TABLE OF CONTENTS (individual links)
FULL ISSUE (5MB pdf)
In Memoriam: Abdul Aziz Choudry (1966-2021)
Activist, scholar, professor, chacha, son, popular educator, friend.
It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of Aziz Choudry. Aziz was an editor of the Canada/US section of Interface from 2011 – 2016. In his role with the journal, he edited a special issue on anticolonial and postcolonial social movements and brought in new editors from South Asia.
Aziz was the quintessential activist scholar. He was deeply rooted in anti-colonial and anti-capitalist movements, and sought to help movements to understand the changing context, and how to build capacity. The questions he asked are the ones movements asked – how historical patterns trap movements, how to win, how to organize in changing contexts.
Aziz’s first moment of politicization came out of growing up in 1970’s and early 1980’s England where he was influenced by the anti-nuclear movement, migrant justice, anti-racist struggles by Asian and Black communities, as well as being inspired by national liberation struggles in the Third World and Indigenous people’s struggles in settler colonies. He settled in Aotearoa/New Zealand in 1988 where he was involved in a number of small organizations where he worked on campaigns against free trade agreements while linking with Maori anti-colonial struggles. Those experiences generated important reflections that fed into his future writings that critically examined NGOs (e.g. with Dip Kapoor, NGOization: Complicity, Contradictions and Prospects), state surveillance of social movements (e.g. the edited collection in Activists and the Surveillance State), and how social movements are sites of knowledge production (e.g. Learning Activism: The Intellectual Life of Contemporary Social Movements). Aziz moved to Montreal, Canada, in 2002 for graduate studies. There, he was actively involved in the Immigrant Workers Centre, and would eventually become a professor at the Faculty of Education at McGill University. His local and transnational organizing for migrant justice was mirrored by scholarly collaborations like the co-edited volume with Adrian A. Smith Unfree Labour? Struggles of Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada. In Montreal, Aziz was also involved in Palestine solidarity, Indigenous solidarity, anti-globalization efforts, anti-war activism, and struggles against Islamophobia. In the past few years he was a visiting professor at the University of Johannesburg. He recently moved from Montreal to Johannesburg in February 2021 to take a position there in the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation.
In Learning Activism: The Intellectual Life of Contemporary Social Movements, Aziz wrote:
“Some individuals achieve extraordinary things, but I believe that social change is driven mainly by ordinary people organizing, learning, and creating knowledge together—by people consciously and collectively taking steps to bring about change. Not to rule out spontaneity, but most struggles emerge from the hard work of organizing, incremental learning, lineages of earlier movements, and efforts to organize together. Although it is often overlooked, this work is both informed by and contributes to the intellectual work that takes place within social movements, as in social, political, and ecological activism. Everyday acts of resistance are not always visible, nor is much of the long-haul work of organizing that takes place in communities, workplaces, fields, homes, and other spaces down the street and around the world, 365 days a year. This work is often slow, painful, and painstaking. It involves a lot of patient work in small groups and organizations.”(Choudry 2015: 9)
For him, this was not just a theoretical insight, but it described the way he lived his life. He considered himself an ordinary bloke who worked collectively for social change. This included everyday acts of resistance in the institutions where he worked, doing the grunt work of writing out and photocopying pamphlets for a campaign, and an important part of his praxis in movement-building was by being a friend and in several cases a mentor.
We will miss his insight, his humour and his incredible energy for doing the work. He brought dozens of people together over the years, helping them to think in his humble, sly way.
He left us better. Thank you for everything.
Aziz’s publications in Interface:
Choudry, Aziz, Mandisi Majavu, and Lesley Wood. (2013) “Struggles, strategies and analysis of anticolonial and postcolonial social movements.” Editorial for Special Issue. Interface 5 (1): 1-10.
Austin, David, Choudry, Aziz, D’Souza, Radha, & Thobani, Sunera. (2013). Reflections on Fanon’s Legacy. Interface: a journal for and about social movements article, 5(1), 128-150.
Our previous issue
Organising amidst COVID-19: sharing stories of struggles
TABLE OF CONTENTS (HTML)
FULL ISSUE (PDF 17 MB)
Original call for stories on struggles around the virus
Now beautifully included as a reading in Oxfam’s “Power in the pandemic“ podcast!
The crisis provoked by the coronavirus (and then shaped by all the usual power structures, forms of inequality, cultural hierarchies etc. of our societies) landed in a world that was full of struggle, full of social movements, full of activism. In many different ways, activists have sought to shape how their societies and states respond, while top-down responses have created new problems and sites of struggle. And as many people have said, the future after the virus is still to be fought for. But what does that mean in practice?
Interface exists “from and for” movements, coming out of our own need to reflect more on what we’re doing but with the purpose of feeding back into movements in one form or another. In the present crisis, some movements and activists are running close to or past the point of burnout from having to fight too many fires at once, while others are stuck, trapped, repressed or unsure how to move, and others again are experiencing “just one more thing” to deal with – more death, more poverty, more fear, more repression, more everyday struggle to survive.
We decided that one thing we could contribute was to set up a space to talk about “what’s going on where we are” – specifically, what our movements and other movements are doing in our own country, city, region, neighbourhood… The idea is to share a bit of what’s happening across different spaces and across movements so we might find some ideas and inspiration in what each other is doing – and of course, as always, build connections and think forwards.
- Movements already going on before the virus
- Lessons learned from previous collective actions that inform how activists respond to the crisis
- Civil society struggles to get states to take action
- Campaigning to get the specific needs of particular groups / communities taken into account
- Solidarity economy and mutual aid initiatives and their connections to other movements
- Struggles developing within the crisis
- Longer-term perspective: what might the crisis mean for movements and the possibility of a better world?
Here are the stories as they came out, organised by region. Our special issue brings them together, often updated, with new material.
We’re tired of hearing stories about the virus and the crisis that only feature governments and corporations, and where we only appear clapping or as corpses. So we’ve asked activists around the world to share stories of what movements are doing where they are.
Movements have been: pushing states to take action, fighting for the needs of marginalised groups, developing mutual aid, organising strikes and rent strikes – and fighting for a better world afterwards. This stuff matters!
Clara Thompson, #FightEveryCrisis: Re-framing the climate movement in times of a pandemic (28 May)
Kerman Calvo and Ester Bejarano, Music, solidarity and balconies in Spain (28 May)
Micha Fiedlschuster and Leon Rosa Reichle, Solidarity forever? Performing mutual aid in Leipzig, Germany (26 May)
Arianna Tassinari, Riccardo Emilio Chesta, Lorenzo Cini, Labour conflicts over health and safety in the Italian Covid19 crisis (21 May)
Non Una Di Meno – Roma, Life beyond the pandemic (29 April)
Miguel A. Martínez, Mutating mobilisations during the pandemic crisis in Spain (27 April)
Sergio Ruiz Cayuela, Organising a solidarity kitchen: reflections from Cooperation Birmingham (28 April)
Dagmar Diesner, Self-governance food system before and during the Covid-crisis on the example of CampiAperti, Bologna, Italy (28 April)
Federico Venturini, Social movements’ powerlessness at the time of covid-19: a personal account (18 April)
Michael Zeller, Karlsruhe’s “giving fences”: mobilisation for the needy in times of COVID-19 (20 April)
Laurence Cox, Forms of social movements in the crisis: a view from Ireland (14 April)
Ben Duke, Gig economy workers’ movements (13 April)
Silpa Satheesh, The pandemic does not stop the pollution in River Periyar (17 May)
Roshanak Amini, Knowledge is power: virtual forms of everyday resistance and grassroots broadcasting in Iran (8 May)
Ayaz Ahmed Siddiqui, Aurat March, a threat to mainstream tribalism in Pakistan (25 April)
Lynn Ng Yu Ling, What does the COVID-19 pandemic mean for PinkDot Singapore? (21 April)
Sobhi Mohanty, From communal violence to lockdown hunger: emergency responses by civil society networks in Delhi, India (20 April)
Ashish Kothari, Corona can’t save the planet, but we can, if we learn from ordinary people (16 April)
Angela Chukunzira, Organising under curfew: perspectives from Kenya (21 May)
María José Ventura Alfaro, Feminist solidarity networks have multiplied since the COVID-19 outbreak in Mexico (18 May)
John Foran, Eco Vista in the quintuple crisis (19 May)
John Krinsky and Hillary Caldwell, New York City’s movement networks: resilience, reworking, and resistance in a time of distancing and brutality [via OpenMovements] (28 April)
Neto Holanda e Valesca Lima, Movimentos e ações político-culturais do Brasil em tempos de pandemia do Covid-19 (30 de abril)
Peterson Derolus, Coronavirus, mouvements sociaux populaires anti-exploitation minier en Haïti (18 avril)
Lesley Wood, We’re not all in this together
Jeremy Brecher, In coronavirus fight, workers are forging an emergency Green New Deal [Via Labor Network for Sustainability]
Donatella della Porta, How progressive social movements can save democracy in pandemic times (19 May)
Johannah May Black, Sutapa Chattopadhyay, Riley Chisholm, Solidarity in times of social distancing: migrants, mutual aid, and COVID-19 (20 May)
Susan Paulson, Giacomo D’Alisa, Federico Demaria, and Giorgos Kallis with Feminisms and Degrowth Alliance, From pandemic towards care-full degrowth (30 April)
Roger Spear, Gulcin Erdi, Marla A. Parker, Maria Anastasiadis, Innovations in citizen response to crises: volunteerism & social mobilization during COVID-19 (30 April)
Yariv Mohar, Human rights amid covid-19: from struggle to orchestration of trade-offs (19 April)
Jeremy Brecher, Strike for your life! [Via Labor Network for Sustainability]
Other people doing similar things:
- Daraja Press blog “Organising in the times of Covid19” (video / audio interviews with activists)
- The Commons social change library – resources for movements in the crisis
- Laboratorio de Análisis de Movimientos Sociales y RC47 Social Classes and Social Movements – “Viralizar la solidaridad. Redes de apoyo mutuo y activismo político en tiempos de pandemia” webinar
- Abolition Journal blog space as a site of distributing information from the front lines of abolitionist, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-colonial, and other pertinent struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic (link)
- Struggle in a pandemic e-book from the Workers’ Inquiry Network
- Social, Ecological, Economic and Intercultural Pact for Latin America
- Global Tapestry of Alternatives – Dialogue on Alternatives in the Time of Global Crises (webinar series)
- OpenDemocracy OpenMovements series
- Vikalp Sangam / Alternatives India, Extraordinary work of “ordinary” people report on Indian grassroots initiatives
- International Center on Nonviolent Conflict article series “COVID-19: Organizing during a crisis“
- Covid-19 from the margins multilingual blog on civil society in the global South
- Oxfam From Poverty to Power blog
- The Left Berlin blog (activist responses to the crisis)
- RC47 Social Classes and Social Movements – Changing solidarities and collective action in times of pandemic webinar (video of the event)
- Shareable’s collection of community responses to COVID-19
- Environment, Society and Development in Latin America blog special issue on Covid-19