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Relay #23: July-September, 2008

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Relay No. 23

North America now finds itself plunged into two national elections in Canada and the United States. While both elections have unique elements and are generating close scrutiny, and in the U.S. case mobilizing a measure of new social forces from the historical uniqueness of the Obama presidential candidacy, it would be sheer folly to suggest that anything other than a continuation of neoliberal policies domestically and imperialist politics internationally will result. The balance of social forces is still running negatively in North America for progressive, never mind socialist, politics. This is leaving the political scene and the contestation of electoral forces evermore spinning around the symbolic, the trivial, and the media spectacle. Even in the midst of a severe financial crisis, which by some accounts is the largest economic debacle in history in money terms, anti-capitalist commentary is absent from the lead political parties, including the social democratic NDP and Green Party in Canada. It is in this context that this issue of Relay Greg Albo and Bryan Evans examine the repositioning of state power in “Harper's Bunker” over the last two years.

The electoral setting of North America – what is the least bad alternative? – makes plain the necessity of assessing where working class reformation and new organizational capacities are coming together. In terms of socialist political realignment, Alan Sears and Ingo Schmidt provide individual and important assessments of how to rebuild the infrastructure and maps for a new socialist politics for Relay. From quite diverse geographical and organizational landscapes, Kagaralitsky, Chandra, Bustani and Louca examine these challenges for the left in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, India and Portugal. And Susan Spronk and Jeff Webber assess developments in Ecuador and Bolivia where, alongside Venezuela, the left is more directly contesting capitalist power.

Political reorganization of the left is deeply intertwined with the renewal of the labour movement. Here each new opening and victory seems still matched by rollback and new challenges for unions. This issue of Relay contains a very revealing contribution by Steven Tufts on labour struggles over industrial renewal policies in Toronto, particularly as it relates to the Woodbine entertainment complex. And pieces by Herman Rosenfeld, J.P. Daubois and others take on a number of other assessments of union struggles related to layoffs, wages and poverty. The debris of neoliberalism dominates our writing as much as it does our political lives.

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