$2 no. 509 August 2009
Don’t wait till 2011. Bring the troops home now.
END NATO’S BRUTAL WAR by paul stevenson
On just one day, July 22, a Canadian soldier fired a shot at a motorcycle in the Panjwai district in southern Afghanistan. The shot ricocheted and killed a young Afghan girl. Within an hour, Canadian soldiers had also shot and seriously injured two Afghan police officers in the nearby Dand district. Canadian military officials once again blamed the Afghan people themselves, stating that, since it is difficult to distinguish insurgents from the regular population, it is therefore the fault of the insurgents that these people were shot. The real blame lies with the NATO countries that are killing Afghan civilians at an increasing rate. In fact, according to the United Nations, the first six months of 2009 saw an increase of 24 per cent in civilian deaths in Afghanistan, with more than 1,000 civilians killed. This past May was the most deadly month with more than 250 civilian deaths. July was the bloodiest month for NATO troops, with 73 killed during the massive US marine assault on Helmand province.
Airstrikes continue to be the main source of civilian casualties at the hands of NATO. In one incident, 147 civilians were killed in the village of Granai in Farrah province. Granai is now becoming the symbol of the brutal occupation. It is the Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, Qana or My Lai of the Afghan war. None of this is good news for politicians in the NATO countries where there is increasing popular opposition to the war. A recent Associated Press poll found that, for the first time, there is a 53 per cent majority opposition to the war in Afghanistan among US citizens. In the UK, which lost 15 soldiers in the week of the Helmand offensive, 58 per cent think that the war is unwinnable and almost as many call for the troops to be brought home now. In Germany, where support for the war has been tenuous, the leak of a Bundeswehr manual designed to show German soldiers how to avoid contamination by Depleted Uranium munitions (which the US swears are not being used in Afghanistan) has brought a firestorm of opposition against the Merkel government. Everywhere the opposition is growing.
Toronto CUPE victory shows solidarity can win by michelle robidoux
The CUPE city workers’ strike has been an inspiration to workers across the province. Throughout a grueling 39-day strike—the longest municipal strike in Toronto’s history—CUPE Locals 416 and 79 drew a line in the sand on concessions. Despite relentless anti-union hype in the media, CUPE members stayed strong and built solidarity throughout the strike.
In particular, both locals went out together, stood together and went back together. It’s easy to talk about solidarity, but the experience of building it and maintaining it under tremendous pressure—as Toronto city workers did—is filled with lessons for the labour movement, especially in these hard times. The artful way in which that unity was played out between locals 416 and 79 in the last days of the strike deserves study. When local 416 president Mark Ferguson announced that a framework agreement had been worked
out for outside workers, he said clearly that the next step for city negotiators was to hammer out a fair deal for Local 79. When that was done and Local 79 had ratified its agreement, local 79 leaders made it clear they would not return to work without 416 getting a back-towork protocol. At both these moments, if one union didn’t stand up and hold out for the other, neither would have won the victories they did. Solidarity made all the difference. This was a defensive battle against an at-
tempt by Mayor David Miller and the City of Toronto to take away hard-won gains from city workers. The contracts that were negotiated unfortunately represent a step back on wage settlements compared to other public sector workers in Ontario. This was, after all, the aim of Miller in these negotiations. But he did not succeed in taking away the sick leave bank, which is, in reality, deferred wages. This is an important victory for CUPE and the entire the labour movement.
Mohawks fight for sovereignty » page 2 l Marxism and contradiction » page 4 Wind power meets workers’ power » page 6 l Recession over? » page 9
SITE 41 PROTEST
Abdelrazik campaigns for justice
Mohawk community continues fight for border sovereignty
Community continues fight against dump site
by jesse mclaren
Mahjoub on hunger strike by jessica squires
By mid-August, Mohammad Mahjoub had passed 70 days on hunger strike at the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre. Mahjoub is consuming juice and water but no food. He has vowed to continue his fourth hunger strike since 2007, until an independent investigator is brought in. Mahjoub is protesting religious discrimination by guards, which included walking on his prayer mat in their shoes and interrupting his prayer. He has also been served rotten soy milk and raw meat. The total number of days Mahjoub has been on hunger strike since his detention in 2007 is over 270. Released under very strict conditions last year, he returned to prison voluntarily after his family complained of extreme surveillance by Canada’s border police. He said he does not regret that decision because it was done for the sake of his family. Majoub is one of five Muslim men in Canada who has been detained without charge under Canada’s notorious Security Certificate system. The other four men have been release on bail, but under very harsh conditions. The federal court has recently condemned CSIS for fabricating evidence against the men.
by JESSE Mclaren A First Nations community has resisted the Tories’ attempt to militarize the border crossing on their territory and is now pushing to move the border itself.
Harper ’s plan to arm Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) guards, including those on Akwesasne Mohawk territory, is a further violation of First Nations sovereignty, and raises
the risk of violence. After a sustained campaign demonstrated that the Mohawk community would not allow the arming, public safety minister Peter Van Loan stubbornly closed the border crossing on June 1, imposing an economic blockade on the community and surrounding areas. On July 13, after a six-week stand-off, Van Loan temporarily moved the border post to the City of Cornwall. The Tor-
ies failure to enforce armed guards on the territory is a partial victory for the Akwesasne Mohawk community. But it was a unilateral decision by the government, which shows how little it cares for negotiations, and how much it wants to arm border guards. Furthermore, the temporary customs post still imposes difficulties: as the international border cuts through Akwesane territory, residents crossing from one side to the other
are now expected to go out of their way to report to the interim border post. In addition, the makeshift post is only temporary, and the Tories could try to move it back on Akwesane territory, along with the armed guards. Grand Chief Mike Mitchell is now calling for the only sensible solution: move the international border off First Nations land, to unite the community and end the dispute.
Locked-out CEP workers picket outside the Cadillac Fairview building in downtown Toronto. To read more about the lockout, see page 11.
Climate change, pine beetle add fuel to BC forest fires by bradley hughes
By August, BC has had a total of 2,196 forest fires this year which have consumed just less than 65,000 hectares. The average annual total for the previous ten years was 1,848 fires which destroyed 81,291 hectares. Only four of the last ten years had more fires in total than BC has had so far this year. Thousands of people have been evacua-
ted from their homes, or are on evacuation alert. Some of the evacuees have had to leave home twice, when a previously contained fire had escaped control. The fires have been caused by record dry stretches and heat across the province. Many regions across the province recorded their highest temperature ever on record in the last few days of July. This has come after low
levels of rainfall throughout the spring and summer for most of the province. Some of the fires are in areas hit by the mountain pine beetle. The pine beetle carries a fungus that kills the pine trees that the beetle infests. The dead trees add fuel to the fire. The pine beetle cannot survive winter temperatures below -35C. However, due to climate change, BC winters are getting milder and such low
temperatures are becoming rarer. As a result, the beetles have spread over 800 million hectares in BC and are now spreading east into Alberta. Climate change is the real culprit in the BC fires. We have seen an increase in extreme weather around the world this year. For BC it has meant record low rainfall for months, coupled with weeks of high temperatures: perfect weather conditions for forest fires.
Tories reveal bigotry Jason Kenney targets by john bell Earlier this summer, Tory Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy was punished by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Tory caucus for having funded Toronto’s Gay Pride celebration.
Now, Montreal’s Pride event, Divers/Cité, has paid the price. An expected grant of $155,000 for the event was denied at the last moment. Ablonczy’s ministry administered the Marquee Tourism Events fund, economic stimulus money earmarked to support high-profile summer events. She had granted $400,000 to Toronto’s Pride, fitting for one of the city’s biggest tourist draws, usually attracting up to a million visitors. That amount pales beside the more than $2 million the Marquee fund gave to the Calgary Stampede. But antigay bigots in the Tory caucus went on the offensive. The Marquee fund administration was taken away from Ablonc-
2 Socialist Worker August 2009
zy and given to Industry Minister Tony Clement. At the time, organizers of Montreal’s Divers/Cité actually defended the Tories. Industry Ministry officials assured event-marketing director Paul Girard that their application met all criteria and was awaiting Clement’s approval. “We knew that anybody that was to be refused and didn’t meet the criteria got a quick ‘no’,” Girard said. “As time advanced, we became more and more confident.” In the end, when Clement denied the funding, organizer Suzanne Girard admitted, “They changed the rules as they went along. I feel like I’ve been had.” In the past, Stephen Harper’s Tories have tried to keep their social conservatism hidden in hopes of winning a majority government. Now their homophobic bigotry is plainly visible. Perhaps they have given up the masquerade, along with any hopes of gaining more electoral seats in Quebec.
war resisters, again by JESSE Mclaren Immigration Minister Jason Kenney plans on deporting another Iraq War resister against the will of Parliament. After experiencing the horrors of the Iraq War, Rodney Watson refused to redeploy and came to Canada. He has been living in Vancouver since 2007 and has a Canadian-born son, but received a deportation order for August 10. The House of Commons has twice voted to stop deporting US Iraq War resisters and to create a program to let them apply for permanent residence. But Jason Kenney has ignored the will of Parliament, prejudiced the refugee process by labeling war resisters “bogus refugee claimants”, and deported war resisters
to face jail in the US. This June, Immigration critics from all three opposition parties called on Kenney “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.” Stephen Harper recently backed Kenney’s claims about “bogus refugee claimants” during the Three Amigos summit in Mexico. Harper tried to deflect criticism over Canada’s new visa rules for Mexicans by claiming “bogus refugees” have clogged Canada’s immigration system. In truth, Harper’s Tories have refused to fill vacancies in the system that would eliminate backlogs. For more information, visit www.resisters.ca.
(PHOTO: CHARLOTTE IRELAND)
Abousfian Abdelrazik’s successful repatriation is just the first phase in his fight for justice. On July 23, Abdelrazik held his first press conference since returning from years of Canadian-imposed exile and torture in Sudan. He explained how CSIS agents harassed his terminally-ill wife, how they interrogated and tortured him in Sudanese jails, and how they did nothing to help remove his name from the 1267 UN list that prevented his repatriation. Recently released documents also indicate that Canadian officials were told that Abdelrazik might be executed in Sudan, and reacted with cold indifference. As Abdelrazik explained, “Now I’m here, I’m physically here. But the difficulty is still there, because my name is still on that 1267 list, which makes barriers for me everywhere. I’m not allowed to receive medical care, to apply for a job, even I cannot receive a small gift from my own family. “I need my name as soon as possible to be removed from that list; to live my life like a normal person, a human being, a normal Canadian. And I want those people who played a role to face justice because I don’t want this to happen to another person.” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and Pubic Safety Minister Peter Van Loan have refused to meet with him. In the fall, Abdelrazik will travel around the country to tell his story, campaign for delisting his name and call for government accountability.
by peter hogarth
The fight against Site 41, a dump on the Alliston aquifier, a major source of clean water, continues as public pressure mounts and the police and courts attempt to silence critics. First Nations and Simcoe County community members have continued their blockade of the construction site and have applied immense pressure to local councillors to put a year-long moratorium on the project to allow for an independent review of the risks involved. The public outcry against Site 41 and the contamination it would cause to “the purest water in the world” has been vast and diverse. A rally on July 25 brought out over 2,500 people in favour of a moratorium on site construction. Speakers representing several First Nations communities, area environmentalists and the NDP received exuberant applause from the crowd. Since then, a court injunction prohibiting people from protesting on the property of Site 41 has been imposed for a twoweek period. The injunction will continue as courts try to decide the legality of the protests based on another injunction request filed on behalf of those opposed to the dump’s construction. The crux of the decision lies in whether the dump’s construction was ever duly authorized by council, since a Simcoe County Council meeting on June 26, 2007 specified that construction was “not to include development of waste cells”. Arguments on whether to halt construction of Dump Site 41 or to impose a permanent ban on protestors will be heard August 13 to 14 at the Barrie courthouse. Meanwhile, a retired farm couple has been singled out by police to face charges in relation to the protest at Dump Site 41. Ina Wood, 76, and her 82-year-old husband, Keith, have been charged with mischief for their opposition to the dump’s construction. Despite these attempts to silence dissent, the movement to Stop Dump Site 41 appears to be winning the fight. On July 28, Midland Council voted 9 to 0 to support the one-year halt on Site 41, with every council member vocally in favour of the moratorium.
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Israeli soldiers speak out by Amelia murphy-beaudoin
President Hamid Karzai speaking at the World Economic Forum.
Violence escalates before Afghan presidential elections by paul stevenson
Hamid Karzai, current president and front-runner in the upcoming presidential elections, is unable to travel freely throughout the country that he allegedly governs because of fear of attacks. If the president is unable to travel without fear of attack then it will be difficult for any opposition candidates to freely campaign. This will not be a fair election. In 2004, the US military offered combat helicopters and soldiers to provide security for Karzai and forced all other candidates to face potential violence on their own. That factor helped secure the victory for Karzai and, despite his drop in popularity, still offers him enough of an advantage to secure
the win this time. With as much as 75 per cent of the country under control of the resistance, the elections will be fraught with attacks. Karzai’s main opposition comes from the Northern Alliance commander Dr Abdullah Abdullah. Abdullah has significant credibility as a former minister of the Karzai government who has now become a strong critic of it. He is also well known for his close relationship with the assassinated Mujahiddeen leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, and for his years of resistance to Soviet and Taliban rule. The violence and misery under Karzai’s rule, and Abdullah’s faster timeline for the removal of foreign troops, will work in Abdullah’s favour during the election. However, when speaking to the
US envoys mute criticism of Israel by jonathon hodge
Rather than provide some meat on the bones of Obama’s criticism of Israeli settlements, the US State Department and the Pentagon have rushed to wrap Israel in the well-worn cloth of imperial brotherhood, with no less than four administration heavyweights visiting Israeli officials in the span of a single week. Defence Secretary Robert Gates was followed, within days, by Obama’s special envoy George Mitchell. Shortly thereafter, national security advisor James Jones met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, followed by Dennis Ross, the White House’s point man on Iran. Such a flurry of diplomatic activity has not been seen in Tel Aviv since the 1991 Gulf
War. Tellingly, none of the US officials met with Palestinian representatives at all, either Fatah in the West Bank or Hamas in Gaza. President Obama states that a comprehensive plan for peace in the Middle East is one of his administration’s goals, and yet his representatives ignore one of the contending peoples while they fawn over the other. Even the mildest criticism of Israeli policy needs to be backed up with action to show that the US is serious. The White House could withhold aid money that is spent on settlement construction, or even better, stop military aid that is overwhelmingly used to kill Palestinians. One could be forgiven for assuming that the Obama version of peace will be suspiciously like his predecessor’s.
international media, he equivocates, saying that Afghans need to build up their own institutions before the troops go. The pre-election violence has already begun with the bombings in Herat, which killed 12 people and wounded a dozen others. The attack targeted a police station, in the city which has been relatively calm since the invasion of 2001. Sections of the resistance have called for a boycott of the vote, meaning that voter turnout would be lower than in the last election. This would be a blow to the propaganda war for the West. Most Afghans see the elections as being manipulated by NATO for its own benefit. Within the occupying forces, there is widespread concern that the flawed vote will in-
crease the resistance to NATO and the government. According to Abdul Hadi, an Afghan election commissioner, most Afghans are reluctant to vote because they don’t expect it to change anything. Mr. Hadi told the New York Times, “They voted before, and they did not see any result from that, and they don’t want to put their lives in jeopardy for one vote.” Despite the rhetoric from NATO countries that this election will be an important step towards independence, the brutality of the occupation and the illegitimate government it supports will continue to bring more violence and poverty to the people of Afghanistan. Nearly eight years ofter the war began, it is time to bring all the troops home now.
Iraq ‘withdrawal’ misleading by jessica squires
Now that the troops are out of Iraq’s cities, it looks like the withdrawal has been a success. After all, there were only about 275 Iraqi civilians killed in July. What a horrible way to measure success. But is it really as successful as the mainstream media would have us believe? First, there is doubt about the count. Iraq Body Count lists 418 dead civilians, including 20 children, while various mainstream stories cite totals from 224 to 387—some of the numbers coming from the same government sources. The high end of that range makes this year’s violence comparable, and perhaps even higher, than last year’s. Another number citied is that “only” seven US soldiers were killed in July. While this is the lowest monthly toll since the invasion, it is very high by any human standard. Furthermore, violence increased
in the months preceding the pullout, with June having the highest Iraqi death toll in almost a year. Second, the troops did not really withdraw—they remain just outside the cities. Most of the 130,000 troops will stay until 2011 to help with January elections. Third, the violence does not show any signs of abating. On July 31, 29 people were killed and 136 wounded in a wave of bombings targeting Shia Muslims in Baghdad. And the violence against civilians by US forces continues as well. In mid-July, US troops killed three Iraqis and wounded another four, including two children, near Baghdad. An Iraqi army officer was prevented from arresting the US soldiers involved. A required referendum on the status of US troops in Iraq has not been held, although the deadline was July 31. If the people turned down the referendum, it would trigger a complete withdrawal in a year. The violence and civilian deaths will not stop until all foreign troops have completely withdrawn.
Israeli soldiers who served in the war in Gaza are daring to speak out. Breaking the Silence is a human rights group founded by Israeli veterans that has collected damning testimonies from soldiers who took part in the offensive in January against Gaza. The common thread in the almost 30 testimonies collected is that orders were given to prevent Israeli casualties, whatever the cost in Palestinian lives. Here is a quote from one of the testimonies: “Fire power was insane. We went in and the booms were just mad. The minute we got to our starting line, we simply began to fire at suspect places. You see a house, a window, shoot at the window. You don’t see a terrorist there? Fire at the window. In urban warfare, anyone is your enemy. No innocents.” The Israeli Supreme Court outlawed the so-called “neighbour policy” of using Palestinians to shield advancing troops in 2005. In an incident described in a testimony by an Israeli soldier, it is clear that this policy is still being used: “A Palestinian neighbour is brought in. It’s procedure. The soldier places his gun barrel on the civilian’s shoulder.” Israeli military spokeswoman Lt Col Avital Leibovich dismissed the testimonies as anonymous hearsay, designed to embarrass the army rather than lead to serious investigations. But Breaking the Silence has a long and credible record of getting soldiers to talk about experiences, which might not reflect well on the army. The testimony must be anonymous because of orders to Israeli soldiers not to speak out publicly. To view the testimonials, visit www.shovrimshtika.org.
Hate attack on Tel Aviv LGBT club On August 1, a masked gunman opened fire in a Tel Aviv club for LGTB youth, killing two and wounding 11. The killer has not been caught. Although the shooting has been condemned by political and religious leaders, it points out the oppression and threat of violence that LGBT people face in Israel. So much for the myth, perpetuated by North American Zionists, that Israel is a progressive and diverse island in a sea of Middle East bigotry. The city of Tel Aviv is considered to be friendly to sexual diversity; it is so out of step with wider Israeli prejudices it is nicknamed “the Bubble”. Pride events in Jerusalem have suffered hateful abuse and violent attacks led by “moderate” figures. Eli Yeshai, leader of the Orthodox Shas party, and Minister of Internal Affairs in Netanyahu’s coalition government, has referred to gays as “sick”, “perverse” and calls Pride “the filth parade.” Israeli LGBT activists have called the attack “our Stonewall”, referring to the 1969 riot against homophobic police tactics in New York that sparked the Gay Rights movement. August 2009 Socialist Worker 3
Marxism and contradiction The original method developed by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the first half of the 19th century offers some clues to figuring out capitalism in the 21st. They started with an understanding of the world as a place where things are not always as they appear. In fact, appearance, they maintained, was not only different from reality—often it was in contradiction with that reality.
This idea, gleaned from Hegel and the German philosophical tradition, led Marx and Engels to question all the appearances of the new burgeoning world of European capitalism of their day, with all its (apparent) industrial wonders. The new rising class—the propertied class or “bourgeoisie”—challenged the age-old rule of Kings and Queens. This was certainly to be welcomed. But the new class also promised to create a new world of freedom, liberty and equality. Marx and Engels maintained that this was an appearance only—the promise of freedom could never be fulfilled within the system—capitalism—that was developing. This was not just because the world was full of liars. Though this may have been the case, then or now, naked deceit or conspiracy was not the premise of the original method of Marx and Engels. Rather, they understood that consciousness is related to the material conditions of life. At certain stages of human development, the stages roughly marked by the type of class society dominant in any given time, there is a contradiction between a minority ruling class, and the majority oppressed class.
The relations between these conflicting classes are determined by their different roles in the productive processes: masters and slaves; wealthy aristocratic landlords and landless serfs; capitalists and workers, etc. As capitalism develops, there is a greater capacity for wealth than in any other time of human history. The promise of liberty and freedom for all follows from the promise of what appears to be endless prosperity. But the reality is quite different. In fact, the wealth is created by a mass of poor labourers, torn from the land that had been their source of subsistence. They were and are forced to work in order to survive, and in so doing generate profit for the class that amasses private property as capital. Appearance is not only different from reality, but is actually the opposite of the claimed reality, in contradiction with it. In this perspective, ruling classes necessarily present a reality that is divorced from the real world of inequality.
In the book titled The German Ideology, Marx and Engels summarize the approach: “[E]ach new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling class before it is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to present its interest as the common interest of all members of society.” This notion of contradiction as inherent to class society informs the method referred to as dialectical or historical materialism. The extent of capitalism’s productivity is much greater, and the system’s capabilities have expanded dramatically. Yet the distance between this potential and reality has widened. Today, the contradictory nature of social, economic and political life have become much more transparent. Take the question of life expectancy. Over the last thirty years, the average life span of a human being, world wide, has increased by a minimum of ten years. Even in the poorest parts of the world, where average life spans are shorter than in the wealthier areas, over this time the average life span has increased from 48 years to 63 years. There are various explanations, but increased productivity in agriculture (sometimes called the green revolution), based on new technologies, and improved medical care, are certainly among the main factors. Where is the contradiction in this? Longevity is based on average life expectancy. Over about the same period, there has been a dramatic increase in deaths due to wars. In the years between World War II and the end of the 1990s, taken on an average yearly basis, the numbers killed in wars are more than double the deaths in wars in the 19th century, and seven times more than in the 18th century. If we expand the reach of this assessment of death due to wars to the 20th century as a whole, the numbers would include the tens of millions killed in the two world wars. Certainly, a great deal has changed since Marx and Engels attempted to figure out early capitalism in Europe. And relative to what we know today about global capitalism, their world view had limitations. For example, we know much more about the impact of capitalism and imperialism on the Global South than Marx and Engels could possibly have studied. But it is safe to say that the contradictions between the apparent promise of capitalism and the reality of the daily lives of the mass of the world’s population have, if anything, actually increased. A method which starts from the contradictions of the system can serve as a key to unlocking many of the core elements of capitalism today. 4 Socialist Worker August 2009
Movement defies intimidation, as protests continue by james clark
In the face of ongoing threats and acts of intimidation by government hardliners, Iran’s fledgling democracy movement refuses to back down. On August 5, protests broke out in Tehran to oppose the inauguration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a second term in office. Despite the heavy presence of riot police, protesters in Tehran’s Vanak Square honked horns and chanted “Death to the Dictator!” Opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, feeling pressure from the movement, posted statements online saying that Ahmadinjead’s second term will be “illegitimate” and vowed that protests would continue. The same week, a mass show trial
began for 100 people accused of trying to lead a “velvet coup” in Iran, although none has been formally charged with any crimes under Iranian law. Among those on trial are former government leaders, including Muhammad Ali Abtahi, a former vice president, and Muhammad Atrianfar, a journalist and former Interior Ministry official. Iran’s establishment remains deeply split, with many denouncing the trials as a sham. Those on trial have been forced to repeat the same “confessions” during television broadcasts of the trial, affirming that the June 12 vote was free from fraud. But even figures closely associated with the status quo have spoken out against the election. Conservative cleric and former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani delivered a sermon at
Friday prayers on July 17 in which he called for political prisoners to be released and restrictions on the media to be relaxed. Thousands attended, amidst police intimidation and several arrests. Many in Iran now see Rafsanjani’s speech as a direct challenge to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who delivered a sermon from the same pulpit four weeks earlier, calling for all protests to end. The cracks opening up at the top of Iranian society represent the growing discontent among Iranians in general. Pressure from below is making the divisions more obvious. But no matter how much hardliners attempt to stifle dissent, they continue to face a crisis of legitimacy in the wake of the June 12 vote. As protests continue, that crisis will only deepen.
Resistance builds against Honduras coup by jessica squires
Since the military-backed midnight ousting of elected President Manuel Zelaya from Honduras, the opposition to the coup has stayed strong. This is despite brutal repression tactics by the state and military. Workers, unions, farmers, students and social movements have banded together in protests, blockades and general strikes for over a month. This massive resistance has exerted so much pressure that some government figures have distanced themselves from the coup.
The coup has also exposed divisions in the Obama camp, as representatives of the “de facto” government of Roberto Micheletti have visited Washington, DC at the invitation of Hillary Clinton. Clinton has also given the coup regime legitimacy by setting up negotiations between Micheletti and Zelaya. The people of Honduras have seen these events for what they are, and have chosen to resist. Zelaya has also been very clear about the US role. In an interview with CNN he stated: “Honduras depends on Washington. The US only needs to tighten its fist, and the coup will last five seconds.” This is very true—the Honduran econ-
omy depends on the US for international aid and trade, a relationship forged in the Contra war of the 1980s. Meanwhile, protests continue. At least five people have been killed in repression violence. In Canada, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas Peter Kent continues to make misleading statements to the media, faulting Zelaya for insisting that he be allowed to return home. Pressure must continue on the federal government to call for the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of Zelaya, for an end to repression, and for no recognition for the coup government of Micheletti.
Donald Marshall, Native rights activist, dies A Mi’kmaq icon and Native rights fighter at the centre of one of Canada’s highest profile wrongful conviction cases has died. Donald “Junior” Marshall was suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a potentially fatal airflow obstruction associated mainly with emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Marshall is most noted for spending 11 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. At age 17, he was convicted of murder in the 1971 stabbing death of Sandy Seale in Sydney, NS. He was released in 1982 and acquitted in 1983. Roy Ebsary, an eccentric who bragged of having a prowess with knives, was eventually convicted of manslaughter in Seale’s death and spent a year in jail. In 1990, Marshall was finally exonerated
in the report of a royal commission into the wrongful murder conviction. The inquiry concluded that Marshall was a victim of racism and incompetence. “The criminal justice system failed Donald Marshall Jr. at virtually every turn from his arrest and wrongful conviction for murder in 1971 up to and even beyond his acquittal by the Court of Appeal in 1983,” said the report. Danny Paul wrote of him: “In 1971, Donald Marshall Jr. was charged, tried and convicted for a murder he didn’t commit. He was guilty of only one thing, presumably not a crime, being a Mi’kmaq. The Marshall Report issued by the Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall Jr. Prosecution in December 1989 castigated the Nova Scotia justice system, and society in general, for the injustices carried out
against an innocent and defenceless Mi’kmaq boy.” A second, high-profile legal case involved Marshall’s 1996 conviction for illegally catching and selling eels out of season and without a licence. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Marshall upheld a centuriesold treaty between Mi’kmaq Natives and the British Crown in acquitting Marshall. The ruling also confirmed that Mi’kmaq and Maliseet in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have the right to earn a moderate livelihood from hunting, fishing and gathering. Donald Marshall was an inspiration to native and non-Native militants alike. His courage showed convincingly that without struggle there is no progress. He will be missed. Stephen Ellis Halifax, NS
TORONTO CITY STRIKE
STICKING WITH THE UNION Carolyn Egan
Unions show how solidarity can help win a strike Three thousand hard rock miners are walking the picket line in Sudbury, Ontario, with hundreds more in Voisey Bay. They are members of the United Steelworkers and have gone on strike against Vale Inco. The giant Brazilian mining company is demanding concessions and a two-tiered pension plan. It is one more example of industry attempting to make workers pay, using the excuse of the economic crisis to cut into past gains made by working people. A march of miners and their families recently took place in Sudbury, and the workers are holding strong. Steelworkers from US Steel (formerly Stelco) in Hamilton, who had recently returned to work after a long layoff, drove five hours north to show their solidarity. More support actions are being planned. It is expected to be a long strike. The company has stockpiled nickel brought up from the ground through the sweat and blood of hard-working men and women. The company has no regard for their labour. It is following the route of corporations around the world, trying to grind down workers in order to keep profits high.
An historic stewards’ assembly recently took place in Toronto and drew over 1,600 union activists. One of the key messages was the need for solidarity when workers strike. We recently saw that solidarity in the municipal strike in Toronto by CUPE Locals 79 and 416. It took some unions a little while to show their concrete support because the mayor of Toronto was supported by labour in the last two elections, and had been a member of the New Democratic Party. There was also an almost hysterical media attack on the 24,000 striking workers who ground city services to a halt fighting concessions. This made some leaders hesitant, feeling that there was little support for the striking workers. Other unions stepped up to the plate, organizing visible actions and rallies at City Hall and many of the dumpsites. The Toronto and York Region Labour Council set up a solidarity committee calling on affiliates to join together and build support for the striking workers among their own members and the general public. The momentum built and almost everyday there were actions organized by Steelworkers, firefighters, CEP, CAW, OPSEU, the building trades and other CUPE locals. The strikers responded by marching in support of locked out workers at the TD Centre, who had recently been terminated (see page 11). This cross union solidarity was an important step forward.
The workers won this strike themselves on the lines, but solidarity makes a real difference. It builds working class confidence, and made it clear that they were not alone. I was at a meeting of hundreds of picket captains from CUPE Local 416 during the last week of the strike. It was feisty and militant. The members were hurting due to the loss of income, but they were determined that they would not go back except on their own terms. The two locals, inside workers and outside workers, made a pact that they would go into the strike together and finish it together. Neither would go back until the other ratified a deal, which greatly strengthened their hand. They didn’t get everything, but pushed back against concessions and after long weeks on the line, they won. The strikers appreciated the tremendous solidarity that was generated by other unions and learned that so called “labour friendly” mayor and councillors can’t be counted on to take a stand against neo-liberal attacks on public sector workers. Workers have to do it themselves and the CUPE strikers in Toronto have shown the way.
Silence opens door to the right
Time to challenge Miller from the left
uring Toronto’s historic 39-day city workers’ strike, the left-wing members of Toronto’s city council at worst sided openly with the mayor, at best sat silently, and in the process opened the door for a newlyinvigorated right wing. It was a débacle several years in the making. David Miller—Toronto’s mayor—was swept into office in 2003. A long-time member of the NDP, Miller—with a solid caucus of NDP and progressive councillors behind him—was a welcome change from the long run of pro-business Mel Lastman. Without question, it was a much better situation for workers and the poor in Toronto, to have a council headed by a mayor and council with links to the unions and to the NDP. But there was always a tension. Where does progressive change have its roots? Do we fundamentally change our position in society through the good offices of friendly progressive councillors? Or is the foundation of our progress the mass action of the workers’ and social movements? Any examination of history will show that it is the latter—the mass movements— from which we win our gains. But there is a tendency, once in office, to forget the mass movements on which all progressive politicians stand, and to develop the illusion that progress comes from the work of a small progressive elite. This was reflected in the quiet withdrawal of Miller from the NDP in 2007. He was choosing the mayor’s office over the workers’ movement. Enter the confrontation between Miller and the city inside and outside workers.
the sick bank in lieu of a wage increase during the last round of contract talks. This is a very small benefit—a few thousand dollars at the end of a long career is a small price to pay workers for years of service. It is also a benefit shared by police and fire fighters in the city, a point that few opponents of the strike bothered to mention. But it became the rallying cry for an extremely organized anti-union right wing on City Council.
‘We need a left on council and outside council to stand up to and challenge Miller for his anti-union stance’
The 24,000 members of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Locals 79 and 416 were asking for a modest pay increase. But the issue around which the dispute came to revolve was an old provision in their collective agreement, allowing retiring workers to “cash in” unused sick days. The sick day bank is, in reality, “deferred wages”. Workers agreed to accept
The so-called “Responsible Government Group” went into action from the first minutes of the strike. Profiled in the press again, and again, and again, right-wing councillors like Case Ootes and Denzil Minnan-Wong, a pro-business section of council demagogically portrayed itself as “friends of the common person,” the working people inconvenienced by the withdrawal of city services. It is not hard to respond to this kind of conservative union-bashing. Where was the right wing when we were fighting for child care? Where was the right wing when we were fighting for improved pension benefits? Where was the right wing when we were fighting for improved health and safety? They were, of course, nowhere. But given a chance to lead an attack on Toronto’s unions, these right-wing councillors suddenly discovered their concern for ordinary people, putting aside for a moment their cocktail parties with real estate developers. But for this simple response to be
heard, it had to be organized by the left on council. There were people who were in a position to do just that. Adam Giambrone, Janet Davis, Paula Fletcher, Pam McConnell, Howard Moscoe—these are all individuals whose entire political careers have been bound up with the left and the workers’ movement. What we needed was a “Solidarity Caucus” to meet and counter the nonsense coming from the pro-business councillors. But that would have meant breaking from David Miller. It would have meant showing up on the picket lines and supporting the striking workers against the position of the mayor. It would have meant a political divide. So instead of solidarity, we got silence. Sometimes it was worse than silence. On July 18, Miller emerged from a closed-door briefing with council where, by all reports, councillors—left and right—were united against the workers and in support of Miller. We risk paying a steep price for this in the months to come. There is contempt and hatred for Miller in the wake of the strike. But the most visible voice articulating this anger has been the pro-business section of council. We know where this can lead, as we remember the years of then-NDP leader Bob Rae as premier of Ontario. He led a sharp attack on workers’ rights through the “Social Contract”. But NDP members of the legislature would not break from Rae. So the anti-Rae sentiment was captured by the Tories, leading to the brutal years of Mike Harris in office. Let’s not make the same mistake. We need a left on council and outside council to stand up and to challenge Miller for his anti-union stance. We need the anger against Miller to be captured by the left and not the right. An important step in this direction was the decision by the Toronto and York Region Labour Council to refuse to invite Miller to the annual Labour Day parade. A strike is a line in the sand. Miller stood on the wrong side, and must now pay the price. August 2009 Socialist Worker 5
WIND POWER WORKERS’ PO and Siân Ruddick report from the Vestas factory occupation on the inspiring fight for jobs and incredible show of solidarity that has transpired and transformed the community Tom Walker
n July 20, 25 workers at the Vestas wind turbine factory in Newport, Isle of Wight, UK went into occupation. The sitin has electrified the environmental movement around the world and is a beacon of resistance for workers fighting back everywhere. Recently, the struggle reached a critical point when Vestas bosses sought an injunction against the occupying workers in court. But the mood inside the occupation and among supporters outside is getting more determined. What is happening at Vestas did not just fall out of the sky. It is the latest stage of a campaign that goes back to April 28, when 600 workers at the factory were told they were being fired and the plant closed. Mike Godley, one of the occupiers, said, “We were devastated. There were people who wanted to fight but after the way we’d been treated we thought nothing could be done.” A core group of workers started to organize with help from local trade unionists, socialists and climate activists. More than 100 people—many of them Vestas workers—came to a trades council meeting on July 3 where the idea of occupation was raised. And on July 12, more than 50 activists gathered 500 signatures on a petition in just a few hours and held a rally in Newport Town Square. Getting names on petitions had no visible effect on Vestas bosses or the government. But it showed the workers the mass public support they had and raised their confidence to fight. “At first I thought, ‘I can’t do anything because the managers will just sack me’,” said Mike. “But when it started to gather so much support a couple of weeks ago I knew I had to get involved.” On July 27, 25 workers walked onto the site and occupied the managers’ offices. More than 100 pickets quickly gathered in support outside the factory. Pickets defied a police blockade and threw food to the occupiers. Tracey, a Vestas worker, was one of those outside the plant trying to break the siege. “I think 6 Socialist Worker August 2009
they’re trying to starve them out,” she said. Bosses responded with an ultimatum to the occupiers—leave immediately or face the sack and lose their redundancy money. “Stay!” the crowd outside screamed. The occupiers put it to a vote—and stayed. The morning of July 30 saw bosses make a huge climbdown by starting to bring food to the occupying workers. That day 300 came to the evening rally, which has been established as a regular fixture. And on July 31, more than 400 people— the biggest protest yet—marched from Newport town centre to join the picket. The rally heard that the workers inside were still only being given snacks to eat, leaving them hungry and ill. In response the crowd chanted, “One hot meal”. By August 1, the demand was gathering pace. As many as 200 pickets surged forward and banged on the steel fence demanding the occupiers get proper food. Again, Vestas bosses gave in under mass pressure and the occupiers were given a hot meal. As the news was announced the crowd chanted, “We are winning!” As the occupation entered its second week, activists shifted their focus to building as much solidarity as possible. Supporters set up camp outside the factory, which is home to an inspiring red-green coalition of activists. There are gazebos put up by the National Union of Rail,
‘We’re all so proud of what we’ve done—and what everyone’s done to support us. They’re going to try to evict us. But we’re staying’
Maritime and Transport Workers and the Socialist Workers Party (UK). Ron Clark and Linda Bartle, who were part of the successful occupation at Visteon [a parts supplier for Ford, occupied in spring], came to show their solidarity. Ron said, “Seeing people turn up to support you is a real morale booster when you’re in occupation. You’d be surprised how much it lifts you.” Mike added, “Whatever happens, we won’t go away. This definitely won’t be over on Wednesday.”
The government must nationalize the Vestas wind turbine company to save jobs and begin to stop climate change. Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown and energy secretary Ed Miliband have refused to save the jobs. The protesters are fighting to save 600 jobs, which are at risk—despite the fact the company will pocket £6 million (CAD $10.8 million) in taxpayers’ money for research and made £575 million (CAD $1 billion) in profits last year. Ian Terry, who is in the occupation said, “The government must take this factory under its wing. They should get rid of the management and guarantee our jobs. It’s disgusting that the government can rush through nationalizing busted banks, but won’t even think about nationalizing renewable energy firms which are good for everyone.”
On August 4, the Vestas corporation won a court injunction to evict the workers occupying the factory. Vestas worker and occupier Ian Terry gave the following statement to Socialist Worker (UK): “The fight’s not over. We won’t go quietly. If you believe in something you have to stand up for it. We’re all so proud of what we’ve done—and what everyone’s done to support us. They’re going to try to evict us. But we’re staying. “We’re going to barricade ourselves in. They’ll have to come and get us. It’s an emo-
tional time. We don’t know what to expect, but we’ll just have to wait and see. My feeling is we have to put up a fight or we’ll regret it forever. “And we’ll keep fighting even if they drag us out of here. The politicians in power aren’t there to help us—they’re out for themselves. The government says it wants green jobs. It should nationalise this factory. “We’re asking people to do whatever they can to help. Come down here if you can make it. But just as importantly, do something where you are.”
Eviction order enforced
The Vestas occupation ended on August 7 after two-and-a-half weeks when bailiffs went into the factory to enforce an eviction order. The defiant workers who had been sitting-in to save their plant and jobs were given a heroes’ welcome by their hundreds of supporters outside the factory. The workers have vowed to fight on. Ian, one of the occupiers, said, “It was worth all of the sacrifices. I would definitely do it all again. If anyone’s got a spare factory going, let me know because I’ll come and occupy it. I’m going to get a bit homesick now, I’ll miss it in there. This was just the beginning. Onwards to stage two.” Jamie, another of the occupiers, said, “It was all worthwhile.” It emerged in talks yesterday that the government had offered a number of rescue deals to save the plant, but Vestas had refused each one. This is despite New Labour ministers stating that they would not intervene. Vestas workers and their supporters have called a protest to step up the pressure on the government to act as well as a national day of action in support of Vestas workers. The occupation is an inspiration to workers facing attacks during the recession. Workers have built an inspirational fight using their own organization, strength and initiative. They should refuse to be cowed by legal threats— because it is unofficial, militant action that has the power to win.
Carbon capture nothing but a smokescreen by john bell
Last issue we examined Obama’s climate change plans and concluded there was far less there than meets the eye. Instead of setting targets for carbon emission reduction set to 1990 levels, as mandated in the original Kyoto Accord, the Obama plan uses 2005 pollution levels as its baseline. It calls for 14 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, and by 83 per cent by 2050. Climate scientists warn that even the Kyoto targets were insufficient to prevent average global warming of over 2 degrees Celsius, the point at which many predict climate change will shift from a crisis to an ongoing, nightmarish disaster. The US plan has been significantly watered down in order to get it passed through the House of Representatives. Even so, it barely passed, with many prominent Democrats voting against it. There are real doubts that it will pass at all through the crucial Senate vote. Many US lawmakers are deep in the pockets of Big Oil and King Coal. The fate of Obama’s plan is not an academic matter for climate activists here. What happens in the US, for good or ill, will shape Canada’s climate change policy. That plan rests on two pillars: putting a market value on greenhouse gas emissions through “cap and trade” mechanisms and relying on technological fixes, especially “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) to reduce emissions. Last issue focused on the shortcomings to relying on market mechanisms to clean up the market’s mess. This time let’s zero in on the facts and fiction surrounding CCS.
How it ‘works’
Vestas workers speak out from the occupation Workers from the occupation have issued the following statement. “As workers at a wind turbine manufacturer, we were confident that as the recession took hold that green or renewable energy would be the area where many jobs could be created–not lost. So we were horrified to find out that our jobs were moving abroad and that more than 525 jobs from the Isle of Wight and Southampton were going to be added to the already poor state of island unemployment. This has sent, and will continue to send, shockwaves of uncertainty through countless families on the island—many of which are being forced to relocate away from the island. We find this hard to stomach as the government are getting away with claiming they are investing heavily in these types of industry. Only last week they said they would create 400,000 green jobs. How can the process start with 600 of us losing our jobs? Now I’m not sure about you but we
think it’s about time that if the government can spends billions bailing out the banks–and even nationalize them—then surely they can do the same at Vestas. The people of Vestas matter, and the people of the island matter, but equally importantly the people of this planet matter. We will not be brushed under the carpet by a government which is claiming to help us. We have occupied our factory and call on the government to step in and nationalize it. We, and many others, believe it is essential that we continue to keep our factory open for our families and livelihoods, but also for the future of the planet. We call on [Labour Environment Minister] Ed Milliband as the relevant minister to come to the island and tell us to our face why it makes sense for the government to launch a campaign to expand green energy at the same moment as the country’s only major wind turbine producer closes. Please show your support. E-mail solidarity messages to email@example.com
Careful reading of the plans reveals that concern about climate change, though real, is secondary. Primary is “energy security” for the US and its ally Canada. In the US, energy security means burning coal, or what they like to refer to as “clean coal”. In Canada, it means maximum development of the tar sands. 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 over the tar sands, he said: “I’m a big believer in technology.” That technology is CCS. The whole point of CCS is to allow the continued burning of fossil fuels, especially the dirtiest ones like oil and coal. In theory, “scrubbers” remove the CO2 from power plant or factory emissions; the gas is pressurized, then transported for storage deep underground. Out of sight, out of mind. Too bad it doesn’t work. Governments have already assigned billions of dollars to CCS research and development, and so far no practical CCS power plants or factories exist. They better get a move on: the International Energy Agency estimates that it would take 6,000 large scale CCS projects each pumping a million tons of CO2 per year into the ground to begin to reduce climate change. Can CCS plants come online soon enough to achieve even Obama’s anemic targets? Not according to a report in New Scientist: “Unfortunately, few in the energy industry believe these deadlines are remotely achievable. A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called The Future of Coal, published last year, suggests that the first commercial CCS plants won’t be on stream until 2030 at the earliest. “Thomas Kuhn of the Edison Electric Institute, which represents most US power generators, half of whose fuel is coal, takes a similar line. In September , he told a House Select Committee that commercial deployment of CCS for emissions from large coal-burning power stations will require 25 years of R&D and cost about $20 billion.”
In the US, there is a building boom of coal-burning power plants. The big energy corporations bill them as “capture ready” and say it will be an easy matter to retrofit them with CCS technology one of these days, if and when said technology exists. Even boosters for CCS technology admit that, in best-case scenarios, the projects will come on line too late. And fossil fuel fans like Mr. Kuhn are seriously underestimating the costs.
CCS plants will cost twice as much to build. The resulting increase of power costs to consumers would be proportionate: near doubling the price. CCS “scrubbers” require a lot of energy to work. That means burning more coal or syncrude to clean the fuel you are burning–up to 40 per cent more. And remember, CO2 emissions don’t just come from the burning of coal or tar sands syncrude: they also come from the mining and transportation of the fuels. CCS technology is completely impractical for those parts of the process. And no one is factoring in the cost of transporting the CO2 once it is removed and pressurized. Most power plants are a long way from underground caverns or wells. Massive pipelines would be required. Costs would be prohibitive. Finally, no one has any real idea how safe and efficient underground storage would be. Would there be leakage? If there were a leakage rate of only 1 per cent, it would only take a century for most of the gas to enter the atmosphere. If you wonder about safety, ponder this: “Indeed, the power industry globally is refusing to develop CCS unless governments agree to guarantee their insurance against liability. In the United States, the industry has successfully insisted that the federal government pay all the insurance bills and pass laws making it impossible to sue the power companies for leaks or other consequences of CCS. No business believes the technology can be trusted.” (Jonathan Neale, Stop Global Warming: Change the World) The Harper Tories have already devoted billions to CCS technology. Their last budget devoted $2 billion more to CCS over the next five years—$1 billion from the “green infrastructure” fund and $1 billion from the “green energy” fund. Billions more have come from Alberta’s budget. Last winter, a Tory cabinet document marked secret but leaked to the CBC, admitted that CCS technology will reduce “only a small percentage” of greenhouse gases produced by tar sands development. Still, Harper touts CCS as the saviour that will “clean” the tar sands. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s only criticism is that the Tories should be spending more on CCS. CCS technology is “greenwash” of the highest order. It doesn’t work, and will siphon untold billions of dollars away from where it is needed: developing clean, renewable energy sources.
August 2009 Socialist Worker 7
OPINION NDP’s name-change won’t help workers The New Democratic Party (NDP) will meet in Halifax from August 14 to 16 for its federal convention. A number of motions have been submitted to drop the “new” from the party’s name, making it the “Democratic Party”. All this talk about a name-change probably means little or no talk about issues that really matter—like workers in Canada facing job cuts, concessions, and inaccessible EI; or Canadian troops facing a rising death toll in Afghanistan. On these and other issues, the party leadership has largely been silent. The name-change debate is symptomatic of the NDP’s latest drift to the right. Those who back the change want to associate the party with the US Democrats, the twin party of corporate America. Right-wingers in the party have long been anxious to ditch the NDP’s labour roots. Others think a cosmetic change will improve the party’s fortunes, as if workers won’t notice the party has nothing to say on issues that affect them the most. What’s missing from this year’s convention is an engaged and rooted movement that can pull the party back from its rightward drift. When the NDP met in Quebec City in 2006, the anti-war movement had been building support for a “Troops out now” position, and that motion passed overwhelmingly despite some opposition from the leadership. But this is a different moment for the anti-war movement, and the fight-back against job cuts and concessions remains fragmented. Still, there is a growing sense of unease at the party base as it watches the leadership sleepwalk into oblivion. Delegates should reject the name-change as an opportunistic re-brand and push for debates on issues that really matter.
Troops should be home by now In March 2008, the Liberals supported the Tories’ plan to extend Canada’s mission in Afghanistan from July 2009 to July 2011. As the NDP and the Bloc Québécois opposed the extension, the Liberals cast the deciding vote. Had they voted against the extension, the mission would be over now, and Canadian troops would be home—instead of getting killed in Afghanistan. That means every death of a Canadian soldier after July 2009 is the result of the Tory-Liberal extension. Public opinion was firmly against the war in 2008; it’s even more opposed today. But the Tories and Liberals could extend the mission yet again. The new NATO head—former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen—has just called on Canada to stay in Afghanistan past 2011, an appeal that will grow louder as the deadline approaches. NATO is facing a crisis in Afghanistan as resistance grows, and at home as anti-war sentiment deepens. The anti-war movement in Canada must prepare itself now for another Tory-Liberal attempt to extend the mission, emphasizing the fact that the troops should be home by now. The NDP could be emphasizing its “troops out” position, but seems intent on retreating from this stance. One week before the federal convention, Jack Layton had a sleepover on HMCS Halifax, declaring: “I relish this opportunity to spend time with our troops and really get to understand the job they are doing day to day,” Layton said. How about saying something about the war? Try: “Bring the troops home now!” Or: “Don’t extend the war. End it!” While we must continue to pressure the NDP, as usual, it will be up to the anti-war movement to continue raising the demand for withdrawal until the troops are all home.
Civil liberties and the war The “war on terror” coincided with, and is justified by, an attack on civil liberties in the form of Islamophobia. The US uses Guantánamo Bay to detain Muslims without access to fundamental rights, and CIA dark prisons to torture. Canada and the UK have placed Muslims under detention or house arrest without charge or access to evidence. Around the world, there was a sharp spike in attacks on mosques, Muslim institutions, and Muslim religious and cultural practices. Most recently, French President Nicolas Sarkozy began talking about banning the burqa, following on the hijab ban of 2004. Governments use these attacks on civil liberties and on Muslims to justify the “war on terror”, and to keep workers divided along race and religious lines to weaken solidarity and resistance. The movement in Canada to protect civil liberties has had a number of major successes in the courts on everything from Omar Khadr and Abousfian Abdelrazik to Security Certificates and Guantánamo North. Detentions abroad are in the public eye like never before, and the government’s behaviour is under a microscope. It’s no accident that the civil liberties successes have been due to a systematic development of a mass movement in their support. Civil liberties groups have drawn upon anti-war movement methods of organizing and building broadly from below. But until now, the political links to the movement against the war on Afghanistan have been incidental. We can strengthen the civil liberties movement with a more explicit link to the war. Opposition to the war is high and growing—54 per cent according to recent polls—creating the opportunity to win more people to opposing Islamophobia. Movements for justice are not linear; they ebb and flow. The task before us is to forge new and stronger links between antiimperialist struggles of all kinds: against war and Islamophobia, and for civil liberties. 8 Socialist Worker August 2009
Nova Scotia Premier Dexter a ‘conservative progressive’? On June 9, history was made when Nova Scotia elected its first NDP government. Socialist Worker spoke to J.C. Locatelli, a union activist in the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, about the election. This is Nova Scotia’s first NDP government, and a majority one at that. What does this victory mean for workers in Nova Scotia?
First, I think that the election of a majority NDP government in Nova Scotia means a lot of hope and expectations on the part of workers in this province. For instance, many letters to the editor of the Chronicle Herald written in defence of the NDP’s connection to the unions also pointed out the different nature of the NDP when compared to the Liberals and the Tories: not a mouthpiece for a few hundred rich families and corporations, but a party connected to workplaces and communities. Part of that hope takes the shape of an expectation that the political life of Nova Scotia will be transformed under the NDP, that the traditional politics of favouritism and corruption, of bureaucratic incompetence based on political appointments, etc., will be wiped out. The hope is that, however much the NDP has shifted to the right under Darrell Dexter, it will usher in an era of modernization into Nova Scotia politics. I also think that many unionized workers expect an NDP government will be a fairer employer to deal with at contract negotiation time. Interestingly, both the Liberals and the Tories have reinforced this expectation during the campaign, presenting the NDP as a creature of organized labour. Besides, there is a fair amount of hope invested in the perceived leadership of Dexter and his team of MLA’s who seem well-respected by most people you talk to. That the NDP, during the campaign, committed to changing very little and has spoken out against debt and deficits, has not completely dampened the unfocused hope that, somehow, an NDP government will deliver some piecemeal progress on a number of issues. Last, but not least, there is the spectacular erosion of traditional voting patterns in parts of rural Nova Scotia. Very often changes in governments are as much about punishing the ruling party as an endorsement of the challenger’s politics. Was there a hint of that dynamic here as well?
There is little doubt that many Nova Scotians of all classes and political stripes were appalled by Rodney MacDonald’s Tories. The obvious self-serving corruption and perks, the pork barrel politics, the repeated unwillingness to recall the legislature, leading to very short sessions, the delaying of the last spring budget, the arrogance of top civil servants (Tory appointees) when dealing with legislative committees and, of course, the lack of popularity of MacDonald himself, have all been factors in the Tory defeat. Neglect and lack of action on social issues and the perception of an ideological alignment with Stephen Harper’s federal Tories have been other factors.
Nova Scotia premier Darrell Dexter. The NDP’s campaign was to find savings of one per cent in the Tories’ unpassed $8 billion budget and to redirect this into tax breaks for power bills, new home construction, business investment and retention of post-secondary graduates, plus some targeted improvements to problem areas like home care, emergency services and surgical wait times. Was there anything remotely social democratic about this campaign?
No. These are all insufficient, piecemeal measures which, at best, are designed to prop up the status quo. Ominously, any new expenditures have been made contingent on a review of “nonessential” public sector expenditures (we all know what that means), and an audit of the finances left by the departing Tories. Dexter once jokingly described himself, a “conservative progressive”. What does this say about the NDP’s reformist project in Nova Scotia?
It says the NDP intends to run no deficit budgets, [a strategy] designed to reassure business and the corporate media. Gary Doer’s Manitoba government seems to be the model. History can be quite ironic. A week before the election, Liberal MP (and
former Ontario NDP premier) Bob Rae spoke at a downtown Halifax Liberal rally and took shots at Darrell Dexter for his close union ties. Dexter has recently been quoted as saying, “If there is one model of government we won’t be following, it’ll be Bob Rae’s.” Are these differences more apparent than real?
Beyond the electoral rhetoric, these differences are of little significance. What we are looking at is a local form of New Labourism, of reformism without reforms, a “reformism” without even the promise of reforms. What is the job of socialists in the unions today in light of this victory?
Normally, our job is to agitate, to hold the NDP accountable, and to put pressure on the government to implement its promises and expose their inability and/ or unwillingness to do so. But, in the absence of substantive promises, in the absence of a program of reforms, what to do? Perhaps there is an opening for rank-and-filers across private and public sector unions to formulate a plan of demands broad enough to give rise to a coalition of socialists and other progressive-minded workers. This coalition could then put pressure on the NDP and start building an alternative to it.
CUPE Local 79 says thanks for the solidarity Dear sisters and brothers: On behalf of CUPE Local 79, I am writing to thank all of our sisters and brothers in the International Socialists for your generous donation to our strike fund. It is so valuable for our members to have the encouragement and support of other organizations, during our re-
cent action against the City of Toronto. Municipal employers across Canada know that civic workers make our communities work by providing vital public services that we all rely upon. The attempts by the City of Toronto to demand unprecedented concessions, during this round of bargaining, are clearly disrespectful and under-
mine the integrity of our collective agreements. Please convey our appreciation to all members of the International Socialists for your much-valued and welcome support. In solidarity, Ann Dembinski President, CUPE Local 79
Recession over… sort of… maybe…
The Hurt Locker wounds the truth Film H The Hurt Locker H Directed by Kathryn Bigelow H Starring Jeremy Renner, Antony Mackie and Brian Geraghy H Reviewed by Nadine MacKinnon The Hurt Locker is a highly acclaimed action film that focuses on three elite bomb removal techs struggling to remain alive and sane while defusing bombs left by “insurgents” on the garbage strewn streets of Baghdad. It stars the edgily charismatic Jeremy Renner, as well as Antony Mackie, along with Brian Geraghy, Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce and Evangeline Lily. The New York Times calls it “ferociously suspenseful” while Time gushes that it’s a “near-perfect movie”. Director Kathryn Bigelow, known for violent big budget action films such as K:19 The Widow Maker and Point Break, raises The Hurt Locker to what the The New York Times raves is “visual, visceral poetry”.
Mark Boal’s screenplay, which is based on an article he wrote for Playboy after being imbedded with a US bomb tech unit in Iraq in 2004, adds a gritty machismo to the film. But the very appeal is its weakness.
The Hurt Locker turns the Iraq War into a backdrop for a high-octane action flick that glorifies military violence and war’s adrenaline junkies. The faux-documentary style and gritty sets add a thin gloss of realism while ignoring the defining realities of the Iraq War: it is an illegal war for oil in which the US military occupations is unwanted and often highly vicious, and the growing insurgency is
comprised largely of locals fighting back against their occupiers. The frequent and systemic atrocities committed by US forces against Iraqi citizens are not even referred to let alone committed by the supposedly realistic leads. And Iraqis are relegated to voiceless, shadowy brown-skinned enemies who “all look alike” and are derisively referred to as “Hadjis”. Reviewers claim The Hurt Locker is a brilliant action blockbuster that is politically neutral. But the act of removing the core issues of the Iraq War from a film set in it, is itself a strong political choice: one that, in white-washing of an illegal imperialist war, enables the continuation of that war.
True Stories a poetic appeal for peace Album H True Stories H Written and performed by Sara Marlowe H Reviewed by Brynn Bourke Sara Marlowe’s new CD True Stories is an incredible mix of soft ballads, fiery instrumentals, jazz and a surprising hip-hop performance with Mohammad Ali Aumeer in the bonus track “Kill the Bandits”. Marlow seamlessly moves through the songs, demonstrating her incredible diversity in style. The CD contains stand out songs like “Just Another Day”, which explores everyday life in a war-torn country and “Spinning”, a soulful, jazz compilation that strikes out at the rhetoric used
to justify war. Marlowe’s most outstanding track, “She Is All Of Us”, heartbreakingly explores the
frustration that a fallen soldiers’ mother experiences in questioning the death of her son and the continuation of war. Drawing on the listener to view war from multiple lenses, Marlowe poetically explores the contradictions in war and our own struggles domestically to challenge them. Tracks like “Keepin’ the Peace” strike right at the heart of the Canadian war narrative. Marlowe’s best work to date, True Stories is a rage against apathy and a refreshing and timely call for action.
Whew! Thank goodness that nasty recession thing is over. For a minute there I was afraid capitalism would collapse under its own dead weight. But no, all it took to prop it up was a panic that shook every corner office of the world’s ruling class. Where just weeks ago all was bleak, now we hear talk of tender green shoots, yearning, trembling, reaching for the sun. It is the cute, YouTube kitten of recoveries. What kind of rotten cad would root against it? I guess it is only right that we are seeing little green sprouts of profit; whiteknuckled governments around the world threw a lot of seedmoney into the free-market garden. Here’s a partial survey of stimulus spending pledges: Europe put about 200 billion Euros into the pot. That converts to about $283 (US) billion. China used about $586 (US) billion to kick-start its economy. In the US, Obama approved just under $800 billion in spending to stimulate the world’s biggest economy. Here in Canada the stimulus spending is paltry, in the neighbourhood of $50 (CDN) billion from the federal Tories and provinces combined. That adds up to over $1.6 trillion. Of course those are just the official figures. The real amount—when hidden factors like corporate tax cuts, direct corporate takeovers, etc., are factored in the amount is considerably higher. Bean counters at Bloomberg Group Financial Media estimate that the real total of US bailout pledges totals close to $11.6 trillion. That’s a lot of stimulation. I’m getting sweaty just thinking about it. The least you would expect to buy with that kind of money is some little green shoots. No wonder Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney happily informed in mid-July: “We believe the economy will grow this quarter. This isn’t a foregone conclusion. Policy is important. Monetary policy is important. Fiscal policy is important, and the caveat, effective implementation of policy outside our borders, remains important.” Ignore all those “buts” and “ifs”, and concentrate on the good news. The economy will grow. The stock market will recover. Profits will rise. CEOs will start to feel good about themselves again. And duly reassured, you and I will rush out and start spending money. Say, you know that boat I couldn’t afford before the recession? Well I’m back to not being able to afford it. But at least I can afford lottery tickets again. Woo hoo!
Rain on my tender green shoots
RESISTANCE PRESS BOOK ROOM 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto | Open Saturdays 12-3pm
But wait. Just when I am straining to see the silver lining, spoilsports insist on pointing out the clouds. It is hard to believe that the recession is over in Canada, when it is still on in our biggest trading partner, the US. Oh, granted there have been plenty of little green sprouts down there as well, but the “good” news is not so good. The most recent statistics say that the US economy kept shrinking in the second
quarter of 2009, marking the first time since 1947 that US GDP declined for four consecutive quarters. But the “good” news is that the US economy didn’t suck as much as some had expected. The decline was only 1 per cent, as opposed to the 6.4 per cent decline of the previous quarter. Most of the economic talk south of the border is of a “jobless recovery”. In the US, the official unemployment rate is hovering around 10 per cent. That means that millions of American workers will never glimpse those green shoots. The predicted recovery will be weak at best. Some economists reckon that it takes a growth in GDP of about 2.5 per cent just to keep unemployment from increasing. It is entirely conceivable that the US could see a “recovery” and growth in joblessness simultaneously. What about the workers lucky enough to keep their jobs? Best-case scenarios depend on US consumers breathing a sigh of relief, reaching for their already strained credit cards and starting to spend like the good old days. But with millions of their friends, neighbours and relatives on the dole, it is pretty doubtful that those green shoot will ever bear fruit.
Why isn’t Harper happy?
It was interesting that, the day after Bank of Canada Governor Carney announced the end of the recession, Stephen Harper dispatched Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to cool expectations. “There are good signs that the economy has stabilized and that there are the beginnings of a recovery,” Flaherty told reporters. “I wouldn’t put it any stronger than that.” He also told them he expected unemployment numbers to keep climbing well into 2010—that old jobless recovery thing again. This seems a strange message from a government that less than a year ago denied the very existence of any economic crisis. Why the change of message? Governments like Harper’s are in a bind. On one hand they want us to get out there and consume, and they know we aren’t likely to do that unless they tell us some good news. So expect more talk about green shoots and recovery out of one side of their mouth. On the other hand, they know that the crisis of capitalism is real, systemically rooted, and far from over. Those green shoots could wither and die at a moments notice. And even if they don’t die, they won’t grow you a new or better job. So expect more talk about how tough things are and how we all have to pull in our belts. Every time workers strike to keep hold of what they have, expect a media blitz to vilify them. The push will be on to privatize our services, make us do with less, and raise regressive consumer taxes–and hard times will be their rationale. The contradiction our lords and masters face is insoluble: they want us to spend more, and they want to drive down our living standards to pay for the crisis. We can’t do both. We shouldn’t do either. August 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.
Film screening: Bolivia in transition
Sat, Aug. 15, 4pm Speakers: Raul Burbano & Juan Valencia Cost: $7 to $20 sliding scale for film & Vegetarian BBQ Info: firstname.lastname@example.org Organized by the Pape Danforth IS
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.
Study group: How does change happen? Historical materialism and the dialectic
Tues, Aug 18, 7pm Call for location 416.972.6391 Organized by the Toronto District of the IS The life and times of Michael Jackson Sat, Aug 22, 6pm Speaker: Chantal Sundaram Cost: $7 to $15 sliding scale Info: 416.972.6391 Organized by the Toronto West IS
Reform and revolution
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.
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.
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 August 2009
Revolution in the pre-historic world
Revolutionary theatre and dance of the 1930s
Fri, Aug 28, 5:30pm Speakers: Chantal Sundaram & Pam Johnson Cost: $7 to $10 sliding scale for film & dinner Info: 647.393.3096 Organized by the Coxwell Gerrard IS
peace & justice events TORONTO
by bradley hughes
Class is like the air we breathe: it surrounds us, it is within us in everything we do, but until you stop to think about it, it is invisible. In any society, including our own, class determines your health, working conditions, how and where you live and work, the design of our cities and more. It is built into our buildings and our culture. But what is class? For Marx and Engels, society was best understood as a result of the conflict between social classes. A class is determined by its relation to the means of production. Every society has to produce food and shelter enough to continue and reproduce itself. Most societies also produce more than that bare minimum. That surplus is not usually evenly distributed to every one. In most societies, including our own, the majority of people do the work necessary to produce all the necessities and all the surplus in society. A much smaller group, the ruling class, controls how all the production is distributed. We can investigate the class divisions in earlier societies through their writing and art, if they had them, but for societies before writing—prehistoric societies—we need to look at the evidence left by the ruins of their buildings and their human remains.
A recent report From Çayönü to Çatalhöyük by Bernhard Brosius summarizes the results of 50 years of research into prehistoric towns in what is now Turkey. (The report is available at www.urkommunismus. de/catalhueyuek_en.pdf) In what is now Turkey, archaeologists have been excavating the ruins of several towns that date back to 10 000 BC. One of these towns, now called Çayönü, was home to around 10 000 people starting in 8800 BC. The ruins of this town show clearly the class nature of the society that lived there. On the east end of the town was a rectangular building dug into a slope and without windows. This building was a temple and was the site of human sacrifice. Daggers and altars encrusted in human blood, and neat stacks of skulls and bones attest to the ancient use of these buildings. There was a large square outside the temple surrounded by three houses, each much larger than any other house in town. In these houses were found imported weapons, large
blocks of crystal, stone sculptures and the other wealth of society. The houses also contained large blocks of flint and obsidian, the material from which all the town’s stone-age tools were produced. But theses houses contained no evidence of tool production. So the inhabitants of the large houses not only possessed wealth but they controlled the production of tools, by controlling the stone they were made from. They were the ruling class. The rest of the town was made of much smaller, poorer housing. In these houses was found evidence of the production of stone tools. So a small number of people controlled production and a large number of people did the actual work. Like class societies always have, this one ended in revolution.
Over 9,200 years ago, revolution exploded in Çayönü so quickly its rulers had no time to save their treasures. Their houses were burnt down, the temple torn down; even the floor was ripped up. The now free people of Çayönü turned the area of the destroyed temple and rich houses into a garbage dump. They then tore down the poor housing they had and rebuilt the town with new houses all of which were the size of the former houses of the rich. They were able to build an egalitarian, classless society, where men and women were equal and everyone shared in the production and the consumption of the wealth of society. This prehistoric communism spread across Anatolia and the Balkans and endured for 3,000 years.
From the ruins of the towns of this time, archaeologists have determined much about the lives of these prehistoric communists. Houses were not all the same size, but the larger houses had more people and the smaller houses fewer. Everyone had the same amount of living space. The quality of the buildings was all the same, no slums and no rich side of town. From the waste piles in each home, we know that production was done in the home. People were buried beneath the floors of their home. People’s bones show how hard they worked during their life. Everyone worked hard, there was no leisure class freed from labour.
Archaeologists also discovered about half of the adults had abnormal thighbones, which they think was caused by excessive dancing. Class societies have always subordinated women. In them, women tend to be buried with jewelry and men with indications of their profession. In this society, people were buried with the tools they had used in life. Unlike most class societies that restrict women to the work of the home, there was no difference in the range of tools buried with men or women and both were buried with jewelry. The wear on bones also shows that women and men did similar work. The nature of violent death can frequently be deduced from bones. Across this region, during this time period, archaeologists have not found a single skeleton with evidence of murder or warfare. Each home was decorated with murals and not a single mural depicts warfare, fighting, ill treatment or torture. There are also no depictions of court scenes, convictions or punishments. Compare that with 10 minutes spent flipping through the channels on TV. Their health was also much better than that of people from later, more technically advanced societies. Infant mortality was 30 per cent less than in much later Bronze Age towns, which were founded after a new class society arose. Comparing the same two towns, the later town had no skeletons of individuals who live more than 60 years, yet the earlier egalitarian society had a small fraction of its individuals live up to 70 years. Our stone-age communists, back in 7000 BC or so had an average life expectancy of 32 years. In Europe, outside the ruling classes, this was only reached again around 1750 AD. This was a utopian society that required hard work from everyone, but still only required about half as much work per labourer as under the previous rulers with their mansions, slums and human sacrifice. This left plenty of time for art and ornamentation of everyday tools and objects. It also left time for enormous feasts and lots of dancing. Without a culture that needed to justify the inequalities between the ruled and the rulers, they were able to build a society of equality between the sexes. This can be our future once we end the power and the culture of our own ruling class.
No water to waste: the Toronto rally for a moratorium on Site 41
Thurs, Aug 13, 7pm University of Toronto Medical Sciences Building, Macleod Auditorium Room 2158 Info: 416.979.5554
Vigil for US Iraq War resister
Wed, Aug 19, 8am Federal Court 180 Queen St W Info: www.resisters.ca Organized by the War Resisters Support Campaign
Tracking the tar sands: a tri-city youth tour
Thurs, Aug 20 to Sat, Aug 22 Info: email@example.com
‘Good’ war gone bad: Afghanistan, Pakistan and the ‘war on terror’ Mon, Aug 24, 6:30pm Bloor Gladstone Library 1101 Bloor St W Info: davenport4peace@ gmail.com Organized by Davenport Neighbours for Peace
Train-the-trainers workshop: Defending the right to free expression on Israel/Palestine Wed, Aug 26, 6pm Friends’ Meeting House 60 Lowther St (north of Bloor and Bedford) Info: www.freeexpressionpalestine.org
Annual Labour Day parade
Tues, Sept 1, 9:30am Queen & University march to CNE grounds Info: www.labourcouncil.ca
You can find the I.S. in: Toronto, Ottawa, Gatineau, Vancouver, Victoria, Montreal, London, St. Catharines, Mississauga, Scarborough, Halifax, Belleville & Kingston e: firstname.lastname@example.org t: 416.972.6391 w: www.socialist.ca For more event listings, visit www.socialist.ca.
email@example.com CUPE LOCAL 1521-02
ACL workers on strike for pension by jessica squires A July 29 rally in Ottawa organized by the Ottawa and District Labour Council called on Ontario Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur to put stable funding on the table for the Association of Community Living (ACL) in Lanark County.
The 90 developmental service workers at the ACL have been on strike since July 4. The sector has suffered reductions in funding from the province for over ten years. The workers, mostly women, are grossly underpaid and services are suffering. A major issue in the strike is the employer’s refusal to let staff join the Multisector Pension Plan. Staff at other ACLs in Ontario are already part of the plan. The Community Living Association-Lanark County has replaced many of the strikers with scabs. More rallies are planned.
VIA strike gets results by jonathon hodge After more than two years without a contract and months of regular negotiation, VIA rail engineers and yardmasters struck for 48 hours in July and produced an agreement to settle the contract through binding arbitration.
At issue were nonmonetary issues such as scheduling and training. When the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference got a strike mandate of over 90 per cent, all parties assumed the action by over 300 employees would be long and bitter. Public displeasure at the prospect of a passenger rail shutdown in the midst of high season goaded both sides to agree to third-party arbitration. In a summer that has already seen municipal strikes in Windsor and Toronto, the possibility of a provincewide walkout by LCBO staff and occupations and strikes against closures, VIA workers used the one tool at the union’s disposal to push the employer—strike. The fact that this short strike produced movement, where months of negotiations did not, should not be lost on union members across the country trying to defend hard-won gains in a climate of fear where employers everywhere are using the economy as a stick to beat back working people’s rights. In some cases, even just the threat of strike action can force employers to back down or return to the negotiating table.
CADILLAC FAIRVIEW LOCKOUT
CEP workers fight termination, and win solidarity by john rose and jesse mclaren Solidarity is growing for 61 Toronto workers fighting for their jobs after being locked out and terminated.
On June 14, Cadillac Fairview, a nation-wide 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 for refusing to accept massive concessions. On July 14, Cadillac
Fairview notified the workers it had established a permanent agreement with scab labour, and subsequently terminated all 61 union jobs. Cadillac Fairview sits on $16 billion in assets and earned nearly $1 billion in profit last year, and is using the economic crisis to bust the union. Many of the CEP workers have worked for decades at the TD Centre, some for their entire working lives. As one of the TD Centre workers wrote on his blog (therealcfnews.blogspot. com): “The locked out em-
HUGE WIN FOR GREENPEACE BOREAL CAMPAIGN After a sustained campaign, Greenpeace has succeeded in pressuring corporate giant KimberlyClark to stop destroying ancient forests like the Boreal Forest. Kimberly-Clark, makers of Kleenex, Scott, and Cottonelle, get the wood fiber for its products from ancient forests like the Boreal forest. As North America’s largest ancient forest, the Boreal Forest is habitat to threatened species and the world’s biggest storehouse of carbon. Clear-cutting the Boreal threatens biodiversity and fuels climate change. For five years, tens of thousands of people have participated in Greenpeace’s “Kleercut”
campaign to force KimbleryClark to change its practice. Now the company has announced it has set a goal of obtaining 100 per cent of the wood fiber used in its products from environmentally responsible sources. By 2011, it will eliminate any fiber from the Boreal Forest that is not certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Greenpeace hopes this will send a message to its competitors in the paper market to follow suit. In addition, this victory gives momentum to activists in the lead-up to the Climate Summit in Copenhagen, to pressure world leaders to provide funding to end deforestation.
CARLETON UNIVERSITY FIRES HASSAN DIAB by jessica squires On Tuesday, July 28, Carleton University “cravenly caved to external pressure” (in the words of Jim Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers [CAUT]), and fired Hassan Diab from his summer teaching job, says the union that represents university professors.
The university fired Diab from an introductory sociology course after B’nai Brith released a statement critical of the hiring. Diab was terminated without consulting with the dean or the departmental chair, indicating that the firing was issued from the office of the President, who has become notorious for her unfair dealings with campus Palestine solidarity groups.
ployees of Cadillac Fairview have really only two choices. Protest and picket outside the TD Centre to raise awareness about the way they have been treated and let the tenants know about the service reductions that are coming. Or, just walk away from their jobs.” Workers have chosen to fight for their jobs, maintaining 24/7 information pickets outside the TD centre. The Facebook group “Solidarity with Toronto Dominion Centre employees under attack” provides updates on growing solidarity actions, including pick-
ZELLERS WORKERS STAGE WALK-OUT by michelle robidoux Over 300 distribution centre workers at Zellers in Scarborough walked out July 16 after the company tried to force huge wage and benefit cuts.
Zellers, which is owned along with The Bay by private equity company NRDC, wants to cut wages for material handlers by $8, eliminate seniority rights for job postings and increase use of temporary workers. At Toronto and York Region Labour Council, a representative of striking workers who has worked at Zellers
Given a solid 18 to 24 months at the helm, this prime minister can expect star federalist candidates to come out of the woodwork to run for him in Quebec in the next election.” With the patent failure of the Conservatives to achieve this, it seems Kenney has been authorized to go to Plan B: whip up anti-immigrant sentiment, play to the conservative base, and polarize the political terrain. His vocal denunciation of certain groups of asylum seekers prompted former IRB Chairman Peter Showler to
for 18 years said workers delivered a 95 per cent strike mandate and that they recently attended the opening of a new Zellers store where they filled up the parking lot with strikers’ cars. Retail, wholesale and warehousing workers have taken major wage cuts and seen work loads increase, while retail companies turn huge profits. Enough is enough! Join the picket line at 100 Metropolitan Road, 1 block south of the 401 at Warden. For more information, visit www.labourcouncil.ca.
CLEAN TRAINS COALITION
>> from page 12
The Lebanese-born Canadian citizen is accused in France of killing four people and injuring dozens more in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue. He faces an extradition hearing in January and is under virtual house arrest. He says it is a case of mistaken identity, since his name is a common one. CUPE Local 4600, the union of part-time faculty and teaching assistants at Carleton, will grieve the decision. CAUT is considering censuring the university, a step that has not taken place in decades. When a university is censured, the association urges academics not to work for the university, and advises organizations not to hold conferences there. Diab is innocent until proven guilty and should not have been fired.
Yet, diesel exhaust has been linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Children and the elderly are most at risk as they are the most vulnerable to the toxins in diesel exhaust. The CTC is urging the Ontario Government to go electric from the outset and not further expand diesel technology. Metrolinx, on the other hand, is proposing diesel with some vague plans to electrify the corridor in the next 15 years. Investing in old technology is not treating electrification as a viable alternative. According to the CTC, Go Transit has studied electrification before and the conclusion is always the same: it requires a greater upfront investment. The Metrolinx conclusion is the same—too
say, “I am not aware of a single previous Minister of Immigration who has intruded on the judicial process in this way; not one... I think he has overstepped the line.” This is not a sign of Conservative strength. But it is an indication of the depths to which they are prepared to go to bolster their hold on power. With no serious political opposition in Parliament, the Tories are successfully monopolizing the airwaves with their message. Public opinion on key issues such as the war in Afghanistan, health care and the environ-
ment are not in the Conservatives’ favour. They are relying on “hot button” issues like immigration and crime to give themselves a boost. This is why it is so important to continue to build support for war resisters, for refugee rights and for victims of Canada’s clampdown on civil liberties. Kenney is a one-note wonder. The more the Conservatives run into the limits of their electoral appeal, the more they rely on whipping up animus against immigrants and minorities. This can be their downfall—if we’re not cowed by the bully.
>> from page 12
et line visits from CUPE 416/79, UNITE HERE Local 75, SEIU Local 2, and NDP MPPs Andrea Horwath and Peter Kormos. CEP has also taken Cadillac Fairview to the Labour Relations Board on charges of bad faith bargaining, but corporate lawyers have delayed hearings until September. This heightens the importance of continuing to build solidarity through August. Pickets are set up at the Toronto Dominion Centre at 66 Wellington Street in Toronto (near Wellington and Bay Streets).
expensive. However, the health and environmental costs are far too great to not consider electric. According to the Toronto Board of Health, the corridor runs through communities with the lowest socio-economic status and highest incidence of illness in the GTA. On July 20, the Clean Train Coalition organized the Stroller Parade at Queen’s Park. Hundreds of kids, dads, moms and folks from all over came out to demand that Dalton Diesel McGuinty, through the Ontario Government’s agent Metrolinx, to go electric. Currently, Metrolinx is holding public consultations (until the end of July) and further public comments throughout August. For more information, visit www.cleantrain.ca.
The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) and Women in Solidarity with Palestine (WSP) are protesting the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) presentation of “Words that Changed the World”, featuring the Dead Sea Scrolls that have been illegally removed from occupied Palestinian territory.
Since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, millions of artifacts have been systematically removed, looted and excavated from Palestinian territory, endangering Palestinian cultural and archaeological heritage. Under international law and in accordance with Israel’s obligations as a signatory to the 1954 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) convention and protocol for the “Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict”, Israel is not entitled to these artifacts. The repatriation of the Scrolls and millions of other artifacts to Palestine remains a key issue for those seeking peace and justice in the Middle East. By exhibiting the Dead Sea Scrolls, the ROM is complicit in the theft of Palestine’s cultural heritage, and has failed to comply with international law and its ethical obligations. Representatives from the Palestinian community and other organizations have attempted dialogue with the ROM, but none of the concerns have been addressed. The ROM has refused to make public the documents it claims prove the legality of the exhibit. It has also refused to seek a UNESCO opinion on the matter. The objective of CAIA and WSP is to raise awareness about the injustice and illegality of this display of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The groups have put forth two demands, which are as follows: demanding the ROM recognize the Scrolls are looted Palestinian artifacts and that the ROM dissociate itself from the Israeli Antiquities Authority, which has systematically looted millions of Palestinian artifacts. Pickets at the ROM are ongoing to keep pressure on the ROM and to continue to inform the public about the theft of the Dead Sea Scrolls. For more information, visit www.caiaweb.org.
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
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August 2009 Socialist Worker 11
Unemployment hits 11-year high
No ‘recovery’ in sight for workers by p.r. wright On July 23, Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada, declared the recession is over. The markets responded with rises on the stock market and an increase in the Canadian dollar.
For those who have lost their jobs and cannot collect EI; for those on EI who are within weeks of running out; for those struggling in temporary, part-time and precarious work; for students who can’t find a summer job to help pay tuition fees—all the Bank’s assurances must seem like a cruel joke. So what is the real picture of Canada’s economy? According to the Bank, there has been a revival in Canada’s domestic demand as a result of “stimulative monetary and fiscal policies, improved financial conditions, firmer commodity prices and a rebound in business and consumer confidence”. The Bank also believes that foreign demand will increase, based on a very optimistic assessment of the US, Japanese, and Chinese economies and a slightly less optimistic assessment of Europe.
But the Bank’s optimism is based on short-term signs of growth in both foreign and domestic demand. The evidence suggests that the foundations of this growth are shaky at best. Even as foreign demand
improves, increases in the Canadian dollar threaten to offset any gains, by making Canadian products more expensive. Leaving aside the debate about the technicalities of recession—whether GDP contracts for two or more consecutive quarters—it is already clear that the “end” of the recession does not mean improvements for ordinary workers.
Even the Bank acknowledges that job losses continue and that unemployment is at an 11-year high. According to the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (July 6, 2009): “Relative to the implied Budget 2009 expectations by private sector forecasters in January, the employment outlook has worsened, by around 190-370 thousand jobs this year and by around 200-500 thousand jobs next year, based on the range of the annual averages from the high and low projects.” In other words, on top of the nearly 400,000 jobs lost since November 2008, workers can look forward to a further loss of as many as 500,000 jobs next year! Prolonged job loss even after a technical end to a recession is not uncommon. The Budget Officer also notes that “in both previous recessions, unemployment spiked quickly and did not fall back to its pre-recession level for several years— often close to a decade.” This phenomenon helped
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coined the term “jobless recovery”. If we are technically out of a recession, we are now likely facing a “job loss” recovery. On August 7, Statistics Canada announced that 45,000 jobs were lost in the month of July—a higher loss than expected. Just eight days after Mark Carney issued his declaration that the recession was “over”, Statistics Canada released GDP growth for May showing a 0.5 per cent contraction. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), the drop in Canada’s GDP was more rapid in the opening months of this recession than the opening months of the 198182 and 1990-91 recessions. Relative to the size of the US labour market, Canadian job losses have been worse.
The CCPA notes that as Canada entered the recession, 60 per cent of Canadian households were already in a net debt position. The real story behind this data analysis machination is that governments around the world have moved very explicitly to transfer wealth from the international working class to the coffers of big banks and big business. The recession is declared “over” when stocks inflate along with CEO salaries. But it is also clear that real confidence and growth has not been fully restored and that capital is looking for the next quick fix or bubble. Commodities may be it—perhaps even the Chinese stock market—but given the fragile state of the global economy, any bumps in the road ahead may cause sudden market and price “corrections” and deflate any statistical gains.
Community fights dirty diesel railway by kathryn palmateer The plan to run over 400 diesel trains per day throughout the most densely populated corridor in the country has elicited an enormous response from communities stretching from Liberty Village through to the Junction and beyond. Metrolinx, an agency of the Ontario Government, to develop and implement transportation plans throughout Greater Toronto and Hamilton, and the McGuinty government are planning a huge expansion of the Georgetown corridor—the
Union-Pearson rail line. The line will see upwards of 400 diesel trains pass through the area each day: dirty, polluting trains flowing through communities. Within one kilometre of the tracks there are 76 public schools, 96 child care centres and several seniors homes. Local residents have come together as the Clean Train Coalition (CTC), formed in April of this year, to organize for clean transportation and a corridor that’s “livable, electrified and accessible for all neighbourhoods”. These residents feel that the impact on their
lives and communities will be enormous. Diesel exhaust is a known danger to public health. Metrolinx claims that it has studied whether or not the increased traffic will have an effect on air quality for residents. It is confident the impact will be minimal. In fact, the Metrolinx Environmental Project Report states that “adverse impacts of the project on local air quality would be limited to receptors directly adjacent to the railway under very specific meteorological conditions”.
Why has Harper let Kenney off the leash? by christine beckermann
Jason Kenney has been very busy lately.
Since taking over as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in November, he has: attacked Iraq War resisters, and immigrants who don’t speak English or French; been in the forefront of Conservative attacks on the Canadian Arab Federation; banned British MP George Galloway from speaking in Canada; and been the main voice of the Harper government’s unconditional support for Israel.
Earlier this summer, without warning, he imposed visa requirements on visitors from Mexico and the Czech Republic. Kenney said that the
Roma minority faces no state persecution in the Czech Republic, and questioned the legitimacy of refugee claims. This, in spite of the fact that the Immigration and Refugee Board has approved nearly all such claims. More than any other Conservative cabinet minister, Kenney has aggressively put forward the politics that epitomize the old Reform Party: attacking immigrants, demonizing anti-war voices—all in the bully-boy style—is the real face of Harper’s Conservatives. But up until now, Harper has kept
a tight rein on this in order to try to broaden his base of support across the country. With the loss of support in Quebec, the Conservatives have very few options if they want to move out of minority territory. In 2006, right after the first Harper minority was elected, Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert wrote, “If Harper is mildly successful on the unity front, Duceppe and his comrades-in-arms could lose their last best chance to advance their cause in their political lifetime.