and Uncharted Territories: Common Cause and the Role of the Anarchist Organization

1 Kitchener-Waterloo member, 1 Toronto member, and 2 Hamilton members

I. On the Question of Organization

The decision by a group of people, no matter how few, to commit themselves to collective and protracted struggle and to reject 'on the go' politics, shapes everything that follows.
Grace Lee Boggs (1972), Organization Means Commitment

These days, the phrase “anarchist organization” is widely seen as a contradiction of terms. For those whose opinions of anarchism are shaped by dominant society, this is perfectly understandable. In the crude caricature fashioned by capitalist media depictions and reinforced through popular culture, anarchy is synonymous with chaos, spontaneous violence, and a vicious, Hobbesian state of nature.

However, more pertinent to us is that even within anarchist circles, the idea of an anarchist organization is often seen either as an oxymoron, or more commonly, as an inherently authoritarian structure somewhat akin to a Leninist cult. And as anarchists who have derived considerable practical benefits from our participation in a formally structured organization, we feel that much of this confusion boils down to a misunderstanding of terms and history.

Anarchism, the Welfare State, and Social Assistance

1 Toronto member, 1 former Toronto member, 2 Kitchener-Waterloo members

Unemployment is a permanent fixture of capitalism. It is not simply the outcome of those who make bad life choices. There are no “cracks” to fall through when the entire foundation is designed with gaping holes. Mass unemployment is not merely a failure to apply a more compassionate capitalism, or a more Keynesian economic model with progressive taxation and better state provisions for the working class. Even the major structural reforms that brought about the post-World War II establishment of the Welfare State never ended unemployment. In fact, in hindsight we can see that these reforms merely set up a system whose subsequent dismantling has left a pacified and disorganized working class in its wake.

For too long, many anarchists have adopted a defensive posture to these issues, focused on the short-term and immediate needs of the unemployed and those on social assistance. Reformist goals cloaked in militant tactics have drawn anarchists like moths to the flame, and have born little reflective analysis on how appeals to the State could ever truly prefigure our broader goals of mutual aid and revolutionary dual power. In this article we've attempted to find contemporary and historical examples than can potentially aid in realigning this tendency towards a broader revolutionary strategy.

Defining Parameters

Bourgeois Influence on Anarchism - Redux

1 Hamilton member, 1 Toronto member, 1 former Toronto member

Reading Luigi Fabbri today, an anarchist of the revolutionary communist bent in Canada may feel a sense of smug satisfaction coupled with a dash of arrogant resentment. The way he set his sights on the debasement of our political tradition might have us thinking we're reading the words of a kindred spirit. How very accurate and tragically humorous his polemic feels to us. All the more because it was penned nearly a century ago. However, have we really earned the self-satisfied head nodding and chuckles that accompany our reading of Bourgeois Influence on Anarchism? Fabbri took to task the growing sentiment within the anarchist tradition that glorified the outlaws, bombers, and assassins of his day. We read on with our own anarcho-rogues gallery of anti-organizationalists, black bloc puritans, and deep green resisters playing in our head. But are these really the contemporary correlatives of bougiefied anarchism?

Luigi Fabbri is among the ranks of dead anarchist communists of years passed. With his comrade Ericco Malatesta, Fabbri not only shared Italian birth and revolutionary zeal, but also a remarkable talent for political analysis and the turnings of phrase. The following passage from his above-mentioned 1917 essay should suffice as testament to his ability and a brief explanation of its content.

Taking Account of our Politics: An Anarchist Perspective on Contending with Sexual Violence

Editor's note: This article discusses some of our members' experiences of sexual assault and accountability processes. Where we have included specific details, we have only done so with the consent of those parties involved.

1 Hamilton member, 1 Toronto member, 1 former Toronto member

In the fall of 2010, several female members of Common Cause took on the task of developing a sexual violence policy for the organization. At the time, and as far as we were aware, there had never been an instance of sexual violence in Common Cause. Our drive to write the policy came from some members' past experiences of being sexually assaulted while participating in other organizations, from a desire to do better, and from our own readings on sexual violence and accountability processes generally. Since then, we have, unfortunately, had to make use of the policy to address issues of sexual violence as an organization. There have been situations in which our members have been sexually assaulted, situations where members have been aggressors, and situations outside our organization where we have been asked or felt compelled to offer our perspective.

With Allies Like These: Reflections on Privilege Reductionism

2 Hamilton members, 1 Toronto member

Over the course of the last several decades, anti-oppression politics have risen to a position of immense influence on activist discourse in North America. Anti-oppression workshops and reading groups, privilege and oppression checklists and guidelines, and countless books, online blogs and articles make regular appearances in anarchist organizing and discussion. Enjoying a relatively hegemonic position in Left conversation, anti-oppression politics have come to occupy the position of a sacred object—something that expresses and reinforces particular values, but does not easily lend itself to critical reflection. Indeed, it is common for those who question the operating and implications of anti-oppression politics to be accused of refusing to seriously address oppression in general. A political framework should be constantly reflected upon and evaluated—it is a tool that should serve our struggles and not vice versa.

This is Parkdale

Editor's Note: Parkdale is a historic working class neighborhood in west-end Toronto and has been a first home in Canada to many successive groups of immigrants to the city. Since the late 90's Parkdale has undergone gentrification, though not to the same extent as other downtown neighbourhoods. Along with Toronto's Downtown East, Parkdale is one of the most difficult downtown neighbourhoods to fully gentrify. This is largely due to its high concentration of rental housing, including many apartment buildings in deteriorating condition.

By a member of Common Cause Toronto

To the east, developers have swallowed up every viable square foot of available land and packed them with condos at a break-neck pace. Up and down the north-south streets, rental houses, duplexes, and triplexes are being “updated”,“flipped”, and renovated into “homes”. The last of the rooming houses are giving way to real estate agents and their contractors. The past year has seen the systematic removal of almost all Roma residents through deportation, eviction, and rent increases. Renovations on mid and high rise apartment blocks are quickly followed by harassment or eviction of current tenants - with huge rent increases for their replacements. When called, police show up by the truck-load. When left to their own devices they troll the streets like ne'er do well teens – but with guns and bats. Two consecutive years of staff reductions at the three local schools. Staff, hours, and program cuts at neighbourhood community services and library. It's all been said before, and more.

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