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Year in review: 14 struggles of 2014


December 28, 2014

The year 2014 was a year of global struggles against austerity, oppression, imperialism and climate chaos. Here’s a sample, in chronological order:
 
1) Inauguration of Seattle’s socialist councilor
While 2014 showed social democratic parties campaign to the centre and lose—from the NDP in Ontario and New Brunswick to Olivia Chow in Toronto—the election of Kshama Sawant in Seattle showed how electoral alternatives can give voice to social movements. She was inaugurated January 6, 2013 and as her campaign manager said, “The result in Seattle—the election of Sawant an open socialist to city council with 95,000 votes, 51 per cent of the total—is historic.”
 
2) South African miners challenge post-Apartheid regime
April 27 was the 20th anniversary of the end of Apartheid, and 20 years of ANC rule have left most South Africans in poverty. But following the Marikana strike of 2012, the mine workers in 2014 emerged to challenge the ANC and the leadership of the main trade union federation. As Rehad Desai, who made a documentary about mine workers described this year, “In the single most important political development in South Africa's post apartheid history, the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) has decided to challenge the leadership of the country's main trade union Cosatu federation.
 
3) Ontario: voters and workers defeat Hudak
In June voters across Ontario rejected Tim Hudak and his plan to smash unions and fire 100,000 workers. Not only did he misread the mood across the province—which saw the emergence of a $14 minimum wage campaign inspired by the US—but the labour movement also helped to mobilize to beat him. Unfortunately the NDP campaigned the right, refusing to support the $14 minimum wage and reinforcing “strategic voting” that only benefited the Liberals. While the Liberal budget offers nothing but austerity, the opposition to Wynne has already begun—from Grassy Narrows to a healthcare rally of 3,000.
 
4) The politicization of sports
Sports reflect the economic and social inequalities of capitalism, and in 2014 sports became a focus of protest against austerity and oppression—including the racist owners/mascots/team names, the normalization of violence against women, and the priorities of the World Cup this summer that built million dollar stadiums while millions live in poverty.
 
5) Still Idle No More
Two years after Idle No More emerged, the Indigenous sovereignty and solidarity movement is going strong—including the June 27 Tsilhqot’in  legal victory defending their “exclusive right to decide how the land is used, and the right to benefit from those uses. The year also saw growing Unist’ot’en camp, the rising movement for climate justice and justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women,  the defeat of the First Nations Education Act and challenge to the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, and the City of Vancouver acknowledging it is on unceded traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tseil-Waututh First Nations.
 
6) Palestine solidarity
Taking advantage of counter-revolution in Egypt, Israel launched yet another war on Gaza on July 8.  But yet again Palestinians resisted the assault and a global wave of protest isolated Israel and further exposed Canadian complicity.
 
7) Kurdistan: resisting ISIS and imperialism
Western intervention gave rise to ISIS—through war and occupation in Iraq and arming sectarian groups in Syria—but the West used ISIS as an excuse for more war, again claiming to save the Kurds. On August 8 the US began bombing Iraq. While Western bombs have been recruitment tools for ISIS, it was Kurdish resistance—despite Turkish interference—that defended Kobane from ISIS, and that launched its own revolution in Rojava Kurdistan, against attempts at imperial control. On October 27 there were rallies across Canada and Quebec against war.
 
8) Black Lives Matter
Following the police killing of Michael Brown on August 9, protests in Ferguson put a spotlight on racism. The failure to indict killer cops—first in the shooting of Mike Brown and then in the choking of Eric Garner—further fanned the flames of protest across the US—including boycotts on Black Friday. Meanwhile solidarity rallies across Canada have called attention to anti-Black racism north of the border, like the police killing of Jermaine Carby in Toronto this September.
 
9) US: struggles beneath the surface
The US midterm electoral victory of the Republicans gave the impression the US has shifted to the right. But it was an indication of disillusionment with the Obama presidency, and included successful propositions to increase the minimum wage. The election was preceded by the largest climate march in human history, the largest fast-food strike in US history on September 4, and was followed by the delay in the Keystone XL pipeline and mass protests against police brutality.
 
10) Climate justice: a movement rises
The year 2014 was a year of climate justice, epitomized by the September 21 People’s Climate March—the largest climate justice event in human history, with 2,6000 events in 150 cities and 400,000 people marching in New York. It was a year of resistance against all tar sands pipelines—from a rally against Line 9, march against Northern Gateway pipeline, and victory on Burnaby Mountain against Kinder Morgan.
 
11) Mexico: NAFTA’s gangster capitalism exposed
This year was the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, which has led to increasing poverty, inequality, and a “war on drugs” that has built a collusion between the police and armed gangs. But after 43 students disappeared on September 26, Mexico has seen a rolling wave of protests across the country.
 
12) Hong Kong: Occupy Central
Starting in late September, mass protests exploded in Hong Kong, from strikes to occupation of Central Square. The movement, which continues, is demanding free elections and economic equality. As Hong Kong activist Sophia Chan explained, “we see free elections as a major blow to business-government collusion and capitalist privilege…A democratic political system is only the first step to real change, we also think that that in itself would already be a huge improvement for our fight against capitalist oppression in Hong Kong. Of course, we do also try to spread the idea that even if we obtain free elections, we would still battle against tycoons and capitalists.”
 
13) Reproductive justice
The austerity agenda includes attacking women, but 2014 saw reproductive justice movements rise from Spain to Canada. When New Brunswick forced the closure of the Morgentaler clinic, mobilizations locally and across the country raised $100,000 and led to a partial victory against restrictions on abortion. On November 26 New Brunswick’s premier announced that starting 2015 women in New Brunswick will no longer need two doctors to certify that their reproductive choice is “medically necessary.”
 
14) Quebec: la lutte continue
April 7 saw the defeat of the Parti Québecois—and their racist “Values Charter”—and the election of a third seat for the left alternative Québec solidaire. The Liberals have continued the same austerity policies that cost them the election in 2012, and a similar opposition in emerging—with 125,000 protesting on November 29.
 
Socialist.ca, and the activists who write for it, were part of building solidarity and reporting on all these struggles and more. To help build socialist media for 2015, get a holiday sale subscription for the print edition, make a donation, or join the International Socialists.

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