Listen to the entire program here:
We’ve closed out a year that saw the mobilization of activists in Windsor during the Social Forum in June and the US Social Forum in Detroit. Also in June, the G20 meeting of the world’s power elites saw the state react with arbitrary violence against those who stood against growing corporate power.
In October, Ontario communities went to the polls, and in Windsor we ended up with essentially the same anti-worker council ready to continue to divide the city between worker and ‘taxpayer’ using the Windsor Star as the media organ for City Hall. As if we hadn’t already noticed the authoritarian stance of the mayor, he recently stated that council should not get bogged down with constituent concerns – i.e. backyard chickens – because council needs to focus on the mayor’s overall vision for Windsor – a vision that seems rooted in what developers want. Voter turnout in Windsor was just over 46% [i]and this is considered pretty good.
2011 ought to be an even more interesting year as the likelihood of a federal election seems certain, and there will be a provincial election in the fall. How can we avoid voter apathy and low voter turnout – in other words, how can citizens learn to act in their own best interests instead of reacting to events? If citizens do get galvanized to vote they seem to do so against their own best interests as seen in the election of Rob Ford in Toronto. Some justice advocates in Windsor are saying that what is missing is an accurate analysis of the problems the working class faces.
For example, in Toronto, media reports indicated voters were angry at slick politicians who fail to deliver and are people most voters don’t identify with. In Toronto, mayoral candidates George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone were seen by some as elites who talked above ordinary people[ii]. Rob Ford, on the other hand, was seen as just a regular guy who would walk the talk so to speak. With a voter turnout of over 50% in Toronto, up from the 30’s in previous elections[iii], and Ford receiving 47% of the votes cast, voters seemed determined to shut out the elites and vote in one of their own. Reports since have reminded us all that Ford is a wealthy elite himself and that his credentials as a populist fighter for the people are slim at best! Pitting the suburbs against urban core dwellers is a recipe for disaster.
What is missing in the current mix of culture, politics and the economy is a recognition that different social classes are in conflict with each other. That there is a working class is a necessary starting point, and the second strand is that the middle class is a social creation born rather by accident as a reward for workers who put their labour to use for the benefit of the capitalist or elite class. That social paradigm has collapsed and nowhere is it more evident than in Windsor/Detroit. As long as we keep electing people who refuse to accept class as a starting point for dialogue, then we risk descending further into conflict among the working class instead of coming together and reorganizing our social, cultural and economic structures. Maybe it’s time we stopped electing anybody and start to come together to rebuild society.
Today we have a very special guest – my wife, Mireille Coral, who is an adult educator here in Windsor. Mireille has just finished her MA in adult education which examined how to teach adults in “a city in crisis”, and she is part of a team which is launching a Centre for Popular Education in Windsor.