Sunday, May 25, 2008
CANADIAN ANARCHIST MOVEMENT- MONTREAL:
THE MONTREAL CHILDCARE COLLECTIVE:
Molly has often mentioned on this blog about how the anarchist movement is not just expanding geographically and in terms of numbers but is also "maturing" ie becoming less of a subcultural phenomenon and more a movement of ordinary people. After awhile the childish pretenses of primitivism, insurrectionism, pseudo-intellectualism and "post-leftism" become rather tiring and boring. Anarchists grow up and hopefully stay in the movement and become better anarchists for rejecting the fantasies of their youth. Eventually such an evolution leads to a situation where anarchism is more and more able to reach out and inspire the great number of people who are sympathetic to the idea but are repulsed by the unnecessary trappings that it is often draped in.
One of the obvious points in this maturation is that anarchists eventually become parents (those of my generation are grandparents or more). The gift of children tends to shift your worldview tremendously, and in the end it leads to nothing but good from the point of view of the movement- fewer vicious and silly fantasies and more long term realism. As this situation develops anarchists more and more see the need to both return to one of their traditional concerns-libertarian education- and also see the need for a more modern concern-childcare- while the parents are out being radical.
The Montreal Childcare Collective is a recent development in one of Canada's cities where there is a "critical mass" of anarchists and therefore a need for caring for the children while the parents are otherwise engaged in movement activities. As far as Molly can see the collective so far only operates as a "demonstration deployment", and one hopes that it will eventually expand to provide childcare on a regular basis for anarchists who are ordinary working people and have need of such an alternative from week to week. One also hopes that it will never sink to the level of cultism seen in the USA, but we are a different people and a different movement and this is unlikely. Even in the USA the influence of anarcho-cultism is declining as people become more mature, and better people are attracted to the movement(see one of the interviews on Andrew Flood's tour on "the decline of primitivism" in the USA).
There will be more and more of a need for such institutions as anarchism continues its expansion. The Montreal comrades have pointed out the way. here is their self-description from their website.
The aim of the Montreal Childcare Network is to offer strategic childcare as a response to the fact that childcare is frequently overlooked, under-appreciated, and unlikely to be prioritized. We want to challenge communities and organizations to consider childcare as a fundamental key to organizing and to making events and the work that they do accessible to both parents and children. Our intentions are to meet the special needs of parents, youth and children, low-income communities, non-status and immigrant communities of colour, queer and trans communities, etc.
And here is an interview from last March with two of the members of the collective on the part of the McGill Daily (the daily paper of one of the major universities on Montreal).
Daycare collective provides radical child care
Volunteers argue free collective childcare is a method of political organizing rather than a charity
Kelly Ebbels The McGill Daily
Staying active in community organizing as a parent is hard, but the Montreal Childcare Collective (MCC) is making life a little easier for the city's politically-minded moms and dads.
Formed in 2004, the collective consists of volunteers that provide free childcare for community groups during meetings and demonstrations, explained Leslie Bagg, a former McGill student and volunteer with the MCC.
"We provide help for groups that don't have a huge budget for childcare, but who want to make their organization more accessible for parents," Bagg said.
The collective works closely with groups working in the social justice field in Montreal that often need childcare – such as the Filipino Women's Centre, the Immigrant Workers' Centre, and Solidarity Across Borders.
MCC also runs workshops for groups that want to begin doing their own, autonomous, non-authoritarian childcare – such as the Montreal Urban Community Sustainment(???-Molly) Project's Free School in NDG, where they held a workshop last Sunday.
The collective functions out of the Concordia chapter of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) as a working group, funded in part by Concordia students. In the past it has also functioned through QPIRG-McGill.
Volunteers stressed that the childcare network is first and foremost a form of political action, aimed at allowing more families to get involved in community organizing. It also provides a non-authoritarian approach to childcare.
"It's kind of a statement, that kids don't just exist in their houses and in their own families. They exist in the world," said Selena Ross, a former McGill student and organizer with the MCC.
"It's a more communal approach to child-raising, where the community can get to know the kids."
Both Bagg and Ross stressed that the very existence of the group allowed activism to become more open to families and women.
"Part of the goal is to get more families involved, and to make meetings more family-friendly," Bagg said.
"It's also about making community organizing more accessible to women, especially single moms," Roy added, saying there is huge demand for the MCC's services among new immigrants.
"It's a class struggle. So many people can't afford babysitters," Roy said.
Ross explained that a major influence on non-authoritarian childcare was the work of Haim Gibott, whose techniques for conversing with children have been taught for decades. Gibott stressed strong interpersonal skills, an emphasis on communication, isolating problems rather than people, and the importance of play.
But the collective is not all carefree fun and games. The organization faces major ongoing difficulties and questions, many of them ethical ones.
One is a question of money – by offering free childcare, some have questioned whether it lowers the value of childcare as a whole and suggests that childcare is something which should not be paid for. As well, volunteers are often offered money for their services – but the offerings are so random that it is hard to decide on a fair and equitable way of distributing the extra funds.
Another, more pressing issue is whether the volunteers should make themselves available for private, free childcare. Roy stressed that she has often personally offered free childcare for recent immigrants, for whom Quebec subsidized daycare may be impossible.
But on the whole, while the volunteers realize that childcare is inaccessible for many, a free, volunteer-run childcare system is at present unsustainable.
"We can't open ourselves up – there's just so much need," Bagg said.
Still, the volunteers stressed that collective childcare serves as a crucial political tool in making organizing more accessible, and making political work a community affair.
"It's nice to know how many of them can make it, and stay involved – moms, dads, and kids," Bagg said.
Groups wishing to get organized with the MCC should contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*The Daily first reported that MCC organizers considered its work partially a charitable gesture; in fact this is not the case. Also, it misspelled Selena Ross's name. The Daily regrets the errors.