$2 no. 511 October 2009
FIGHT FOR JOBS AND THE PLANET We are currently faced with two global crises. Climate change is threatening our survival and the global economy went to the brink of collapse only to be artificially kept afloat by government bailouts. The root cause of both crises is the capitalist mode of production. Capitalism’s inherent drive to accumulate profit by any means necessary is destroying the planet. To avoid runaway climate change, we must act now. The Harper government isn’t committed to the planet or the people. Instead of attending the recent UN climate change summit in Pittsburgh, Harper opted to eat donuts. It is up to us to make change happen. But to tackle both crises, we need a radical plan to reduce greenhouse gases and address people’s basic needs. Workers and environmentalists are uniting and fighting for good, green jobs. The government needs to create jobs directly, not leave it up to the corporations through “stimulus” spending. Making politicians take this step will not be easy. This is why it is important to fight on every level—on the streets in mass protests, in local community campaigns, and through strikes and factory occupations to save good jobs. We must be a part of the many important events taking place in the months ahead in the lead-up to the critical UN climate talks taking place in December (see page 10 for details).
Major victory for civil liberties as security certificate cases fall apart by jessica squires In recent weeks, the security certificate program, under which non-citizens are detained without charge for years using secret evidence, has been dealt a series of judicial blows, making even the mainstream press muse about whether they are obsolete.
During the summer it came to light that CSIS had withheld evidence in two security certificate cases. In the case of Mohamed Harkat, a key witness failed a lie
detector test—a fact falsified in case evidence. In Hassan Almrei’s case, a witness failed the test and another was never tested. In late August, a Montreal judge ordered the crown prosecutor to reveal the evidence in a third case—that of Adil Charkaoui. Rather than release this evidence, which they claimed would reveal sources whose identity must be kept secret, the crown withdrew it. With this withdrawal, the crown’s case basically collapsed. On September
30, the judge overseeing the case officially quashed the security certificate against Charkaoui. Charkaoui is now continuing the fight to clear his name. In late September, Mohamed Harkat had his conditions of release greatly relaxed. He can now babysit his niece, help family members with medical emergencies and go for coffee without being tailed by Canadian Border Services agents. However, he must still wear a tracking bracelet and report to border services once per
week and cannot use phones or the internet. He and his partner Sophie are now actively seeking work for the first time in seven years. Finally, on September 28 and 29 Mahmoud Jaballah, a fourth security certificate detainee, argued in court that his case amounts to double jeopardy. The special advocate in the case has stated that no substantial new evidence exists. In fact, the evidence is the same in the current certificate as for an earlier one that was quashed in 1999. The new certificate was
signed on the word of CSIS that there was new—secret—evidence. Despite these significant victories, civil liberties activists worry that the recent public musing in the mainstream press and by federal cabinet ministers about the obsolescence of the security certificate process might signal a return to surveillance in the shadows, without oversight. This is why it is vitally imporant to continue the fight against security certificates until the entire unjust process is abolished.
Afghanistan quagmire » 6&7 l Israeli war crimes exposed » 3 Michael Moore’s new film » 9 l Poverty in South Africa » 5
Harper chooses donuts over climate summit by john bell What more do we need to know about the priorities of Stephen Harper’s Tory government? Rather than attend a UN summit on climate change, Harper opted to stage a photo op at an Oakville Tim Horton’s outlet.
He was there, flanked by his Finance Minister and old Mike Harris crony Jim Flaherty, to tout Canada as a haven from corporate taxes. On September 22, while over 100 heads of state met at the UN to discuss climate change, Harper was actually in New York City, paying a “courtesy visit” to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They talked about their mutual hobby of skiing and how excited they both were about the coming winter Olympics. The following day, while Barack Obama was addressing the UN on the crisis of global warming, Harper was at Tim’s grinning over TimBits and a coffee. “The danger posed by climate change cannot be denied,” Obama told the UN. “Our responsibility to meet it cannot be deferred.” At that moment, Harper felt his responsibility was to publicize Tim Horton’s decision to reconstitute itself as a Canadian corporation to take advantage of low corporate tax rates. The corporate restructuring does not involve moving any facilities back to Canada or create any new jobs here. Erin Weir, an economist with the United Steelworkers, points out that the corporate tax cuts enacted by Harper in 2006 will cost $14.9 billion in lost government revenue each year they remain in effect.
Community fights back against gay bashing by john bell A recent spike in vicious attacks on Ontario gay men prove that the threat of hate crimes against the LGBT community remains very real.
The night of September 4, Jake Raynard and two friends were having a cigarette outside a Thunder Bay club. They were attacked by a crowd of thugs for no other reason than being gay. His friends escaped but Raynard was trapped in an alley and beaten. His head wounds were extensive and he will have to undergo difficult reconstructive surgery. Investigations continue but his assailants have not yet been found. On September 8, Brandon Wright, a London Ontario modeling agent was lured into a pickup truck and brutally beaten with a metal object. In
fear of his life, Wright jumped out of the speeding truck, and was helped by numerous bystanders. There is no doubt of the cause of the attack. Wright told Xtra Magazine: “He kept repeating, ‘I’m going to fucking kill you faggot.’” On September 27, London saw another bashing: Erik Rozenski was walking with his boyfriend after celebrating his birthday, when two men jumped them. One assailant has been arrested. The victims suffered minor injuries. Rozenski says he wants the assaults treated as hate crimes. While the crimes were similar, the community responses in the two cities could not have been more different. In Thunder Bay, a week after the crime, more than 1,000 people rallied to support Jake and oppose hateful
violence. Local media, city politicians, aboriginal groups and unions joined with Jake’s family and friends to say that hate crimes would not be tolerated in their city. No such response came in London. Reporting on Devon Wright’s bashing, the local London Free Press published an account of the story very different from what Wright told Xtra. In particular, the paper gave the time of the attack as 11:30 p.m., instead of near noon. And the report portrayed it as a random encounter. Instead, Wright said he had been contacted by a potential client who asked to meet at an east end convenience store. Wright says he approached the paper to correct the mistakes; the Free Press did not, and the serious errors remain in the on-line version of the original report.
On September 25 police arrested 22 year-old Alex Myros in connection with the brutal attack on Brandon Wright. Myros is a local semi-pro football player. Coincidentally, he and teammates pulled several children from a burning auto accident earlier in the year. Free Press reporting on the arrest focuses on Myros’s past “heroics”. The brutality of the attack is downplayed. He is charged with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, forcible confinement and uttering death threats. It is not clear if these will be prosecuted as hate crimes. It is possible that the lack of public outcry in London and the ambiguous media response to Wright’s attack contributed to Rozenski’s beating. What is certain is that all these crimes should be treated by police as hate crimes.
On September 26, 1,000 people formed a human train to protest a planned massive increase in diesel train traffic through their neighbourhoods.
Greenpeace activists block tar sands
First Nations take on federal government
by pam johnson
by amelia murphy-beaudoin
On September 30, Greenpeace activists successfully shutdown operations at the Alberta tar sands for the second time.
For the first time in history, a case alleging that the federal government has discriminated against First Nations families and children was heard by a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal beginning on September 14.
Activists locked themselves to a bridge at a Suncor Energy mine on the Athabasca River and erected a banner reading: “Bridge to Climate Hell”. Other activists floated a banner on the Athabasca reading: “Dying for Climate Leadership” to focus attention on how mining activity is destroying the river. “Through this action, Greenpeace put this destruction centre stage to show the world why we must stop the tar sands,” said Mike Hudema, Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner. “Greenpeace will press world leaders to make strong commitments to fighting climate change; that means stopping the tar sands and embracing a clean energy future.” This action comes two weeks after the successful Greenpeace blockade at a Shell open-pit mine and a week after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading body on climate science, said that Canada is failing on climate action, and should consider putting the tar sands on hold.
The purpose of the Tribunal is to investigate whether or not discrimination has occurred under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The federal government has applied for a judicial review that will challenge the Tribunal’s right to hear the case. There is hope that the tribunal will result in a more positive outlook for First Nations
child welfare agencies, particularly in Manitoba, where 86 per cent of the children in care are aboriginal. The case before the Tribunal, filed by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS) follows a number of reports, including the Auditor General of Canada (2008) and Standing Committee on Public Accounts (2009), which found that the federal government is not funding First Nations child welfare agencies at the same level as provincial services, resulting in inequitable services. The case was filed with the Human Rights Commission two years ago. The Commis-
sion recommended mediation three times. Each time, the AFN and FNCFC society accepted, but the government refused. Currently, there are 27,000 First Nation children in care; approximately 9,000 in First Nations Child and Family services, the remainder in provincial services. The main reason First Nations children come into care is neglect driven by poverty, poor housing and caregiver substance misuse. There are more First Nations children in child welfare care in Canada than attended residential schools at the peak of the system. “At its heart, this issue is about caring for the most vul-
nerable members of our society. Our children deserve the same care afforded to other children in Canada. We hope all parties to work together to address the inequities in the system,” said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo. “We look forward to the fair and independent process offered by an independent Human Rights Tribunal, as a step towards solutions which are urgently needed.” The Tribunal proceedings are open to the public. For more information, visit www.fnwitness.ca. Visit this website and sign-up to be a witness to the Tribunal, saying you will follow the case and make up your own mind about whether the federal government is treating First Nations children fairly.
Toronto declaration: no celebration of occupation by kim mcauley As the focus of its City to City program highlighting new filmmaking hotbeds, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) chose Tel Aviv.
On August 27, Toronto filmmaker John Greyson wrote a well-informed, intelligent letter outlining his decision to pull his film Covered from the festival. Many filmmakers, writers, artists and academics including Ken Loach, Naomi Klein, Alice Walker and Danny
2 Socialist Worker October 2009
Glover joined Greyson by writing and circulating a letter further exposing the truth behind TIFF’s decision: “In 2008, the Israeli government launched Brand Israel, a million dollar media and advertising campaign aimed at changing Canadian perceptions to take the focus off Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its aggressive wars, and refocus it on achievements in medicine, science and culture. “Israeli consul general Amir Gissin said Toronto would be the test city for a promotion
that could then be deployed around the world, the culmination of the campaign would be a major Israeli presence at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.” Greyson’s letter outlines: “Gissen thanks Astral, MIJO and CanWest for donating the million dollar budget [for Brand Israel]. Astral is a long time TIFF sponsor, and CanWest owners’ Asper Foundation donated $500,000 to TIFF.” Cameron Bailey, co-director of TIFF, responded: “The goal of City to City is to take
a closer look at global cities through a cinematic lens, especially cities where film contributes to or chronicles social change in compelling ways.” That statement insults TIFF’s informed audience and also begs a question: why Tel Aviv and not Palestine? The arrogance of TIFF organizers unwittingly provides a stunning spotlight on the need for truly independent, vibrant arts communities which produce thoughtful reflection and necessary outrage when corporate media camouflages whitewash as culture.
Abdelrazik and Mohamud still fighting for justice On October 10, Abousfian Abdelrazik and Suaad Hagi Mohamud will speak out against the despicable treatment they received from the Harper when they were stranded abroad.
After spending six years in exile, including two in Sudanese prisons, Abousfian Abdelrazik’s fight for justice is far from over as his name remains on the UN terrorist blacklist. This means Abdelrazik is unable to open a bank account or apply for a job. The blacklist—Security Council resolution 1267—even makes it a crime to give him anything, including, Abdelrazik fears, medical treatment from a doctor. The Canadian government did nothing to correct the misinformation contained on the notorious blacklist that prevented his repatriation. Now, the government is continuing its indifference, stating that it is under no obligation to remove Abdelrazik’s name or, for that matter, even correct the information about any Canadian on this list. Other governments have routinely updated the information about their citizens. According to Simone MacAndrew, spokesperson for Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, quoted in The Globe and Mail, the UN resolution’s “language does not amount to a decision that would create a binding international obligation”. In Suaad Hagi Mohamud’s case, the government has launched a smear campaign in order to justify its actions, claiming it was an imposter—Mohamud’s sister—trying to board a flight to Canada. An affidavit submitted by the first Canadian official to speak with Mohamud is attempting to raise questions about her identity, thereby justifying the treatment she received. Mohamud was stranded for three months in Kenya while Canadian consular officials refused to help her, despite the presenation of a dozen pieces of identification. Only after Mohamud presented DNA proof of her identity did the government respond. Both Abdelrazik and Mohamud will be speaking in Mississauga on a panel titled: “Disowning Canadians Abroad”. The event is organized by the Canadian Arab Federation. Saturday, October 10, 6:00pm at the Blind Duck Restaurant, University of Toronto Mississauga. For more information, call 416-493-8635.
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Next paper deadline: Wednesday, October 21
‘Today I am free again but my home is still a prison’
United Nations inquiry reveals Israeli war crimes in Gaza by peter hogarth A United Nations fact-finding mission has uncovered evidence that Israel committed serious war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity” in its threeweek assault on Gaza earlier this year, which killed over 1,400 Gazans.
Judge Richard Goldstone, who led the investigation, found evidence “indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict” according to a UN statement.
The 575-page report, which came after a six-month long exploration, indicates that the Israeli operation was a “disproportionate attack”, which specifically targeted civilian populations in an attempt to terrorize, humiliate and punish the people of Gaza as a whole. Israel is admonished for repressing political activists and stifling dissent within the country. The UN inquiry supports previous findings from Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, which state that Israel targeted civilians who were carrying white flags and systematically targeted Palestinian infrastructure.
The report is being presented to the UN Human Rights Council and contains recommendations that Israel, which refused to cooperate with the investigation, must be held accountable for its actions during the war, which may mean the case would be taken to the International Criminal Court. The Obama administration, which remained silent at the time of the USbacked conflict, has criticized the report for unfairly targeting Israel. Ambassador Susan Rice called the document “unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable.” The report is also critical of Hamas
for mortar attacks, which cannot be aimed precisely and thus constitute an attack on civilian populations and for alleged arbitrary arrests and executions. BBC News reported Ismel Radwan, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, as saying the report, with its accusations of Palestinian war crimes, “puts on the same level those who perpetrate crimes and those who resist.” The allegations of Hamas war crimes obscures the central issue, by framing the Gaza assault as a military conflict rather than a sheer massacre by the IDF of Palestinian civilians and infrastructure.
Little has changed after U.S. ‘handover’ in Iraq by jonathon hodge A car bomb attack in Mahmoudiya, just south of Baghdad, in mid-September left at least 7 dead and over 20 injured.
This is a grim reminder of how little has changed since the official US handover of security authority at the beginning of the summer. While the US has concluded the handover of Iraqi detention operations—closing its largest jail at Camp Bucca in mid-September—the situation in the country is
eerily reminiscent of previous years. Violence has remained central to Iraqi’s day-to-day experiences, in spite of official US and Iraqi rhetoric to the contrary. Mahmoudiya is within the so-called “triangle of death” named for the high number of attacks following the US-led invasion in 2003. Another bombing in the Saydiya district in the south of Baghdad injured two civilians in the same week as the Mahmoudiya bombing, and mortars again struck the green zone. Violence continues to remain high in Mosul in the north.
In spite of the US pullout from major towns and cities, and in spite of British forces withdrawing previously from Basra, daily living in Iraq is still filled with anxiety and danger. At the root of these problems lies Western involvement. Iraq was created by British and US imperialism in the wake of World War II. The strongman Saddam Hussein was propped up by Western powers right up until 1991, and his dictatorship allowed no space for indigenous democratic formations to emerge.
When Western armies swarmed in to kill and destroy, the political vacuum created by their invasion was filled by new factions trying to defend their homeland. In such a climate, the invaders actively stoked sectarianism between the various ethnic and religious groups. Recent provincial elections have shown Iraqi enthusiasm for a nonsectarian polity. It is unclear however, that such sentiments can gain traction with so many foreign fighters continuing to operate within the country.
U.S. raid leads to escalation of violence by farid omar Once again, the US has launched an unprovoked attack on Somalia. Helicopter-borne Special Forces attacked in mid-September from a US naval ship off the Somali coast. The raid killed a suspected “al-Qaeda operative” in southern Somalia. The US attack triggered an escalation of violence. Fighters from the Islamist, Al-Shabab group, retaliated by hitting the heavily guarded African Union (AU) military camp in Mogadishu with twin suicide attacks that killed 22 people including
17 AU “peacekeepers”. The suicide car bombings were the deadliest single attack on AU “peacekeepers” since they arrived in Somalia in 2007. Burundian Major General Juvenal Niyoyunguruza, the deputy commander of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), was killed in the attack. A few days later, on September 12, there were new clashes near the Ethiopian border where Islamist insurgents seized the town of Yeed from government forces in western Somalia. Fourteen people were killed. The majority of Somalis
practice moderate Islam and reject the insurgents’ harsh interpretations of the Sharia. However, many residents in war torn Somalia credit the Islamists with restoring stability and a measure of law and order.
Islamist insurgents accuse both the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and AMISOM of supporting US interests in Somalia. Their views are echoed elsewhere as there is now a growing opposition to AMISOM in the region. Just recently, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC),
Uganda’s main opposition party, called for the immediate withdrawal of the country’s troops from Somalia. FDC leader, Kiiza Besigye told journalists that the Ugandan forces are “being used by foreign countries to serve selfish interests”. In Burundi, the opposition Union for Peace and Development wants “an immediate and unconditional return of Burundian soldiers deployed in Somalia”. Party spokesman Chauvineau Mugwengezo said that “these soldiers were illegally sent to Somalia... and the government must bring them back at once”.
Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi is known around the world for throwing his shoes at former US president George W. Bush. He was released from prison, having served a full year for “assaulting a foreign head of state”. Upon release, al-Zeidi described the beatings, electric shocks and injections with “unknown chemical agents” he was subjected to in jail. He demanded that the Iraqi prime minister apologize for withholding information about his treatment. AlZeidi immediately went into hiding and fled the country to seek medical care and “for fear of his life”, in the words of his brother Uday. Al-Zeidi told reporters, “I did this [throwing the shoes] as a revenge for the victims and people killed in Iraq... now the new US politicians should deal with Arabs properly... as respectful counterparts not like slaves. Today I am free again but my home is still a prison.”
British unions vote to boycott Israel On September 17, Britain’s Trade Union Congress (TUC)—representing 6.5 million workers—passed a motion to boycott goods from illegal Israeli settlements. While stopping short of a general boycott of Israeli goods, the motion was hailed as a landmark decision by Britain’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign: “This motion is the culmination of a wave of motions passed at union conferences this year, following outrage at Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, and reflects the massive growth in support for Palestinian rights.” The motion also called on the British government to condemn the continuing blockade of Gaza, end arms sales to Israel, seek a European Union ban on importing goods from illegal settlements, and suspend the European Union-Israel trade agreement.
Gaza Freedom March Months before it’s scheduled to take place, the Gaza Freedom March is already building serious momentum. Thousands of activists have joined online groups to prepare for the historic solidarity march to Gaza, set for January 1, 2010. The US-based feminist anti-war group, Codepink, is currently hosting the march’s website. Activists will arrive in Cairo on December 27 to embark on a week-long solidarity caravan to Gaza that will include a tour of the devastation of Israel’s war, meetings with local NGOs and solidarity groups, and a mile-long freedom march on January 1. A series of high-profile activists from around the world have already committed to joining, including campaigners from the US, Canada, Europe and around the world. For more information, visit www.gazafreedommarch.org.
October 2009 Socialist Worker 3
Democracy: theirs and ours What is democracy? Can elections guarantee more democracy in Afghanistan? Will too many elections erode democracy in Canada? For Marxists, free and fair elections are necessary, but real democratic control of society demands much more.
Capitalism is based on the drive for wealth and profits among a small ruling elite. Sharing power is not part of the game plan. But the system could not survive without some consent from those who produce all of that wealth (and not just conditions of coercion), as the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci put it. Formal democracy is necessary to the success of the system, but only in limited amounts and with strict conditions. Over the centuries workers and the poor have pressured capitalist classes to make good on the promise of democracy. This pattern can be seen from as early as 1640 when the English Revolution took place, through the decades of revolution that saw the US War of Independence in 1776, to the French Revolution of 1789, the rebellions in 1837 in the colonial provinces of Canada, and in the aborted revolution in Germany in 1848.
Liberalism became the dominant set of ideas over this period. It is based vaguely on certain tenets developed much earlier, which rose and fell with the Greek Polis in Athens around 400 BC. The early rise of the small struggling bourgeois, or propertied class, developed in a temporary alliance with masses of peasants, artisans and workers. It broke the hold of centuries of aristocratic rule that had been based on the notion that the monarchs were the direct descendants of gods. The words promised freedom on a scale never previously imagined. In reality it was an age of brutal exploitation. The ascendance of the ideas of liberty, equality and brotherhood was accompanied by economic hardship for the mass of the new working class, racist slavery of millions of African agriculturists, and the total or near genocide of aboriginal peoples in North, Central and South America. Bourgeois democracy, the centerpiece of liberalism, is about the freedom of the propertied over the propertyless. For the rich it was the freedom to compete on the market. For the poor it was the freedom to starve or work endless hours risking life and limb merely to survive. Today liberal democracy is mostly about elections. But political democracy remains limited. Who holds the politicians accountable when they break their election promises or when they bring in policies against the will of the majority? The economy continues to be outside the electoral principle. Bourgeois democracy does not extend to the right to vote for your boss. Liberal democracy is partial. But it is important to take advantage of even limited democratic reforms to press to extend greater democracy in the future.
Marx and democracy
Karl Marx learned this at an early age. As a student in 1842, he questioned the way a wood theft law was developed in Germany (then Prussia). Peasants were outlawed from gathering dead wood in forests. Wood gathering would render the commodity of the forested land null and void, because wood had to be scarce if it was to be sold. Marx challenged the contradiction between freedom for the rich and the legal construction of “theft” for the poor. He wrote: “If every violation of property, without distinction or closer determination is theft, then would not all private property be theft? By my private property, do I not exclude every other person from this property? Do I not therefore violate this right of property?” The radical democracy of the young Marx led him to challenge the sham democracy of the capitalist system. This is what led Marx away from the utopian socialism of his compatriots, to the development of a “scientific”, realistic strategy for human freedom. Socialists fight for democracy from below. Real democracy is where those who produce the wealth actually make decisions about how that wealth will be used and distributed.
Marx was to develop a much more specific view of the nature of working class revolutionary activity when he witnessed the Paris Commune in 1871, now as a mature scholar and activist. When the workers of Paris took control of the city and ran it collectively in a democratically elected self-governing council, Marx felt that he had a glimpse for the first time of the promise of mass democracy. For 72 days, in one city, artisans, unemployed, recently landless peasants, and some workers like we know today, governed a major centre of European commerce and industry. Here are Marx’s words: “Its true secret was this. It was essentially a workingclass government, the product of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour.” Marx saw in the Commune the expression of the core of his worldview of socialist revolution, the self-emancipation of the working class. This was a glimpse of the type of democracy that Marx and Engels envisioned, and it continues to be a vision worth fighting for in the future. 4 Socialist Worker October 2009
Thousands take to the streets against coup in Hondura by jessica squires Since the June coup removed President Manuel Zelaya from Honduras, the opposition to the coup has stayed strong despite brutal repression tactics by the state and military.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media has been supporting the false government, spreading lies about the resistance. Last month, repression reached a new level of intensity, with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reporting widespread abuses. The reports highlighted a pattern of excessive use of force, arbitrary detention and sexual violence. Rape is being used as a control measure by state forces. Military rule prevails in large por-
tions of the country; the capital is militarized, and patrols and checkpoints pepper the roads leading to the capital. The US and EU have suspended diplomatic visas and suspended more than $300 million in aid. In contrast, the Canadian government has said it will continue with $16.4 million annual aid to Honduras—including military assistance—and won’t impose sanctions. False President Roberto Micheletti says he does not fear sanctions and that Honduras can get by without international support. On September 21, Zelaya returned to Honduras with, reports say, assistance from sections of the Honduran military. As of late September, he was living in the Brazilian embassy. Authorities cut power and water to the embassy (later restored), and the building is under siege. Micheletti’s regime has issued threats and ultimatums to Brazil.
Micheletti will hold elections in November, even if the results are not recognized. The UN has withdrawn their assistance from the election process. Meanwhile, daily mass protests continue. On the 80th day after the coup, which was also Honduras Independence Day, huge protests took place. This demonstrated connections the Honduran people make between the current struggle and that waged to shrug off the yoke of Spanish rule 188 years ago. September 28 was the three-month mark, with huge protests converging on the capital in response to calls from Zelaya. Workers, unions, farmers, students and social movements have banded together in massive and inspiring resistance. They are calling for Zelaya’s return and for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution—a process to create a more participatory democracy.
Racist reaction in U.S. health care debate by virginia rodino
The health care reform debate is the central political question for the US left, the right and everyone in between. The standard format and partisanship of the disagreements remain unchanged: liberals maintaining an unwavering supportive stance toward Democratic Party proposals that have become increasingly watered down, conservatives declining to agree on anything brought to the table no matter how toothless the proposals become and the radical left calling out for a single payer plan that was never destined to be proposed by any US president. But the added dimension in this debate has been the participation of a reactionary right-wing that rears its ugly head under the guise of a moral righteousness that it believes only it can carry. The participation of reaction-
aries in the health care debate has been worsened because of fearmongering that has been fostered in an economic crisis. With no clear arguments from a revolutionary Left that help to clarify for US workers what is happening with the economy and who is to blame, the right-wing is whipping up virulent racist scapegoating. One of the main targets continues to be immigrant workers and poor people of colour. Joe Wilson, the now infamous Republican member of Congress from South Carolina who broke decorum during the president’s speech on health care, calling him a liar, was responding to Obama’s statement that immigrant workers were not going to be covered by the proposed plan. This outburst, produced from a deep-seated absence of respect for any African American no matter what his social status, has spurred the president to state
even more unequivocally his position against covering immigrant workers without papers. Obama has even insisted that the overall virulent attack by the right-wing against universal health care has very little to do with race or racism. By refusing to acknowledge that the Republicans and extreme-rightwing’s arguments against universal coverage are an insistence on denying health care to 47 million Americans, many who are poor people of colour, the president is demonstrating that he is not a representative of the average, ordinary African American worker in the United States. Instead of rising up and challenging the racist rhetorical attacks being stirred up by the right-wing, Obama is ignoring them, thus ignoring the effect that the lack of true universal health care is going to have on millions of poor people of colour.
California students and workers stage walkouts by peter hogarth Thousands of students, faculty and campus workers walked out of classes and work at the ten campuses of the University of California in protest of deep budgets cuts.
Faculty members initiated the action after UC Chancellor Mark Yudof announced that unpaid leave would be forced on staff to save the system money. This announcement came on the heels of
other plans imposed by Yudof, including steep tuition increases and another 32 per cent hike in student fees. Solidarity for the action was incredible as students walked out with 1,000 professors who pledged not to teach and timed their work-stoppage with a oneday unfair labour practices strike called by the Union of Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE). Campuses in Berkley, Santa Cruz, San Diego, LA, Irvine and Riverside saw sit-
ins, building occupations and solidarity amongst students, teaching faculty, custodial staff and trade union locals. The demonstrators emphasized the disparities evident in the budget cuts, in which programs such as ethnic studies, women’s studies, LGBT studies, and peace studies are facing severe attacks on their budgets while military research departments are exempt from cuts. Protesters vowed to lead the fight against the privatization of education.
ost-Apartheid South Africa is a land of vast contrasts, as most travel books suggest. But even the fleeting lens of the tourist’s gaze can discern that the most striking contrasts aren’t in the coasts and mountain ranges, but in the glaring disparity between wealth and poverty. In South Africa, this disparity is obvious. Just north of Johannesburg, the country’s economic hub, you’ll find Sandton, a world-class metropolis of luxury hotels, condominiums, business headquarters and ritzy shopping centres. Half a mile southeast, by contrast, you’ll find the sprawling township of Alexander. Despite a few showy signs of the emergent black middle class, such as the Pan Africa Mall, most of what you’ll see here is squalor and poverty. Back in Sandton, the local mall is a microcosm of the contradictions of post-Apartheid South Africa. Upon entering the shopping centre, you’re likely to witness a white overseer finger-wagging a group of black workers whose shift has just begun. While visiting any of the expensive restaurants or designerlabel boutiques, you’ll quickly notice that most of the waiters, shop assistants and cleaners are black, while most of the owners, managers and shoppers are white. Post-Apartheid South Africa is no world-turned-up-side-down. The society in which a white minority experiences reverse racism is the fictive creation of Brandon Huntley, a white South African refugee claimant in Canada. Huntley was recently granted refugee status by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), although the ruling is now under review after an international outrage. The reality in South Africa is that affirmative action policies implemented by the African National Congress (ANC) have barely achieved even a marginal correction in the discriminatory structure inherited from Apartheid. White South Africans continue to enjoy countless advantageous benefits from the South African economy.
The statistics speak for themselves: whites, who are just 12 per cent of the labour force, occupy 72.8 per cent of top management positions. With the unemployment rate in double-digit figures (unofficially, it is close to 40 per cent) of the workforce, Africans constitute some 28 per cent of the unemployed; so-called “coloureds”, 20 per cent; South Asians, 11 per cent; and whites, a mere five per cent. Refugee claimant Huntley has also made the ridiculous suggestion that white South Africans have been targets of racial violence. The media has often paid considerable attention to white farmers who have been attacked by criminals, but as Human Rights Watch has observed, black farm workers experience more violence, including violence from their employers. Farm owners, along with police and private security forces, are notorious for beating, killing or raping black farm workers. The persistence of white wealth and privilege in South Africa is just one aspect of a society shaped by capitalism.
Poverty and inequality still plague South Africa Fifteen years after the defeat of Apartheid in South Africa, which gave hope to millions, the fight against neoliberal policies continues, writes Joe Kelly that had drained to just a trickle in the dying days of Apartheid.
In the fight against Apartheid, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the black trade union movement, was the central group, alongside student and working-class community organizations. But without the presence of a rooted revolutionary party, however, the leadership of the black workingclass struggle against the Apartheid regime fell to the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP). The latter backed away from its Stalinist past and became the social democratic backbone of the ANC. Once in government, it underwent another metamorphosis, ditching its social democratic programme in favour of a neoliberal agenda. The ANC was keen to attract foreign capital investment
‘Most economic growth in recent years has come at the expense of workers’
The singular success of the ANC in power, especially under the Presidency of Thabo Mbeki (19992008), has been fairly impressive levels of economic growth. Thus, in 2007, Gross Fixed Capital Investment increased from 18.6 per cent of GDP the year before to 20.6 per cent. Economic growth has failed to lower unemployment, but it has helped finance some state spending on social programs, including the equalization of old-age pensions and new disability and child care grants that benefit a significant portion (about 14 million people) of the population. Yet these minor reforms are paid for by poor working-class families. The South African government’s tax policies have long favoured the rich, with corporate tax dropping from nearly 50 per cent in the 1990s to less than 30 per cent in recent years. Most economic growth that has occurred in recent years has come at the expense of workers. Many have been held to ransom by authoritarian employers. Their exploitation has been intensified by the threat of losing their jobs. As a worker in Johannesburg’s East Rand told one sociologist, “The Company is being productive, but with this restructuring, they are working with fewer workers. And the guys who remain behind, like me, they are doing a job which could be done by four to five people. One guy is doing all that, you know … It’s like we are going back to the dark years,
where we used to have slaves.” Claire Ceruti, a leading member of Keep Left, has also observed that between 1998 and 2002, while company profits rose from under 27 per cent to 32 per cent, workers’ share of national income dropped from 50 per cent to less than 45 per cent. However, the South African working class is no powerless pawn. Communities have fought back against neoliberal policies that have increased the cost of water and electricity, and that fuelled inflation on basic goods. Despite the argument among some progressives that South African trade unions have become weaker, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has reported that the South African trade union movement has been one of the fastest growing movements in the world in recent years.
In August last year, COSATU held a well organized one-day general strike that protested soaring electricity prices. The 2008 general strike, which had its precursor in a surge of politicised strikes and community protests in 2006 and 2007, was also a dress rehearsal for the trade union movement to oust the kingpin of neoliberalism, President Thabo Mbeki. It replaced him with party leader, Jacob Zuma, who had long been part of the neoliberal establishment, but was able to use unproven charges of corruption against him to appear as a leader more sympathetic toward working-class demands. Zuma became president in May this year. In response to Zuma’s attempts to reassure big business that he would
do nothing to change the country’s course from neoliberalism, organized workers and communities greeted his first 100 days in office with a wave of strikes and township protests. The tension between the ANC and the labour movement has been evident in the latest strikes and protests, and has tested the alliance between the ANC, the SACP and COSATU. But any expectation that the alliance will soon come apart would be premature. The bureaucrats at the head of the SACP and COSATU have secured choice positions within the executive of the government, and are unlikely to make moves that jeopardize their privilege. While there has been an ongoing spat between COSATU and Zuma’s government—the former threatening uncontrollable strikes and the latter declaring that it won’t pander to labour—Zuma was recently welcomed with rousing applause at the COSATU national conference. Among COSATU shop stewards, the rank-and-file of the SACP, and youth and students within the ANC, there are certainly voices of dissent that wish to push past the stranglehold of the neoliberal agenda that even Zuma embraces. Tapping into this dissent requires organizations such as Keep Left, the Socialist Group and other progressive forces, which seek to build a revolutionary alternative. Activists must work patiently alongside allies from the ANC, COSATU and the SACP who are still torn between their gut opposition to capitalism and their commitment to an alliance that simply cannot deliver for workers and their impoverished communities. October 2009 Socialist Worker 5
ctober 2009 marks the eighth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. Eight years ago, NATO invaded Afghanistan in the name of bringing the 9/11 “evil-doers” to justice and confining what was described as an “imminent threat to Western values and security”. After many unsuccessful months of hunting Osama Bin Laden and his band of 40 thieves, the coalition forces switched their motives and began clamouring for the liberation of women, spreading of democracy, and the reviving of a barbarous people into modern and civilized beings. This crusade is not so different from that of the British Empire who, for 80 years, sang the same song. So what have the NATO forces, and the US in particular, achieved in the past eight years? Have women’s rights improved? Has Osama Bin Laden been caught? Has the Taliban been defeated? Has stability and democracy been brought to Afghanistan? Unfortunately, a simple no would not be good enough to answer these questions. Women’s rights have hardly changed, some would say even gotten worse, as is predictable in a war torn society; Osama Bin Laden and the rest of al-Qaeda seem to have almost disappeared into thin air; the Taliban are gaining even more strength and support than they have ever had; and one only needs to look at the results of the recent Afghan elections to get a grasp of “democracy” in that region.
Quagmire deepens for NATO in Afghanistan The latest downward spiral for the occupation cannot be solved by sending in more troops or spreading the war to Pakistan, writes Salmaan Abdul Hamid Khan It was not too much of a surprise to find that the recent Afghan elections were riddled with corruption and fraud. Hamid Karzai, a US-backed warlord whose powers barely extend past Kabul, has once again proven his distaste for democratic values. Elections observers from both the UN and the European Union have claimed that as many as 1.5 million of the ballots could be fraudulent, this excluding the number of votes that were cast in polling stations controlled and regulated by Karzai’s armed cronies.
Not surprisingly, the people of Afghanistan have come to feel dispassionate about the so-called “free and democratic process” and see the system as well as the government as corrupt and beyond repair. Post-election Afghanistan remains as divided as ever, as distrust for the government increases, and resistance movements reach even greater heights. The escalating violence and destabilization in the region reached a new peak these past few months, as NATO forces suffered their greatest losses in eight years. The months following the start of “Operation Khanjar” or “strike of the sword”, were devastating for the US-led offensive, the largest 6 Socialist Worker October 2009
‘As NATO forces pillage through Pashtun villages, they grow increasingly unpopular’
of its kind since the Vietnam War. August alone produced 77 coalition fatalities, the highest it has ever been since the beginning of this war. A recurring pattern can be seen as NATO forces are now suffering greater casualties and the Taliban are gaining more ground. The Obama administration’s escalation policy and attempt to further “Afghanize” the war, a failed strategy once carried out by Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War, is already proving disastrous. For one, the influx of US forces and increased aggression in southern Afghanistan is proving counterproductive as it creates more instability and violence. As NATO forces pillage through Pashtun villages, they grow increasingly unpopular and come to be viewed as occupiers rather than so-called liberators. As well, the growing reliance on the NATO-trained Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and the Afghan National Army (ANA), seems to be in vain. Much like the failed armies of South Vietnam, the Afghan Forces are marred with corruption and incompetence. Many of the soldiers recruited into the ANA are former criminals, driven out of their own villages. There is also the issue of rampant drug abuse and addiction
among many of the Afghan forces. In addition, promotion and stature in the ANA has more to do with money and family ties as opposed to merit or ability. This being said, it is quite surprising that General Stanley McChrystal, current commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), in his recent report to the White House, proposes not only the expansion of, but also an increase in strategic dependence on the ANSF and ANA, while mentioning nothing about the corruption and deficiencies that plague them. Coupled with this pipedream, McChrystal, who sees imminent failure in Afghanistan unless a new strategy is adopted, called for more troops and resources in the coming months. It is reported that McChrystal may request up to 50,000 more troops to assist the already 62,000 in Afghanistan.
What course of action will Obama take? Perhaps he may concede to the strategy being pushed by his vice president, Joe Biden, which calls for a reduction in troops, minimal civilian protection, and a shift in focus to the Taliban and alQaeda in bordering Pakistan. This strategy may help reduce NATO casualties, but is sure to
cause further destabilization in neighbouring Pakistan. An escalation in violence along Pakistan’s border regions has acted as a catalyst to resistance movements in Pakistan, many of which are taking a stand against indiscriminate US drone attacks and Pakistani military operations that have displaced thousands and killed hundreds. Or perhaps he will favour the strategy put forward by General McChrystal that calls for an increase in troops and a greater reliance on the corrupt and deficient force that is the Afghan National Army. Least likely is a course of action that doesn’t involve direct military involvement, and focuses more on the development of Afghanistan and the protection of its people. Such social construction and economic growth are not guarantees to a US friendly, faux democracy, which will be able to secure resource extraction and transportation. In any case, what’s left is a war going nowhere, where objectives aren’t clearly defined and where innocent civilians are the ones paying the price. The occupation of Afghanistan cannot be solved by sending more troops. We need to continue to pressure the Harper government to bring the troops home now.
Opposition to war grows as casualty rates increase by paul stevenson US General Stanley McChrystal’s request for 50,000 additional NATO troops in the ground in Afghanistan is going to be a tough sell to NATO members who are watching support for the war plummet. In Europe, the war is having its impacts on domestic politics. In the recent German election, Afghanistan became an important issue with the left party, Die Linke, gaining electorally because of its firm anti-war position. In Germany, polls show as many as 80 per cent of the population wants the German troops brought home. The US government is in trouble and is doing all it can to try to sweeten the deal for European countries that are deeply concerned that an opposition to the war in Afghanistan may strain US-NATO relations. In an attempt to keep up NATO unity, the Obama administration has done away with some of the more controversial plans of the Bush administration in Europe, including plans for NATO expansion and for the missile defence shield. Russia has always opposed the missile defence plan, saying that it is designed to hem in Russia on its Western borders. The US insisted that the missiles would be used to counter threats from Iran but not many believed that justification. There are many more options that would make more sense, such as marine based missiles if the issue were, in fact, the Iranian threat. Many European countries, dependent on Russia for energy supplies, are loath to support any plans that may anger Moscow. That is why there has remained tension within NATO about missile defence and NATO expansion into Georgia and Ukraine. What is different now is that the US is in desperate need for Russian support for the war in Afghanistan. US supply routes are being targeted throughout the south, where most supplies come through Pakistan. They need a northern supply route, but Russia, who still exert considerable influence in the Central Asian countries that were part of the USSR, have vehemently
General McChrystal opposed any attempts by the US to build bases in the region. In return for cancelling the missile defence plan, Russia has dropped its opposition to military bases in Kyrgystan and has decided to allow the US military to fly over Russian airspace. It makes sense for the US to scuttle the deal when seen in the larger context of NATO’s desperate position on Afghanistan. The fact that missile defence doesn’t work made the decision a no-brainer. The governments of Poland and the Czech Republic were initially concerned that shelving the missile defence plan would leave them vulnerable to pressure from Russia. The US agreed to a compromise which may allow them to keep some mobile missiles in the two countries to show a commitment to curtailing Russian ambitions, but not the land bases that were initially proposed. This seemed to placate both the Polish and Czech governments. “We were never really threatened by a long-range missile attack from Iran,” said Slawomir Nowak, a senior advisor to Poland’s Prime Min-
‘The reality is the US is buying time, hoping that the Afghan war can be won and it can go back to surrounding Russia’
ister Donald Tusk. “If this system becomes reality in the shape Washington is now suggesting, it would actually be better for us than the original missile shield programme.” We don’t yet know what US intentions are for a new plan. The White House released a “fact sheet” on missile defence in Europe that calls for a “phased, adaptive approach” to the plan but offers no concrete steps for a new version of missile defence. The reality is the US is buying time, hoping that the Afghan war can be won and it can go back to surrounding Russia. It will be a long time coming for that scenario to play out so something as nebulous as calling for a “phased-adaptive approach” should keep both Russia and the Eastern European countries happy for the time being.
Wild card: Iran
The US needs to keep Russia happy for one other reason: they require Russian support for a sanction regime against Iran. The disastrous occupation of Iraq has actually strengthened Iran in the region and the US is still looking for ways to limit Iran’s influence while simultaneously relying on them for support for the Afghan and Iraq occupations. Russia has always opposed US attempts to sanctions Iran and with a veto at the UN Security Council, it can stop any enforcement of sanctions. We don’t know to what extent Russia will comply with US policy on this issue, but anything that can limit Russian-Iranian strategic alliances is good news for the US. The geopolitics of the post-Cold War era are more convoluted and complex. Deals that are made one day can fall apart the next. The US is no longer as dominant as it once was and the inconsistencies of its foreign policy towards Eastern Europe prove that once again. In Central Asia, US imperial ambitions are in shambles. As the war in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate for the West, these deals will become more frequent and short lived, placing the world in a much more volatile situation.
Soldier died fighting ‘useless’ war by paul stevenson
Jonathan thought the war was ‘a bit useless, that they were wasting their time there’
On September 17, Private Jonathan Couturier was killed in the Panjwaii district of Afghanistan after the vehicle he was driving in hit a roadside bomb. This is a story we have seen repeated 131 times in Afghanistan. But this time was different: Courtuier did not support the war. In interviews after the killing, his brother, Nicolas Couturier said that Jonathan thought the war was “a bit useless, that they were wasting their time there”. The soldier’s sister-in-law, Valerie Boucher, said that Jonathan didn’t want to go to Afghanistan. The comments put the government of Canada on the defensive. Governor General Michaëlle Jean, who has become the new spokesperson for the war, intervened in the debate saying that she has personally seen how the war is enriching the lives of Afghans. The media was also quick to respond to Couturier’s comments, making every effort to brand his opposition as an anomaly. The Canadian Press described his statements against the war as “strident” and retired Major General Lewis MacKenzie was widely quoted as saying that Couturier’s opposition was “totally and absolutely unique to date in the mission”. That is not precisely true. Other
Private Jonathan Couturier
families of fallen soldiers have questioned the war, but the difference here is that the family’s remarks come amid an accelerated debate about the war in Canada and throughout the world. Liberal senator, Colin Kenney, a staunch military supporter who has campaigned for increased military spending, said that the war is futile and describes it as another Vietnam. His statements came days before the top US general in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, released an assessment stating that the war will be lost without a huge increase in NATO troops. McChrystal is expected to ask for as many as 50,000 new NATO soldiers for Afghanistan.
Have German voters shifted to the right? by yuri prasad Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party was re-elected in Sunday’s German elections. The result will see Merkel end her partnership with the Labour-like SPD and go into coalition with the right wing FDP. The FDP is a party that stands for cuts in taxes on the rich and slashing public spending. Bosses were quick to greet Merkel’s victory as a chance to implement the pro-business agenda they crave. “German politics now has a chance for a clear profile, especially in the field of sound, marketorientated policies,” said Wolfgang Kirsch, head of Germany’s DZ bank. The media has called the election a shift to the right under the weight of recession. But that idea is not borne out by the results, says Stefan Bornost, editor of German magazine Marx21. “The total vote for the centre right parties rose by just 3.4 per cent, while the total vote for the left fell by 5.4 per cent,” he told Socialist Worker (UK). “There was a significant redistribution of the vote among the right wing parties—in particular the CDU lost votes to the FDP—but this does not a reflect a general thirst for pro-market policies.” In fact, says Stefan, recent social attitudes surveys show the opposite is true. “Around 59 per cent of Germans think there should be more social solidarity, compared to 31 per cent who think there should be more competition.” That feeling was reflected in the votes for the radical left. While the SPD saw its vote collapse to just 23 per cent—its worst election result since 1953—the results for Die Linke, its new left wing challenger, were very encouraging. Die Linke took 11.9 per cent of the vote, up 3.2 percentage points on the previous general election,
‘The centre right vote rose by just 3.4 per cent... There is no general thirst for promarket policies’
and won 76 MPs—22 more than last time around. It overtook the Greens, who also had a recordbeating election. “Fear of the reaction to cuts is already making it difficult for the new government,” says Stefan. “On the day the results were announced, Merkel was forced to say she will stand for ‘social needs’— despite the fact that bosses are baying for cuts. “Nevertheless, there are going to be big battles ahead.” Faced with a reduction of tax revenues of up to 20 per cent, the government is preparing to order cuts in public expenditure across the board.
Die Linke fought its election campaign on core issues—the immediate implementation of a minimum wage, taxing the rich, troops out of Afghanistan, repeal of the harsh unemployment benefit laws, and no to raising the retirement age to 67. The election saw Die Linke rise to being the biggest party in most states in the former East Germany. Party leader Oskar Lafontaine says the key tasks ahead include joining governments in order to block federal legislation, winning future elections, and taking to the streets to protest against cuts. However, joining governing coalitions at a time of budget cuts would almost certainly mean implementing policies that hit the party’s working class supporters, says Stefan. “You cannot say that a vote for Die Linke is one that will defend public services, while at the same time making cuts,” he says. “But the pressure to take office is great. The revulsion with the CDU is such that the vast majority of Die Linke’s voters say they want our party in government.” Other key questions for Die Linke will be how it responds to the economic crisis, and how it relates to millions of disillusioned working class SPD supporters. “We need to forge a united front to fight back against the attacks that are coming,” says Stefan. “That doesn’t mean letting the SPD leaders off the hook, but it does mean organizing to fight against the bosses and the Tories alongside their rank and file.” © Socialist Worker (UK)
October 2009 Socialist Worker 7
When Stephen Harper’s Tories unveiled their proposed changes to Employment Insurance (Bill C-50), Canada’s New Democrats were prepped and ready to proclaim their support. By backing up the Tories, the NDP saw itself as taking credit for extracting concessions, looking good in comparison to the Liberals, demonstrating their electionworthiness and buying some time for the party to improve its electoral prospects. And given the dismal state of affairs for both the NDP and the Liberals, who can blame the NDP for wanting to avoid an election that could very well deliver a Tory majority, at worst, or the status quo, at best? This is the real context of the debate. However, instead of making this calculation public, the NDP has generated more spin than confidence. Here’s why: lTo justify support for the Tories, the NDP inflates the measures on offer. This builds the Tories. lAfter months of denouncing the Liberals for supporting the Tories, the NDP has now shown they are not above supporting the Tories themselves. Conclusion: the NDP was either wrong then, or wrong now. lAnd last but not least, the basic thrust of the labour movement’s campaign to fix EI was fairness. The improvements on offer in Bill C-50 are not only meagre and temporary, they are also coupled with new layers of grossly unfair eligibility criteria that will disqualify thousands. On this, the NDP is silent, while the Liberals and the Bloc are free to campaign on these issues. As it stands, the biggest problem with Bill C-50 isn’t that it offers only crumbs when a whole loaf is needed (after all, that’s life under capitalism). It’s the fact that Harper has delivered a poison gift. When the thousands of workers who need an extension of EI benefits find they don’t qualify under Harper’s new rules, their anger may be directed at the Tories, but their votes will go to those criticized the bill. And unless the NDP changes their tune quickly, it won’t be the NDP.
Don’t blame workers Mayor Miller’s decision not to run for a third term next November has come as a surprise to many. There have been no shortage of rumours as to who will run for the top spot, including Liberal MPP and deputy premier George Smitherman, former provincial Conservative leader John Tory and a handful of right-leaning city councillors. Sections on the left—in the NDP and the labour movement—will be tempted to blame the city workers’ strike for the downfall of Miller’s popularity and the possible election of a right-wing mayor next year. But this would be compounding Miller’s own mistakes. When Miller took on city workers this summer, he sought to bury any notion that he was “soft on unions”. By calling it ‘a strike against the children of Toronto’, Miller buoyed every right-wing councillor while left councillors remained silent. City workers were resisting concessions and they were right to do so. Miller took his base for granted and then turned against it. Had progressive councillors stood with city workers, the left would not be so weakened going into the next mayoral race. Miller was the author of his own misfortune. Blaming city workers will only play into the hands of the right and their privatization agenda.
What history book has Harper been reading? At a G20 press conference in Pittsburgh, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made ths shocking statement: “We also have no history of colonialism... So we have all of the things that many people admire about the great powers but none of the things that threaten or bother them.” Harper’s history book must have omitted the chapter about the continuing legacy of colonialism for First Nations people, and the imperial occupation of Afghanistan. This may explain his government’s lack of action in addressing the fact that many First Nations communities face higher than average levels of poverty and unemployment, do not have access to potable water and children are made to attend unsafe schools. In Manitoba many First Nations communities have no plumbing or sewers and residents are battling high levels of the H1N1 flu. When community leaders asked for help from the Harper government, they were shipped 200 body bags. “Respiratory problems are rampant here,” Chief Jerry Knott said to The Globe and Mail. “Hand sanitizer, even if we had it, wouldn’t even scratch the surface.” Decades of injustice and neglect—through residential schools, forced assimilation, land theft—are part of Canada’s colonial past and living history, a history Harper is attempting to rewrite. 8 Socialist Worker October 2009
Is the NDP right to support the Tories’ E.I. Bill?
Greenpeace activists hang a banner on the eve of the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, PA.
G20: a bigger tent but no answers by Alex callinicos Probably the most important thing about the G20 summit in Pittsburgh September 24 to 25 was that it is the third time it has met in the past year. What was a relatively marginal international body seems to be morphing into a significant institution.
The G20 was set up in 1999 as a response to the Asian financial crisis. It consists of the finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 states plus the European Union. But it has been a pretty irrelevant body that was unable to stop Wall Street and the City of London motoring towards the crash of 2008. The severity of the resulting economic crisis has, however, transformed the G20 into what the latest summit called “the premier forum for our international economic cooperation”. It wasn’t finance ministers but heads of government who met in Washington in November 2008, in London this April, and in Pittsburgh in September. These meetings have overshadowed the G8. Essentially a club of the big Western capitalist states, the G8’s formation was prompted by the first major post-war economic crisis in the mid-1970s. Russia joined the annual summits in 1997. What does the G20 have that the G8 doesn’t? In a word, China. The greater prominence of the G20 reflects the changing distribution of global economic power.
The shift was highlighted in the White House statement after the Pittsburgh summit: “Dramatic changes in the world economy have not always been reflected in the global architecture for economic co-operation. This all started to change today [with the] historic agreement to put the G20 at the centre of efforts to work together to build a durable recovery.”
Existing international bodies such as the United Nations Security Council and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reflect the pecking order among the great powers at the end of the Second World War. But states whose relative power has declined in recent decades hang fiercely onto their positions in these bodies. Thus Britain and France aren’t going to give up their permanent seats on the Security Council and, in the lead-up to Pittsburgh, were resisting pressure to surrender their IMF directorships to make way for India and China. The G20 has provided a convenient way of sidestepping the problem because its membership includes both the G8 and the most important states in the Global South. The ascent of the G20 fits into the narrative of the decline of the West and “the rise of the rest” that has become so popular. Goldman Sachs in particular strenuously promotes the idea that the “Brics”—Brazil, Russia, India, and China—are about to become the centre
of the world economy. As a general proposition, this is nonsense. Many members of the G20 are economic small-fry. Brazil and Russia are important regional powers (and Russia’s nuclear arsenal gives it a global importance) but they are raw-material producers whose share of the world economy has shrunk since the early 1990s. India potentially matters more, but it is overshadowed economically by China, as its rulers are all too aware. It’s China that really counts. The economic relationship it has developed with the US has underpinned both the boom and the crisis of the present decade. On government orders, the Chinese banks have financed a massive surge in investment that has helped to stabilize the world economy in the past few months. But the fact that the G20 offers a framework for integrating China into the global capitalist leadership doesn’t mean it has any solutions. For all the talk about bankers’ bonuses, it’s clear that the banks, swollen with ultra-cheap state money, are being allowed to carry on as usual. Meanwhile, the US and Britain are at loggerheads with China and Germany over who is going to take the strain of shifting the world economy towards what the summit called “a more balanced pattern of global growth”. The G20 may be a bigger tent but it won’t end rivalries among the leading capitalist states. © Socialist Worker (UK)
Wayne McCrank, 1960-2009 Our dear friend and comrade Wayne McCrank passed away on September 9 after a 26 month-long battle with cancer. He will be much missed and well remembered by his many family members, friends and comrades for his humour, his humanity and his strong sense of social justice. Our thoughts are with his partner Karen and their two children, Devin, 15 and Mariah, 12. As was evidenced by the standing room only at Wayne’s memorial service on September 12, Wayne touched many people—his teaching colleagues at Vrandenburg Public School in Toronto, his students, the young people whom he coached at hockey, his family and extended family, and his comrades. Wayne was a member of the International Socialists since the early 1990s when he was a graduate student at University of Toronto. Wayne went on to teach ESL and then became a teacher in the public school system. Wayne’s brother Gary said that once Wayne
became a teacher he had found his calling and there was never a day when he regretted his decision. Even throughout his illness Wayne was able to continue being in the classroom, with the help of his principal and teaching colleagues. One of his students spoke of Wayne’s teaching ability this way: “He’s the coolest teacher ever. He always makes his students laugh even when they are in a bad mood. He is always nice and is very helpful.” Wayne’s sense of humour and his sense of social justice went well together. Wayne was always successful on Socialist Worker street sales because he could connect to the people who stopped to talk to him. He was concerned with the need to translate socialist politics into the everyday life of those around him. Even visiting Wayne at the hospital was often joyful, with an atmosphere of celebration and a seemingly endless stream of visitors. Laughter was central to Wayne’s life and you couldn’t be around
him for too long without sharing it with him. Wayne celebrated both his 49th birthday and his 16th wedding anniversary in the hospital—the anniversary party was a surprise organized by Wayne and Karen’s 12-year-old daughter, Mariah. Along with his sense of humour, which Wayne maintained until the end, was his sense of fighting injustice. On one visit two comrades witnessed Wayne’s anger at the announcement by hospital management that several nurses’ positions were being cut on the palliative care wing—“he gave ‘em hell”, as one comrade put it. Wayne expressed many times the hope that his two children, Devin and Mariah, of whom he was immensely proud, would continue the fight for social justice in their own ways. At his funeral service one of Wayne’s oldest high school friends described Wayne as the kind of guy who never wanted the party to end. Dear comrade, we are so sorry that it ended too soon. —Faline Bobier
The best justice money can buy I have been a cycle commuter in Toronto for decades. There is only one neighbourhood I try to avoid, telling friends for years that it is the most dangerous area in town: the so called “mink mile”, the luxury boutique-lined stretch of Bloor from University to Yonge that marks the southern boundary of Yorkville.
Micheal Moore’s new documentary takes aim at capitalism Documentary H Capitalism: A Love Story H Written and directed by Michael Moore H Reviewed by Christine Illot I saw Capitalism: A Love Story at the Toronto International Film Festival. It focuses on the near-fatal collapse of the US economy, the fall of the US banking system and the impact that has had on the average American— home foreclosures, job losses, etc.
The film discusses the bailouts which benefited the banks’ CEOs and did nothing for anyone else. In now-legendary Michael Moore fashion, he tries to confront the CEOs and accuses the banks of stealing from the American people. Of course, no one of any importance will talk to him. Moore made this film at exactly the right time. It does an excellent job of explaining how the economy got to where it is now. He starts in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan and his theory of “trickle-down” economics. But Moore doesn’t just blame Reagan or any of the presidents that followed. He shows how the American people have been misled by the greedy and incompetent, who convinced them that they could all be rich. It can be heart-wrenching to watch Capitalism: A Love Story. One feels badly for the working people
The inequality of capitalism lworker productivity has increased 45 per cent since 1980 while real income is stagnant lthe wealthiest one per cent of Americans control 95 per cent of the country’s wealth lthere is a house foreclosure filed once every 7.5 seconds in the US lAIG, Citigroup, JP Morgan and other huge banks were given $700 billion in public bailout money who shoulder the brunt of the economic crisis. Moore shows capitalism is a dead end, and exposes the horrifying results. He does a great job of putting those re-
sults right before mainstream audience’s eyes. Little-known facts are now thankfully seeing the light of day in this film. Companies like Wal-Mart are taking out “dead peasant” insurance policies on employees without their knowledge so the companies can make money off their deaths. And who knew Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a Second Bill of Rights giving all Americans the right to a well-paying job, a good home, health care and a good education. Moore’s passion for his subject is palpable. One can feel his anger. Some on the left can dismiss Michael Moore as “socialism lite”. Don’t do that with this film. Go see it. The one thing that is different about this film from Moore’s previous ones is that in it he does challenge the American people to stand up for themselves. But Moore doesn’t give them any idea of how or what to do or where to go. I believe this is his challenge to us. We need to take the opportunity this film presents to step up and show that there is an alternative to capitalism and now is the time for it.
Capitalism’s monstrous legacy Book H Zombie Capitalism: Global Crisis and the Relevance of Marx H By Chris Harman H Reviewed by Ritch Whyman For the past 30 years, the dominant economic theory has been one of letting the market rip.
Despite repeated crisis over that time, economists and politicians repeatedly said the problem wasn’t the market, but instead government interference or unions. Each boom led to the market being praised, each slump to workers paying the price. The current crisis has dealt a blow to ideas of a “free market”. A return to government intervention—to save business rather than workers—is the order in almost every country. With debates newly raging, Chris Harman’s book Zombie Capitalism appears at an ideal time. The first chapters outline some of the fundamentals of capitalism first theorized by the revolutionary Karl Marx. The need for capitalists to constantly accumulate “for accumulation’s sake” lays the basis for overproduction, followed by closures and unemployment leading to deeper crisis and more misery for the mass of the population. In the next section, the author looks at theorists who built upon Marx’s ideas to analyze the growth of capitalism and imperialism. Built on competition, capitalism has also become a system of
“concentration and centralization” of capital. In historic crises, firms would go bankrupt and lessen overproduction by making way for the firms that survive to capture their markets. Today, there exist monopolies so massive that if they go under they threaten to take whole sections of the economy with them. This partly explains why the state was so quick to respond to the collapse of the banks and auto industry. Zombie Capitalism then elaborates how the rise of monopolies led to a greater interdependence of business and the state. As companies grew into monopolies, they saturated their domestic markets and thus needed to expand outside their national borders. They needed the state, in particular the armed force of the state, to defend them on the world stage where they were competing with other nations’ monopolies. This link between state and capital is vital to understand today’s world, not only the continual drive to war, but also the reactions of various states to the crisis. Perhaps the best part of the book is the discussion of new problems for capitalism. Most impressive is the treatment of the environmental crisis. Not
only does the author show how the root of the crisis is capitalism, he also shows how environmental degradation creates unforeseen problems for millions of people as well as for the system itself as limits are hit on what resources exist and what can be produced. Zombie Capitalism also tackles issues of China and other emerging centers of economic power. The book highlights that the same economic problems exist in these countries, and thus the foolishness of thinking that these economies can solve the system’s problems. The book concludes by looking at the centrality of the working class to getting rid of capitalism. Harman argues strongly that despite claims that the working class has disappeared or is no longer a force for change, globally it is larger than ever before. Further, he shows that it has been central to much of the resistance against neo-liberalism. Today when many former “free-marketers” are now champions of state intervention to save the system, this book shows that the only way to stop capitalism from destroying the world is to get rid of it. Every activist looking to understand the crisis and how to fight it should read this book.
Luxury cars cruise erratically, more intent on finding the elusive parking spot than traffic. Delivery vans park in no stopping zones. Drivers routinely double park, their errands seemingly more important than other road users. This is where Michael Bryant killed Darcy Allan Sheppard on the evening of August 31. Bryant was driving his car. Sheppard was riding his bike. The best description I’ve found of what occurred was written by Bob Mionske, a lawyer who writes on cyclist rights in Bicycling Magazine (bicycling. com/blogs/roadrights): “As [Sheppard] approached a traffic light, he passed to the left of a Saab convertible that we now know was Michael Bryant’s. After passing Bryant, who was stopped at the light, Sheppard cut in front of his car and also came to a stop. Shortly thereafter, as the light turned green, Bryant drove forward, perhaps bumping Sheppard’s wheel. Sheppard turned his head back, in Bryant’s direction. Witnesses reported that when the light turned green, there was a toot of the horn from Bryant, and a shout to ‘get moving,’ followed—perhaps—by a return shout from Sheppard. Then, incredibly, Bryant hit the gas, pushing Sheppard forward into the intersection, knocking him off his bike. As Sheppard struggled to get to his feet, Bryant backed up, stopped, turned his wheel and began to drive past Sheppard as he sped away. “Sheppard gave chase, grabbing onto Bryant’s car as it sped by. Witnesses reported hearing shouting, and noted that Bryant was ‘very, very angry.’ They also reported that as Bryant sped down the street with Sheppard clinging to his car, he was driving on the wrong side of the street, at about 60 miles per hour, driving up onto the sidewalk…in what they reported appeared to be an attempt to brush Sheppard off his car. Down the street 100 yards, Sheppard was slammed into a mail collection box, and crumpled into a heap in the street as Bryant’s rear wheels ran over him…. Bryant continued driving down the street to the end of the block, before turning in to the driveway of a luxury hotel, where he finally stopped his car.” As Mionske notes, this chronology is based on eyewitness reports. It is corroborated by footage from the video surveillance cameras designed to provide security for the luxury stores.
Two classes of justice
Bryant is from a prominent Ontario family, a superstar in the legal world, a former Liberal MPP who held several cabinet positions including Attorney General. In his early 40s, he recently retired
to become CEO of Invest Toronto. He was often touted as a future Liberal leadership candidate at the provincial, or even federal level. Sheppard is Métis, from a troubled and broken home in Edmonton. Raised in foster homes, he ran afoul of the law in attempts to escape poverty. Having served a short time in jail, he came to Toronto to get a fresh start. An avid cyclist, he became a bike courier. Despite battles with alcohol, he was dependable on the job, respected by his co-workers and well-liked by a wide circle of friends. Bryant was charged with criminal negligence causing death, and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death. Before he was released on his own recognizance several hours later, Bryant had retained the services of one of the country’s top criminal lawyers and PR firm Navigator Ltd. According to the firm’s website: “Our consultants…have excelled in fields such as research, corporate communications, marketing, law and journalism. And many of us have honed our skills in the world of politics. We all understand the importance of being able to assemble quickly to tackle an issue and to focus our energies… on the problem at hand.” Navigator offers a “rapid response team” specializing in “crisis communications”. They see facts “as the marketplace informs us.” This is the very definition of spin doctoring. The response was indeed rapid. By the time he emerged from the police station Bryant was well groomed, in a fresh suit of clothes. His only statement was a carefully worded apology to the victim’s family. He answered no questions. Soon after, he entered the plea of not guilty to the charges. Beginning the following day, and continuing on an almost daily basis stories began to appear in the media about Sheppard’s “dark” past, both in Edmonton and Toronto. He was portrayed as a dangerous, violent drunk. Navigator was doing its job. But Sheppard was not without friends and advocates. The day after the death, a mass rally of cyclists and supporters occupied the intersection, demanding justice for Sheppard. A few media articles, such as one in The Globe and Mail headlined “Michael Bryant’s spin class” (Saturday, Sept. 19) exposed and debated the role of Navigator’s spin. Will this be enough to guarantee a fair trial? That remains to be seen. What is beyond doubt is that, at this very moment an army of experts is at work to get Michael Bryant off. Lawyers will find minor contradictions in eyewitness reports and use those to discredit them. Technical experts will try to undermine and discredit the various surveillance video views. Details of Sheppard’s past that have no bearing on the case at hand will be dragged into the courtroom. Darcy Allan Sheppard will never be able to speak in his own defence and Michael Bryant will get the best justice that money can buy.
October 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.
‘Capital’ study group
Sun, Oct 4, 2pm Resistance Bookroom 427 Bloor St W, room 202 info: 416.998.4404 Organized by the CoxwellGerrard IS branch
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.
Zombie capitalism: global crisis & the relevance of Marx
Reform and revolution
Wed, Oct 7, 1:30pm Speaker: Peter Hogarth International Student Centre, third floor 33 St. George St Organized by the UofT IS Club
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 October 2009
Tues, Oct 6, 7pm Speaker: Faline Bobier Bahen Centre, room 2145 40 St. George St info: 416.972.6391 Organized by the Toronto District of the IS
A rebel’s guide to Marx: Marx’s theory of revolution
OTTAWA How do we stop capitalism from destroying the planet?
Berlin Wall from East Berlin
Twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Eastern Europe: Western Europe’s poor second cousin by paul kellogg The Berlin Wall—the physical barrier dividing the “communist” East from the “free” West—collapsed under the pressure of a magnificent mass movement in 1989.
It was hard, in 1989, not to be sympathetic with the beautiful sight of ordinary East German workers, physically dismantling an ugly barrier which had disfigured the city of Berlin since 1961. But did the fall of the wall prove the superiority of the market compared to “state-socialism”? East and West started out in much the same shape after the war, the argument goes, but in the West the market, with all its flaws, led to France, West Germany, Sweden and others developing into some of the biggest economies in the world, while East Germany, Hungary, Poland and the rest of the East stagnated. To many, this was proof that state control did not work and the market had proven its superiority. The problem with this argument is that East and West Europe did not begin from the same point at the end of World War II.
Different starting points
Western Europe is home to economies which were the first in the world to undergo industrial revolutions. Beginning in the Netherlands and England in the 16th and 17th centuries, followed by France in the late 18th century and finally Germany in the late 19th century, capitalism firmly took root, smashing up the old, peasant-based societies and laying the groundwork for extremely rapid industrialization. The basis for this industrial strength was driving the peasants off the land and turning them into wage-labourers in the sprawling new cities of Europe—Manchester, Paris, Turin, Berlin. The wealth produced by an industrial working class, working in
large collective workplaces with access over time to more and more machinery and automation, is far greater than that produced by a peasantry working in labour-intensive conditions on small plots of ground in the countryside. The Dutch, French and English, on the basis of the massive growth of their industrial economies in the 19th centuries, embarked on a global competition for world supremacy, ultimately bringing all or part of every continent in the world under their imperial control. They were joined by Germany and the “New World” upstart the United States in the 19th century. The rivalries of these capitalist giants twice exploded into world war in the 20th century. The situation in what, before 1989, was called “Eastern Europe,” was very different. Much of Eastern Europe had, until very late in the day, aristocratic ruling classes that were much more successful at resisting the advance of capitalism than were their counterparts in the West. The wealth of the aristocracy was based on peasants tied to the great landed estates. Thus, the aristocratic ruling class had an interest in preserving the old, peasant-based economies and resisting the advance of industrial capitalism. In the East, the bulk of the population until well into the 20th century, continued to live very traditional lifestyles in labour-intensive conditions on the land. The development of the industrial working class occurred, but as a small minority inside society. It wasn’t until the 1860s that serfdom was abolished in Russia. When the Russian Revolution happened in 1917, there were 15 times as many peasants as workers in the country. It was only as a result of defeat in World War II that the power of the old aristocratic ruling class in the AustroHungarian Empire was broken up. Similarly the Ottoman Empire, from which came Turkey as well as several of the southern republics of
the Soviet Union, survived the beginning of the 20th century intact, its semi-feudal ruling class a real barrier to capitalist development. Only with defeat in World War I was this ruling class smashed up and the possibility of industrial development opened up. In short, the bulk of the “Eastern Bloc” was carved out of those sections of Europe and Asia that had been very late in embarking on a path of industrialization. The bulk of the “Western Bloc” was comprised of those countries that had been the first to industrialize, that had made incredible strides in the 19th and 20th centuries in developing their industrial base, and had been able to, on that basis, spread their economic interests throughout much of the globe. There are exceptions to this. Spain and Portugal in the Western bloc were late-industrializing countries, while East Germany in the Eastern bloc had been an historical heart of much of German industry. But in general, the pattern of most-advanced economies ending in the Western bloc, least advanced ending in the Eastern bloc, is accurate. It means that the two sections of Europe that ended up confronting each other after World War II—a Western section under the hegemony of Washington, and an Eastern Section under the hegemony of Moscow—were coming from very different places. In the West, for the most part, were economies with a history and tradition of industrial capitalism going back generations. In the East were economies which, until quite recently, had been under the thumb of conservative and reactionary landbased aristocracies, and which were, as a result, considerably poorer and considerably less industrialized than their counterparts in the West. It was not a contest between equals. Next issue: the final part in this series chronicling the twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall will focus on the legacy of World War II
Open Saturdays from 12pm to 3pm
RESISTANCE PRESS BOOK ROOM
427 Bloor Street West, Toronto | 416.972.6391
Thurs, Oct 22, 7:30pm Speaker: Michelle Robidoux Café Alt, Simard building Organized by the UofO IS Club
peace & justice events VANCOUVER Book launch: a woman among warlords
Sat, Nov 14, 7pm Speaker: Malalai Joya St. Andrew’s Wesley Church, 1022 Nelson St Cost: $10 info: www.stopwar.ca Organized by the StopWar Coalition
TORONTO Candlelight vigil for Afghanistan to mark the eight-year anniversary of the war Wed, Oct 7
Northwest corner of University Ave & Queen St W Vigil: 7pm-8pm US Consulate 360 University Ave info: www.nowar.ca Organized by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War
Israel/Palestine: freedom of speech, freedom to teach
Fri, Oct 16 - Sat, Oct 17 Steelworkers Hall 25 Cecil St Organized by Educators for Peace and Justice, Faculty for Palestine, and Students Against Israeli Apartheid
Climate day of action
Sat, Oct 24, 2pm Queen’s Park info: www.torontoclimate campaign.org Organized by the Toronto Climate Campaign
Good green jobs for all conference
Sat, Nov 7, 9am-4:30pm Allstream Building, CNE info: www.goodjobsforall.ca Organized by the Good Jobs for All Coalition
OTTAWA Climate Day
Sat, Oct 24, 2pm Parlliament Hill info: www.climateday.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: 416.924.9042 w: www.socialist.ca For more event listings, visit www.socialist.ca.
email@example.com CLEAN TRAINS COALITION
CAW LOCAL 707
Communities rally against dirty diesel
Fighting concessions at Ford
by JOHN BELL
Even with the constant threat of their jobs going to Chicago, workers at the Ford plant in Oakville felt they had been making concessions and opening agreements too many times.
On September 26, about 1,000 people gathered in a west-side Toronto park to protest a planned massive increase in diesel train travel through their neighbourhoods.
The community base was obvious: young parents with kids in strollers, seniors groups, artists, church groups, people from all walks of life. Several hundred of those, organized by the Clean Trains Coalition, had marched for hours through the neighbourhoods adjoining the rail line. They demanded that transport agency Metrolinx scrap its plans to run as many as 400 diesel-powered trains per day through their communities, and switch to cleaner electric instead. City Councillor Gord Perks got the rally going by phoning Metrolinx CEO Rob Pritchard, and having the crowd chant “Go electric.” Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health addressed the crowd, reaffirming his findings that increased diesel traffic poses a serious health risk to communities along the rail line.
Dumpsite permanently scrapped by Peter Hogarth A long and inspiring story of community activism, spanning several decades and uniting First Nations, environmental activists, student unions and many others, got its happy ending on September 24.
Simcoe County councillors voted to permanently stop construction of dump site 41 on the world’s purest source of fresh water. Opponents of the dumpsite, about 40 kilometres northwest of Barrie, through years of campaigning and a protest that blockaded construction of the site for months, forced councillors to take up their cause. Last month, councillors voted for a one-year moratorium on construction to run further tests on the dumps potential effect on area water quality. However, in the face of the intense public pressure, councillors overwhelmingly passed the motion to permanently stop construction of the garbage dump. Despite the vast public outcry against the project, seventeen people still face criminal charges for their part in protesting at Site 41. The case against the Site 41 protesters will go to court in early October. The Council of Canadians is calling on the Crown drop all charges.
by lindsay hinshelwood member of CAW Local 707
Their rank and file, Canadian Autoworkers (CAW) Local 707, rejected the concessions by nearly 60 per cent and made history by rejecting the leadership’s recommendation for the first time in CAW history. Unfortunately, workers accepted the concessions accepted at the three other Ford plants and the attempt to turn the direction of the union around failed. The Ford unit of the CAW is due to return to the bargaining table at any moment. Scared
of another rejection vote, the leadership of the CAW has been working diligently to convince members to accept more concessions. Ford workers in Canada have been traditionally pitted against their American UAW comrades, but now they are being told they are competing against Mexico, China and India for jobs—a competition for which workers everywhere will always lose. This is a pivotal moment in North American labour history; the UAW and CAW will only continue competing with each other if these concessions pass. What is needed is for both sides to reject any more concessions and stand united for themselves, and to give the GM, Fiat and Chrysler workers a standard to demand for the next contract.
Since the early 2008 ratifications, rank-and-file members throughout the auto sector in the CAW have been meeting and building a solidarity which is not sanctioned by their National or Locals’ leadership. With the growing rejection votes, it is clearly evident all workers have had enough of giving back. It is expected that the Ford unit CAW will ratify before the concession fatigued UAW in order to pressure the UAW into further give-backs. Therefore it’s imperative these concessions are rejected on both sides of the border. To build international solidarity for all workers, we must reunite with each other, and it is only with international solidarity will we conquer the continuous exploitation of ourselves in the workplace.
Mass rally for Inco workers by alex thomson In a show of global solidarity, union leaders from around the world joined members of striking Steelworker Local 6500 in Sudbury, Ontario for a rally on September 19.
Leo Gerard, International President of the United
Steelworkers, was in attendance, along with trade union leaders from Australia, Brazil, Finland, Britain and Canada, as well as Andrea Horvath and Jack Layton. Two thousand members of Local 6500 in attendance were joined by supporters from the Sudbury community and members from other
unions and Steelworkers from across Canada. The 3,000 members of the local have been on strike against the Brazilian company Vale Inco since July 13, fighting wage cuts, a change to a defined contribution pension plan, the elimination of profit sharing, and the threat of scabs.
B.C. RALLIES AGAINST PROPOSED HARMONIZATION OF SALES TAX by IAN BEECHING With a $1.6 billion dollar incentive from Ottawa, the BC provincial government has moved to harmonize its sales tax with Ottawa’s Goods and Services Tax, creating a new tax called the HST, which gives businesses $2 billion in tax breaks.
Combining GST and PST, the HST shifts the tax burden onto consumers, adding tax to things such as household utilities, vitamins, over-thecounter drugs, taxis, restaurant meals and haircuts, hitting seniors and low-income
families the hardest. Agencies that run longterm care homes say HST will increase their costs by more than $10 million, resulting in service cuts. The HST will also add thousands of dollars to the already outrageous cost of buying a house. Anti-HST rallies were held in about 19 cities in BC. On September 19, around 3,000 people rallied outside the Vancouver Art Gallery to protest the new tax. With over 80 per cent of the province opposed to the new tax, the rallies have contained a mix of the right and the left.
DRIVING TEST WORKERS ON STRIKE
by steve craig
by PHILLIP MURTON
September has been a busy month at the TD Centre picket line.
The workers who run the driving tests in Ontario have been on strike since August 21.
All four of the teacher groups have now thrown their support behind us. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association and L’Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens as well as the umbrella group the OTF. The teachers’ group is the 100 per cent owner of Cadillac Fairview (CF) through the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Despite the legal (bad faith bargaining) and moral issues, CF continues to ignore calls by their own stakeholders to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair contract. We are still awaiting dates at the Labour Relations Board and they are expected shortly.
Although the HST is one negative part of the budget announced on September 2, the focus the NDP is putting on this issue is out of balance with the other cuts to health care, education and the arts. With thousands upset over the new tax, this sentiment should be broadened with a campaign coming from trade unions and the NDP to fight the cuts the BC Liberals have implemented since they won the 2001 elections. In the most recent provincial elections, the BC NDP proposed very little to reverse the numerous attacks the Liberals have made to date.
The 550 workers in 56 DriveTest locations are represented by the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9511. Job security has been a key issue in their strike against DriveTest. In mid-September, meetings with the medi-
ator broke down. Jim Young, union president of Local 9511, said the union and the employer last met on September 13 and for now no further negotiations are planned. “We are at an impasse in regards to language,” he said. “The key issues in bargaining include allowing supervisors to perform unionized duties and seniority concerns”. For more information, visit www.usw9511.ca.
TEACH-IN: LESSONS FROM HONDURAS by paul kellogg September 26, more than 70 people attended a Toronto teach-in organized by the newly-formed Latin American Solidarity Network (LASN).
The situation in Honduras is increasingly tense. During the teach-in, we received news that the Brazilian embassy, where ousted President Manuel Zelaya has been living, was being attacked with unknown chemical gases. Several speakers detailed
the brutality of the military rulers. Many political assassinations are being disguised as “ordinary” criminal actions. We also received news of massive demonstrations of solidarity on the streets of San Salvador. This solidarity is being inspired by the heroic resistance being organized through the National Leadership Front of the Resistance, uniting the vast majority of working people, peasant, women’s and poor organizations in the country.
STICKING WITH THE UNION
Good, green jobs for all
lmost one year ago, over a thousand participants gathered at the Toronto Convention Centre for the Good Jobs for All Conference. It was a very diverse group made up of trade unionists and community activists from almost every ethnic and racial grouping in the city.
They came together to share stories, strategize and develop campaigns to fight back against the loss of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs, the high unemployment rate, the cuts to Employment Insurance and the contingent work that so many were forced to take with no benefits or security. There have been few opportunities for unionized and nonunionized workers to come together in this way.
Fix E.I. campaign
Out of that conference came an ongoing coalition that launched a major campaign to “Fix EI”, and a working group to organize around good green jobs for all. The EI campaign mobilized both laid-off workers and those with jobs, union and non-union. Rallies and demonstrations were held all over Toronto. Community forums took place in workingclass neighbourhoods with good turn-outs. Members of the United Steelworkers formed a group “Workers without Jobs” to build collective action by laid-off workers. It became a national issue and now the fight is on to force Parliament to lower the requirements, increase both benefits and the time a laid-off worker can receive benefits.
Another major campaign is the demand for good green jobs for all. A group has been meeting for months, with activists from unions and communities. Forums have been held in neighbourhoods such as Jane-Finch and Rexdale, where there are many unemployed
youth from communities of colour. Unions have been holding meetings with their members. This is part of an organizing campaign to build a conference on green jobs to mobilize and demand that every level of government create good green jobs for every sector of society, from unemployed workers to racialized youth who have been left out of the equation.
The gap between rich and poor is growing in the city of Toronto. Unemployment is now over 10 per cent, with youth unemployment much higher. The need for all workers to come together as unionized workers did in the Stewards’ Assembly in the spring is critical to ongoing organizing. The massive increase in strike solidarity has been an immediate result of that meeting which drew over 1,600 union activists. Focusing the bitterness and anger, breaking down divisions among workers, and mounting a strong campaign for the creation of good jobs that will provide a decent living for the hundreds of thousands of unemployed and under-employed is creating working alliances that have never before existed. The organizing has brought up issues such as public ownership, nationalization of industries, mandatory employment equity in hiring and a transformation of society where people’s needs come first, before those of corporations. The assaults are continuing, but workers are fighting back through strikes and lockouts at Vale Inco, US Steel, Zellers, SERCO, the Museum of Civilization and the Cadillac Fairviewowned TD Centre. The campaign for good green jobs is part of this fightback and people are urged to attend the Good Green Jobs for All Conference on November 7 in Toronto. For more information, visit www.goodjobsforall.ca.
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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For information, visit www.rlasn.org
October 2009 Socialist Worker 11
WE’RE WORKING LONGER HOURS FOR LESS PAY by p.r. wriGHT Recent Statistics Canada data shows that since October 2008, Canada has lost 486,000 full-time jobs.
However, because 99,000 part-time jobs were created during this period, the official number of jobs lost is only reported as 387,000. The summer of 2009 produced the highest student unemployment rate since 1977, averaging just over 19 per cent in each of the summer months. Wages in general have been virtually stagnant for the past 30 years, increasing by less than $3,000 between 1976 and 2006 according to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC). Incredibly, even though the total number of hours worked by Canadians over this period of time increased by over 17 per cent, total earnings only increased by about eight per cent. Canadians are doing more paid work, but their real wages are declining. According to Armine Yalnizyan of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: “Ninety percent of Ontario families (all but the richest ten per cent) worked more hours in the years 2001-2004 than they did in 1976-1979, yet fully 40 per cent of these families saw their real earnings decline. Only the richest ten per cent of families saw their earnings increase while working less.” At the same time, cuts in social programs and in the delivery of services have produced fee hikes on everything
‘Guilty’ pleas seen as only way out by james clark
Over three years have passed since the dramatic arrests on June 2, 2006 of 18 Muslim men and boys who were accused of planning terrorist acts in Toronto. The group came to be known as the “Toronto 18” although charges against seven of the accused were dropped or stayed, bringing their number down to 11. Of the 11 men remaining, only one has faced trial. The others are still waiting for their day in court, possibly months or years away. According to some observers, this prolonged delay has led a number of the men to enter guilty pleas with the Crown, as a means to accelerate their release from prison. All of the men still facing charges have been repeatedly denied bail. Three of them have spent most of the last three years in solitary confinement in tiny cells at Toronto’s Don Jail.
from elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education to licensing fees and garbage pick-up. For example, in Ontario social assistance generally increased relative to inflation between 1935 and 1993. But the increases slowed in 1993, and in 1995 the conservative government of Mike Harris slashed rates by an incredible 21.6 per cent. These cuts were never restored, despite the election of the Dalton McGuinty Liberals. By contrast, tuition fees
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are 700 per cent more expensive today than they were in 1976. Despite productivity growth that allowed Ontario’s economy to grow by 310 per cent between 1981 and 2005 and produce an additional $200 billion worth of value each year, this value is not flowing to those who produced it. Even before the global economic crisis became visible in October 2008, some 400,000 manufacturing jobs had already been lost—or partially replaced with part-time and
temporary jobs or with “selfemployment.” The absence of full-time, stable employment means that many people are involuntarily working part-time or that others are working more than one part-time job in order to make ends meet. This reality explains that despite the fact that the total number of hours Canadians are working is increasing, these hours are disbursed in such a way that it is now harder for individual Canadians to accumulate enough em-
ployment to access EI benefits and why those who access such benefits are receiving less in real dollars than they did thirty years ago. These trends explain why the changes to Employment Insurance introduced by the federal Liberals in the mid1990s and maintained and worsened by Harper’s Conservatives are so unfair. They also explain why it is so urgent to fix Canada’s broken EI system, and raise minimum wage and imporve the social safety net.
Bill to let US Iraq War resisters stay in Canada introduced in Parliament by michelle robidoux In the face of the threatened deportation of Iraq war resisters, a arivate members’ bill has been introduced that would allow them to stay in Canada.
Last month’s introduction of Bill C-440 by Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy came as the Conservative minority government threatened to deport Iraq War resister Rodney Watson. Rodney served a year in Iraq as part of the US army. After returning to the US, he was faced with a stop-loss order—a unilateral extension of his contract—which would have meant deploying to Iraq again, to participate in a war he opposed. Instead, he came to Canada in 2007. He has
since had a child here. His deportation was ordered by the Conservative government despite Parliament having voted twice in the past year to stop the deportations. “This law [Bill C-440] will simply compel them to do what they haven’t had the good graces or the good sense to do on their own— and recognize the special circumstances that strike a chord with the majority of Canadians,” said Kennedy in support of the bill. “Canadians have never supported the Iraq War. This bill reflects the significant support for Iraq War resisters that can be found in every part of our country,” said Bill Siksay, NDP MP for Burnaby-Douglas who seconded the bill.
But the bill faces obvious hurdles—not least of which is that it is very likely that a federal election will be triggered before the bill gets to second reading. There will need to be strong pressure on the three opposition parties to work together if the bill is to have a chance of moving forward quickly. In the meantime, several other Iraq War resisters are threatened with deportation. Supporters are urged to contact their MP and the Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney to demand an end to the deportations, and the leaders of the opposition parties to urge them to ensure the bill can move forward as quickly as possible. For more information, visit www.resisters.ca.
The long delay in proceedings has taken an emotional and financial toll on the families, who are desperate to get their loved ones home. Even after pleading guilty, the accused must wait months before they are sentenced. The cases have been dogged by controversy from the start, especially following revelations that two CSIS moles were paid millions of dollars to infiltrate the group. Defence lawyers have claimed that the moles acted illegally, engaging in entrapment. One mole, Mubin Shaikh, publicly denied the guilt of the youngest member of the accused, who was nevertheless convicted in September 2008. Legal critics have complained that Canada’s so-called anti-terror legislation lowers the threshold for conviction below that prescribed by the Criminal Code and gives the government the right to withhold evidence— on grounds of national security—that might exonerate defendants. Despite the recent guilty pleas, none of the evidence against the men has been tested by the courts. Those who have entered pleas have agreed to a basic statement of facts, which should not be used against any of the other men. They remain presumed innocent unless convicted at trial.