$1 no. 508 8 July 2009
resist concessions, cuts and layoffs
DEFEND WORKERS ON STRIKE Employers everywhere are exploiting the global economic crisis to force concessions from workers. And when workers have resisted concessions, they’ve come under attack by politicians and mainstream media alike. Nowhere has this been more obvious than during recent strikes by city workers in Toronto and Windsor. The attacks have come from both the left and right. Shamefully, Toronto Mayor David Miller— once seen as an alternative to the union-busting politics of former mayor Mel Lastman— wants workers to pay for an economic crisis they didn’t create: “The world has changed… The city is not in a position to be generous,” he told workers. Strangely, city councillors were generous enough to raise their own pay by 2.5 per cent! Miller also recently published the city’s latest offer on its website, an attempt to circumvent the bargaining process. On his first day on the job, newly-minted Tory leader Tim Hudak also attacked city workers, saying the union needed “to get a grip”. Hudak hails from the right of the party, and has said nothing about corporate fat-cats accepting publicly funded bail-outs, while
workers lose their jobs and pensions. Workers who want to resist concessions are right to fight back. If unions don’t mount a fight-back, employers will keep pushing to roll back the hard-won demands of the labour movement. This is already obvious in the auto sector where wages and pensions have been cut massively, in response to threats of bankruptcy and closure. That’s why it’s also important for workers everywhere to support one another, especially when one group goes on strike. Every fight-back increases the confidence of other workers to resist. And every victory wins more ground for workers, including those not in unions. But if organized workers suffer a set-back, the standard drops for everyone. There’s nothing automatic about solidarity. It has to be built, argued for, and demonstrated in practice. Everywhere there’s a picket line is an opportunity to show support. The kind of solidarity we build now will have an impact on the strength of workers to fight back in future, as more struggles emerge.
Iranian students defy ban and spark new protests by james clark
Tehran—Students attempted to renew opposition protests on July 9 with demonstrations to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of Basiji attacks on Tehran University in 1999. Hundreds gathered along Revolution Street despite threats that any new protests would be “crushed”. Students and their supporters faced down baton-wielding riot police, while chanting “Death to the Dictator”—a slogan once used against the Shah during the 1979 revolution. Opposition protesters have nightly been shouting slogans from their
rooftops all over Tehran: “Death to the Dictator” and “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”). In one location, police fired teargas to disperse crowds. Opposition supporters have been making calls in early July for protests to start again, organizing on reform websites and social networks, even though opposition leaders have yet to respond with a clear call for action. Text messaging had been shut down by the government for at least three days in early July and universities were closed in advance of the anniversary of the attacks on Tehran University.
State-run Press TV reported that 2,500 people had been arrested in the weeks after the June 12 election. The state prosecutor said as many as 500 could face trial. Many remain in detention, including former members of government and leading figures in the reform movement. Journalists and bloggers also remain in detention. About 20 people have been killed in post-election violence, including 27 year-old music student Neda Agha-Soltan whose death was captured on a by-stander’s cellphone and posted widely online.
Abdelrazik back in Canada » page 2 l Military coup in Honduras » page 4 Toronto city workers’ strike » page 5 l Tory climate con game » page 10
Caledonia ‘militia’ countered by solidarity
Abdelrazik’s return a victory for civil liberties
Full Liberal record hidden during recent election
by jess spiers
Resistance Press Bookroom Open Saturdays from 12pm to 3pm 427 Bloor Street West Toronto
by jesse mclaren
On June 27, the campaign to repatriate Abousfian Abdelrazik, exiled for six years in Sudan, was victorious. “To my supporters from coast to coast in every town, every city, every village, thank you very much for supporting me”, said Abdelrazik. “Through your efforts, now I am here.” Abdelrazik left Canada six years ago after harassment by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). In Sudan, he was arrested and tortured on the recom-
mendation of CSIS, and even after it cleared him of bogus terrorism charges, the Harper government refused to repatriate him—leaving him to languish in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum for the last 14 months. Abdelrazik’s win against the Canadian security establishment and the Harper government is a huge victory. As his lawyer, Yavar Hameed, stated: “The spirit of law and human rights in this country has triumphed. It has triumphed over reactionary politics and the egregious practice of selective citizenship.” Unfortunately, Abdel-
razik’s problems are not over, as it appears he is still under surveillance by the Canadian state. “This is completely inappropriate given one of the factors that drove him out of the country is he was severely
harassed by CSIS,” his lawyer said. As Amir Attaran, another member of the legal team, stated: “Security intelligence services have to become intelligent. They’re not intelligent, they’re stupid. They see ghosts and goblins at every turn and spend excess money making people miserable who don’t deserve it”. But the victory of repatriating Abdelrazik gives momentum to stop other state interference in his life, exposes CSIS and Harper’s complicity in his ordeal, and gives confidence to other struggles for civil liberties.
(PHOTO: CHARLOTTE IRELAND)
In Caledonia, Ontario, Six Nations people continue to assert their right to their land. In recent weeks, disturbing reports have emerged that local residents in Caledonia were forming what they initially called a “militia” to take “the law” into their own hands in the town. Ostensibly formed in protest against the arrest of an anti-Native protester, Randy Fleming, for carrying a Canadian flag, the group was organized by his brother, Doug Fleming, and a well-known anti-Native protester, Gary Hale. The group admitted their goal was to provoke a confrontation in order to force the police to step in. About 150-200 people from across Ontario bussed in to stand in solidarity with the Six Nations people on their land, currently tied up in land claims procedures with the federal and provincial governments. The solidarity activists first protested peacefully outside the inaugural meeting of the so-called “militia”, and then stood silently with the aboriginal people as the anti-Native group marched past them carrying Canadian flags. Although Hale and Fleming admonished those in attendance at their first meeting that racism would not be tolerated, the “militia”, now calling itself the “Caledonia Peacekeepers”, has attracted some very dangerous elements. We know from history that such groups can be proto-fascist formations. The best way to undermine this tendency is to organize more peaceful solidarity.
by bradley hughes
Participants in the Toronto Dyke March get lots of cheers as they show their solidarity with striking city workers.
Tories plan deportations during summer break by michelle robidoux Despite Parliament’s having voted twice in the past year to stop the deportation of US Iraq War resisters, the Conservative government is preparing more deportations.
On March 30, a majority of MPs voted for the motion, which also called on the Harper government to put in place a program allowing Iraq War resisters to apply for permanent resident status. The same motion was adopted June 3, 2008. Yet on July 15, 2008 the Tories deported Robin Long, who was sentenced to 15
months in prison on his return to US military custody. He was recently released on July 9. He faces a lifetime of hardship and will have to fight to return to Canada to visit his son because of this felony conviction. Cliff Cornell, who was originally given a deportation date of December 24, 2008, was forced to leave in February of this year and was recently court-martialled and sentenced to 12 months in a US military prison. Like Robin, his crime was refusing to deploy to Iraq. In both these cases, the government hoped to force through deportations during
Parliament’s recess. But campaigners are now exposing this strategy. A few days after Parliament rose for the summer, immigration critics from the three opposition parties wrote an open letter to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. The June 26 letter states: “Mindful that at other times there has been an apparent increase in deportation activity when the House is not sitting, we urge you not to use the Parliamentary recess to disregard the expressed will of the House of Commons with respect to the fair treatment of Iraq War resisters in Canada.”
As they did last summer, campaigners are also mobilizing to confront the minister wherever he appears. During a recent speaking engagement on Holocaust education in Oslo, Norway, Kenney was questioned by Toronto-based campaigner Patricia Molloy about why his government is “failing to protect refugees who refuse to commit crimes against humanity in Iraq” while at long last recognizing Canada’s historical failure to protect Jewish refugees from crimes against humanity during World War II. For more information, visit www.resisters.ca.
Cops caught in warrantless wiretape abuse by ritch whyman
The CBC recently reported that Canadian police forces, along with the RCMP, have used wiretaps not approved by judges at least 267 times in the past eight years. These numbers don’t include wiretaps that continue to be concealed due to “security concerns”. A law passed in 1994 allows the police to use warrantless wiretaps in “unusual circumstances”. 2 Socialist Worker 8 July 2009
Since then, the BC Supreme Court has questioned the law. In 2008, the court ruled the law is unconstitutional, as it violated citizens’ rights against unreasonable search and seizure. The police are using a case from BC in 2008 to defend the use of warrantless wiretaps. In that case, a teenager was kidnapped and police used a wiretap on suspects to locate their whereabouts and free the teenager. What they don’t mention is that the police had eight
days to obtain a warrant for the wiretaps. This was the same in the case of Shawn Brant, a Native activist. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) used “emergency reasons” to justify the secret wiretapping of Brant and three others, including his brother, a lawyer. It is clear that the OPP used the “emergency” provisions to avoid having to go before a judge, who would not likely have approved a wiretap. This abuse of powers by the police has been followed
by the scandal of OPP officers performing background checks on jurors and providing that information to Crown Attorneys. The privacy commissioner has launched an investigation into the use of wiretaps. In one case, in Barrie, Ontario, the OPP used a drunk driving record from 1978 to suggest to the Crown Attorney that a juror had a drinking problem. In other cases, they told Crown Attorneys about mental, marital and many other personal problems they had on record.
During the BC election, government ministries withheld reports that would have made the incumbent Liberals look bad. They did not release the scheduled monthly report on welfare statistics at the end of April, in the final days of the election. Instead, they held them back for several weeks. When the government finally released them following the election, the reports showed the number of cases in the expected-to-work category had grown 50 per cent from a year earlier.
The largest year-to-year gains were among twoparent families (71 per cent), single men (61.3 per cent) and couples (53 per cent). These statistics show the effect of the economic crisis on the people of BC, and suggest that the government deficit will be larger than they budgeted for.
Disturbingly, the NDP has backed down on its opposition to the Liberals’ failed carbon tax. During the election, many environmentalist organizations supported the Liberals on this issue. The NDP maintained its opposition and pointed out the many failures of the tax. Instead, it argued making polluters pay for the disasters they have created, not passing their costs on to the rest of us. Disappointingly, NDP leader Carole James now backs the Liberal tax. She announced that instead of calling for an end to the tax, the party’s job “is to make that tax more effective and more fair.” It’s clear Premier Campbell won’t back down on his attacks on the environment and the people of BC. It is up to the rest of us to build a movement that will make him back down.
Socialist Worker e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org web: www.socialist.ca letters: email@example.com reviews: firstname.lastname@example.org listings: email@example.com phone: 416.972.6391 All correspondence to: Socialist Worker P.O. Box 339, Station E Toronto, ON M6H 4E3 Published every four weeks in Toronto by the International Socialists. Printed in Hamilton at a union shop; member of the Canadian Magazine Publisher’s Association / Canadian Publications Mail Agreement No. 58554253-99, Post Office Department, Ottawa / ISSN 0836-7094 / Return postage guaranteed
Next paper deadline: Wednesday, July 29
Shell pays millions over human rights abuse In a landmark lawsuit, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to pay $15.5 million in order to avoid going to trial for its alleged involvement in human rights violations in the Niger Delta.
Shell was accused of complicity in the 1995 executions of Nigerian environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others, and working with the Nigerian military government to suppress nonviolent resistance against the corporation’s presence in the region.
160,000 displaced in Somalia by farid omar
The office of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that 160,000 civilians have been displaced in Somalia in the latest upsurge in violence since May 7. The majority of the internally displaced are women and children. It is estimated that 250 people have died in the current violence and close to 1,500 have been injured. Islamist militants from the AlShabab and Hizbul-Islam groups and pro-government forces are still locked in ferocious battles in Mogadishu. The Sheikh Sharif Ahmed-led new Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which controls a few
blocks in Mogadishu, is facing increasing pressure from the insurgents who control large swathes of territory in southern and central Somalia. Already, scores of MPs and several cabinet ministers have fled to neighbouring countries. Faced with imminent collapse, the TFG has called for military intervention by its Kenyan, Ethiopian, Djiboutian and Yemeni neighbours to help prop up the beleaguered government. The Islamist fighters are opposed to the deployment of foreign peacekeepers in Somalia and regard the 4,300 African Union (AU) troops stationed in Mogadishu to protect the TFG as an occupation force. Despite the fact that Ahmed’s government has introduced Islamic Sha-
ria law, the Islamists still view his administration as a puppet of Western interests.
The US, which continues to fuel the conflict, remains the biggest obstacle to peace in Somalia. Last week, State Department officials openly admitted that they have dispatched arms and ammunition to the besieged Ahmed government and have also promised training and logistical support for the TFG. The threat of large scale, military intervention in Somalia looms heavily as the US is bent on using Somalia’s neighbours and other African forces as proxies in its pursuit of its geopolitical and strategic interests in the Horn of Africa. To make matters
worse, the US-planned intervention has the blessing of the AU, which is now poised to call for direct military intervention. Somalis overwhelmingly support moderate interpretations of Sharia law as proposed by the TFG, and dislike the Wahabist interpretations of the insurgents. But in the wake of a likely foreign intervention on behalf of the TFG, many Somalis feel that they would be better off with the hard-line Islamists than living under another violent occupation. A new phase of yet another USled, genocidal military intervention would only serve to swell insurgent ranks and further worsen an already volatile security situation in the region.
U.S. ‘withdrawal’ is not end of occupation by jonathon hodge
The celebrated “end” of US occupation of Iraqi cities and towns was immediately preceded by a surge in violence that saw more than 250 killed in late June and early July. Almost a hundred died in Sadr City from the bombing of a market, while a car bomb in the northern city of Kirkuk killed at least 24. On the eve of the US withdrawal, four US soldiers were killed in military action in Baghdad.
The withdrawal, while the cause for celebration amongst Iraqis on the street, may be more hyperbole than reality. US troops are withdrawing to large bases just outside city limits and may be re-mobilized at a moment’s notice. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is desperate to appear effective and legitimate as leader. He publicly declared June 30 as a national holiday, stating, “We are on the threshold of a new phase that will bolster Iraqi sovereignty. It is a message to
the world that we are now able to safeguard our security and administer our internal affairs.” Other voices in the Iraqi parliament are not so sure. Tariq al-Hashimi, the Sunni vicepresident of the government, chose to urge Iraqis to avoid crowded places where possible, and be especially cautious. Another Sunni member of parliament, Saleh al-Mutlaq, was even more explicit: “Iraqis have a right to be scared. They know very well that the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq will leave a
political vacuum in the country.” Meanwhile, the US wishes to appear that it is drawing down, while at the same time, it wants to maintain a compliant regime that does its bidding. It supports the withdrawal timetable including the June 30 date, while it also continues to maintain a massive troop presence on foreign soil, readying and waiting to respond “if requested by the Iraqi government.” How long before al-Maliki finds it in his interests to request such help?
Canadian companies sued Sarkozy hides behind the burqa for profiting from occupation by chantal sundaram
by jonathon hodge
Two Canadian construction firms are the subject of an international lawsuit jointly filed by Canadian and Israeli lawyers on behalf of the residents of Bil’in, a Palestinian village a short distance west of Ramallah. The suit asserts that Green Park International and Green Mount International (both Quebecregistered construction firms) are in violation of Canadian and international law through their work constructing the illegal settlement known as Matityahu. Bil’in has long been the site of non-violent protest against Israeli land grabs. Recently a protester
died after being shot with a tear gas canister by an Israeli soldier. Bil’in village has previously launched two separate lawsuits in Israeli courts—one targeting settlement construction and the other the Apartheid wall. The Canadian suit differs in that it specifically argues that the settlements are illegal in and of themselves, an argument not allowed in Israeli courts. Bil’in activists are not seeking compensatory damages so as to avoid putting a price on the value of their land. Rather, the suit seeks punitive damages—sanctions against wrong-doers on the land—the effect of which would be similar to finding a criminal guilty and imposing a fine.
In a June 22 speech to Parliament on the economic crisis, French President Nicolas Sarkozy captured worldwide media attention, not by talking about the crisis, but about the burqa, the full-body covering worn by some Muslim women: “[W]e cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity. The burqa is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement.” But the real message was a racist threat: “I want to say it solemnly, [the burqa] will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.” What has this to do with the economy? Everything: France has been rocked by protests against unemployment and cuts, and Sarkozy
is desperate for scapegoats. It is no coincidence that he is the only European leader to face a series of general strikes within the last six months. The backdrop to his Islamophobia is the 2004 law that banned the hijab (Muslim head scarf) in French schools, and bans on the burqa in other parts of Europe. France is home to five million Muslims, Western Europe’s largest population. The tiny minority of French Muslim women who wear full-body covering are now a possible target for a commission to study a supposedly “growing trend”. Sarkozy’s new-found “concern” for women rings hollow: his attack on the burqa is an attack on Muslim women and Islam, an attempt to disguise a failed agenda, and a last-ditch attempt to divide and rule in the face of growing resistance. Hopefully, French workers won’t let him hide behind the burqa.
Ken Wiwa, son of Ken Saro-Wiwa, was interviewed by Democracy Now! shortly after the settlement was announced: “Well obviously I’m relieved, because we now have an opportunity to draw a line on the sad past and face the future with some hope that what we’ve done here will have changed the way, helped to change the way in which businesses regard their operations abroad”.
Islamophobia in China The mainstream media are calling it ethnic violence. But the hundreds of deaths and over a thousand injuries are a direct result of imperialism and Islamophobia intensified by the economic crisis. Uighur students gathered on July 5 to peacefully protest the Chinese government’s inaction following a June 26 attack against Uighur migrants by their Han co-workers in the southern city of Shaoguan. In that incident, at least two Uighurs were killed and dozens were critically injured. On July 7, hundreds of people armed with clubs marched through the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi, knocking over food stalls run by Uighur Muslims. But this was not simply an isolated reprisal against an ethnic group. Similar attacks took place in the days following 9/11, sanctioned by the Chinese government. The “war on terror” has given China the legitimacy to intensify its repression of the Uighurs, denying them religious freedom and, by extension, freedom of association, assembly and expression. Historically, some Uighurs have demanded national liberation from China. The province is rich in resources, but Uighurs have not benefitted. After the attacks, Chinese television repeatedly played scenes of Uighurs rampaging through the streets attacking Han men and women at random. Riot police used lethal force to put down the protest. Chinese police have arrested 1,434 people. 8 July 2009 Socialist Worker 3
Capitalism seems to be all about consuming items— commodities—for the market. Commodities are produced for sale, and sales generate profits for corporate capital. But what makes these things seem so important, so valuable? Karl Marx maintained that the real value in a commodity is not just its material substance, as this is actually an “abstraction”, an idea that makes us think that all things are the same. He maintained that the key issue is the way that substances are created or shaped. Marx wrote in his classic study, Capital, that in capitalist society commodities are “fetishized”. This means they are rendered with attributes that are actually features of human, social relations. This apparent “love” of objects that we can consume is often referred to today as “consumerism”. Those with a social conscience about wasted resources and destruction of the environment are increasingly aware of the unleashed consumerism of capitalist society. Marx had a clue to understanding the link between capitalism and commodities. Commodities are the products of human labour in interaction with nature—or what we would refer to today as the natural wealth of the planet. The Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukács extended the notion of commodity fetishism to consider social institutions and ideologies. He maintained that certain institutions and ideas appear to be permanent or frozen, like “things” that control human relations. Everything around us seems to be commodified.
Lukács called this process “reification”. To overcome reification, the “thing”, according to Lukács, has to be understood in its totality—the totality of the social relations of production. This process of reification affects all social relations within capitalist society. Workers’ labour power, for example, or the ability to work, is sold to the capitalists—employers, bosses, etc.—for wages; in capitalist social relations, labour power is commodified, turned into a commodity, a “thing”. A process as simple as going to work on any given day therefore becomes reified in capitalist society. The workplace contract, “a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay”, appears to be free and equal. But in fact, at the end of the day, the employer keeps everything that the worker has produced. The worker receives back in the form of wages only barely enough to survive, and the difference between what is produced and what is earned in wages results in corporate profit. The reification of commodities, according to Lukács, presents the world in a mystified manner, creating a “false consciousness” of even daily existence of life under capitalism. What is presented as “fair” is actually exploitation. And to challenge this exploitation involves workers’ resistance, or class struggle. During a labour dispute, for example, it may appear that employees and employers are “equal”, two equivalent sides bargaining over a set amount of resources. But in fact, at the outset the employees sell their labour power to their employers for less than the value of the goods and services they produce. When employees, the workers, fight back for higher wages or better working conditions, they are actually struggling to tip the balance sheet away from exploitive conditions. Any wage demands, even those that appear high relative to other settlements, will not be equal to the amount of surplus produced by the workers. And any demands for better working conditions will never fully compensate for the alienation and exploitation endemic to capitalism.
So breaking free from the false reality created by the process of exploitation, and the reified relations of capitalist society, demands working-class resistance. Workers acquire class consciousness—consciousness of their own distinct interests in opposition to capital—most readily, precisely when there are disputes and conflicts. Strikes where rank-and-file workers are moved into action thus have the potential to be moments of a rapid expansion of working-class consciousness. Workers’ resistance in demand of higher wages, from this perspective, is not an accommodation to capitalist “consumerism”, but an effort to win back a sense of dignity and control over alienated social relations of production. In fact, strike action often involves workers insisting that they are not themselves things to be bought and sold, though they might be treated as if they are.
Understanding the real nature of commodities, and the reification that is part of capitalism, is helpful in mapping the changing terrain of contemporary capitalism. While much has changed since these ideas were developed by Georg Lukács (most clearly in his History and Class Consciousness written in 1923), some things—like commodification—are only more widespread. We live in an age where almost every part of the planet has become threatened by the commodification of the market. Everything is for sale. The water we drink, the food we eat, the art and culture that surround us—everything is subordinated to the relentless drive for profit that governs the capitalist class and its hangers-on. But the capitalist system also continues to rely on the labourers who produce all the wealth upon which profits are made. In that contradiction lies the possibility of radical change and resistance. 4 Socialist Worker 8 July 2009
Military coup in Honduras reveals faultlines across Latin America by jessica squires On June 28, a military coup, backed by the corrupt Supreme Court, deposed the elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and exiled him to Costa Rica. Head of Congress Roberto Micheletti was declared president. Zelaya was removed for planning to hold a constitutional referendum on whether to allow consecutive term elections, a measure he himself would not be able to use if adopted. Zelaya was elected in 2006 as a right-wing President, but in the face of widespread extreme poverty— an estimated 50 per cent—and crippling debt as a result of trade liberalization, he shifted to ally Honduras with progressive Latin American governments. Among other reforms he increased the minimum wage by 60 per cent.
Although at first pro-Zelaya demonstrations were sporadic, on June 30 major unions began a general strike. Arbitrary arrests and brutal repression have been widespread. On July 5, Zelaya tried to return to Honduras by plane. He was prevented from landing by Honduran military aircraft. Hundreds of thousands gathered at the airport to welcome Zelaya back. They were attacked by military, who fired live M-16 machine gun rounds into the crowd, killing at least two. The coup has backfired: it has brought together Honduras’ varied social movements. They remain determined and united. The coup has little support. Even the US and Canada issued statements, a substantial difference from their position during the 2002 attempted Venezuela coup. This shift is due to a vastly more united Lat-
in America and a US government more concerned about appearances than its predecessor. But Canada’s position remains the weakest on the continent. Harper has not announced a suspension of aid. Honduras is the largest recipient of Canadian aid in Central America. This is because of Harper’s business alliances. Canadian investment is a significant factor in Honduras, principally in mining and textiles. Solidarity rallies have been taking place across the globe, calling for Zelaya’s return and for an end to repression, including rallies in Toronto and Ottawa. Future protests should focus on Harper and his delegate to the Organization of American States (OAS), Peter Kent, who has been blaming Zelaya for the police violence. Instead, they should be calling for Zelaya’s return and for respect for the safety and human rights of all Hondurans.
A defeat for neoliberalism in Peru by jessica squires
In May and June, Aidesep, an organization of 300,000 Amazonian indigenous people, demonstrated against unconstitutional legislation enabling free trade with the US. The laws would have opened 45 million hectares to mining and oil exploration and development, and water privatization. Canada has roughly $2 billon invested in Peru. They marched, blocked roads and occupied oil facilities. On June 6, after weeks of protests, over 100 indigenous people were massacred by Peruvian police. Using helicopters, police attacked a peaceful demonstration of 2,000 Wampi and Aguaruna near Bagua. On June 12, there were protests across Peru by workers, farmers and human rights groups; thousands marched in Lima, where police used tear gas.
Peruvian president Alan Garcia called the protesters’ actions “savagery and ignorance”. On June 16, international protests showed that the massacre had not gone unnoticed. Shamefully, the Harper government initiated legislation to enable free trade with Peru, mere hours after the killings took place. Canadian companies have over $2.3 billion in investments in Peru. The protests were successful. On June 19, the Peruvian government announced it would repeal the laws. Peru’s Prime Minister Yehude Simon will resign. But the struggle is not over. Indigenous leader Alberto Pizango has fled to Nicaragua. Other native leaders were seriously injured. And the government continues to claim only nine civilians died on June 6. Reports suggest that police dumped the bodies of protesters in a river.
The underlying story here is about Peru’s economy. Peru is held up by neoliberal governments as a beacon of success in South America. But its confidence is being eroded by the economic crisis. In late June, two strikes highlighted the contradictions. In La Oroya, northeast of Lima, thousands of workers blocked Peru’s Central Road, against the local smelter’s temporary closure. Doe Run had announced the smelter would shut down for 90 days, paying only 50 per cent of the workers’ salaries. On June 30, private sector transportation workers shut down Lima for 24 hours against new traffic laws. The June 6 massacres were the inevitable result of neoliberal policies run rampant in a developing country. Unions are planning massive protests July 8 against neoliberalism and in solidarity with the indigenous peoples. Our solidarity will continue to be needed.
Pressure sinks Colombia free trade deal by nadine mackinnon Colombia’s President álvaro Uribe visited Canada from June 9 to 11 to shore up support for the unpopular Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA). Canada and Colombia signed the agreement in November 2008, despite a Standing Committee on International Trade report that recommended a human rights impact assessment. Colombia has one of the world’s worst human rights records. Since 1986, 2,700 trade union activists have been assassinated for fighting for decent pay and safe working conditions. Harper claims Uribe has made “very important progress” in
President álvaro Uribe “protection of human rights”. But on Uribe’s watch, the number of unionists assassinated by state and paramilitary groups increased, and two million people were displaced to allow resource exploitation by
PHOTO: Yamil Gonzales
Capitalism, commodities and class
multinationals. In the days after Harper’s assurances, three more activists were assassinated. Canadian companies have about $3 billion invested in Colombia, expected to grow to $5 billion over the next two years. Large, environmentally destructive Canadian energy and oil multinationals would benefit hugely from the CCFTA at the expense of human rights. This May, faced with organized, persistent opposition, the Conservatives withdrew the ratification bill for the CCFTA. But the Conservatives could re-introduce the bill at any time, backed by the Liberals, who cozied up to Colombia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaime Bermúdez during the June visit.
TORONTO CITY STRIKE Resist David Miller’s shift to the right
Toronto Steelworkers march in solidarity with striking CUPE city workers at the Christie Pits dump site.
by charlotte ireland
Municipal workers fight for fair deal
PHOTO: CHARLOTTE IRELAND
As Toronto city workers approach the three-week mark of their strike, Mayor David Miller continues to describe the fight as “uneeded” and “unnecessary”.
Socialist Worker spoke to David Kidd, Chief Steward of CUPE Local 79, about some of the issues in the city workers’ strike After 1992, the last major recession, there were no wage increases through the rest of the 1990s. It was zero-zero-zero all the way. Recession is the only chance to fight to hang on to what we’ve got because next year and the year after it could be a lot worse. Each recession I’ve been through the rich don’t seem to stumble very hard, but who stumbles is both the low and working class. CUPE from London to Windsor is on hold, all the municipal locals, all the small locals, watching what’s going to happen in Windsor [municipal strike] because what happens there is going to set the pattern… Make no mistake: if you smash one public sector union in a major fight, it has an immediate impact on every single other local. That’s why it’s crucial.
Around the sick leave issue, I want to separate out the sick leave component, and the cash-out at the end. The thing about the cash-out: it is deferred wages. Thomas Walkom wrote an excellent piece about this. As they froze our wages, what often happens is we get increases down the road in other areas. It’s part of the way our sector
negotiates, to hide what money and compensation workers receive from the politicians that are our managers. But it’s also a negotiating style of setting up deferred payments. It’s standard in the public sector. Then of course a crunch comes and they want it all back, which is what they’re doing with the sick leave. The thing that’s not lost on us is, there’s a big debate that [Mayor David] Miller and others are saying that the recession only occurred in the last couple of months. But the one that’s the most glaring for us is Toronto Community Housing Corporation—they settled in March, they got 3 per cent in three years. Not only were they not asked to give away their sick leave but they got the plan for one-third of their members that they’re trying to take away from us. It’s been our consistent message that all we’re asking for is the exact same fair settlement that other unionized workers got in the City of Toronto. My union is 65 years old. Prior to 2000, we had one strike for one hour. But since 2000, we’ve had three strikes out of four rounds of bargaining. We’ve been out more than most locals in this town. We took on [former Mayor Mel] Last-
man twice. He tried to contract out every job, every service the City of Toronto was doing. That was our main struggle in 2002, was to say no to contracting out. During those times, the NDP councillors and others spoke out against what Lastman was trying to do. If you notice this time there is a deafening silence at City Hall. There is Miller, there is his opposition on the right who is applauding him.
Blue Ribbon panel
One of his major shifts has been since the Blue Ribbon panel two years ago when the press talked about how to sell off city services, how to cut wages at the city, cut costs at the city. At the time a lot of people thought it was just an alliance Miller had to make, a bitter pill he had to take, but he more or less has been following the prescription of the Blue Ribbon panel ever since. It is fine to talk about the corporate agenda that’s out there, how it’s a generalized agenda—but at times you also need to name participants in that agenda. Miller at this point is participating in that agenda. The National Post tried to suggest there was overwhelming anger
at us and that Torontonians wanted to blame the union. But their highest figure was 54 per cent blaming the union—that’s still one out of two by my math. One issue for Local 416 is, if you’ve got seniority you can decide when your shift is. People have worked for years to get a day shift, and the city wants to take that away. When you hear Miller get on there and talk about “flexibility”, what does flexiblity mean? It means screw you, the manager wants to decide who works when. The group that I never understand why the media really kicks the shit out of them are the people who have to pick up the garbage every day. It’s amazing how they’re demeaned. The last two times it was brutal what they had to go through for a week to finally clean up the mess because they bring in all the private contractors to make the streets look okay. But literally, who keeps this city safe and sanitized is those workers—and they never make enough. The only real difference in the wages and full compensation of private and public sector is the benefits—and to last in that job longer than 20 years, you are one brave, tough son of a gun.
Miller, who was supposedly elected as a labour-friendly leader, has continued to attack workers throughout his two terms in office. When the strike first began, he made pronouncements that public sector workers shouldn’t expect pay increases or contracts without concessions, commenting that “the world has changed. We’re simply not in a position to offer generous settlements at a time of worldwide recession, when our tax revenues are significantly down and our costs are significantly up.” As if workers needed reminding about the recession that is hitting them the hardest. Instead of making city workers pay the price for balancing the budget, Miller should be demanding that the province compensate the City of Toronto for the delivery of provincial services. Currently, under the cost-sharing agreement with the province, the City of Toronto subsidizes the province at a rate of nearly half a billion dollars per year.
Miller’s leadership has been slowly taking a turn to the right, as did another “labour-friendly” leader, Ontario NDP Premier Bob Rae. Rae, like Miller, also demanded public sector concessions in order to deal with a fiscal crisis in the early 1990s. Both were elected with the support of the left and the trade unions, and both abandoned their base, joining the chorus blaming the union for the crisis. In Bob Rae’s case, his shift right helped pave the way for the election of one of Ontario’s worst leaders, Mike Harris, whose neoliberal attacks are still being felt today. What lessons must we draw from this seeming repetition of history? We must demand Miller respect city workers. If he does not withdraw the major concessions from the table, then we must stand up to Miller now, not in the 2010 mayoral election. During the Rae years, the left, including the unions and the rank-and-file of the NDP, took a passive, “hands-off” approach to the premier’s tack right. With no concerted effort to resist the “social contract” and massive clawbacks, Harris was able to advance with devastating consequences.
STICKING WITH THE UNION
No divide-and-rule: industrial workers support Toronto city strikers by carolyn egan Over 24,000 municipal workers are into the third week of walking the picket lines in Toronto. The City of Toronto is using the economic crisis as an excuse to claw back benefits and limit wage increases. Although firefighters, police and other municipal workers have been given a 3-per cent raise each year for three years with no reduction in benefits, the workers in CUPE locals 79 and 416 are supposed to bite the bullet. The average wage of these workers is between $40,000 and $45,000 a year. About 70 per cent of the members of CUPE local 79 (the larger union of the two) are women, many of them raising a family. They deserve the same respect as
the primarily male cops and firefighters who earn much more. As a picket sign said, “the City of Toronto works because we do”. Both locals have been standing firm against the concessions. Picket lines are up across the city, and the citizenry, in spite of great inconvenience with garbage not being picked up, day cares and recreation centres closed, are bearing up well. Obviously everyone is not supporting the strike, but a lot are, with call-in shows being about fifty-fifty.
This strike has to be seen within the larger picture of plant shutdowns and layoffs that have been devastating the manufacturing and forestry sectors in this province.
Workers are under attack in every sector of the economy and we have to support each other. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost and EI benefits are not sufficient to deal with the human crisis that has resulted. It is estimated that only 25 per cent of the unemployed in the City of Toronto qualify for benefits, and many of those who do are running out of support without the prospect of a new job on the horizon. The Progressive Moulded Products (PMP) workers have reached the one-year anniversary of the plant shutdown that left 2,400 without a job or the severance that they had earned. They were non-union and when they learned of the shutdown, they barricaded the location for 18 days demanding a just severance. Most of
them are now running out of EI benefits and have been spearheading the campaign to “Fix EI”. The city has been trying to pit laid-off workers against the municipal strikers, essentially saying that they are lucky to have a job. Members of industrial unions have been on the lines and have produced signs that say: “We support city workers. We need good jobs in our community”. They have also planned solidarity rallies to keep the confidence high.
The United Steelworkers put out a statement to members: “Well, on behalf of a union whose members actually suffered those job losses in the tens of thousands, I want to say loud and clear that our members
know the value of good jobs and that we will not win our fight for those good jobs by eroding the rights of other workers. “Toronto is home to thousands of USW members. The CUPE members who work for the City of Toronto do jobs that help keep Toronto a livable place. CUPE members look after our kids in child care centres. “They keep a very big city clean and organized. They do jobs that are often tough and dirty. Their right to engage in collective bargaining must be defended, even if, especially if, this strike is not ‘popular’.” Our job is to build the solidarity necessary to support the CUPE strikers. If they win, we all win, and as the old saying goes: “the longer the line, the shorter the strike.” 8 July 2009 Socialist Worker 5
Protests rock Iran The protests sweeping Iran reveal huge discontent in the country, writes James Clark
ran held presidential elections on June 12, the tenth such vote since the creation of the Islamic Republic. Hours after polls closed, the Islamic Republic News Agency announced that incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won 63 per cent of the vote. His nearest opponent— Mir-Hossein Mousavi—won 33 per cent. Since then, massive demonstrations have rocked Iran—the biggest since the revolution in 1979. On June 15, over one million people marched in Tehran. Hundreds of thousands more joined later demonstrations. Protesters continue to resist widespread repression. Outside Iran, there are generally two responses to recent events: the first dismisses all claims and fraud as foreign interference, and argues that the election was fair; the second dismisses the election as rigged, and argues that Ahmadinejad has no support whatsoever.
Neither is entirely correct, but debates about whether or not the election was fair miss the point about what’s happening now. Millions of Iranians have been moved to protest their government, and in ways that were unimaginable just a few weeks ago. The election results were merely a trigger for expressing widespread anger and discontent that exist at all levels of Iranian society—from the streets to the clergy to the political elite. There is no doubt that electoral fraud took place, but to what degree is unknown. Numerous reports indicate voter turnout in some areas exceeded 100 per cent, with more people voting than were eligible. In these areas, Ahmadinejad scored victories of up to 90 per cent. Historically, large voter turnout—for this election, it was nearly 85 per cent—indicates a strong desire to change the status quo, yet the results bucked this trend. And claims of fraud continue to come from establishment sources inside Iran. The Association of Combatant Clerics, a respected body of veterans, posted a statement on a reformist website saying the election was rigged. The Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qom, an important religious organization based in the holy city of Qom, called the results “illegitimate”. Former members of government have publicly denounced or questioned the results. Others have remained silent, but have likewise refused to express public support for Ahmadinejad. Only about a third of Iran’s 290 members of the Majlis, the national Parliament, attended Ahmadinjead’s victory party, although all were invited—a sign of deep divisions within Iran’s establishment. Predictably, many Western leaders—including those who have long supported a military attack against Iran—have exploited the protests to generate support for foreign intervention. Some even claim that Iranians want the West to intervene to advance their struggle for democracy. This is completely untrue. No matter what side they take in the elections, Iranians are overwhelmingly opposed to any kind of foreign intervention, and believe that whatever change is necessary in Iran must come from within.
Others in the West claim that Ahmadinejad has no support in Iran whatsoever. This is also untrue. Ah6 Socialist Worker 8 July 2009
madinejad is a populist leader who has generated support among poor, rural and some working-class Iranians for his attempts to redistribute wealth. He also uses anti-imperialist rhetoric, consistently taking a hard line against the US and Israel. His anti-imperialism helps deflect growing anger inside Iran toward an external source, helping secure his base. Despite this support, many Iranians rallied behind Mousavi because they saw in him the possibility of change, even though he too is an establishment figure. Mousavi’s platform campaigned for social liberalization: bringing the security forces under the president’s control, relaxing “moral” restrictions, increasing women’s participation in government, and engaging the outside world.
‘No matter what side they take in the elections, Iranians are opposed to any kind of foreign intervention’
But Mousavi also called for a thoroughly neoliberal agenda, including more privatization, deregulation, and the opening up of Iranian markets to the West. Mousavi’s economic reforms were made more palatable by his proposed social reforms. By contrast, Mousavi’s supporters raised far more demands than he supports. This is especially true as protests spread after the election. Their demands include more rights, such as freedom of speech, assembly and association, and jobs for the large number of highly educated Iranians who can’t find work and who still live at home. About 70 per cent of Iran’s population is under 30 years old, and has suffered as the Iranian economy
falters. Discontent in Iran is obvious among the ruling class. Key figures in the establishment have long opposed Ahmadinejad and his conservative backers. These figures have responded to pressure from below, but also represent a clear split at the top of Iranian society. Reformists are embarrassed by Ahmadinejad’s “vulgar” politics on the world stage. They also worry about rampant corruption within the state, which has allowed a tiny minority of clerics and their families to profit massively from state industries. These include the widely influential Bonyad e Mostazafin, business conglomerates that control huge sections of the economy, have access to state funds and don’t pay taxes. Hardliners around Ahmadinejad fear that reformists will usurp their power, and have exercised their influence within the state to block the reform movement. Despite these differences within the establishment, both factions share in common their loyalty to the revolution and the Islamic Republic. This was clear among all presidential candidates: they have held office at the highest levels of government and were approved as candidates by the Guardian Council. This fact has fuelled a growing disaffection with all the candidates, including reformists like Mousavi. Many Iranians, especially young people and students, have expressed anger about their lack of real choice. In response, they have raised demands that go well beyond the reform movement.
A clear sense of leadership is also lacking from the movement. Although Mousavi and his allies are renewing their calls for new elections, there has been no clear lead from any of the reformist leaders about what to do next. Like the hard-line establishment, the reformists fear losing control of the movement at the same time as they rely on its power to advance their demands. Mousavi wants to restrict the movement to reforms that don’t undermine the system or empower too many people.
The left in Iran recognizes that many of its traditions and institutions have been wiped out by years of repression. Many leading activists have fled the country. Those who remain must organize covertly. However, the recent protests represent an opening for more people to organize more openly, and for new traditions to develop quickly. The key area of activity must focus on workers. Just as workers played a pivotal role in the 1979 revolution—bringing the economy to a halt and throwing up new bodies of democratic organization—so too must workers today be involved in the current struggle. If the reform movement can connect with the workplace, where workers have already been engaged in a variety of struggles, it could expand into a much more powerful force that unites Iranians on a class basis. Only then will it be possible to confront the more fundamental questions about how Iranian society, including the economy, is organized.
THE KEY PLAYERS
Who’s who in Iranian politics Ayatollah Khomeini is the cleric who rose to power in the 1979 revolution, after returning from exile. He was the supreme leader of Iran until his death in 1989.
Mohammad Khatami is considered the figurehead of the reform movement. He won the 1997 presidential elections and was re-elected in 2001.
The Guardian Council is a powerful conservative body of 12 members appointed by the supreme leader. Six are Islamic scholars and six are lawyers. The body approves candidates, supervises elections, interprets the Constitution and approves or vetoes legislation. The Assembly of Experts is a body of 86 Islamic scholars who elect the supreme leader. Its current chairperson is Hashemi Rafsanjani.
1979: Iran in Revolution T
his year marks the 30th anniversary of Iran’s revolution. But the tradition of resistance goes back much further, and is a central part of Iran’s history. In 1906, widespread revolts won Iran its first parliament, or Majlis. In 1951, a strike wave in support of the nationalization of Iran’s oil industry led to the election of Mohammed Mosaddeq as prime minister. Mosaddeq’s decision to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was fiercely opposed by the US and Britain. By 1953, Mosaddeq had been replaced in a US-led coup by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. Until his overthrow in 1979, the Shah was a key US ally in the Middle East. In the 1970s, the US moved its CIA regional headquarters to Iran, including 24,000 “military advisors”.
The Shah ruled with an iron fist, crushing all dissent through the notorious secret police, or SAVAK. A tiny elite ruled over massive wealth, while millions lived in poverty. Iran’s economy went into crisis in 1977 as oil revenue dropped, sparking protests by workers and Iran’s urban poor. Strikes became more widespread. By 1978, demands for higher wages, better housing and improved work conditions expanded to include an end to repression and more political freedom. The turning point for the movement came when 30,000 oil workers went on strike. Coal miners, rail workers, dockers and workers in other industries followed suit, spreading strikes all over Iran. Soon a general strike brought the economy to a standstill. Workers coordinated their strikes through shoras— elected strike committees based in their workplaces. Millions of Iranians joined street demonstrations against the Shah. On January 16, 1979, the Shah and his wife fled Iran, never to return. Soldiers once loyal to the Shah revolted. Two weeks later, opposition leader Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran from exile. Khomeini quickly appointed his own government but was not in control of the revolution,
which was driven by workers in the shoras. A power struggle erupted to determine what kind of state would replace the Shah’s dictatorship. Khomeini knew that the shoras challenged his authority and declared them “unIslamic”. Iran’s business class worried that the shoras would take the revolution too far, threatening the survival of Iranian capitalism. The capitalist class began to line up behind Khomeini to defeat the left, which still had massive influence among workers.
Ali Khamenei is a key figure in the revolution and was Iran’s president from 1981 to 1989. He became supreme leader following Khomeini’s death in 1989. As supreme leader, he holds the highest office in Iran and commands the military.
Although still popular, he is widely seen as having failed to implement meaningful reforms during his time in office. Many reforms were blocked by the Guardian Council. Mir Hussein Mousavi was prime minister from 1981 to 1989, and is now associated with the reform movement.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the sixth and current president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was Mayor of Tehran before winning the 2005 presidential elections.
His failure to win the recent presidential election sparked the recent protests.
On June 12, he was declared the winner of the 2009 elections. He rose through the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards during the war with Iraq.
Hashemi Rafsanjani is a cleric closely associated with the elite business class in Iran. He was president from 1989 to 1997. He lost the 2005 elections to Ahmadinejad. Although a conservative, he is backing the reformists in a power struggle.
The Majlis is the national parliament of Iran. It introduces and passes legislation, although all laws must be approved by the Guardian Council. It has 290 elected members. The Revolutionary Guards (Army of the Guardians of the Revolution) are a branch of the Iranian military that was founded after the 1979 revolution. It has its own army, navy, air force and intelligence agencies, and is responsible for national security, borders and law enforcement. During 2009 elections, it warned against a “velvet revolution” in Iran and threatened participants in recent protests. The Basiji is a volunteer-based paramilitary organization in Iran that is subordinate to the Revolutionary Guards. Its membership is estimated to range from hundreds of thousands to millions of male and female volunteers, with branches in every city in Iran. It was widely involved in the repression of recent protests following the 2009 election. It engages in policing activities, social services and internal security. It also monitors and enforces moral behaviour.
West’s hypocrisy on Iran
Repression began against workers and the strikes. Some on the left argued that Iran wasn’t ready for a socialist revolution, and instead called for “national unity” with “progressive capitalists”. Others on the left focused on guerrilla struggle instead of strengthening the shoras and strikes. The left became increasingly isolated and ceded its independence to the Islamist movement. Khomeini began to consolidate his power after focusing workers’ anger on US imperialism. His call for an occupation of the US Embassy in Tehran drew the movement behind him. By the time Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, Khomeini had the upper hand, even though it took many more months for him to wipe out his opposition. Khomeini’s rise to power wasn’t inevitable. The failure of the left to maintain its independence opened the door to its own repression. The workers’ movement based in the workplaces was central to defeating the Shah, and could have provided a counter to Khomeini’s vision of the new Iran. Nevertheless, the revolution in Iran represented a massive set-back for US imperialism in the region. The US was humiliated, and resistance movements in the Middle East and around the world were inspired by the courage of Iranian workers. Despite the widespread repression that followed the revolution, Iranian workers still managed to win reforms. And the movements that resist repression in Iran today—among workers, women, gays and lesbians, and oppressed minorities—are part of a long history of struggle and resistance that continues 30 years after the revolution.
The West’s approach to the crisis in Iran has been nothing short of hypocritical. Politicians and media who are quick to criticize Iran have remained silent on electoral fraud elsewhere. Pro-West forces in Lebanon accepted millions of Western dollars to prevent Hizbullah from scoring a win in recent elections. Thousands of Lebanese citizens living abroad were flown back to Lebanon for free in order to vote for the pro-West March 14 bloc. Its leading opponent—the
March 8 bloc, which includes Hizbullah—actually won 55 per cent of the popular vote, but pro-West forces will still form the government. Political leaders in the West said nothing because “their side” won. Likewise, when Hamas won a majority mandate in fair and free elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006, the West refused to recognize the results and imposed a boycott on the Palestinian Authority. Despite all their talk of “democracy”, Western govern-
ments, including Canada, moved to punish Palestinians for their democratic choice. When Egypt held presidential “elections” in 2005—the first of their kind—massive fraud and repression gave incumbent Hosni Mubarak over 88 per cent of the vote. His opponent Ayman Nour was later jailed. Years later as Egyptian workers went on strike for better conditions and democratic reform, the West said nothing in response to widespread state repression that resulted in the deaths of several protesters. 8 July 2009 Socialist Worker 7
QUEBEC FIRST NATIONS
One year after the Harper apology On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Harper, amidst much fanfare, made a public apology to Canada’s Aboriginal peoples for the maltreatment of their children in state-sponsored and church-run residential schools. There were 130 such schools in most parts of Canada and the last one did not close until 1996. Such an apology had long been sought by Aboriginal people. But there was tremendously mixed reaction to Harper’s words. Many Elders wept for an apology they thought they would never hear. Many other Aboriginal people, while welcoming the apology, remained highly skeptical of its intent. After all, this initiative came from the same government and political party whose members routinely denounce “race-based” government, and scuttled the 2005 “Kelowna Accord” struck between the Liberals and Aboriginal organizations. The Accord, whose $5-billion over 10 years was nowhere near enough to address the deep systemic challenges to Aboriginal communities, was still considered by the Tories too rich to implement. It should come as no surprise, then, that one year after the famous apology, very little has changed for Canada’s Aboriginal people. One need look no further than Manitoba First Nations’ need to declare a state of emergency because of the rapid spread of swine flu on reserves. First Nations people are already suffering disproportionately from the disease. But worse is that the MFN had to declare a state of emergency because this was the only way they could “legally” divert federal funds from other programs to address the outbreak. Even more appalling is the fact that Health Canada had delayed the delivery of alcoholbased hand sanitizers to some First Nations communities, due to concerns the “alcohol content might be abused.” The same day that the MFN declared a state of emergency, the United Nations (UNICEF) issued its report on Canada’s Aboriginal Children’s health. It concludes that the health disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous children is one of the most significant children’s rights challenges facing Canada: “Aboriginal children fare at least two or more times worse than the national averages for non-Aboriginal children in almost all health status indictors… and in the determinants of health and well-being (influences such as poverty and access to clean water.)” Meanwhile indigenous people assert their authority as they have done throughout our colonial history. Recently we have seen the Nak’azdli Indian Band of northern BC petition the court to stop the development of a gold and copper mine, peaceful occupations of Six Nations land in Caledonia, and direct action by Akwesasne Mohawks to stop the Canadian Border Service Agency from carrying guns on Mohawk territory. All of us need to do more to publicize and show solidarity with these struggles. None of us can be truly free as long as indigenous people face state-sponsored and corporatebacked oppression.
Tories: no Pride and no shame A loose-lipped Tory backbencher has revealed that Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy has been subtly punished for approving a grant of $400,000 to Toronto’s Gay Pride week celebration. Ablonczy must have thought the grant from the Marquee Tourism Events Program fund was a no-brainer. Drawing about a million participants every year, including tens of thousands of free-spending tourists, and having been chosen as one of the outstanding annual attractions by the tourism industry, Pride is exactly one of the “Marquee Events” the fund was intended to support. Instead, control of the funding has been stripped from her Tourism portfolio and given over to Industry Minister Tony Clement. According to Tory MP Brad Trost, “almost the entire Conservative Caucus” and “most of the Prime Minister’s Office were taken aback by surprise” when they discovered the grant. The Saskatoon Tory dropped the bomb in an interview with the anti-choice news website Life Site News. He tried to reassure his audience of bigots that the grant was just a mistake: “The pro-life and the pro-family community should know and understand that the tourism funding money that went to the gay pride parade in Toronto was not government policy, was not supported by—I think it’s safe to say by a large majority—of the MPs. This was a very isolated decision.” While he tried to play down the idea that Ablonczy was being officially punished for the grant, he told readers with a wink “it should be noted that the file has been reassigned to a different cabinet minister since that announcement was made.” Gay rights and Gay Pride may not be supported by a majority in the Tory caucus, but they are supported by a majority of Canadians. News reports note that at least two more annual Pride events have applied for the grant. Let’s see if, now that the bigot-genie is out of the bottle, Harper and his homophobic crew withhold those funds. 8 Socialist Worker 8 July 2009
Québec solidaire’s new approach to sovereignty Benoit Renaud writes about the gains made at Québec solidaire’s convention
emocracy, cultural diversity and sovereignty topped discussions at Québec solidaire’s fourth convention, which took place from June 19 to 21, in Sherbrooke. First, the 200 participants were invited to hear a report from their first and only Members of the National Assembly (MNA), Amir Khadir, elected last December. They were reminded of the many issues Khadir intervened on during the session, including the loss of $40 billion by the public savings body (CDPQ), the giving away of natural resources to multinational companies, the lack of implementation of the anti-poverty law, and many others. The convention also amended the bylaws to change the structure of the party leadership and create a new section—the parliamentary wing. Bylaws now state that the caucus will have to report to each delegated national meeting (which tend to occur two or three times a year) and that these meetings will determine the gen-
eral orientation of parliamentary work. There is a deep concern throughout the party to make sure MNAs don’t end up doing whatever they please, and remain accountable to the party base. On the Saturday, three simultaneous conferences were held on different aspects of the program discussions. This was an important step towards the policy convention to be held in November. The three issues being discussed were democracy and political institutions, immigration and cultural diversity, and Quebec sovereignty. These were very timely considering the record low turnout in recent elections or the ongoing debate about “accommodation” and religious minorities. But what could make the next convention historic is the new turn in the debate on sovereignty brought about by the third place of the Parti Québecois (PQ) in the 2007 election and the indefinite postponement of a possible third referendum by the PQ leadership. Debates in and around the PQ will
be raging in the lead-up to their own convention, once again postponed and planned for some time in 2011. Under the leadership of Pauline Marois, the PQ sounds increasingly like the ADQ, with autonomist demands and a narrow nationalism. But while this new turn has been successful in reducing the ADQ back to a distant third place in 2008, it has also alienated the PQ’s activist base and could cause a major internal crisis. If Québec solidaire can position itself as the vehicle of a new approach to sovereignty, capable of breaking the impasse of the movement since the 1995 referendum, it could attract the more progressive elements of the PQ’s base, notably within the union movement. By bringing together proposals for democratic reform and social justice with a vision of sovereignty based on popular participation and equal rights for all, Québec solidaire could give a new impulse to the movement for national emancipation.
firstname.lastname@example.org Indigenous sovereignty In response to “First Nations’ treaty sparks debate over tactics” by Valerie Lannon (Socialist Worker #507): The article states “the point for nonAboriginal people, though, is to support whatever choice individual First Nations democratically decide upon”. I believe there is much more to solidarity with indigenous people than simply respecting their decisions. A key aspect of solidarity is opposing acts taken by our governments that aim at undermining indigenous sovereignty. For me, this means that even though I will respect the choice of an indigenous nation to sign a treaty, I still oppose the treaty process. For example, the BC government sets stipulations that, if a treaty is not signed then the millions of dollars paid for the process have to be paid back to the government. For many indigenous nations, this would bankrupt them. Furthermore, once treaties are signed, indigenous territory is converted from Crown land to private property that can be sold. The government then tries to “help” set up businesses in indigenous commun-
ities with the intention of them failing. This forces indigenous nations into selling their land to companies. This is a long-standing practice.. When my great-grandfather came to this country, he failed miserably at farming. The government’s response to his failure was to have him teach indigenous people how to farm. We must also question what is truly a democratic decision of a community. The current band council system was set up by the federal government as a way of smashing traditional indigenous democratic structures. Many of the current band councils are thoroughly corrupt and aligned to the Canadian state for the benefits they receive rather than for their people. We cannot condemn, for example, the Tsawwassen people for signing a treaty, but we should never cease to point out how the process is terribly unjust, and how, regardless of the treaty signed, the issue is not resolved in favour of indigenous people. The only support socialists should give is to a solution that recognizes full land rights and 100 per cent sovereignty. Ian Beeching Vancouver
Spread the wealth It has been spouted loud and clear in the media that the recession has bottomed out. We can look forward to a gradual economic improvement and eventually good fiscal times. The fix of over $2 trillion of tax money bailout has somewhat improved the stock market and economy. Unfortunately, bailouts of such magnitude cannot be everlasting. I am unable to predict the future, but my guess is that the financial system in the US will change but little. All the sound financial regulations in the world won’t help if they are not enforced or can easily be side-stepped. The problem is that the economy is geared to the advantage of the few rich and powerful, certainly not the many average people. As long as this is the situation, the economy cannot be successful. A good economy is one that spreads the wealth more evenly and fairly thus ensuring the greatest number of people have as high a standard of living as possible. Nathan Borenstein Richmond Hill
Dracula tackles society, the environment and alienation
PHOTOS: Nika JakšiC / www.wildorchidcreations.com
Recession confessions: us and them
Harry Fox interviews Matt Jones about his new play, which
situates Dracula in the context of today’s crisis of climate change Your title Dracula in a Time of Climate Change is intriguing. Why combine Dracula with the modern problem of climate change? It’s absurdist really. We’re taking something familiar and putting it in an unfamiliar context to try to find a way to approach the subject with a tragicomic sensibility. Bertolt Brecht asked if art could tackle the big issues of his day, like the atomic bomb and the world collapsing. Sometimes, it seems like theatre is just about two people looking in at themselves. It’s difficult to get beyond that. So, one approach is to take an absurdist look using these familiar figures. Combining art and politics is tricky. You want to educate and entertain your audience while avoiding sounding preachy. How did you avoid this? We were definitely concerned with trying not to preach to people or manipulate them either with an emotional relationship from which they are supposed to draw a conclusion. That’s not interesting. The play doesn’t offer a solution to climate change politically. It explores certain contradictions in the world we live in and leaves it to the audience to ask themselves: What do we do? Do we become vampires and bite all the bad people? In my experience, plays with political or even social commentary are rare in Canadian theatre. Do you think this is an idea whose time has come? We hear these clichés about how art cannot be political, but it never holds up. We noticed that, with the Fringe here in Montreal, people were interested in the politics. They weren’t shy about it. We attracted a lot of attention for that reason alone. But the pressures of commercialism exert an incredible force at many levels not just overt censorship, but with people thinking about how to present themselves to the establishment, grant councils and potential sponsors. They’re very worried about making
ripples. The effect is, in the (Montreal) Fringe this year, there were over 100 plays and only two with any political content—ours and another one called Fucking Stephen Harper. This was about an activist from Ottawa trying to debate the prime minister who gets accused of sexually harassing him. It shows that people really are worried and will spout out these clichés like “I don’t want to preach to my audience” and it becomes quite tiresome. So, ultimately what are you trying to accomplish with Dracula in a Time of Climate Change? Ultimately, we’d like to resuscitate absurdist comedy laughing at the system. We can also laugh at ourselves as activists within it. I actually think critical laughter can be extremely funny. Unfortunately, some activists who saw the show in Montreal were quite offended we were doing this. When I worked at Indigo, we broke through the dominant ideology of the company by using our wit to make fun of them. Labour relations are really absurd. How absurd is it that you have to embody and internalize the ideology of your employer? That kind of laughter can be incredibly liberating when people break through these taboos created in a workplace situation. That sounds very similar to what Nobel Prize Laureate Dario Fo has done. Has his work influenced you? Of course, but we’re in a totally different context. Dario Fo was in a rising worker’s movement in Italy in the late 1960s and he could actually play to a stadium full of radicalizing workers. But Fo also assumes the audience is intelligent. He doesn’t speak down to them. He speaks their language and says, “I’m one of you. Let’s laugh at our bosses together.” That’s sort of what we’re doing in a North American context where we don’t have those deeply rooted working-class movements. We’re trying to tap into a critical consensus and push it a bit further to the left.
As an activist and a playwright, are you worried that there may be some points you can’t get across to your audience? Well, there are some elements which are a bit obscure. When I was writing the play, I was reading John Bellamy Foster who’s been trying to resuscitate Marx’s writings on ecology and the environment. He discovered this idea that Marx had about how a species could be alienated. The entire human race is alienated by capitalism. Most species of animals have a very clear symbiotic relationship with their immediate surroundings. Marx thought that industrial capitalism breaks this pattern for humans. We walk around with no organic connection to the environment we live in. But we haven’t mastered anything. We cannot actually control what we’re doing to it. We’ve unleashed chaos in the anarchy of the market. We don’t have democratic control over how we produce. So, maybe the purpose of Marxism is to master nature, not in the sense of dominating it, but by mastering our symbiotic relationship with nature. So that’s kind of a subtext of the play that people can read into it if they want. Matt Jones is a freelance journalist who regularly contributes to the Montreal Mirror. His first full-length play Dracula in a Time of Climate Change was a hit at the Montreal Fringe Festival. It is currently part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, July 1 to 12.
“A rising tide lifts all boats. We all benefited from the increasing wealth of the recent economic boom. Now that the tide has gone out and the boom has turned to bust, we all have to make concessions. Rich and poor, bosses and workers: we’re all in this together.” Sound familiar? For years we were told by the bosses and media that we were all benefiting from free trade. If you didn’t see any improvement in your paycheck, well, that was your tough luck. The numbers don’t lie. Now the same statistical shell game is being used to convince us that we all have to give back to get through today’s hard times. Let’s look more closely at this picture, starting with the case of some of Toronto’s municipal workers.
Recently, the Globe and Mail announced that Marcus Gee was their new columnist covering Metro Toronto. Gee has long been one of the Globe’s leading international affairs writers. So was the assignment to the local beat a demotion? Has this quintessentially rightwing pundit had his day? No such luck. The timing behind Gee’s appointment is now clear. Gee replaces John Barber who, while never a raving lefty, could occasionally surprise with a reasoned, balanced approach. But with a crucial Toronto city workers strike impending, and beyond that an equally important municipal election, this was no time for a reasoned and balanced approach at “Canada’s National Newspaper”. Exit Mr. Barber, enter Mr. Gee. Sure enough, Gee’s opinions of the strike by Toronto’s CUPE workers, prominently featured as “news” on the front page, have been vicious and hypocritical in equal measure. On June 23, railing against workers for having the gall to stand up for their rights in the midst of a recession, he states: “The city, indeed the world, has entered an era of austerity. Everyone is … making do with less.” Two days later Gee is back on the front page, condemning the idea of the issues being settled through binding arbitration, as CUPE has suggested. When it came to dealing with police, transit workers, firefighters and even city councillors, there was no “hunkering down and doing with less”. An arbitrator would be bound to make a fair ruling, which is all that CUPE is asking for and the last thing right-wingers like Gee want to see.
The media hysteria declaring the strikers are “holding the city for ransom” hide the fact that the raise they are asking for would barely keep up with inflation. The wages they make are decent, but not exceptional: most are paid about the average Ontario wage of
$24 per hour. Take into consideration that they live in Ontario’s most expensive city, and the facts support CUPE’s modest demands. But facts and fairness mean nothing to ideologues like Marcus Gee. They’ll be satisfied with nothing less than breaking the public sector unions for good.
Rich get poorer?
Part of the justification for driving down workers’ living standards to pay for the economic crisis is the idea that “we’re all in this together”. Media prominently report record drops in the number of millionaires, or news that top Canadian CEOs suffered an average 5 per cent pay cut in 2008. Time for a closer look. Something called the “World Wealth Report” frets that the number of millionaires worldwide fell by 15 per cent last year. Now there are only about 8.6 million millionaires controlling $32.8 trillion in wealth. The same report admits that the number of millionaires had increased by the same 15 per cent in the previous two years. In other words, they became millionaires at the height of the bubble economy; most were probably “rich” on paper only. Are we supposed to think the ruling class is struggling because there are “only” as many millionaires as there were in 2006? As for the drop in CEO pay, it is true that the average fell five per cent. That means the average Canadian boss took home a paltry $5.1 million last year, compared to $5.4 the year before. Makes you wonder how they get by, doesn’t it? Strangely enough, CEO base salaries actually went up by 10 per cent last year. The reported drop in take home resulted from a cut to bonuses. Let’s examine the case of Richard Waugh, CEO of the Bank of Nova Scotia. His annual salary is $1 million, and his 2008 bonus was $500,000. With a 5 per cent cut to his base salary, the same Mr. Waugh also received over $3 million worth of stock awards; over $3 million worth of option grants; and more than $1 million worth of “other”. In total, Waugh received just over $7.5 million in cash and prizes in 2008—thanks for playing, Rick. Oh, and that average 5 per cent pay cut comes at the end of more than a decade of astronomical CEO raises. According to the wellknown Bolshevik rag Maclean’s, over the past 12 years average take home for the top 50 Canadian CEOs has increased by 444 per cent. And while corporate wealth and CEO pay skyrocketed, the living standard of the average Canadian wage earner is the same as it was in 1980. So now we’re told that people who have not had a real raise in 30 years have to “hunker down and do with less”. So much for this “we’re all in this together” doublespeak. 8 July 2009 Socialist Worker 9
WHERE WE STAND
international socialist events
The dead-end of capitalism
The capitalist system is based on violence, oppression and brutal exploitation. It creates hunger beside plenty. It kills the earth itself with pollution and unsustainable extraction of natural resources. Capitalism leads to imperialism and war. Saving ourselves and the planet depends on finding an alternative.
Ideas to change the world: Socialist summer study series Tues, July 21, 7pm Common struggle: Trotsky and the United Front Resistance Press Bookroom 427 Bloor St W, suite 202
Socialism and workers’ power
Any alternative to capitalism must involve replacing the system from the bottom up through radical collective action. Central to that struggle is the workplace, where capitalism reaps its profits off our backs. Capitalist monopolies control the earth’s resources, but workers everywhere actually create the wealth. A new socialist society can only be constructed when workers collectively seize control of that wealth and plan its production and distribution to satisfy human needs, not corporate profits—to respect the environment, not pollute and destroy it.
Tues, Aug 4, 7pm Putting theory into practice: Lenin and the Party Location TBA Tues, Aug 18, 7pm How does change happen: historical materialism and the dialectic Location TBA Organized by the Toronto District of the IS info: www.socialist.ca
Reform and revolution
STAGE LEFT: Revolutionary dance and theatre of the 1930s
Every day, there are battles between exploited and exploiter, oppressor and oppressed, to reform the system—to improve living conditions. These struggles are crucial in the fight for a new world. To further these struggles, we work within the trade unions and orient to building a rank and file movement that strengthens workers’ unity and solidarity. But the fight for reforms will not, in itself, bring about fundamental social change. The present system cannot be fixed or reformed as NDP and many trade union leaders say. It has to be overthrown. That will require the mass action of workers themselves.
Sat, Aug 29 5:30pm: dinner 7pm: presentation Speakers: Chantal Sundaram & Pam Johnson For location or other info, call 647.393.3096 Organized by Coxwell IS branch
What’s wrong with tuition fees?
Elections and democracy
Elections can be an opportunity to give voice to the struggle for social change. But under capitalism, they can’t change the system. The structures of the present parliament, army, police and judiciary developed under capitalism and are designed to protect the ruling class against the workers. These structures cannot be simply taken over and used by the working class. The working class needs real democracy, and that requires an entirely different kind of state—a workers’ state based upon councils of workers’ delegates.
Cap-and-trade con game
The struggle for socialism is part of a worldwide struggle. We campaign for solidarity with workers in other countries. We oppose everything which turns workers from one country against those from other countries. We support all genuine national liberation movements. The 1917 revolution in Russia was an inspiration for the oppressed everywhere. But it was defeated when workers’ revolutions elsewhere were defeated. A Stalinist counterrevolution which killed millions created a new form of capitalist exploitation based on state ownership and control. In Eastern Europe, China and other countries a similar system was later established by Stalinist, not socialist parties. We support the struggle of workers in these countries against both private and state capitalism.
Canada, Quebec, Aboriginal Peoples
Canada is not a “colony” of the United States, but an imperialist country in its own right that participates in the exploitation of much of the world. The Canadian state was founded through the repression of the Aboriginal peoples and the people of Quebec. We support the struggles for self-determination of Quebec and Aboriginal peoples up to and including the right to independence. Socialists in Quebec, and in all oppressed nations, work towards giving the struggle against national oppression an internationalist and working class content.
Within capitalist society different groups suffer from specific forms of oppression. Attacks on oppressed groups are used to divide workers and weaken solidarity. We oppose racism and imperialism. We oppose all immigration controls. We support the right of people of colour and other oppressed groups to organize in their own defence. We are for real social, economic and political equality for women. We are for an end to all forms of discrimination and homophobia against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. We oppose discrimination on the basis of religion, ability and age.
The Revolutionary Party
To achieve socialism the leading activists in the working class have to be organized into a revolutionary socialist party. The party must be a party of action, and it must be democratic. We are an organization of activists committed to helping in the construction of such a party through ongoing activity in the mass organizations of the working class and in the daily struggles of workers and the oppressed. If these ideas make sense to you, help us in this project, and join the International Socialists. 10 Socialist Worker 8 July 2009
John Bell looks at the flaws of Obama’s proposed cap-and-trade legislation and why it’s so popular with some sections of Big Business
any Canadian environmentalists were counting on strong action on climate change from the Obama administration to force the Harper government to step up. And they were counting on new US legislation to put a stop to expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands. The Waxman-Markey Clean Energy Act may, if it survives a looming Senate debate, succeeds on the first count, but falls far short on the second. The US legislation calls for a national cap-and-trade regime, setting targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 14 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, and by 83 per cent by 2050. The government will issue permits to pollute; industries that pollute less are free to auction the balance of their permits to dirtier businesses, thus establishing a market price for the emissions the cause climate change. The US government estimates it will garner $646 billion from the sale of pollution permits from 2012 to 2019. There is the hope, but no promise, that funds will be directed to environmental purposes. The massive US energy lobby— Big Oil and king coal—is working overtime to convince Democratic Senators from voting for the plan. The US media is flooded with stories, penned by experts from thinktanks mostly funded by energy industry money, that the plan is a “job killer”, a “tax grab” and even an example of “Stalinism” in the midst of a recession. They want a continuation of the Bush-era status quo, with barely a rhetorical recognition of climate change, but no real action to deal with the issues. In that sense, the Obama plan is a big step forward—it is better than nothing. But, setting aside the limitations of cap-and-trade and the mistaken belief that there is a “market solution” for climate change, the plan has already been severely weakened to gain passage through the House
of Representatives by a vote of 219212, with over 40 prominent Democrats voting against it. The plan will not take effect for three more years and, at least initially, the government will hand out all but 17 per cent of the pollution permits for free. Even with those compromises, and potentially more introduced during the Senate debate, US observers predict the legislation will not pass.
Obama’s plan does have many big business backers. The nuclear industry in particular is supportive, and somewhat objective coverage in outlets like Business Week acknowledge that investment in alternative energy sources will create far more jobs than the legislation will kill. It is instructive that even some big energy industry executives, like James Rogers of Duke Energy, are cautiously supportive of the market mechanism: “I have great hope for the ‘green’ stimulus, but it won’t fulfill its potential unless there is a price on carbon.” Business supporters of schemes like cap-and-trade argue that once there is a predictable cost of polluting carbon, they can figure it into their bottom line like any other production cost. There is nothing in the plan to stop industry from passing the increased costs down to consumers. Spokespeople from the coal industry can easily whip up opposition to the legislation by pointing out that gasoline prices will go up by about 12 cents per gallon, and average home energy costs will rise by at least 7 per cent. People at the “bottom” of the market are forced to shoulder all the cost of dealing with climate change. When environmentalists characterize the US as a homogeneously rich, industrialized country they overlook the fact that millions of American workers already face the choice between heating their homes and putting food on the table. So-called market solutions to climate change are usually defended
with the claim “they’re better than nothing”. That may not be true. They misdirect government intervention into bureaucratic maneuvering that has proved open to abuse and corruption, instead of straightforward laws that order all industry to reduce, and eventually stop greenhouse gas emissions. Cap-and-trade allows industry to keep on polluting as long as they pay for the privilege. And they target consumers and “lifestyle” issues as key to the problem. This makes it increasingly difficult to win majority support for bold environmental initiatives. Workers who have to shoulder all the costs will conclude that the solutions on offer are not fair. And they will be right.
Tar sands fall-out
As it stands, the US legislation would apply to energy purchased from foreign countries. Alberta’s tar sands boosters, especially their friends in Harper’s Tory government, have lobbied hard for special exemptions. But they face the prospect of imposed higher costs on their dirty oil that is already very costly to mine and refine. But there will be no outright embargo on Alberta’s synthetic crude, as some tar sands opponents had hoped. That is because, for the US, energy discussions are not just about the environment—they are about “national security”. And access to Alberta crude is the next best thing to having a ready domestic supply. At a recent energy summit, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu acknowledged Canada’s role in America’s energy security. And when it came to environmental concerns from the tar sands, he said: “I’m a big believer in technology.” The technology he refers to is CCS, carbon capture and storage. This is the same “miracle” technology behind the mythical “clean coal” that is another Achilles heel in Obama’s environmental plan. Next issue we will look more closely at the promise and pitfalls of CCS.
Thurs, July 16, 4.30pm Speakers: Ian Beeching, Ian Burns & Conrad King Langara College, rm A346 100 W 49th Ave
Toronto city strike events TORONTO
Sat, July 11, 9:30am Commissioners & Leslie Street
OPSEU Solidarity picket Mon, July 13, 8am Toronto City Hall
Solidarity evening event Tues, July 14, 6pm Location TBA
BBQ organized by CUPE Local 4400 Wed, July 15, 12pm North York Civic Centre
CAW Solidarity picket Wed, July 15, 4pm Location TBA
Solidarity picket by Toronto firefighters
Thurs, July 16, 8am Commissioners Transfer Station
Solidarity rally by Labour Council Sat, July 18, 9:30am Location TBA
For more information, visit www.socialist.ca
You can find the I.S. in: Toronto, Ottawa, Gatineau, Vancouver, Victoria, Montreal, London, St. Catharines, Mississauga, Scarborough, Halifax, Belleville & Kingston e: email@example.com t: 416.972.6391 w: www.socialist.ca For more event listings, visit www.socialist.ca.
firstname.lastname@example.org UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
WORKERS STAND STRONG AS WINDSOR CITY WORKERS’ STRIKE ENTERS MONTH THREE
Students protest flat fees
CAW 567 CUPE solidarity rally
by pam johnson
by JOHN ROSE
University of Toronto students, part of the Drop Fees Coalition, held a protest on June 23 against the flat fees tuition for Arts and Sciences students implemented by the UofT Governing Council.
Under this scheme, students taking more than two courses will be considered full-time and will be charged for five courses. The policy was made without input from students or faculty, and was conveniently announced after most students left for the summer. Even though tuition has risen over 350 per cent in the past 15 years and student debt is reaching astronomical heights, the university justified its move by saying it encourages students to graduate more quickly and reduces their overall costs. According to the Drop Fees Coalition, over 50 per cent of students currently take fewer than five courses. Many students need to work while they attend school and cannot afford the time or money to take five courses. Students are fighting back against flat fees. A lawsuit has been initiated by the University of Toronto Students’ Union.
The Drop Fees Coalition meets every Monday at 4pm in the Sidney Smith Hall lobby.
DEMO TO HALT SITE 41 by peter hogarth Residents of Simcoe County, First Nations peoples and a list of provincial and national organizations are calling on Simcoe County councillors to stop construction on Site 41, a garbage dump on the Alliston aquifer, which is a major source of clean water.
In response, protesters have blockaded the access road to the dumpsite to halt the ongoing dewatering and construction of the landfill. The Council of Canadians is demanding that councillors listen to this obvious outpouring of public opposition in order to protect the area’s water and farmland. Spokesperson Maude Barlow has stated that Warden Tony Guergis and Simcoe City Council must stop construction and debate a key resolution for the dump sites’ future or risk completely betraying local democracy. The resolution calls for a one-year moratorium on Site 41 to allow for an independent review of the study on the safety of the dump, public consultations, and an assessment of the dump on a fuller criteria of provincial regulations, laws and local factors. The resistance of the people of Simcoe County has built a growing consensus among councilors, including those that have supported Site 41, that this option is a way forward.
Cision workers strike against concessions
The municipal workers’ strike in Windsor, members of CUPE Locals 82 and 543 is now entering its third month, with no end in sight. At a recent meeting for members of both locals, members were stronger than ever in calling on their bargaining teams to hold strong on the main issue in the strike: post-retirement benefits for new hires after January 1, 2009.
Attending the meeting was Windsor Labour Council president Gary Parent, who pledged to deliver whatever support the locals asked for. Active solidarity, like that shown by CUPE and other union members from all over Ontario at the June 12 solidarity rally will be necessary in defeating the City of Windsor’s attempt to gut longbargained and hard-earned benefits.
CEP WORKERS LOCKED OUT FOR OPPOSING CONCESSIONS by john rose On June 14, Cadillac Fairview, a nationwide office tower and shopping proprietor, locked-out members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworks (CEP) Local 2003 from their jobs at Toronto Dominion Centre in downtown Toronto. CEP Local 2003 represents 61 engineers, building operators, skilled trades workers and maintenance workers in two bargaining units. The collective agreements for the units expired in March and September of 2008. After over a year of bargaining, CEP Local 2003 workers were locked-out of work because they refused to accept Cadillac Fairview’s proposal, which included massive conces-
sions to the agreements. The proposal demanded that members reapply for their jobs and accept a new six-month probationary period, which would give the employer the ability to discharge or lay off workers who otherwise had job security. The union is obviously concerned that this would allow the employer to fire workers without just cause and could put older workers, workers with disabilities and vocal union members at risk of losing their jobs, some of whom have been working for Cadillac Fairview for over 20 years. The employer’s proposal also sought to eliminate skilled trade job classifications like carpenters, painters and plumbers and replace them with a new “general” classifica-
LCBO workers are showing that it is possible to not only fight for their jobs, but to demand good jobs. LCBO workers have reached a tentative agreement with the Liquor Control Board that will be voted on by the membership on July 13-14. “This tentative agreement is very, very strong with gains for every member and no takeaways,” says bargaining team chair Vanda Klumper. Workers, who are with the Liquor Control Employees Division (LBED) of OPSEU, voted 93 per cent for a strike mandate, when the Liquor Control Board proposed to strip their collective agreement of job security and to continue to “casualize” jobs. The tentative agreement is a victory not only against concessions, but will create more full-time jobs with benefits. The Liquor Board tabled a proposal that would have
ing of the labour union and the membership’s work. With the lockout, CEP members do not have access to severance pay, strike pay or employment insurance, so this is a very trying economic situation. Pickets are set up at the Toronto Dominion Centre at 66 Wellington Street in Toronto (near Wellington and Bay Streets). “We ask for 30 seconds of your time so that we may explain our situation and hopefully earn your support,” a CEP member explains. The pickets are raising awareness about the situation and the employer’s drastic and detrimental demands to destroy a contract that workers put 30 years of efforts into building. For more information, visit www.ceplocal2003.org.
2010 OLYMPIC COSTS SOAR
LCBO WORKERS by pam johnson
tion. With the elimination of these job classifications, the risk of skilled labour being fired or laid off would essentially be guaranteed. This would leave fewer workers doing more work (painting, plumbing and mechanical work) and decrease quality of service because of time constraints and overworked employees, as well as deprive workers of fair compensation and recognition for their skills. CEP Local 2003 members also received letters from Cadillac Fairview which said that they had “arranged to have a third party service provider” carry out the work of the membership at the Toronto Dominion Centre during the lockout. This hiring of scab labour puts the quality of service at risk, not to mention undermin-
killed job security by allowing the employer to “temporarily” lay-off full-time workers during slow periods and to continue to casualize jobs by creating a two-tiered system of part-time workers with no benefits doing the same job as full-timers. The employer backed down in the face of the strong strike mandate and not only took all concessions off the table, but promised to create more fulltime jobs, give benefits to part-time employees and offered the same wage increase offered to Ontario Public Service workers. This is a significant victory in the era of economic crisis when workers are being told to accept concessions on everything from wages to benefits to pensions. The LBED campaigned behind the slogan “Our Communities need Good Jobs” and made “booze bucks” with this slogan for customers to give to LCBO employees at the LCBO checkout counters to show their support.
by ian beeching
A quarter of children living in the Metro Vancouver area live in poverty, yet taxpayer money in the order of $145 million is being given to the 2010 Olympic Games as their costs have soared far over-budget. About $100 million of this is from the Millennium Project to house Olympic athletes. The remaining $45 million is a result of over budget Olympics construction projects As of yet, the pledge to build 252 units of social housing attached to the Olympic village has not followed through and the city is contemplating shelving the plan. This is in light of the 2,660 homeless people whom the Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness counted in a 2008 survey. The Olympics Resistance Network (ORN) has taken legal action against the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit (VISU) for accosting over 24 Olympics critics over
the last 10 months. Officers have harassed critics in public, at home, at work and at City Hall, including sitting in on various community meetings and harassing neighbours, friends and even parents. Furthermore dozens of cameras will line the streets during the 2010 games. For more info, contact email@example.com.
Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) Local 567 went on strike in the early morning hours of May 5 after mediation broke down. The 25 members are employed by Cision Canada in Ottawa. Cision has put serious contract concessions on the table including the elimination of the cost-ofliving adjustment (COLA) clause, elimination of bonus clause, and limiting severance language, sick leaves and shift language. The company wants to change shift start times by four hours with no notice. Their initial wage increase proposals were 0 per cent, 1 per cent and 1 per cent. The local is determined to win a fair and equitable agreement, and wants to make it clear that wages and benefits are not the issues in bargaining, but it is concessions and rollbacks to language and clauses that already exist in the contract that are on the chopping block. Cision is a media research and distribution service in the public relations field that operates in more than a dozen countries with 2,500 employees worldwide. It declares that it “supports growth and profitability” and is “a great place to work,” while it proposes to slash and destroy the collective agreement of CAW Local 567. Compounding the problem of the proposal that Cision put on the negotiation table is the continuing trend of concessions. With Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Locals 416 and 79 facing a proposal from the City of Toronto to take away sick days, CUPE Locals 543 and 82 facing attempts from the City of Windsor to chop post retiree benefits from their agreement, and the reorganizing of job classifications of CEP Local 2003, there seems to be a trend in how companies and elites are negotiating. The financial crisis is the first and most popular excuse for owners to ensure their pockets are full while workers pay the price. Picket lines for CAW Local 567 are set up at Cision facilities at 1 Nicholas Street near Rideau in Ottawa. For more information, visit www.cawlocal.ca/567.
Join the International Socialists Mail: P.O. Box 339, Station E, Toronto, ON M6H 4E3 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / Tel: 416.972.6391
Name: Address: City/Province: Phone: E-mail:
8 July 2009 Socialist Worker 11
war intensifies in Afghanistan and PakistaN by paul stevenson
In the early hours of July 2, the US launched its largest marine offensive since the Vietnam War. Accompanied by about 650 Afghan soldiers, 4,000 US marines began the assault in the Helmand Valley in southern Afghanistan in an attempt to secure the area ahead of the Afghan presidential elections in August. Unlike previous US offensives, the marines will stay in the area and hold it rather than hand it over to local Afghan authorities. This is the start of the Obama surge in Afghanistan. It is being touted as the beginning of the “endgame” in the war to pacify the Afghan people and is the first major operation led by the new US commander in the region, General Stanley McChrystal. McChrystal was the notorious leader of the secretive Task Force 6-26 in Iraq, which was responsible for the capture of Saddam Hussein and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. His unit ran a Camp Nama near Baghdad where thousands of Iraqi detainees were tortured. We can only guess how many thousands of Afghans will be disappeared and tortured under his new command. The US-led NATO coalition is already declaring the mission a success due to the moderate resistance. Anyone who understands the nature of the war in Afghanistan would have predicted that the resistance would go underground in the face of this attack.
Resistance movements rarely fight head on with a massively armored US marine group, but rather they blend into the population and prepare for hit-and-run attacks in the future. In an area like Helmand, where Pashtun resistance has made life hell for British soldiers, the premature declarations of victory will no doubt come back to haunt NATO.
Many of the resistance fighters were said to be fleeing from Helmand to the border with Pakistan where Pakistani armed forces attempted to intercept them. In Pakistan, anger at US drone air strikes is growing. According to David Cullender, counterinsurgency adviser to General Petraeus, drone strikes in the northwest frontier province have killed about 14 Taliban militants and approximately 700 civilians this year. Each new set of drone attacks brings more people into the resistance and will further escalate the bloodshed in the area. Meanwhile, in Kandahar province, a gun battle between US trained Afghan soldiers and the local police forces killed 10 people, including the area police chief. The battle between groups that are supposed to be allied is indicative of the divisions that exist between local Afghan leaders and the new Afghan Army, which is essentially a proxy of the NATO forces.
Never miss an issue. Mail in this form with a cheque or money order made payable to “Socialist Worker”. Prices per year (CAD dollars): Regular subscription: $30 Institutions, First Class delivery and U.S.: $50 Other international: $60 Name: Address: Phone: E-mail: Mail to: Socialist Worker, PO Box 339 Station E, Toronto, ON Canada, M6H 4E3 Phone: 416.972.6391 / E-mail: email@example.com
The cost of the Afghanistan mission The Conservative government has just announced it will be spending $5 billion on new combat vehicles and maintaining the existing Canadian Forces fleet. The cost of the mission has surpassed its original estimate. However, the exact figures are unknown. When the NDP filed an accessto-information request, the defence
department refused to reveal the cost, citing secrecy concerns, but eventually released some partial figures. The Department of Defence stated that Canada will be spending roughly $1.5 billion this year and next in “incremental” military costs, in total spending $9 billion from 2001 through 2011, when the mission is
scheduled to end. However, according to Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page’s independent figures, the total cost of the mission is $18 billion. Ottawa’s downplaying of the cost of the war has many people questioning the mission, especially with mounting soldier and civilian deaths, and the deepening economic crisis.
Courts expose CSIS lies, deception by james clark
The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada’s spy agency, has been slammed by the courts for its deceptive behaviour in a series of highprofile security cases. Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley recently condemned CSIS for failing to disclose evidence that weakens the government’s case against Hassan Almrei, one of five Muslim men held on “security certificates” in Canada. Almrei, 35, was first arrested in 2001, but finally won release on bail in early 2009. He remains under house arrest. Justice Mosley said that the agency’s
mishandling of evidence was of “great concern to the court” and could compromise the case against Almrei. CSIS claimed in court documents that an informant had taken a lie detector test, when he had not. CSIS also failed to disclose that another informant had been “deceptive”. The agency nevertheless used the evidence to build a case against Almrei. Almrei’s lawyer, Lorne Waldman, argued that the agency’s actions represent a “pattern of consistent noncompliance” and that the case against Almrei should be dismissed. Because security certificate cases are heard in secret, defendants
may not see the evidence against them. Instead, the court assumes that CSIS evidence is accurate. Recent revelations show that the entire process is corrupt and subject to widespread abuse. Earlier in June, CSIS was exposed for mishandling evidence in another security certificate case, this one against Mohamed Harkat, 40, who has also been released on strict bail conditions. On May 12, CSIS illegally raided the home of Harkat and his wife, Sophie Lamarche, in what Justice Simon described as an “excessively intrusive search into the most intimate details of their private life.” The judge condemned
the search and argued that CSIS must immediately return everything that was seized. In an earlier ruling, Justice Noel revealed that CSIS had hidden for seven years the fact that one of its informants against Harkat had failed a lie detector test. These incidents demonstrate that CSIS regularly resorts to lies and deception as its gathers evidence in security cases. In June 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada condemned CSIS for destroying evidence and only providing “summaries” to the courts. The Court ruled that the practice violated the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, the law governing CSIS.