ILPS conference in Canada discusses liberation struggles and state oppression
The three-day Canadian conference of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) culminated on March 10. The public discussion series at Toronto’s Ontario Institute for the Study of Education comprising several topics, was organized to coincide with the Second General Assembly of the ILPS-Canada. Krisna Saravanamuttu, a second generation Eezham Tamil, was one of several activists who delivered strategic analyses of state tools against liberation movements, under the topic “The War on Resistance,” to an audience of approximately 25 activists. Presentations advanced perspectives on Tamil, Palestinian, Indian, and Quebecois social movements. Among participants originally of Latin American, Kashmiri, Philippine, Quebecois, and Anglo-Canadian origin, second-generation youth members of the Tamil community made up a prominent proportion of attendees to this event.
Presentations opened with an examination of the high-profile case of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike against their prison conditions, also discussing the criminalization of general Palestinian society.
The Israeli-controlled system of checkpoints and jails makes no distinction between political prisoners and ordinary civilians. By contrast, even Israeli Jewish criminals receive structurally better treatment, the presenter said.
Present hunger strikes particularly highlight the conditions of Palestinian prisoners who have been held without any formal charge.
Saravanamuttu, who represented the views of Eezham Tamils, opened his presentation by describing criminalization of political activity as a military strategy. Mentioning the recent assassination of a Tamil organizer in France as an example, he noted that Sri Lankan state terror could be conducted with impunity, even on foreign soil.
He further described the dichotomy for Canadian observers where, during Toronto protests in 2009, Tamil demonstrators’ discourse of national oppression and genocide became a media narrative of “terrorism” – a description of the counter-violence of the oppressed absent of historical, social or military context.
Briefly historicizing external and internal colonialism on the island, Saravanamuttu described how the criminalization of the nonviolent Tamil struggle against Sri Lankan rights violations removed the space for nonviolent resistance. It was in this context that armed groups began to form, he said. He went on to describe how the social organization of the Tamil national movement, far from its media caricature as “terrorism,” had a practice of economic development and social reform – including the abolition of caste and the emancipation of women from subservient gender norms and oppressive social institutions.
Criminalization of political support for the LTTE by Western governments not only branded the diaspora as ‘pro terrorist’, but tilted parity during negotiations, he said. These negotiations bought time for re-arming of the Sri Lankan state, which was ultimately used to deploy a brutal strategy of targeting civilians.
Another presentation, delivered by a member of Montreal-based CERAS, described the post-1991 ‘economic liberalization’ of India has created a massive class cleavage in the Indian society.
The rapid expansion of India’s middle class in this period has come at the expense of 250,000 farmer suicides in recent years, as traditional production methods have been crowded out of the market, he said.
The presenter described the middle class as metaphorically “partitioned” from the rest of India, a reference to the bloody cleavage of Pakistan from India and the inter-communal violence that attended it.
The class cleavage of India has given rise to a climate of armed resistance, finding its most organized expression in Maoist groups, according to the presenter. These groups have a social agenda, the presenter argued presenting how a widespread campaign of education and production of books in “tribal” (or oppressed national) languages was being undertaken.
Another presentation described the recent student strike in Quebec, which became a broad social strike involving large numbers of the non-student population.
Police repression and brutality only succeeded in radicalizing layers of liberal middle-class oriented peaceful protestors against government policy and practice, the presenter said, adding that the end result was the defeat of the provincial Liberal government, when the traditionally non-voting student body intervened at the ballot box to withdraw both tuition fee increases and a special law criminalizing student political activity.