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(en) Canada, Montreal, Media, Radical groups rise from the ashes of defunct anti-capitalist organization

Date Sat, 30 Sep 2006 11:02:41 +0300

Convergence (CLAC), an umbrella group at the heart of the city’s
progressive network that folded over the summer.
Almost immediately after the collapse of the Convergence, a new group
temporarily calling itself the Anti-Capitalist Network, began to hold
meetings, filling the void the CLAC left in its wake.
“There’s a need for a group like this because there’s such a
large social justice and anarchist movement in Montreal,” said Aaron
Lakoff, a Concordia student and former CLAC member who serves on the
Network’s communications committee.
“CLAC was a way to bring together many groups facing a common
enemy, but now the nature of the anti-capitalist movement has
changed,” Lakoff added.

The Convergence achieved renown through playing a central role in
organizing the protest against the 2001 Free Trade Area of the Americas
(FTAA) Summit held in Quebec City — the largest global justice
demonstration in Canadian history. Before its members voluntarily
disbanded, the CLAC had served as the city’s meeting point for various
anarchist, environmentalist, anti-war, housing rights, immigration rights,
and Latin American solidarity groups.

But many former members agreed that the CLAC lost its direction and
organizing ability in its last year. They said that between all the new groups
the Convergence had engendered – among them, an anarchist library, a
social housing advocacy group, and movement focused on stopping
deportations – CLAC had lost its purpose to be a meeting point and to
share tactics and support.

The CLAC was originally formed as a rallying point for the tens of
thousands of people organizing to oppose the FTAA summit. After
successfully making its point in Quebec City, it organized mass
demonstrations in Ottawa against the Group of Eight summit held in the
Alberta Rockies in 2002.

But many within the global justice movement felt the need to go beyond
“summit-hopping.” Rather than just focus on free-trade
agreements, Montreal activists, like many of their peers, sought to show the
connection between international and local struggles. They argue this
connection exposes the inherent inequality of free-market capitalism.

“It’s important to show the links between gentrification in Montreal
and the privatization of water in Bolivia,” said Lakoff, a long time social
justice activist.

Many Montreal activists felt this aim was lost as the CLAC focused more
on the day-to-day organizing of individual campaigns.

The Anti-Capitalist Network, still very much in its infancy, has focused
more on choosing decision-making procedures than on policy in its first few
meetings. Nevertheless, its members are committed to continuing where
the CLAC left off, and, of course, avoiding the problems that plagued the
Convergence near its end.

“As a whole, I would say that the CLAC worked out; it put
anti-capitalism on the map in Montreal and Quebec and it pushed the
debate on the FTAA,” said Sophie Schoen, a former CLAC member
who has attended some of the Network’s meetings.

“People who weren’t from the traditional activist community were
hearing an argument for ending capitalism,” she added.

Anarchists get organized

However, Schoen has been focusing most of her energy on jumpstarting
the Student Community Anarchist Network (SCAN) — a radical student
group that came out of the woodwork following the CLAC’s fall,
though its members say this is just a coincidence.

The impetus for creating the SCAN goes back to the province-wide student
strike in 2005, which pressured the provincial government to repeal its cuts
to the bursary and loan program. Many of the student organizers in the
SCAN were part of a more radical element of the strike that called for free
education and the restructuring of universities.

“This is a bunch of people who were involved in the student movement
and wanted to start a network that was more explicitly anarchist,” said

Unlike the Anti-Capitalist Network, which has avoided the term
“anarchist,” the SCAN plans to specifically focus on student issues.

“It’s more than just free education,” said Philippe Morin, a
McGill student who attended CLAC meetings in the past and has been
involved with the SCAN. “It’s more about attacking the roots of
rising tuition.”

The SCAN is organizing a general assembly in October for anarchist
students to decide on the direction of the group. It also seeks to increase its
profile by publishing a free newspaper, La Marmite, distributed to
campuses around Quebec.

“In Quebec, there’s a long history of social struggles on campuses,
and following last year’s strike, there’s been a lot of energy on
campuses,” Schoen said. “Actually, there’s a lot of energy
everywhere in Montreal right now.”

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