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(en) From 1988 Gathering to AR! 1998

From pns@pathcom.com
Date Sun, 30 Aug 98 21:27:11 +0100


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The following is the written version of a talk that was given at the recent Œ98 Active Resistance Conference in Toronto to provide context from the 1988 Anarchist Survival Gathering, alos held in Toronto. 

Greetings, On behalf of the organizers of the 1988 Survival Gathering, I would like to welcome you all to Toronto. The Gathering was a real key event in helping to revitalize the Toronto left after the it had hit a low point in the mid Œ80s. We can only hope that this conference can also help to renew the political energy in Toronto and elsewhere.

That Gathering represented a coming out for the anarchist community in Toronto. It legitimized anarchism here in a way that no other event could have. We withstood a media campaign that initially warned of 10,000 Nazis coming to town. The police went around warning that there would be rioting around the city. Politicians tried to get a city run community centre to cancel our permit to hold the Gathering there.

But we withstood the pressure, and many non-anarchists came out and gave us crucial support. They realized that many of the most respected and the hardest working activists were anarchists. They might not agree with us, but when the crunch came down, they were there for us. And the Gathering itself went off without a hitch. For the first three days, the cops, in large numbers stood around just waiting for an incident. But they were  disappointed as everything went like clockwork.

It is true enough the Day of Action on the Fourth day, gave all the nay sayers what they were looking. A demonstration protesting the American military shooting down an Iranian passenger plane. Street fighting with the police started almost immediately. Many people were arrested. Some people say that the police started the fighting. Others that it was the anarchists. But both sides seemed more than ready to get it on. The straighter anarchists were appalled, thinking that a couple of hours of fighting the cops would destroy all the gains in credibility that we had made over the three days of workshops. But fortunately, they were wrong. People may have thought the Day of Action was stupid, but still, they knew our politics were more developed that.

This conference shares many themes with the Œ88 Gathering.

We considered Anarchism as a living and multi-faceted political movement rather than a historical artifact. . We emphasized activism over abstract theory. We choose to reach out beyond the anarchists to the larger independent left in Toronto. And we worked hard to reach out to younger anarchists all over North America. We were successful in meeting these goals. We came out of the Gathering much inspired and much stronger.

The majority of people who helped organized the Gathering are still around, and still active in one way or another, ten years later. Indeed, two recent court decisions here that represented significant  ³victories² here in Toronto, the Friends of the Lubicon and the Jane Doe decision were at least partially rooted in the Gathering. We can hope, and work towards ensuring that this conference will have a similar long term impact.

The Gathering, of course, shares not just the positive negative aspects. It wasnıt free of racism and sexism. Then, as now, anarchism has two possible paths. It either remains primarily white, or is a means to reach out to the anti-authoritarians that are in all cultures, all nations, all peoples. Many of the organizers played down our identification as anarchists shortly after the Gathering because we realized that we had more in common with Native and Black (or New African) activists and revolutionaries than we had with many anarchists. Those of us who are white canıt expect that Native people, that people of colour, will become anarchists like us. If anarchism as a movement canıt learn to reach beyond our traditional milieu, the legacy of these Gatherings will only be as historical curiosities.

To end, I would like to thank the organizers for their work in pulling this conference together. I can well imagine how much work and stress that it took to pull it off. And I would like to once again thank those who came to Toronto from out of town, and all those from Toronto who are attending. Have a good time, learn from each other, check out the city, and good luck.

Jim Campbell
pns@pathcom.com


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