With Brexit and the rise of Trump some see the year 2016 as a year of reaction and bigotry, but this year has seen important struggles around the year that will shape what is to come in 2017.
Black Lives Matter
In the year when Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar put Black liberation centre stage at the Superbowl and Grammies, Black Lives Matter-Toronto organized a two-week occupation in front of police headquarters, challenged the mayor and Premier on their lack of action, helped to repoliticize Pride, won an inquest showing the Toronto police killing of Jermaine Carby was racially motivated, and built solidarity with Abdirahman Abdi killed by Ottawa police.
The biggest climate justice development of 2016 was the ongoing resistance at Standing Rock, but this year also saw many other Indigenous-led climate justice struggles: solidarity with Attawapiskat, victory at Muskrat falls, the Supreme Court challenge of the Chippewas of the Thames, the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands expansion, and thousands marching against the Kinder Morgan expansion.
Fight for $15
In April of 2016 workers in over 300 cities and 40 countries mobilized to demand fair wages and decent work. The fight for $15 has spread across Canada and Quebec—intertwining with strikes for $15 from the Montreal old port workers to Mississsauga library workers—and the US elections included mass votes for $15 that will give a raise to 2 million people across the US.
Quebec against austerity
A high-point of struggle across the country has been in Quebec, which began 2016 in the wake of the Common Front general strike, followed by municipal workers fighting austerity, the growing fight for $15 and the climate justice movement derailing Energy East.
The global context has been one of political polarization, not only to the right but also to the left. France has seen the rise of the far right but also a progressive movement in the streets. There have been right-wing drives to topple governments from Brazil to Turkey, but also millions of students and workers pushing for the ouster of the neoliberal president in South Korea. The World Social Forum in Quebec showed a glimpse of movements for change across the country and around the world.
Political polarization has given rise to electoral alternatives. As Quebec celebrated 10 years of Québec solidaire, and the movement to support Jeremy Corbyn stopped the right-wing of the Labour Party from removing him, Irish socialists were elected in their recent elections. And in the heart of capitalism, the self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders rallied millions for change, outpolling Trump until he caved to Clinton.
Developments in Greece show that electoral alternatives are not alternatives to struggle, and that workers are key to challenging austerity whether coming from the left or the right: as Syriza’s government continues the austerity it was elected to oppose, Greek workers have continued to strike, while workers in India organized the largest general strike in history against the right-wing government.
Anti-Trump protests begin
Trump’s victory sparked mass protests across the US, Canada and around the world. While Trump won the presidency after Clinton’s vote collapsed, there was also a surge in votes for $15. The first major developments post-election were resistance at Standing Rock and mass action for $15, and the new year will start with mass protests on inauguration weekend in Washington.
Beginning of the end of the Trudeau honeymoon
After a year in power Trudeau’s popularity is declining, driven by those he has pretended most to represent: youth and a renewed partnership with First Nations. A group of young workers turned their back on Trudeau at a CLC summit, climate justice activists occupied the office of environment minister Catherine McKenna, and thousands marched against Kinder Morgan in Vancouver.
With Trudeau breaking his progressive promises and Trump threatening to fulfill his reactionary nightmares, 2017 will be a key year for struggle—and we begin it with the lessons and experience of the past year’s movements for equality, justice and sustainability.