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Solidarity Winnipeg: Grassroots renewal against austerity in Manitoba

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On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Sofia Soriano and David Camfield. They are members of a new group called Solidarity Winnipeg, which aims to build grassroots momentum in the face of the newly intensified austerity agenda in the province of Manitoba.

The total numbers involved are pretty small so far, but there are signs in communities across the country of an upswing in recent years in the number of people looking for some sort of collective, multi-issue, sustained organization as a mechanism for their involvement in struggles for social and ecological justice -- and, for many, one that is not an electoral political party, with all of the tight constraints on political imagination and action that such organizations inevitably impose. This impulse has led people to experiment with a range of organizational possibilities, all the way from small, long-term, anti-authoritarian collectives, to hierarchical far-left party formations, and beyond. Another form that this experimentation has taken in a number of cities, however, has been to seek ways to bring people together in a formation that is both radical and broad. Often, these embrace a label like "anti-austerity" or "anti-capitalist," though not always, and they work hard at welcoming a range of approaches and at avoiding the sectarianism that has been so destructive to movements in the past, while putting energy into campaigns on multiple issues. Solidarity Winnipeg is perhaps the newest example in the Canadian context of this sort of group.

Solidarity Winnipeg formed in November of 2015. The impetus was a recognition that there was a good chance that the Manitoba provincial election scheduled to happen in April of 2016 would bring the agenda of "neoliberalism" and "austerity" to the province in a way that it had so far escaped. These buzzwords -- neoliberalism and austerity -- capture the relentless push by so many mainstream political parties around the world today towards cutting, privatizing, and deregulating in ways that hurt ordinary people and the environment. The founding of Solidarity Winnipeg was also a response to the weak and fragmented state of more grassroots and radical forces in the city. The goal of the group is to be a broad radical organization that unites people from a variety of political perspectives who share a commitment to the transformation of society towards social and ecological justice and who understand that struggle must be central to that. Solidarity Winnipeg did its best to bring people together and raise these grassroots concerns during the campaign period. And given that a new right-wing government did indeed come to power in the province, the group is hard at work strategizing about the best ways to respond to the government's agenda -- not in ways that rely on some other political party winning in four years time, but in a multi-issue, struggle-focused, non-sectarian way that will fight austerity and build grassroots power here and now.

Sofia Soriano is 23 years old, and is a dental assistant and a mother. David Camfield is 45 and he teaches at University of Manitoba. Both are involved in Solidarity Winnipeg. They speak with me about the peculiar political context of their province, about the work of Solidarity Winnipeg so far, and about the ongoing experiment of becoming a new kind of grassroots, multi-issue, non-sectarian radical formation.

To learn more about Solidarity Winnipeg, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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