Ulli Diemer

Ulli Diemer is a Canadian socialist publisher, writer, and archivist.

Born in Kassel, Germany, Diemer came to Canada with his parents when he was six years old. He attended school in Toronto and St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Active in student politics in high school and university, Diemer associated with libertarian Marxist currents within what was then called the ‘new left,’. At the University of Toronto, he wrote for The Varsity student newspaper, and edited the weekly political and literary review L’Hebdo. He was a founder of the ‘Old Mole’ radical group, departing with several other original members when the group was taken over by Trotskyists wanting to create a centralized Leninist ‘vanguard party’. After graduation, he worked two years as a travelling fieldworker for Canadian University Press, the national student press co-operative, with the job of meeting, assisting, and consulting with student journalists on campus papers through Ontario.

In the 1970s, Diemer was a member of the editorial collective of New Hogtown Press, a left-wing publisher and distributor. An outgrowth of the student movement, Hogtown had been founded to distribute and publish pamphlets presenting radical perspectives on political economy, education, women’s liberation, and working class and radical history. In the first half of the decade, Hogtown concentrated on popularly oriented materials dealing with current political concerns. Later, Hogtown shifted its focus away from popular education to publishing academically oriented titles in the fields of labour history, women’s history, and social history, becoming more of a typical small press producing one or two titles a year. Diemer left New Hogtown Press in 1976 to take up a position as editor of Seven News, a non-profit community newspaper in east-central Toronto.

Seven News had been founded in 1970 by local activists involved in struggles against ‘urban renewal’, slum landlords, bad schools, environmental hazards, inadequate health care, and ongoing systemic discrimination against working class and poor people. Owned and controlled by a community co-operative determined to create an alternative to the mainstream corporate media, Seven News advocated for residents in their battles against developers and politicians, while also providing coverage of local news and events. As editor Diemer broadened the paper’s scope beyond local politics, development, and landlord-tenant issues to also cover unemployment, labour, immigrant issues, policing, prisons and capital punishment, censorship, daycare, welfare, health care, pollution, parks, and senior citizens’ problems. As a free paper in a predominately poor neighbourhood, Seven News struggled to obtain enough advertising revenue to sustain it: at times staff worked without pay. Diemer left the editor’s job in the early 1980s to become co-ordinator of the Connexions project.

In the 1970s, Diemer was one of the founders of the Marxist Institute of Toronto. The Institute was established as an independent centre of Marxist theory and discussion, offering talks and courses on radical issues. Diemer taught the Institute’s ‘Introduction to Marxism’ courses during the first years of its existence. He advocated that the Institute adopt a more explicitly libertarian Marxist, anti-Leninist perspective, arguing that Leninism was inherently opposed to the emancipatory goals of Marxism. The ensuing debates eventually led to a split and the departure of members who identified with Leninist and Maoist ideologies. The resulting change in focus led to a broader range of course offerings, including ecology, the politics of food, and children’s liberation. Reflecting the change in orientation, the institute was renamed the Toronto Liberation School, and played a key organizing role in a major conference on popular education in late 1975. In 1976 the Toronto Liberation School began to publish The Red Menace, subtitled “A Libertarian Socialist Newsletter”. Diemer’s articles on topics such as “Anarchism versus Marxism”, “What is Libertarian Socialism?” and “Wages for Housework” sparked debates within and outside the pages of The Red Menace on radical theory and practice. The project eventually disbanded in the early 1980s.

In 1982, Diemer became the co-ordinator of Connexions, a Canadian project founded in 1975 to enable people working for social justice to share documents, strategies, experiences, and ideas through a regular newsletter-style compendium, The Connexions Digest, distributed to activists across the country. A directory of grassroots groups, The Connexions Directory, (later renamed The Connexions Annual) was added in 1985. Over time, Connexions also accumulated an ever-growing archive of documents and materials produced by Canada’s movements for social justice, as well as a substantial library of progressive books and periodicals. This eventually became the Connexions Archive.

After close to twenty years of print publication, Connexions went online in the mid-1990s at www.connexions.org, and since then has grown into one of the largest online compendiums of social justice documents in the world. The online library comprises current documents, as well as materials from the Connexions Archive as they are digitized and made available online. Working with computer programmer Chris DeFreitas, Diemer developed an intelligent search system for the online Connexions Library based on an extensive controlled-vocabulary database of cross-referenced subject headings.
Diemer continues to co-ordinate the Connexions project and the Connexions Archive, and to edit the Connexions newsletter, Other Voices

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Diemer also worked on a part-time basis for the Medical Reform Group, a progressive doctors’ group advocating for universal free access to quality health care.

In the 1990s, Diemer was recruited by Barrie Zwicker, the publisher of SOURCES, the Canadian directory for the news media, to bring SOURCES online and to turn it into an Internet portal for journalists. Subsequently Diemer took over from Zwicker as Sources publisher.

Diemer maintains a personal website/blog called Radical Digressions at www.diemer.ca. He is one of the trustees of the Miriam Garfinkle Social Justice Fund, a fund set up to honour his late partner Miriam Garfinkle (1954-2018).

Political philosphy
Quote:: “I am a libertarian socialist. My goal is the end of capitalism and its replacement by socialism, ‘an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.’ Socialism is fundamentally about expanding the realm of freedom to the greatest possible extent. It requires ridding the world of capitalism, which crushes human lives and potential while increasingly threatening the planet. The malignant heart of capitalism is capital, so ending capitalism means eradicating capital. Social reforms, no matter how valuable and worth pursuing, cannot in themselves defeat capitalism. That requires a revolution: the overthrow of the rule of capital and the state forms through which it rules. Revolution can take many forms, but a socialist revolution inescapably means ripping off the straitjacket of capital’s political and legal structures. Capitalism’s contradictions are pushing us down the road to destruction. We have to end it before it destroys us.”

Alexander, Donald Hayley Morrow. Planning As Learning: The Education of Citizen Activists - Phd. thesis, 1994.
Guyatt, Gord. A Brief History of the Medical Reform Group - 1994.
Horrocks, Lisa. Seven News: The Story of A Community Newspaper - 1984.
Tudor, Dean. Dean's Digital World - Sources, November 2006.
Zwicker, Barrie. The Sources Select Online Story - Sources, Summer 1995.
A Brief History of Connexions - 2008.
Connexions Information Sharing Services - Connexipedia article 2008.
Interview with Ulli Diemer - 1990.
Interview with Ulli Diemer - 2012.
New Hogtown Press - Connexipedia article 2009.
The People Behind 7 News - Seven News, 1980.
Sources: portal for journalists and writers - Wikipedia article, 2008.

Radical Digressions
Other Voices
Seven News


Apologists for censorship invariably profess noble motives. They tell us that of course they are in favour of freedom of speech ‘in principle’ – then they go on to explain that ‘the greater good’ requires denying freedom of speech to people whose views they dislike.
Free speech for me – you shut up

The energies of much of the left are devoted to issuing appeals to the capitalist state to fix our problems, or to looking for ways to fix the state as if it had somehow accidentally gone off track. The left has always been attracted to the state the way a moth is attracted to a flame, and the darker it gets, the more it is attracted to statist and nationalist illusions.
Thinking About Self-Determination

In the real world it is rarely possible to draw political boundaries that correspond with nationality. Nearly every nation-state and aspiring nation-state contains its own national minorities with conflicting nationalist claims on the same territory. These national groups are usually intermingled and intermarried, sharing the same physical territory, the same cities and towns, the same streets, the same bedrooms.... As a result “self-determination” for the majority frequently amounts to denying minorities their “right to self-determination”.
Thinking About Self-Determination

The Left has engaged in the futile pursuit of ‘moving the New Democratic Party to the left’ since 1933, achieving pretty much the same result as a dog chasing its tail.
Debating the New Democratic Party

What currently passes for democracy is a best a two-dimensional shadow of what a democratic society ought to be. In contrast to the parliamentary obsession of the social democrats, we should be offering the model of a radically democratic society, in which power is taken away from corporations, governments, bureaucracies, and experts, and dispersed widely.
Let’s Stop Kidding Ourselves About the New Democratic Party

Central to Luxemburg’s importance for me is her revolutionary perspective. She supports pressure for reforms within capitalism, but is utterly clear that reforms cannot bring about fundamental change, that socialism can only come about through revolution, and that the activity of socialists and socialist organizations must always be oriented to the ultimate goal of revolution, no matter what the exigencies of the present situation.
On Rosa Luxemburg

Socialism is first and foremost about freedom and therefore about overcoming the domination, repression, and alienation that block the free flow of human creativity.
What is Libertarian Socialism?

We don’t know if we’ll win: history is made by human beings, and where human beings are concerned, nothing is inevitable. But because people do make history, we know that it is possible to build a new world, and we strive to realize that possibility.
What is Libertarian Socialism?

More Quotes

Selected Articles
Anarchism vs. Marxism
Bain Co-op vs. Wages for Housework
The Capital Punishment Debate
Collective Memory, Archives, and the Connexions project: Michael Riordon interviews Ulli Diemer (2012)
Contamination: The Poisonous Legacy of Ontario’s Environmental Cutbacks
Dances with Guilt: Looking at men looking at violence
Eulogy for Miriam Garfinkle
‘Free speech’ – as long as it doesn’t offend anyone
Inclusion or exclusion?
Interview with Ulli Diemer (1990)
Introduction to the Connexions Annual
Karl Marx: May 5, 1818
Let’s Stop Kidding Ourselves About the NDP
Massacres and Morality
Medicare Myths and Realities
National Post columnist traumatized by having to wait his turn
One Vote for Democracy
Rights and Liberties
Tactics of desperation
Thinking About Self-Determination
Trotskyism and the Vanguard Party
What Do We Do Now? Building a Social Movement in the Aftermath of Free Trade
What is Libertarian Socialism?

Related topics in the Connexions Subject Index
Alternative Media  –  Alternative Papers  –  Alternatives  –  Anarchism  –  Archives  –  Censorship  –  Class Analysis  –  Class Struggle  –  Community Newspapers  –  Consensus Decision-making  –  Critical Thinking  –  Democracy  –  Dialectics  –  Direct Democracy  –  Free Speech  –  Grassroots Organizing  –  Ideological Conflict  –  Intelligent Search  –  Internationalism  –  The Left  –  Left History  –  Libertarian Socialism  –  Rosa Luxemburg  –  Karl Marx  –  Marxism  –  Marxists  –  Media Analysis & Criticism  –  Media Bias  –  Media Relations  –  Nationalism  –  Persons Born 1900 - present  –  Political Correctness  –  Radical Theory  –  Radicalism  –  Revolutionary Politics  –  Self-Determination  –  Socialism  –  Socialists  –  Solidarity  –  Strategies for Social Change  –  Working Class

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