Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Why rightwing authoritarians are perplexed by grassroots leftists

Poster advertising a Solidarity Winnipeg forum.

Image Source: Facebook/Solidarity Winnipeg
Rightwingers have been very clueless about the grassroots movement that is Solidarity Winnipeg. Unsubstantiated accusations that the group is "union-backed" or "union funded" are swirled around by conservative tweeters and Facebookers. One Peter Montagnon, for instance, alleged to an organizer of Solidarity Winnipeg that the group was likely funded by labour unions and after being informed that the group receives no union money said the organizer didn't follow the money. When informed that, actually, the organizer is deeply involved and does know a thing or two about finances, Mr. Montagnon resorted to a bunch of childish taunts. Such is the discourse of rightwing conspiracy theorists.

Anyone even vaguely familiar with leftwing activism, such as the work of the Occupy movement, European anti-austerity movements or various grassroots environmental groups, recognizes a familiar strain in Solidarity Winnipeg. That is the pattern of extremely deliberative and participant driven processes sustained by idealistic individuals outside the conventional party politics system. Some individuals on the left periphery of the Manitoba NDP, like Jim Silver, have gone to Solidarity Winnipeg meetings but by and large it lacks the official party activist and labour officialdom set of NDP conventions. Party outsiders and socially conscious individuals, of a variety of different ages, make up the bulk of Solidarity Winnipeg's membership based on the events I've seen.

Solidarity Winnipeg uses the divide up into issue-based groups and brainstorm on the topic model at meetings. The participant and member engagement is crucial to the process of Solidarity Winnipeg developing a more detailed profile on the issues. Incidentally, some of the refrains about the lack of quick decision-making that have been leveled at movements like Occupy Wall Street apply, in a less exaggerated form, to Solidarity Winnipeg. How this will affect their political efficacy coming forward remains to be seen.

Now with the organizational and ideological basis of Solidarity Winnipeg so plain to see, with organizer Matthew Brett having even penned an article discussing the need for independent left activism in Manitoba before the movement took off, why do the "union command and fund" claims abound?

The answer seems to lie in the fact that rightwing authoritarians are so utterly entrenched in a hierarchical understanding and ordering of society that they project this onto the left. These rightwing authoritarians think leftwing activists act and see the world the same way as they do, taking marching orders from on high while subserviently and mindlessly following leaders. Recall that Manitoba Forward was funded by high level figures with grievances against the NDP, had an agenda set by a small group of people and then hired staff to carry out an already established agenda.

The grassroots left just doesn't work that way. It is utterly non-hierarchical and deliberative, arguably to a fault, in political organizing. One can expect to see more of these nonsense claims as rightwing authoritarians continue to fail completely at understanding the other side.

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