Protesting the G8/G20
Solidarity Halifax was not formed in a day. In fact, it was an important, but rather lengthy process. In response to a meeting of the G8 development ministers in Halifax in 2010 (part of the lead up to 2010 G8/G20 meetings in Ontario), an ad hoc group of social movement activists organized a protest to denounce the actions of the G8/G20. The individuals involved in this organizing were also part of the student, labour, feminist and environmental movements.
Like many on the left organizing around various convergences of state leaders and others, we had pushed aside discussing broader political questions in favour of organizing the demonstration. After the protest, though, some of the people involved in organizing saw a need to build on the dialogue and relationships forged during the course of organizing this specific event. A need was identified for people on the left to coordinate with one another, not only when reacting to large-scale meetings of state officials or government activities, but also just generally in an on-going way.
With this goal in mind, this ad hoc group planned three “working conferences” over the next year under the banner Solidarity Halifax. The conferences attempted to bring together people who identified with anti-capitalist politics to openly debate issues the left faces and build toward collective analysis and collective action. The conferences dealt with questions of left unity, strategy, racism, patriarchy, religion in our movements and our orientation toward capitalism. Whenever possible, these questions were grounded in discussions of actual struggles individuals had participated in, as to help relate the theoretical issues we were tackling with the concrete experiences of people already identifying as part of the left.
Building An Organization
Initially, the Solidarity Halifax conferences were not about creating another organization, but instead about creating a structure that existing organizations could use to communicate with one another. Despite innovative attempts to build such a structure many involved in the conferences saw the need for an organization.
Leading up to a third Solidarity Halifax conference in November 2011, members of that conference’s steering committee decided there was a need to assess support for the establishment of a pluralist, non-sectarian anti-capitalist organization that was membership based. The steering committee acknowledged that unless others agreed with the need for a new organization putting effort into its construction would not be effective or strategic. In November 2011, attendees of Solidarity Halifax III agreed to begin the process of building a new anti-capitalist organization in Halifax.
The origin of Solidarity Halifax was not a smooth road to the development of a new organization; it was a process of dynamic tension that involved a whole lot of trial and error. Those organizing were not all of a single mind about the outcome of this process or about how to move forward at any given time, but this divergence and the occasional misstep lead people to see the need for a structured organization.
A New Collective Identity in Struggle
In part, Solidarity Halifax was born out of a shared belief in broad-based organizing and a shared frustration of sectarian practices. Addressing conflict in a respectful and useful way required more than just a new organization, it also meant we needed to have a new sense of collective identity in struggle. We saw the need for a non-sectarian attitude that fostered a culture of conflict within unity was essential in the creation of an effective anti-capitalist organization in Halifax that could speak to people beyond the radical left.
This attitude meant working across old political lines and creating the space for respectful and honest debate. People will not always agree on the best way forward or the best decisions, but we want to build structures to be able to debate our ideas and defend our positions, and be willing to listen to the ideas put forward by others and change our minds. This, we think, is better than taking the position that we can only work with those with whom we are completely politically aligned with.
Solidarity Halifax has been involved with and supportive of a number of social movements, decolonization efforts and labour struggles in Halifax over the last several years.
The organization is still quite new. It is still evolving, but it has developed a method of practice and politics that is more than a simple reaction. It has created a democratic, membership-based organization that is committed to strengthening social movements and creating political alternatives to capitalism.