The Security and Prosperity Partnership and the Post-Leftist Challenge

by Duanarchy, July 24 2007

Over the last few months our in-boxes have no doubt been swamped by a tidal wave of eager and well-intentioned emails; all of which have prompted us to take notice of the otherwise rarely debated NAFTA-esque agenda that has been continually discussed by heavy-handed proponents of the Global Project. Subsequently, we are asked to express our dissent by taking our rage out onto the cold, uncompromising, streets of Montebello, Quebec where, on August 20th, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, will meet with both the United States and Mexican Presidents, George Bush and Felipe Calderon, to discuss what they are calling the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPPNA). What we do know about the partnership, despite that the majority of the talks have been and will continue to be held in secret1, is that the three national governments are seeking to expand the all-too-typical NAFTA agenda to include a "security" component which would allegedly operate as a safe-guard against "global terrorism"2. This new "security" component has led at least one critical reporter to suggest that, although the discourse still revolves around so-called free trade, these talks are "not just about economics any more" (Carlson, 2007). Thus, the new scheme for "economic integration" ought not to be merely labeled "NAFTA plus", as some have so naively dubbed it, but should more appropriately be labeled "NAFTA plus (inter)cultural fear." Indeed, the new model has been anything but purely economical (if it ever once was); instead it has now, without much doubt, entered into the arena of cultural and hence ideological conflict.

If the current Global Project is now for certain about more than mere economics in the traditional sense then perhaps the resistance(s) alike ought to once and for all transcend such narrow fixations. Perhaps, once and for all, resistance ought to break away from the shackles of the present-day conformation-camps built by the solidarity-based movements of yesterday--those that stressed the centrality of class, or the centrality of the struggle against something-ism--and should instead move towards an appreciation for the not-so-newly coined "post-modern grassroots movements"; these groups, the movements that emphasize the omnipresence of power, are challenging and indeed changing the landscape of, not only todays social movements but also, the structures that the other, largely hegemonic, movements assume to be the cause of most of todays social frustration.

In recent Canadian history we, as anarchists, have witnessed divergent forms of resistance to the concept of free trade and, more broadly, the Global Project. I am reminded in particular of the recent action against Atlantica on the east coast of the continent where, for all of the activists present, multiple strategies coalesced. On the one hand, in Saint John, New Brunswick, we witnessed Labour take to the streets and wave their signs and banners alongside, if only momentarily, a group of black clad direct actionists. On the other hand, however, we witnessed Labour swinging arms and cursing the anarchists for taking matters into their own hands -- for taking direct action and trying to shut down the conference itself. Not long after, in Halifax, we witnessed a similar popular regard for the concept of "diversity": tactics ranged from silently marching with a sign to taking direct action against police, media, banks, and those jock assholes who tried to run us over in their gas-guzzling S.U.V's. Labour, largely, was not present. But we should not be surprised by such a lack of solidarity, instead we should be reminded of a short speech that was made by the leader of Saint John Labour, Ron Oldfield. Something that I will never forget, he insisted that he was not, in fact, against the Atlantica concept per se, he simply wanted to insure that his union, and those who were lucky enough to secure a job, could benefit from the concepts implementation3; quite understandably, he wanted to make the less-privileged and tiny bit more privileged. But, such a politics is sure to secure small demands for some, to be sure, but it also secures for the "State", and for Atlantica proponents, the promise that such groups will continue to make demands - Labour's strategy metaphorically "locks" Atlantica in place such that they would never, in an act of revolution, have it overcome. To be sure, Labour, on this occasion, simply wanted to be given the gifts of their demands by Atlantica proponents, thereby ensuring to perpetuate the destructive state-sponsored policies by, in effect, legitimizing them and playing right into their hands.

Labour, and more broadly the "Left", was either nowhere to be found or, if they were in fact near, were sure to turn themselves into physical barriers so that we, the anarchists, could not take direct action - by all means, we were told that it was our strategy that worked in the interets of Atlantica. Ron Oldfield, in Saint John, New Brunswick, therefore instructed his union hench-persons to stand guard and ensure that we did not cross their carefully constructed barricade and enter the Atlantica conference. Such a move, Oldfield insisted, would cause the media and public opinion to make incorrect assessments as to what the anti-Globalization, and anti-Atlantica, activists truly were all about. The direct actionists, said Labour and the Atlantica proponents, "were a purely negative movement that nobody took seriously," a "hinderance to the movement," and "a joke" -- sentiments, to no surprise, shared by Brian Lee Crowley, one of Atlantica's leading thinkers.

At this point I can only urge you, as anarchists and comrades, to consider my questions: where were the Left when our dear friends, you included I'm sure, were brought behind enemy lines? Where was the rest of the Left when we were being kicked around and tasered by the cops? Where were the rest of the Left, ever, other than there to hinder, ridicule, and police our movement? Ron Oldfield is but one example of a much larger problem that is a non-reciprocating solidarity and aid to the Left; Oldfield was quick to scream at us, with fists clenched and arms waving: "Get a job".

If this lesson did not teach us anything about the value of post-left critique then the character of the current opposition to the Security and Prosperity Partnership certainly should; by googling such key phrases as "SPP Resistance" or "Stop SPP" you might be stunned by the range of voices. On the one hand, you would most likely stumble upon the Council of Canadians, a so-called left-wing citizens' organization that advocates such practices as fair trade and public health care, and who are busy trying to overcome the recently imposed 25 kilometer security perimeter by the heavy-handed defenders of the SPPNA. You will also find, among the Canadian opposition, such direct action based groups as No One Is Illegal, Vancouver, who are actively encouraging mass mobilization. Yet, on the other side of the border, you will find various groups, such as Stopspp.com, advocating to the masses: "[p]atriots, . . [r]emind them of the Constitution and our nations sovereignty and what it means to you." The websites author continues, "[o]ur government has the duty to keep up and protect our borders. They have the duty to protect the states and repeal invasions, not welcome them through closed door legislation. It is pretty obvious that they aren't going to abide by the United States Constitution so it is up [to] the the free citizens in this Republic to protect our nations sovereignty and ensure the freedoms of our free people." For these protesters the issues of the Left are propelling their opposition; indeed, it appears that their opposition is motivated by a fear of terrorism, a fear that, Canadian lefties, largely do not condone.

On both sides then (between Canada and the United States), for different reasons, you can see the discourse on sovereignty used just slightly differently: Maude Barlow fanatics on the left, for example, boast of the lost great democracy of Canada while patriots on the Right are suggesting that a North American Union would challenge the economic prosperity and security of the United States. Does this not then open up, once again, a space for some interesting debates between the Left's relationship with (post-)anarchists? Does it not, once again, pose a challenge to the traditional Leftist notion of power as emanating from a central problematic? Most of all, does it not, literally, force us to go back to the age-old argument of what exactly constitutes Solidarity and, perhaps, to what extent it is relevant to employ the use of a 'diversity of tactics'? Do not both concepts fall into the same hopeless and tired trap of accepting hegemonic and dominating moments within our own[ness] movements so that we could better fight that, supposedly, single problematic? Plain to see, the SPPNA is not the only concern today. Even more easy is it to see that the SPPNA is a direct consequence of the great illness they call patriotism. The true challenge is not to put off our issues, as anarchists, for another day - to fight on one front at a time, it is to remain consistent and to wage our wars on as many fronts as we can.

Should we, as anarchists, be willing to stand aside patriots without tension so that we can, once and for all, fight the bigger evil that is the SPPNA? Or ought we to sincerely embrace a "I don't want solidarity if it means holding hands with you" mentality? If, after all, solidarity truly means holding hands with nationalists or, just the same, letting patriots go unchallenged, does it get us any further in the fight against illegitimate authority and power? Why should we, again, let our guards down so that we can remain faithful to the illusion that there exists a single problematic and that, once it has been confronted, peace will (once again) reign on earth? More bluntly, are we actually willing to stand and work hand in hand with 'patriots' so that we might, if only for a moment, fan the flames of the new and next hegemonic enterprise? Are we, like Maude Barlow, willing to stand beside the likes of Pat Buchanan and Jean-Marie Le Pen who, although quite opposed the Global Project, are simultaneously (and universally) opposed to abortion and euthanasia, inclusion of alternative sexual preferences in Global Projects, feminism, along with numerous other points of contention. Finally, if we decide that we will, for once, fight the battle on all fronts, what does that mean of our current relationship with the 'Left', or with the lesser acknowledged hegemonic monsters - the Marxists, authoritarian anarchists, NDP-Pushers, Chavez Supporters, Maoists, . . . . ?

Now, perhaps more than ever, we are finally able to witness firsthand that the battlefield does not revolve around a single problematic and that we can not simply put aside our issues so that we might better focus on the 'bigger' thing of concern; for many people in this world what Others consider to be a bigger problem, is really not so big. Now is a time to fight the battle that is waged all around us and, most difficult of all, the one inside of ourselves. Claims to geographical, economic, and all other forms of sovereignty should finally be revealed for what they are: illusions perpetuated by a society that cares not to escape them.

References

Carlson, L. (2007) SPP is NAFTA kicked up a notch, as retrieved on July 24th from http://noii-van.resist.ca/?p=284
Dent, G. G. (2006) Public kept in dark about talks on North American integration, as retrieved on July 24th from http://www.dominionpaper.ca/canadian_news/2006/09/26/public_kep.html
Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. (2007) SPP, as retrieved on July 24th, from http://spp.gov

Notes

1 Beginning with the 2006 North American Forum, and perhaps even before, the talks have went "underground"; on this point see Dent's article Public kept in dark about talks on North American integration (2006).

2 Cleverly cloaked by obscure language, one government website states that the partnership aims to implement rigid restrictions on immigration and trade in the name of security; in effect, the partnership is secretly shaking hands with those involved in the attack of September 11th. Thus, "[t]his trilateral initiative is premised on our security and our economic prosperity being mutually reinforcing. The SPP recognizes that our three great nations are bound by a shared belief in freedom, economic opportunity, and strong democratic institutions" (SPP.gov, 2007).

3 Taken from a CNEWS interview; see, for example, http://www.infoshop.org/inews/article.php?story=20070613135644309

 


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