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There Will Be Resistance: A Radical Historians’ Perspective

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
There Will Be Resistance: A Radical Historians’ Perspective

Capitalism is a horrendous system. Capitalism runs on the ideology of infinite growth through profit maximization and the exploitation of resources and workers. Capitalism is a steamroller that smashes through whatever obstacles are in its way: people, communities, and landscapes. Capitalism is based on the dubious concepts of “progress,” “civilization,” and “democracy.” In the world of finite resources and where labour is increasingly exploited at a transnational level, capitalism seeks to destroy the planet and subdue people in the name of “free choice” and “individualism” while the fat cats snickering behind closed doors reap mega-profits.  

Radical historians have a responsibility to distinguish between the victim and the executioner in history. The late Howard Zinn, radical historian, activist, poet, and humanitarian, spent his entire life exposing the lies of governments and elites in society. Zinn continually articulated the necessity of understanding our history, the people’s history, through writing and participating in history from the bottom-up. Zinn wrote in A Power Governments Cannot Suppress (2007):

"If we don’t know history, then we are ready meat for carnivorous politicians,      intellectuals and journalists who supply the carving knives […] If we don’t know that history, then any president can stand up to the battery of microphones and declare that we must go to war, and we will have no basis for challenging him. He – or she – will say that the nation is in danger, that democracy and liberty are at stake, and that we must therefore send ships, and planes to destroy our new enemy, and we will have no reason to disbelieve that president."

Instead of an aberration to the normal running functions of society, we are resisting the G8/20 summits in Huntsville and Toronto as a part of a long tradition of opposition to the dehumanizing and destructive effects of capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism. Let’s not be fooled and let’s not separate the G8/20 from the vicious history of capitalist exploitation.

There has been resistance! In the transition from a mercantile economy to the capitalist economy between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries there has been resistance to the destructive capitalist force. From indigenous rebellions against European invaders into their traditional lands to the slave revolts in Saint Domingue and Demerara to the formation of the militant populist and labor organizations to the anti-war movements and to the modern anti-globalization movement, there has, and will be, resistance.

In November 1916 in Everett, Washington, the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World), led by the shingle workers, struck in the atmosphere of intense confrontation between capital and labor. In what would become known as the Everett Massacre (or Bloody Sunday), the local sheriff asked who their leader was, to which the Wobblies replied: “We are all leaders!” The police forces subsequently fired upon the Wobblies killing five and wounding twenty-seven.

Let us remember that “we are all leaders.” As the G8/20 steamrolls through Ontario, let us not be silent and accept capitals imposition on all our lives and the continued exploitation of billions for the mega- profits of the fat cats behind closed doors. As Mario Savio famously said on 2 December 1964 in Berkeley at a Free Speech Movement rally:

"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."

It is time to shove a pitchfork in the gears of the capitalist steamroller.

See you in the streets!


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