Critical Reflections on Solidarity and Recent Rail Disruptions (Ontario, Canada)

Anonymous submission to North Shore

Over the past weeks since the call-out for railway disruptions appeared, there have been a half dozen actions targeting train lines in Ontario. These have been diverse, with most involving the use of copper wire to trip the sensor system. One such communique described the added impact of doing multiple, coordinated actions of this kind; another emphasized that this action can safely and easily be done alone; and another reflective one talked through some of the difficulties of preparing and making sure it’s effective, showing the potential for the action to be taken up widely. There was also a surprise demo that blocked the rails, and an incendiary attack on the power supply of a signal station.

These actions have been inspiring and are only a beginning. The raid on Wet’suwet’en territory seems inevitable, and so we would like to echo the calls that have been made to shut down Canada should the RCMP again attack land defenders there. Over the past weeks, anarchists have built up the means to do this by targeting rail lines, so we want to encourage everyone to start scouting and gathering supplies now to be ready to go in the days immediately following a raid. The disruptions that have already happened show that this strategy allows for a diversity of tactics, so there are many ways of answering this call, though the potential small, discrete groups seems particularly promising.

However, we would also like to take a moment to respond to the various call-outs that circulated on North Shore recently. They had success in inspiring action, but they made heavy use of guilt (“where have you gone, what are you doing”) and we feel the need to offer some criticisms of this in the interest of deepening the practice of anarchist solidarity.

It seems somewhat dishonest to act as though there is no reason why solidarity with the frontline struggle against CGL abruptly died off last year. It’s understandable that expressions of solidarity would change after the gate was opened certain statements that were made, since this at the very least strongly suggested the nature of the struggle there had changed. We can ask if it’s right that solidarity dropped off or if things could have been different, but we can’t act as if opening the gate changed nothing. Yes, land defenders were still on the ground, establishing new camps and continuing their resistance on the territory, but the line drawn was less clear and the communication very ambiguous. There are good reasons why people on the ground engaged the way they did, though there are similar moments in recent history where land defenders did choose a different response. This isn’t to criticize what could only have been difficult choices though, we just want to be honest about what consequences those events had for solidarity.

Solidarity is a dialogue, with action answering action, and the lack of clarity around the changed terms of the struggle contributed to a breakdown in this communication. The lack of clarity disappeared with the expulsion of CGL last month and the multiplication of calls to action. The rhythm of solidarity since has been constant. This speaks to the difference between solidarity and support – solidarity occurs in a context of dialogue through action between different groups in struggle. Those groups recognize each other as struggling towards compatible ideas of freedom and act in reference to each other so as to build a form of collective strength. Support implies a single actor and then others who are in secondary positions contributing to a struggle mostly waged by others.

As anarchists, we should to use this moment to ask ourselves questions about how we engage with distant struggles, indigenous sovereignty struggles specifically. Our antagonism to the state gives a good basis for solidarity, being in line with the critiques of Canada and of nation-states generally that have been developed in indigenous sovereignty struggles for decades. Attacking the state is always relevant, even when not done explicitly in solidarity. The federal government (and the provincial governments differently) is an occupying force and we don’t need to go to a very clear front line like Wet’suwet’en territory to be on the front line of struggle against it, since it pervades so many aspects of life. Emphasizing the struggle against local manifestations of the same forces being fought out west seems more relevant to us than either traveling there or framing our actions here as simply support. The land is beautiful there, true, but all water is connected and it’s just as deserving of protection here.

This introduces another criticism we have of the use of guilt in those calls to action, since they tried to situate the struggle in Wet’suwet’en territory as THE struggle that everyone should orient themselves around. But the struggle against domination and authority, against the state and capitalism, against Canada and its corporations, takes place in many ways in many places. This is why solidarity must be a dialogue between those with their own reason to fight – there is no need for everyone to come together around a singular goal (though converging energies can be a useful strategy), but rather to answer action with action against common enemies. Guilt, specifically white guilt, already plays too large of a role in how solidarity with indigenous sovereignty struggles a plays out – wanting similar things and acting towards compatible goals is a much better basis for solidarity and building a future.

This is why our solidarity is with the front lines, with those reclaiming free lives on territory, without any attempt to manage or mediate the struggles of others. The attempts on Wet’suwet’en territory to build practical autonomy outside the economy and free of coercive authority have inspired us for a decade. Though we live thousands of kilometers away in a very different context, we see our own desires reflected in this and have a lot to learn from their courage, strength, and generosity of spirit. Blocking a few train lines feels like a small way of answering such powerful acts, but should the raid come we intend to do it as best we can, against Canada, its economy, and the world they create. And we’re sure not to be acting alone.

There are 7 Comments

it deserves comment and reflection. it's asking really good questions and bringing up significant issues about working with other people. especially like luke from dc, and anon, anon, and anon, where are you?

Very early in the morning, and there was no apparent resistance. Six activists are detained by the RCMP.

Unfortunately, there are many Black Snakes in this world, many pipeline projects being rammed through Indigenous land. Every one of these projects must be fought, with every means at our disposal.

Remember that no matter where you live, some corporation with ties to one or more of these projects no doubt has an office and execs.

What is particarily galling about this on is that Klanada has to fig leaf of fake legitimacy at all. This is a brazen,direct act of war against people who never surrendere to the Enemy, on unceded land.

When it counts though, no treaty seems to limit Klanada or the United Snakes. DAPL was built in defiance of the Ft Laramie treaty for instance. Also, under capitalism's own laws, a contract made undwr duress is "voidable" meaning it does not bind the coerced party but is the coerced party meets the terms it remains binding on the coercing party. Treaties are effectively contracts. Fraud and duress make these treaties voidable at the option of Indigeous people but leave them binding on the settler/colonizer forces.

In this case if course, there is not even a treaty supposedly ceding land, only brazen warfare and outright conquest. Under international law this may be resisted by Indigenous forces and their allies by any means necessary, same as any other war of aggression. There is no difference.

Not all of us need such reminders Luke but of course you're correct and I also agree that the OP is a great constructive critique.

Unfortunately, this conflict seems to be overwhelmingly defined by lack of capacity to organize on a larger scale, beyond small activist communities and leaves me with a vague sense of absence. Far too few trying to do too much and the stakes are so high … we shall see, likely a familiar story.

Could someone explain what they mean by "the nature (or terms) of the struggle has changed" and that "some declarations were made"? This part is vague and could deserve more infos if it is affordable in the current context.

appears as tho they're dancing lightly around the indisputable fact that RCMP utterly smashed a lot of illusions during the first big raid. overwhelming force, language of power, material reality, etc etc. it's that painful process of becoming less naive that everyone who's fought the cops (and lost) knows all too well.

Powerful response by Mohawks as well as other supporters, who just blocked Sunday evening the country's biggest railway in Ontario, the one that connects Montreal to Toronto. This did the news immediately, as over 100,000 chumps couldn't manage to catch their train to Toronto. Not joking... that just happened, and I guess more coming up soon!

Add new comment