Inheriting Resistance: An Interview with Mordecai Briemberg

Posted by admin on Aug 28th, 2012

Come to the Midlaunch of the Inheriting Resistance Project on Aug 30

No One Is Illegal-Vancouver Coast Salish Territories presents an interview with Mordecai Briemberg as part of “Inheriting Resistance: A Community History Project”.

Born in 1938, Mordecai grew up in the Edmonton eastside. He was educated at the universities of Alberta, Oxford and Berkeley. In the U.K. he became active in the anti-nuclear movement and was involved in the Aldermaston March and the Committee of 100, led by Bertrand Russell. In Berkeley he was active in the student “Free Speech Movement” and in organizing opposition to the US war against the peoples of Vietnam and Indochina. Coming to Vancouver in 1966 to teach at Simon Fraser University, he was one of the founders of the “Committee to aid American war Objectors” and worked in the local movement opposing the US war. At SFU he contributed to the radical and democratic restructuring of the department of Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology (PSA). This student-faculty endeavour also established links with off-campus movements for social justice: against unemployment, poverty, for native rights, and workers rights. The provincial government and university administration conducted a political purge of PSA and Mordecai and seven other PSA faculty were fired. SFU was censored by professional organizations for several years after the purge, because of its violations of academic freedom. Mordecai chose to remain in Vancouver, and was active with Canadian trade unions, defending political prisoners and other activists in Quebec, and in solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle against Israeli colonization. He worked for the establishment of diplomatic relations between Canada and the Peoples Republic of China. He was part of a cross-Canada effort to establish a new revolutionary political organization, “In Stuggle/En Lutte”. For the last four decades he has been involved in anti-colonial and anti-war movements. He helped create the Western Voice weekly newspaper, produced in the DTES, a democratic voice for workers, feminists, prisoners, and others denied justice and dignity. With a similar approach he has been active in Vancouver Cooperative Radio, for nearly 30 years on the “Redeye” program. Blacklisted in BC from teaching in his academic discipline, he taught ESL at Douglas College for 25 years before retiring. Musically challenged — but admiring others’ musical skills — he has found pleasure playing scales on the accordion.



From the very beginning there was a very active student (movement). And in my particular department a lot of faculty who had come from the anti-war movement in the United States, and were not just radical in their approach to sociology or political science or anthropology, but wanted a change in the whole way universities functioned.

So we became a center of effort to democratize the university, particularly in our own department, to give students equal power with faculty and secretarial staff also equal power. So we set up structures and we set up efforts to link up with committees for the unemployed, native rights groups, workers and trade union movements, unionization etc.

So that became a major struggle, which after several years of very exciting changes and positive developments I thought and most of us thought, the university under – I’m convinced – pressure of the government said “you’ve got to stop this, we’ve got to get rid of these people”. So they went through various mechanisms to appear as though they were abiding by normal procedures, and that failed on their part so in the end they just said “you are fired”.

Eight faculty. Many students quit at that time. But it was unusual that faculty would stick together where new faculty are usually individualized, career-oriented and so-on.

More information about Inheriting Resistance.

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