Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Operation Solidarity

At lunch today I wanted to read something so I picked up Bryan Palmer's book "Operation Solidarity: The Rise and Fall of an Opposition in BC ". I had not read my copy in years and felt the urge to remember that time.

In 1983 BC was the site of what was the last large scale populist radical revolt against government in Canada. The left in all its forms rose up enmass against the Social Credit government's 1983 budget. Operation Solidarity and the Solidarity Coalition moblized more people for a political action than anytime before or after in BC.

As a young radical lefty, it felt like the cusp of the revolution. It felt like we were going to smash the state, that the capitalist system was under threat. I came back from a summer in Europe to go to my first term at UVic. I came into a world that felt radicalized: regular demonstrations, meetings planning what should happen next, rumours of the force that government might bring in to quell the movement and much more.

The eventual failure of so much of the movement, the feeling of sell out with the Kelowna Accords, and the sense of betrayal of the westcoast populist radicalism by a comfortable and settled leftish political elite is something I can still feel in me to this day. I was angry at how the events occured, how there was no follow through to build a real extra parliamentary oppsotiion to the government. I can still feel the anger now even though I know that the 40 year old I am now is not in accord with almost any part of the radical agenda at the time. No matter how much today I feel leftist politics are inconpatiable with reality, I can not get over my sense of betrayal of the progressive left by the BCFed and the NDP

Boy does that feel like an age ago.

I had forgotten what it was really all about - the bills with the budget. I read the list of what were opposing at the time and I am amazed because the bills seem very bland and boring. My memory is playing tricks on me, I seem to remember it being so much more. But I look at the list of bills and try to remember why this enraged so many people.

I cut my political teeth at age 17/18 on what felt like it was going to be coming revolution. I have since aged and my youthful anarchism has turned into middle aged libertarism. I no longer believe that business is evil and oppressive and I really no longer believe that government is a good mechanism to deliver almost any service.

I spent the rest of the 1980s dreaming of another Solidarity, but it was a dream that would have been a nightmare. As time has gone by, I have gained a bit of wisdom. People are very much driven by their pocketbook and consquently the market is a pretty damn good way to run things. Revolutions are not good ways to make change, their very coercive nature means oppersion has to rise and with the oppersion comes coruption. All good and enduring change comes through evolution of thinking, allowing people to make choices even when they are not the right ones, and having the good sense to wait.

What I wonder now is:
Has enough time passed for us to look at the events of 1983 with some dispassion?
Did restraint really make much difference?
Did mass populist radicalism end with the Kelowna Accords in BC?
Was this the real start of the rise of NeoCon politics in Canada?
Have the NDP, labour movement, and social activist ever found a way to work effectively as a ground again?

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