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Relay #27: July-September, 2009

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Relay No. 27

Neoliberalism has now entered a period of economic crisis. But it has been paralleled by a crisis of working class politics. This has had several significant impacts. The union movement has been at a severe impasse in terms of both wage and industrial strategies in developing counter-responses to management restructuring and wage and austerity. Reformist social democratic parties have systematically moved to the right to become advocates of ‘social liberalism,’ basically accepting much of neoliberalism. And most radical left parties have either become even more tendentious sects or vanished into history.

One positive feature of the current period has been emerging directly from workers. These have involved attempts to forge new methods of struggle at the point of production. These struggles have varied enormously from workers’ laid-off in restructuring plans forming co-operatives to the ‘boss-nappings’ in France. More common have been a range of factory occupations to demand ‘fair’ compensation for employment termination and short-term seizures of factories in demand that they be turned over for alternate production.

Occupations backing demands for compensation, and occasionally for alternate production plans, have been occurring across Canada over the last year, largely outside union support. Indeed, these have been most often opposed by union officials, and they have had few links to left political forces. It is hard to provide a simple map to all the forms this ‘spontaneous’ movement of workers is taking. But such militancy is clearly one of the means by which the union movement will move out of its doldrums and the left will have to rebuild.

This issue of Relay surveys a range of current struggles around factory occupation and workers’ control in Britain, South Korea, Venezuela, including an assessment by Sean Smith of the prospects for further developments in the North American context.

Relay has time and again sought to highlight the form and features of neoliberalism in Canada. This issue continues this assessment amidst the financial crisis, and probing the question of ‘the end of neoliberalism?’ Greg Albo and Bryan Evans look at Ontario's budgetary policy, while Ross Sutherland looks at aspects of the privatization of health care. Other assessments include Murray Cooke on Canadian foreign policy, Sam Gindin on retirement and Harry Glasbeek on private sector strikes.

As always, Relay attempts to cover a number of theoretical and strategic issues related to the new ‘emerging left.’ As part of this re-thinking, we republish Jo Freeman's classic essay on “The Tyranny of Structurelessness” as we attempt in Canada to deepen our organizational cooperation and networks. Similarly, we cover the important recent developments of the Democratic Socialist Party in Australia, the publishers of the important international resource, Green Left Weekly, as they deepen the processes of building a new socialist party there.

All this, and much more... Download PDF or enjoy the ISSUU version below.

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