Capitalism, Austerity and Oppression

Study In Action Conference

We are bearing witness to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The crisis is now shifting to public hands in Canada, and the need for sustained and intelligent resistance is overwhelming. The Study in Action conference at Concordia this weekend was a springboard for the kind of work that needs to be done.

Some context is necessary here. When a system of power faces a legitimate threat, this system will generally lash back violently. The vulgar display of power by Libyan “leader” Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is a clear example, but similar cases exist closer to home.

The G-20 Toronto summit last summer marked “the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history,” according to Ontario Ombudsman André Marin. “War measure” legislation was put in place that allowed for “extravagant police authority.”

This extravagant authority led to hundreds of police arrests, including people like Amélie Châteauneuf, a Montreal-based organizer fighting for improved social assistance in Quebec. Amélie was one of the keynote speakers at the Study in Action conference.

This “extravagant police authority” indicates how deeply troubled our so-called leaders are as their system of power is brought into question. Following this massive economic recession, neoliberal capitalism faces the most significant legitimacy crisis in its history.

Notable about this legitimacy crisis is that it is taking place in the West.

It was easy to neglect profound misery and injustice when it was being imposed upon the global poor, but the perils of neoliberalism have now come home to roost.

This offers a compelling window of opportunity for fundamental and necessary change, and the Study in Action conference took place in precisely this spirit.

As the conference mission statement states, “we seek to foster ties between undergraduate students and the broader Montreal community in order to strengthen the spirit of social and environmental justice.”

Among the topics addressed were queer community organizing, food insecurity and anti-terrorism legislation. In short, participants were developing the basis for a more just society.

The end of this fifth annual Study in Action conference really highlights the kind of engaged research and activism that is necessary at this critical time.

With a growing Canadian police-state and looming austerity budgets, the words of Karl Marx are worth recalling: “What the bourgeoisie [produces], above all, are its own grave-diggers.”

With each cut to social and environmental spending, our supposed leaders are creating a stronger resistance. They are digging a grave for neoliberal capitalism.

Our responsibility is simply to pick up a few more shovels to help them dig faster.

It’s time we bury the beast and create a more just and free society. The challenge is immense, but so are the opportunities.

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