START THE FIGHT NOW
$2 no. 523 October 2010
s k c a t t a y r o T lResist y e n n e K n o s a J r e t is in m n io t a r lFire immig a d a n a C in y a t s s r e t is s e r r a w t e lL n a t is n a h g f A in lStop the war
by JOHN BELL THE PRIME MINISTER’s Office is silent, and Ministry of Immigration spokespeople have no comment, but make no mistake: the triumphant appearance of British anti-war activist George Galloway in Toronto marks a huge defeat for the Tories.
A recent court ruling found that a trail of improper political interference, starting with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and leading straight to Stephen Harper, led to Galloway being barred from a speaking tour over a year ago. The court’s censure of Tory tactics is just one of a series of defeats dealt to Harper in recent weeks. Another crucial blow was the defeat of Harper’s high-profile plan to scrap the long gun registry. Attacks on firearms registration were a crucial part of Harper’s bogus “war on crime” agenda—despite being almost unanimously opposed by Canada’s chiefs of police. More important, scrapping the registry would
have increased the confidence of his right-wing, reform party base. Harper’s plan relied on support from a handful of NDP MPs from northern or rural areas, under pressure from a vocal minority in their ridings. Only a massive wave of pressure from the NDP’s membership gave Jack Layton the backbone to whip his MPs in line. Even Harper’s ridiculous scrapping of the census was dealt a serious, if not fatal blow in parliament. A non-binding motion to restore the long-form census was unanimously supported by all opposition members. The Tories are also facing scandal after scandal with allegations of tampering with access to information requests and inappropriately awarding a pro-Tory construction firm a multimillion dollar contract. Despite these scandals, Harper was able to avoid another serious defeat with the help of Michael Ignatieff. It was the Liberal leader’s betrayal that led to the defeat by just seven votes of Bill C-440, which
would have given sanctuary in Canada for Iraq War resisters. It was also the Liberals who killed the bill that would have increased much needed Employment Insurance benefits for jobless workers.
which the Liberals will support. With the majority of Canadians in agreement that the troops should be brought home, the anti-war movement has the potential to deliver another significant blow at Harper and his warmongers.
On September 27, the Federal Court of Canada issued its ruling in the case between former British MP George Galloway and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney. Eighteen months after the ban was first announced, Justice Richard Mosley ruled that Kenney’s office had attempted to ban Galloway for purely political reasons, and that Galloway was never a threat to Canada.
The ruling is a victory for three reasons. First, it clears Galloway of any wrong-doing and exposes the government’s lies against him; even CSIS ruled that Galloway was never a security threat. Second, it proves, as Galloway’s supporters claimed from the beginning, that the ban was politically motivated, and a cynical attempt to silence a popular political opponent. And third, it opens the door for Galloway to return to Canada, since it proves that the
CBSA’s preliminary assessment of Galloway—in which he is deemed inadmissible to Canada—was not a fair or accurate assessment. This is, in fact, what Galloway did. The decision was on Monday. By Saturday night, Galloway was back in Canada. Over 100 supporters and throngs of media gathered at Pearson Airport in Toronto to welcome Galloway when he arrived on October 2. There was a huge ovation by Galloway’s supporters as soon as
Pages 6&7 War resisters’ fight for asylum not over Page 2 Christine Beckermann the next steps for the campaign
Rob Ford & the mayoral race Page 5 Ritch Whyman on why the right made gains
Europe rises against austerity Page 12 On September 29, hundreds of thousands marched against cuts
The defeats handed to Harper in the courts and in parliament don’t come out of the blue. They are the result of long, hard organizing campaigns that mobilize people on the streets, in their schools, in their places of worship and in their workplaces. The last few weeks have shown that scandal-ridden parliament has failed to deliver any sort of meaningful change. Now more than ever we have to keep up the pressure on Harper, Kenney and the rest of the Tories, and build a broad movement that will target them at every turn. Our next opportunity will be around their attempt to extend the mission in Jason Kenney Afghanistan
Lessons from the Flint sit-down strike Page 10 Peter Hogarth on the 1930s fightback
Setback for NATO in Afghanistan Page 3
Federal Court slams government interference in Galloway ban by JAMES CLARK
CANADA, & G N I N I M M S I L A I R IMPE
he walked through his gate, after spending one hour in an interview with CBSA agents before they waved him through. On October 3, Galloway received several standing ovations as he addressed over 800 people at a public meeting in downtown Toronto organized by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War. Galloway is scheduled to return to Canada in late November for a 10-city speaking tour over two weeks. For more information, visit www.nowar.ca.
Low voter turnout and fraud plague Afghan election
Failed coup Page 5 Ecuador beats back attempted coup
CPMA No. 58554253-99 ISSN No. 0836-7094
PEACE RIVER VALLEY
Fight for asylum far from over
Protest targets proposed dam project by VALERIE LANNON
by CHRISTINE BECKERMANN
DESPITE SUPPORT of twothirds of Canadians for US Iraq War resisters, Bill C-440, a private member’s bill, which would have allowed war resisters to apply for permanent resident status in Canada, failed to pass at second reading in the House of Commons.
The vote was 143-136, needing only seven more votes to send it to Committee for review. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff left before the vote, taking a dozen Liberals with him. The failure of this effort to have parliament as a whole force the government to respect the will of Canadians is a significant setback in the fight to allow war resisters to stay in Canada. But the fight is far from over. As activists with the War Resisters Support Campaign have pointed out, it is popular pressure that has delivered all of the significant reforms in recent years, including Canada’s decision not to participate in the Iraq War. The fact that a private member’s bill which would change the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act came within a whisker of passing is a credit to the intense efforts of groups and individuals across the country. A recent unanimous decision by the Federal Court of Appeal in the case of war resister Jeremy Hinzman stated clearly that the decision by an immigration officer to deny Hinzman’s application to stay in Canada on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds was significantly flawed and unreasonable because it failed to take into account his sincere moral and religious objections to the war.
Following on the heels of that decision, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney issued a directive to immigration officers to discriminate against war resisters by singling them out as potentially criminally inadmissible. Peter Showler, former chair of the Immigration and Refugee Board, called the direction in the bulletin “fundamentally wrongheaded and a violation of the UN Refugee Convention” and called on Kenney to withdraw the directive. The fight to have the bulletin rescinded is vital if war resisters are to have a hope of getting a fair hearing on the merits of their case. Kenney, with the support of Stephen Harper, has taken an ideological stand against resisters and is intervening to tip the scales to ensure that no war resisters are allowed to stay in Canada. But he has not succeeded in changing the opinion of Canadians on this issue. Popular mobilization will be critical in the weeks ahead to prepare to challenge any attempt by Kenney to deport war resisters. Campaigners are asking people to call Ignatieff and ask him to urge Harper not to deport war resisters. For more information, visit www.resisters.ca.
THREE HUNDRED protesters stood out in pelting rain on September 19 in Victoria to voice their opposition to the Site C Dam proposed by Gordon Campbell’s provincial government.
Malalai Joya spoke in Ottawa on October 6 to a crowd of about 100 people, kicking off a speaking tour that will take her to cities across Canada. She spoke rousingly for an immediate withdrawal of troops. For the first time a significant number of Ottawa-based Afghans attended, and engaged her in a lively and intense discussion and debate. Funds were raised for her defence and for the Canadian peace movement.
Tories propose bigoted refugee classifications by PETER HOGARTH THE FEDERAL government and Immigration and Refugee Minister Jason Kenney have been publicly considering the creation of a new class of asylum seeker—the “mass arrival”. This would mean that refugee claimants who arrive in Canada as a part of a mass arrival, such as the 492 Tamil asylum seekers who arrived by sea in BC last month, would have to wait two weeks instead of the current 48 hours for their first detention hearing.
The proposed changes would give the immigration minister new powers to label asylum seekers as “mass arrivals” if the government does not have the resources to respond to the large influx of migrants in proper time. These reforms are right in line with the Tory government’s fear-mongering and race-baiting immigration policies. Essentially, these changes would give the federal government and notorious immigration minister Kenney increased power to indiscriminately separate refugee claimants and delay hearings.
Superior Court upholds homophobic blood ban by JESSE McLAREN AN ONTARIO Superior Court judge has dismissed a constitutional challenge against the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) for banning blood from men who have had sex with men. The ban is homophobic, unscientific and compromises blood supplies. It dates back to 1983, just one year after the term “AIDS” replaced “GRID” (“Gay Related Immune Disease”), and it has persisted despite accurate testing for the HIV virus. According to renowned
AIDS researcher Dr. Mark Wainberg, “we clearly have a situation in which there are chronic blood shortages and we also have a situation in which gay men are totally discriminated against.” To challenge the ban, Kyle Freeman openly lied about his sexual history when donating blood and counter-sued the CBS when they sued him. But in a recent ruling, the court sided with CBS and ordered Freeman to pay $10,000 for filing false paperwork. For more information, visit www.endtheban.cfs-fcee.ca.
Provinces push austerity on workers, tax breaks for rich by PAM JOHNSON IN LOCKSTEP, provincial governments across Canada have called for “belt tightening” to slay deficits created by the economic recession.
The main features in these “austerity” budgets are cuts to public services, wage freezes or job cuts for public sector workers, increases in consumption taxes, and these measures place the burden of bailing out the economy on ordinary workers. The Ontario Government capped spending in most areas and proposed wage freezes that it’s asking public sec-
tor unions to agree to without bargaining. Billions of dollars promised for public transit has been shelved. BC has already cut its public sector to the bone and is the smallest in Canada, but it plans even more cuts. In Québec, health care has been the focus of the attack. The government put a cap on spending that will translate into job losses and service cuts as costs rise. Québec has also proposed user fees, a clear contravention of the Canada Health Act. This measure was dropped after public outcry. Ontario and Nova Scotia have instituted a 15 per cent
Opposition to Enbridge pipeline grows in BC by AMELIA MURPHY-BEAUDOIN
WEEKS AFTER BP capped its runaway well in the Gulf of Mexico, Enbridge had an oil spill of 19,500 barrels of crude oil that contaminated a major river system in Michigan.
They also had a smaller leak of 6,100 barrels of crude oil in Illinois, and most recently another leak near Buffalo, NY. Despite these spills, the industry argues that it operates in a highly regulated industry and adheres to tough safety standards. Opposition to Enbridge is growing as the company begins work on a new pipeline
2 Socialist Worker October 2010
that would run from Alberta to the Northern coast of BC. This project would introduce hundreds of tankers into BC coastal waters. On October 1, the Union of BC municipalities overwhelmingly passed two motions: one opposes the pipeline, and the other urges Ottawa to legislate a ban on oil tanker traffic. First Nations, the Council of Canadians, Greenpeace and groups of community activists have been rallying against the Enbridge pipeline, citing the devastation that would be caused to land and river systems, the fishing industry, and the health of First Nations people in the instance of an oil spill.
Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). British Columbians will vote soon on an HST referendum.
Untouched in the belt tightening exercise are corporate taxes. In Ontario, for example, corporate taxes are set to decrease to the lowest level in Canada. The percentage of corporate tax revenue lost in 2010 will not even be covered by a wage freeze. This represents a direct transfer of wealth from the public sector to the already wealthy corporate sector. The rationale behind corporate tax cuts is that it will
stimulate the economy. However, this has yet to be proven. Corporations have failed to spur significant job creation yet they report healthy profits and executive pay. Canadian banks made $5 billion in the first quarter of 2010. But there are some signs of resistance in Canada. Québecers rejected user fees and so far public sector unions have refused to make a deal with the Ontario Government. These small flames of resistance will need to be built into the kinds of large scale strikes that have brought tens of thousands into the streets against similar austerity measures in Greece and France.
Rally in defence of the French language by BENOIT RENAUD ON SEPTEMBER 18, more than 3,000 people converged at a rally to fight for the security of the French language in Québec society.
The rally demanded that the Québec government end the practice of allowing some families to buy their way into the publicly-funded English school system by sending one child into a non-subsidized English school. These “gateway schools” became an issue when last year the Supreme Court struck down a law passed in 2002 in order to fill a gap in the French language charter.
At the time, parents could send one child to a non-subsidized private school for a year and then gain access to public or subsidized English schools for all their children and their descendents. The Charest government is responding with Bill 103, which only makes it more expensive to buy this right by demanding at least three years of attendance in the non-subsidized school. The coalition denouncing this bill and demanding that the notwithstanding clause be used to end the loophole includes all major unions, the PQ, the Bloc, Québec solidaire, the NDP, as well as many artists and intellectuals.
The Liberal government claims the dam on the giant Peace River in northeastern BC will be “clean and green”. Opponents from the area’s First Nations, farming communities and even the regional government mocked these claims. They described the huge devastation to their communities and their ways of life should the dam proceed. The Peace River Valley is home to rich agricultural land, old-growth forests and one of the most important wildlife areas in the Rocky Mountain Region. The proposed 60-metre high Site C mega-dam would flood over 100 kilometres of the Peace River Valley, submerging the forests, drowning over 7,000 acres of farmland, and washing away river-
side homes and farms. The government wants the dam to proceed so that the water behind the dam can support private power projects, making it easier for them to reap profits selling power to the California market—profits for them and losses for the public, to the tune of a $10 billion subsidy. Peace River dam opponents were joined in Victoria by local environmental groups and the Council of Canadians in welcoming Treaty 8 First Nations who paddled to the Victoria inner harbour, where the legislature is located, from further up the inlet. The paddlers were part of a convoy of buses that made a 30 hour trip from Fort St. John to Victoria. The protest is one of a series of initiatives, such as opposition to the Enbridge pipeline from the tar sands to the Pacific, which unite First Nations, environmentalists, and other workers and community members who rely on pristine land and water. For more information, visit www.wildernesscommittee.org.
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Settlement building resumes by BRADLEY HUGHES ONCE AGAIN Palestinians are expected to give up everything in return for nothing, just to have talks with Israel.
Leaders around the world expressed “disappointment” with Israel as they ended a partial ban on settlement building in the occupied territories. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reminded Israel, once again, that the building of settlements on occupied territory was illegal. Even the US urged Israel to extend the ban. Israel’s decision comes less than one month into the latest round of talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA). The settlements and surrounding infrastructure control 42 per cent of the West Bank. Before the construction ban ended,
Afghanistan elections are another setback for NATO Mahmoud Abbas
by G. FRANCIS HODGE Afghanistan’s elections in midSeptember were marred by low voter turnout amid widespread allegations of vote-buying and fraud. In addition, Canada’s elite special forces unit, JTF2, is under investigation for war crimes and the Taliban insurgency continues to grow.
Voter turnout in the parliamentary elections was substantially lower than in last year’s presidential election or in the parliamentary elections of 2005. Approximately 3.6 million ballots were cast, compared with 4.6 million in last year’s election and 6.4 million in 2005. This means a turnout of roughly 40 per cent, assuming no fraudulent votes. However, within 24 hours of polls closing, more than 100 formal written complaints of fraud were filed with electoral authorities, who also received another 1,300 verbal complaints, as reported by Al-Jazeera. The New York Times reported on a burgeoning market in Afghanistan for buying votes, with votes selling for as little as a dollar. Johann Kriegler, a member of the Electoral Complaint Commission in Afghanistan, summed up the situation, “The reality is that Afghanistan is a wartorn country; there is a significant
insurgency. Of course there will be fraud.” Meanwhile, the Taliban insurgency has been gaining in strength. The Times reports that, while in August 2009 insurgents initiated 630 attacks, in August 2010 that number more than doubled to at least 1,353. The insurgency is now active in 33 of the country’s 34 provinces, according to the Afghan NGO Safety Office. In 2006, the number of provinces in which insurgents were active was only four. The director of the Afghan NGO Safety Office, Nic Lee, told The Times that “We do not support the perspective that this constitutes ‘things getting worse before they get better’, but rather see it as being consistent with the five-year trend of things just getting worse.”
The CBC has revealed that the JTF2 has been under investigation for allegations regarding its mission in Afghanistan stretching back to 2005. According to the CBC, an initial investigation known as Sand Trap was launched in 2008 following serious allegations made by a member of the unit against another member and against the unit as a whole. That investigation concluded with no charges laid but it sparked a fur-
ther investigation into much broader claims of misconduct. This second probe, known as Sand Trap II, is still ongoing. A spokesperson for the Department of Defence told CBC that this investigation was not part of the hearings of the Mili-
tary Police Complaints Commission, which last year looked into possible abuse and torture of Afghan detainees. Navy Captain David Scanlon told CBC, “This is a distinct and broader investigation, far broader than anything the MPCC would look at.”
US drone attacks increase by PAUL STEVENSON THE US launched a surge of drone attacks in Pakistan in September killing more than 70 people in at least 20 attacks. The Government of Pakistan is disputing NATO claims that only insurgents were killed in the attacks, arguing high rates of civilian deaths. The government has stated that, in 2009 alone, as many as 700 people were killed by drone attacks and 90 per cent of those were civilians. In response to the drone attacks, insurgents attacked NATO supply lines through Pakistan. Oil tankers and container trucks were torched and detonated, shutting down roadways and military supplies. NATO has also begun cross-
border attacks using Apache helicopters, searching out resistance fighters accused of attacking the NATO base in Khost province. In one attack, NATO claims that 50 “insurgents” were killed. As the war continues to deteriorate and opposition grows in the West, NATO is using more drone and air attacks. They hope this will mean fewer body bags coming home and it will therefore stem the bleeding support for the war domestically. The problem, of course, is that air attacks are notoriously inaccurate and tend to kill large numbers of civilians. Each bomb dropped means more misery for the people in the region and steels the resolve of the resistance to kick NATO out of the area.
U.S. pushes arms deal to maintain imperial control by JOE KELLY US PRESIDENT Barack Obama is seeking Congressional approval to sell $60 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia. The deal will include 84 F-15 fighter planes, more than 175 helicopters and anti-missile defence systems. Three Democratic Party representatives have opposed the sale because it “would destabilize the region and undermine the security of Israel, our one true ally in the region.” But the administration has consulted Israel and relieved its fears by restricting sales to fighter jets unequipped with longrange weapons systems and by agreeing to sell more modern F-35
fighter planes to Israel. In the context of an economic crisis, the Obama administration is looking to boost its falling popularity through a deal said to be the biggest of its sort in US history. Obama is expected to sway Congress by emphasizing the potential of the deal to generate employment in the US. With mid-term Congressional elections in November approaching, according to The Guardian, “members of Congress will not want to be seen as endangering jobs” while “the White House will stress that an estimated 75,000 jobs in companies such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and General Electric will be protected if the deal goes through.”
In recent years, US arms manufacturers have accounted for over 60 per cent of sales of the world’s top one hundred companies. The deal will also put these manufacturers at an advantage over their European competitors. These political and economic advantages notwithstanding, the deal alone will not necessarily secure US hegemony in the Middle East. While the champions of the deal see its advantages in giving the military edge to a US ally (Saudi Arabia) over an archenemy (Iran) the deal will also make US geopolitical control over the region a rather jittery affair. There are hints of this in a Reuters report that Gulf countries
such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman “have unveiled plans to modernize their small armed forces” and ”could spend as much as $100 billion of which 60 per cent would be for air defence and air forces, 25 per cent for ground forces and 15 per cent for navies.” Thus, while the drive for armaments among various US allies in the region may result in economic gains for US corporations, it poses a considerable risk for US hegemony if empowered imperial subordinates will be prone to test their ability to act beyond the constraints of imperial control as we saw with Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in the early 1990s.
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the PA, told the UN General Assembly in New York City that Israel must choose between “peace and the continuation of illegal settlements.” But the day before the partial moratorium was due to expire he said that the talks would continue even without an extension of the moratorium and he would discuss his options with the members of the Arab League, scheduled to meet early in October. At the same time, Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, called on the PA to leave the talks, “I call on my brothers at the Palestinian Authority, who had stated they would not pursue talks with the enemy [Israel] if it continued settlement construction, to hold to their promise”. Meshaal criticized the position of the PA, saying, “to negotiate without a position of strength is absurd”.
Emphasizing Israeli settlers’ determination to drive Palestinians from their land, five Israeli settlers were seen fleeing from a fire they set in the Al-Anbiya mosque in the Palestinian town of Beit Fajjar. The Israeli arsonists also damaged several prayer rugs and copies of the Qur’an as well as spraying anti-Arab graffiti on the mosque walls. The Israeli government has announced it will “do the utmost to find these lawbreakers and bring them to court.” This, however, is the fourth attack on a mosque in the West Bank this year and no one has been charged. A report by Amnesty International, found that “impunity remains the norm” for settlers accused of vandalism and physical attacks on Palestinians, so it is unlikely that this latest provocation will be dealt with by the Israeli authorities. October 2010 Socialist Worker 3
Violence of occupation: remembering Sabra and Shatila
AS DEBATES continue about the meaning of “violence” following the G20 protests, it is important to remember that state violence takes different forms. September 16 to 18 marked the anniversary of the 1982 massacre at Sabra and Shatila, where thousands of Palestinian refugees died at the hands of the Israeliallied Lebanese Phalangist militia.
Capitalist classes in liberal democracies, as the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci identified, rely on a combination of state force and consent to maintain hegemony. However, Israel’s settler colonial project relies on an apartheid system, where Palestinians meet only force and coercion. The events of Sabra and Shatila remind us how occupation remains reliant on state violence.
The numbers who died in the slaughter is contested, estimated by witnesses to be as high as 3,500. The International Committee of the Red Cross was able to count 2,750 bodies. The Israeli official figure is 700. Minimizing the scale of the massacre at Sabra and Shatila is part of the narrative of apartheid, where Palestinian lives are rendered invisible and insignificant. But it is important to remember the details, to remember the violence. Journalist Robert Fisk witnessed, and recorded, the aftermath: “[T]here were women lying in houses with their skirts torn up to their waists and their legs wide apart, children with their throats cut, rows of young men shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall. There were babies—blackened babies because they had been slaughtered more than 24-hours earlier and their small bodies were already in a state of decomposition—tossed into rubbish heaps alongside discarded US army ration tins, Israeli army equipment and empty bottles of whiskey… “Down a lane way to our right, no more than 50 yards from the entrance, there lay a pile of corpses. There were more than a dozen of them, young men whose arms and legs had been wrapped around each other in the agony of death. All had been shot point-blank range through the cheek, the bullet tearing away a line of flesh up to the ear and entering the brain.… “One of the women also held a tiny baby to her body. The bullet that had passed into her breast had killed the baby too. Someone had slit open the woman’s stomach, cutting sideways and then upwards, perhaps trying to kill her unborn child.”
The massacre was part of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, on the stated grounds that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was harboured there. But Israel’s bombing of West Beirut and the launch of a full scale military invasion cannot be explained as a defensive act. The systematic assault on unarmed Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camps was part of a campaign of mass intimidation, to compel flight or acquiescence to occupation among the Palestinian population of the Middle East. The immediate instigator of the massacre was the Christian right Phalange party of Lebanon, formed originally in 1936 as a paramilitary youth organization modelled on fascist organizations in Germany. But the Israeli state ensured that the massacre would happen. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) was involved in training the attacking forces, and in standing by while the slaughter was unleashed. The IDF prevented intervention by either armed forces to protect the innocent victims, or by providing human rights or media attention. Noam Chomsky identifies Israeli military’s involvement: “Throughout Thursday night Israeli flares lighted the camps while the militias went about their work, methodically slaughtering the inhabitants. The massacre continued until Saturday, under the observation of the Israeli military a few hundred yards away. Bulldozers were used to scoop up bodies and cart them away or bury them under the rubble.” Israeli troops, which according to the LA Times (September 20, 1982), were “stationed less than a hundred yards away, had not responded to the sound of constant gunfire or the sight of truckloads of bodies being taken away from the camps.” Ariel Sharon, later Prime Minister of Israel, was then Minister of Defense. An investigation followed after protests in Israel to demand an explanation. Even the Israeli state was compelled to admit that Sharon had “indirect responsibility” for the slaughter. But Sharon was later able to add his criminal activity to his record of political success. He continued, unrepentant, to prosecute policies and actions entirely consistent with the bloody hands of those events.
Of those who were killed in Sabra and Shatila, most had come as refugees from Israel’s Upper Galilee and Jaffa regions in 1948, fleeing the army of settlement that destroyed villages and stole Palestinian land. The events of Sabra and Shatila reveal in sharp relief that ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the subject of Israeli historian Ilan Pappe’s classic study, is not just a single event. It is an ongoing process that continues to the present day. And the reliance on state violence is endemic to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the apartheid system that maintains it. 4 Socialist Worker October 2010
French workers strike against austerity measures French trade unions estimate three million French public sector workers struck on September 23 against government attacks on pensions. The actions follow massive demonstrations of over two million workers across the country in early September aimed at pressuring the Sarkozy government to stop attempts to raise the retirement age. The strike was the second in less than a month, and the fifth time this year, that French workers have struck to protest government actions. Previous actions saw rail and air transit stopped, ports idle and services closed, and this one was no exception.
Unions have called for demonstrations in cities and towns across the country on October 2, while October 12 is set to be another showdown with Sarkozy’s austerity plan. Public sector union leaders have argued that only a massive show of force will stop the government from making French workers pay for the economic crisis. Such actions are an example to Canadian unions, who have weathered attacks at the bargaining table and in the popular press since the crisis hit in late 2008. French workers have provided an example to the rest of the world of how austerity can be opposed.
Resistance to capitalism grows throughout the Global South by MICHELLE WINTER THIS YEAR an inspiring amount of resistance to capitalist greed has risen in the Global South.
There have been transport strikes in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, a wave of strikes in China and over 60 million workers participated in “allIndia” strikes to protest inflation, violation of labour laws and divestment in the public sector. In South Africa, Gauteng (meaning “place of gold”) Province is home to Johannesburg, the largest economy in Africa. Nicknamed the “city of malls”, the area is rich in material goods and resources, but most of its citizens live in poverty, many in “the townships”— massive tracts of land filled with shanties, shacks and tiny concrete houses. Underdeveloped by the greedy Apartheid-era ruling class, the townships were built to provide a cheap source of labour nearby. The main roads bleed away into rich suburbs where the “haves” live behind ten foot walls, electric fencing and razor-wire to keep the “have-nots” out. The early 1990s saw the end of Apartheid, with Nelson Mandela released from prison, elected President. People thought equality was becoming the norm, but the end of state-con-
Striking World Cup workers
trolled racism didn’t mean the end of entrenched racism, economic inequality, government corruption or capitalism. Today, 48 per cent of South Africans live on less than 322 Rand per month (CAD $47.46) and unemployment has risen to 36 per cent, while last year Tom Boardman, CEO of Nedbank, took home 43 million Rand (CAD $6,338,051).
This year South Africa hosted the World Cup, touted as a provider of jobs, tourism, cash and progress. In reality it
meant some infrastructure funding and short-term jobs, improved sports venues, and a spark for the anger that has been smouldering for so long. While the World Cup was allowed to soar billions of Rand over budget, no money was found to pay teachers, health workers and civil servants decent wages. The people have tired of waiting for equality and an end to corruption and greed. In September, patience dissolved and 1.3 million public sector workers went on strike. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) notes the demands are an 8.6 per cent increase in pay (one per cent above inflation), a doubling of the housing allowance to 1,000 Rand (CAD $147.53) per month, and that the coalition currently in government—the African National Congress (ANC) with the South African Communist Party— delivers on commitments to stamp out corruption and increase state control in mining, energy and banking. After 20 days, COSATU called a temporary halt to the strikes so talks could resume. Nurses, teachers and other state employees had until October 4 to decide on a government offer to raise wages by 7.5 per cent. The struggle continues in the Global South.
Cuban state imposes 500,000 public sector layoffs by JESSE McLAREN Under the impact of the recession and continual criminal blockade, the Cuban state has announced it will lay off 10 per cent of its workers.
For more than half a century the US has imposed a brutal blockade on Cuba, and now the recession is worsening the situation. The capitalist crisis has hit Cuba just as badly as elsewhere because Cuba is integrated
into the capitalist system. Two important sources of income—tourism and money sent back from family overseas—have dropped, while a poor sugar harvest has reduced exports. The response of the Cuban state, like capitalist states everywhere else, has been to balance its books on the backs of workers. The only legal trade union, the state-controlled Cuban Workers Federation, announced it would lay off 500,000 by April in order to “make our economy more
efficient, better organize production, [and] increase worker productivity”. Other austerity measures will include reducing unemployment benefits and salaries. All of this after the retirement age was raised by five years, in 2008. The recession provides one more reason for the US blockade to end, and the austerity measures one more reason to support Cuban workers against their state and against imperialism.
Coup fails in Ecuador but tensions remain by PAUL KELLOGG IT SHOULD not be difficult to see that the events of September 30 in the Latin American country of Ecuador amounted to an attempted right-wing coup d’état.
Before the day was out, the coup was stopped by mass mobilizations in the streets and plazas of the capitol, Quito, and other cities, in conjunction with action by sections of the armed forces, which stayed loyal to the government. But those few hours highlighted, again, the deep dangers facing those fighting for progressive change in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the wake of the failure of the coup, analysts everywhere were trying to minimize what happened. Peruvian commentator Álvaro Vargas Llosa—darling of the World Economic Forum and outspoken critic of the current governments of Bolivia and Venezuela— insists that it was not a coup just an “ill-advised, violent protest by the police against a law that cut their benefits.” President Rafael Correa is the democratically elected leader of the country, re-elected in 2009 winning 51.99 per cent of votes cast, on a turnout of almost 75 per cent (in an electorate of more than 10 million people). His nearest rival was ex-president, and oil company friend Lucio Gutierrez, who received 28.24 per cent of the vote.
On September 30, thousands of police rebelled, taking control of several cities, shutting down roads and airports. When President Correa confronted the policemen, he was attacked with tear gas and injured. He was allowed to go for treatment in a police hospital, but confined there for 12 hours until rescued after a “fierce gun battle” resulting in the death of two policemen, a soldier and a student. During these tense hours, there was a rebellion in sections of the armed forces. Members of the Ecuadorean air force took over and shut down Quito’s international airport. Anti-Correa political figures, including the lawyer for defeated presidential candidate Gutierrez, tried to force their way into the buildings of Ecuador National Television. The object of these “coup minimizers” is to deflect attention from the forces that might have benefited from a successful coup. Correa’s record in office provides the key to that. l In 2006, working with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Correa moved to increase state control over oil production in the country. lIn 2008, he announced that Ecuador would not pay several billions of its more than $10 billion foreign debt, calling it “illegitimate”. l In 2009, he refused to renew the lease of the US military airbase in Manta, saying that “the only way the US could keep their military base in Ecuador, is if Ecuador were allowed to have one of its own in Florida.” l In 2009, he officially brought Ecuador into the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) led by Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia. With this track record, it is clear that the forces that would benefit from a coup would be the corporate elite inside Ecuador, internation-
Supporters of Ecuador’s President Correa march through the streets of Quito, the country’s capital on September 30.
al financial institutions collecting Ecuador’s debt and the US. Recently, however, Correa has opened the economy up to multinationals. While groups such as the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) condemned the attempted coup, tensions remain between the administration and indigenous organizations. CONAIE has organized rallies criticizing the Correa goverment, protesting the expansion of the mining and oil industries. Correa’s failure to build stronger alliances with Ecuadorian social movements means he will remain vulnerable to threats of the right to destabilize the government.
History of coups
‘Before the day was out, the coup was stopped by mass mobilizations in the streets and plazas of the capital, Quito’
There is now a shamefully long list of recent right-wing coup attempts in Latin America and the Caribbean. In April 2002, President Chávez of Venezuela was briefly taken into exile in a coup d’état, which was stopped when one million of his supporters surrounded the presidential palace. In February 2004, Hatian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forcibly overthrown in a coup backed by the military forces of Canada, the United States and France. In September 2008, in the Santa Cruz area of Bolivia, right-wing forces used armed fascist gangs to try and break the hold of President Evo Morales. They were stopped through a combination of mass mobilizations, and the intervention by loyal sections of the armed forces. And most recently, in June 2009, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown by the military. This series of violent attempts to roll back the anti-neoliberal movement, whose main institutional shape is represented by the ALBA countries, must be stopped.
Venezuelan election results a warning sign by PAUL KELLOGG
THE DANGERS confronting the anti-neoliberal movement, and the region, were highlighted by the results of National Assembly elections in Venezuela at the end of September. At one level, the election represents an achievement: the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) topping the polls and winning 98 seats out of 165. But within that victory, there were troubling signs. The PSUV did poll above five million in both the nationwide vote for the Latin American parliament and the state-wide party lists. But so did its right-wing rival, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), only trailing the PSUV by around 200,000. Key states along the border of Colombia—the principle base for the US military in the region—fell to the MUD, as did the powerful oil and coal-producing state of Zulia. While 98 seats is a majority, it is short of the two-thirds majority necessary for key constitutional changes. Key advances, such as creating a favourable legislative framework for workers’ control of industry, will be much more difficult.
There is disillusionment in sections of the base of the PSUV. The recession hit Venezuela harder than many other countries in Latin America. The old state bureaucracy is still largely intact (and quite reluctant to support Chávez’
reforms), and the bulk of the media remains in the hands of the right-wing. In addition, while the PSUV has been a remarkable school in politics for millions of people, it has also been a source of career advance for a few thousand. Nepotism (or “amigo-ism”) and bureaucratic tendencies have become a drag on many of the reform projects launched by the regime. We know from experience, that the antidote to these will be found in popular mobilizations at the base. Political tendencies, which base themselves on the developing organs of popular control, in the neighbourhoods and workplaces, are the only alternative in all the ALBA countries. But that is an issue that will be addressed by the workers and campesinos in those countries themselves. Our challenge in Canada and the Global North is to find ways to slow the hand of right-wing and imperialist intervention into the antineoliberal movement in Latin America and the Caribbean. This will require exposing the political and economic support of the right-wing by Washington and the European right, education to demonstrate how Western corporations benefit from exploiting the people of the region and solidarity with the grassroots movement that is fighting to deepen the Bolivarian revolution. Done properly, will lay the basis for a bigger movement should there be a sixth coup d’état attempt in the months to come. October 2010 Socialist Worker 5
ontrary to our reputation as a “peacekeeper” nation, the Canadian state has a long and bloody history of imperialist ventures. Our country’s true history is marked by support for corrupt dictators in Asia, Africa and the Americas to secure profitable mining contracts. Canadian-owned mining corporations greedily exploit the enormous mineral wealth in these regions at the expense of the environment and local populations. Similar to other advanced capitalist nations—the US, Britain, Australia—the actions of our government’s foreign policy is far from selfless or benevolent with respect to our interventions in Haiti, Colombia, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda or Kyrgyzstan. To fully understand the motivations behind Canadian mining corporations, we must first explore the nature of imperialism under capitalism. The defining feature of capitalism, as explained by Marx, is the never-ending hunger for larger profits. Small companies are either taken over or driven to extinction by larger companies through competition for these profits. As these firms expand, their capital concentrates to a point where only a minority of banks and companies remain to run entire industries. This aggressive competition leads to the creation of monopolies; massively complex organizations with very few rivals who must look beyond their own national borders for higher profits. In his work Imperi-
MINING AND IMPERIALISM Canadian mining corporations have a long and bloody history of operations throughout the world. From the Americas to Africa and Asia, corporate greed has wreaked havoc on local populations and the environment. Here are several examples of how capitalist competition has lead to unimaginable atrocities in the name of profit. alism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Vladimir Lenin makes the argument that monopolies are inevitable, stating “the rise of monopolies, as the result of the concentration of production, is a general and fundamental law of the present stage of development of capitalism.” As these industrial superpowers expand beyond their protected borders, they come into direct conflict with monopolies of other countries that are striving for the same profits. However, unlike the struggles between individual investors that conclude with the poverty of individuals, the collapse of a monopoly can see entire nations fall economically. Driault, the French historian and contemporary of Lenin wrote about the great “scramble” for market control in the 19th century. He writes that, “the nations which have not yet made provision for themselves run the risk of never receiving their share and never participating in the tremendous exploitation of the globe.” It is also this international competition that throws nations into wars. In order to protect the interests of these companies, nation-states build up armies and weapons to secure potential areas for industrial control or to fend off rivals looking to do the same. This competition between rival nations led to the horrors of the 6 Socialist Worker October 2010
First and Second World Wars, where millions of people were slaughtered and entire cities flattened to the ground.
‘In Paupa New Guinea, an entire community was violently evicted by local police to facilitate the Canadian mining firm Barrick Gold’
However, these massive corporations do not solely rely on their nation’s guns and soldiers to control the production of wealth in other countries. Another major tool used by imperialist nations is economic dominance through investment and bribery. “When, however, this operation grows to enormous dimensions we find that a handful of monopolists subordinate to their will all the operations, both commercial and industrial, of the whole of capitalist society,” writes Lenin, “to influence them by restricting or enlarging, facilitating or hindering credits, and finally to entirely determine their fate.” It is in this context that Canadian imperialism exists, because of the enormous economic power it can exert over weaker nations. This is especially true for South America, where Canadian mining firms are left to reap huge profits at the expense of the poor and Indigenous populations in regions like Honduras, where political assassinations, torture and mass arrests are commonplace.
During his recent trip to Honduras, the Canadian Minister of State for the Americas, Peter Kent, met with its illegitimate leader, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo to strengthen Canada’s economic foothold in the region. Despite documented evidence of human rights abuses and fraud, Kent maintained that Canada will, “support President Lobo’s efforts as he moves to fully reintegrate Honduras into the international and hemispheric community, including in the Organization of American States.” As one of the largest mining investors in Honduras, Canada’s interests are heavily based on promoting Lobo’s plans to pass new mining laws that increase the rights of foreign companies and capital. With the strongest mining industry in the world, Canadian banks and corporations have continually sought to ensure their interests are protected above all else. Since the Canadian supported coup in Honduras in 2009, three Salvadoran activists were murdered for protesting Pacific Rim Mining Corporation and a Mexican activist was assassinated for opposing another Canadian mining company, Blackfire Exploration. However, Canada’s grip is not limited to South American countries, but extends around the globe wherever people are unable to defend
themselves. In Papua New Guinea, an entire community was violently evicted by local police to facilitate the Canadian mining firm Barrick Gold.
Another means of controlling other nations is through the promise of monetary aid during times of crisis. When the devastating earthquake ripped through Haiti, the Canadian government proudly proclaimed that it would send money to Haiti providing the crippled nation also accepted Canadian soldiers to be based in the country. By embarking on these kind of humanitarian aid missions, the Canadian state was able to justify fortifying the region for its own interest. Combined with the steady increases to military spending, Canada has positioned itself on the map as an effective imperialist nation, able to rapidly deploy troops with the latest weapons anywhere on the globe that may rival its economic interests. As Canadian foreign policy continues its focus on maintaining stability for Canadian investors, despite the devastating costs to the workers caught in the middle, we in the anti-war movements must work even harder to expose the crimes of our rulers.
Corporate complicity in anti-union violence
Canadian mining and the whitewashing of history by EDDY ROUE THE REVISIONIST history of the Rwandan genocide holds that in 1994, the Hutu-dominated government of Rwanda shot down the plane of its own president and used it as a pretext to start a genocide against the Tutsi minority (and Hutu moderates), which was only ended when Paul Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took Kigali and chased the génocidaires from the country.
As a growing body of evidence indicates, this history is far from complete. If we run through and correct each part of this version of history, we will find a picture of a drawn out atrocity in which Canada and its mining interests played a driving role. First, the plane crash that started it all. In 1996-97, three RPF informants admitted to an International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) investigator, Michael Hourigan, that they and
Kagame had been directly involved in the rocket attack on the airplane. Second, the genocide itself. US academics Christian Davenport and Allan Stam concluded in a study sponsored by the ICTR that the “majority of victims were likely Hutu and not Tutsi.” They further discovered that large-scale killings were correlated to RPF “surges”, and that they largely petered out when the RPF stopped advancing. In fact, a memorandum prepared for US Secretary of State Warren Christopher reported that a “pattern of killing had emerged”, with the RPF and its allies killing “10,000 or more Hutu civilians per month.”
And what role did Canada, in the heroic person of Lt.-General Roméo Dallaire play in all of this? As Cameroonian diplomat JacquesRoger Booh Booh (Dallaire’s civilian commander in UNAMIR, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda) explains in
his book, (Dallaire’s Boss Speaks), the general systematically ignored reports of summary executions by the RPF, fraternized with Kagame and the RPF in direct “[violation of] the neutrality principal of [UNAMIR]” and ignored shipments of RPF weapons coming over the border from Uganda. The discovery of $300 billion in mineral resources played a key role in Canada’s interest in the Rwandan conflict. As history records, after taking power in Rwanda, the RPF launched an invasion of neighbouring Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), which sparked what has been called Africa’s World War, involving eight sovereign nations and almost four million deaths. To this day, the supremely mineral-rich east of the country is still ruled by criminal warlords and RPF proxies who continue to do business with Canadian corporations like Tenke Mining and Barrick Gold to the tune of over $2 billion in investments.
Kumtor Gold Mine’s dangerous safety record by CHARLOTTE IRELAND
KUMTOR GOLD Mine located in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan is the eighth largest gold field in the world. The mine is currently owned by Canadian mining company Centerra Gold. Previously, it was co-owned by Cameco Corporation and the Kyrgyz government. Between 1998 and 2000, when the mine was under Cameco’s ownership, there were three major chemical spills. In July 1998, the mine spewed 70 litres of nitric acid and in May, a mine truck spilled over two tonnes of toxic sodium cyanide into the nearby Barskoon River, a local source of drinking and irrigation water for the community. This chemical, the use of which is highly controversial, is used to dissolve gold from granulated ore. Initially, the company did not inform the local community that lived down river, despite the hight risk of poisoning. In response, local villagers
blockaded a road leading to the Kumtor Mine and seized company vehicles and unsuccessfully demanded the government cancel the contract with mining company. Two years later, another mine truck spilled 1.65 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, an explosive chemical, into the river. As a result of these three spills, several people have died, hundreds became ill and thousands had to be temporarily evacuated from the area. For weeks after the spill, local villagers exposed to the cyanide continued to experience skin rashes, sores and other ailments. In 2002, a worker was killed at the mine when a 200 metrehigh pit wall collapsed on him. The Ministry of Environmental Protection reported that the mining sector is one of the primary sources of air and water pollution in Kyrgystan. Corporate disregard for the safety of workers, the local population and surrounding environment comes as no
suprise. The pursuit of profit is the first and foremost interest of corporations competing within the global economic system.
On October 1, production at the mine has been suspended as miners went on strike, demanding higher wages from the massively profitable Centerra Gold. The mine generates roughly one quarter of the country’s industrial output and accounts for one third of all exports. In the second quarter of this year, profits soared by 46 per cent year-on-year because of higher output and stronger gold prices. “It has nothing to do with politics. This is a working dispute. We demand a pay rise. The strike is going on. Most of the workers are here,” said Nurmukhamed Achikyev, deputy chairman of Kumtor’s trade union, told Reuters. “The negotiating process is under way. We are in a combative mood,” he said.
by PAUL KELLOGG WHEN CORPORATE leaders turn their attention to investment prospects for Canadian corporations in Colombia, they sing the country’s praises. Macleod Dixon, for instance, talks about “exciting opportunities” for Canadian companies in Colombia “made possible by the impressive security gains ... during the recently-ended eight year presidency of Alvaro Uribe.” Security for whom? Turn to the 2009 edition of the Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights. What you will read in the section on Colombia should give you chills. In 2008 alone, 49 trade unionists were assassinated “of whom 16 were trade union leaders, 45 were men and four were women. Attacks, disappearances and death threats continued.” Imagine the outcry in Canada if even one trade union leader had been assassinated in 2008. It would dominate the pages of the press. Were there to be 16 union leaders assassinated and 33 others, that outcry would be massive indeed. The truly horrifying aspect of this, however, is that this is by no means a one-year phenomenon. In 2007, there were 39 such assassinations so that “Colombia remained the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists.” In 2006, 78 trade unionists were murdered. But Canada does a brisk business with this dangerous country. According to the Government of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, “Colombia is Canada’s fourth largest export market in South America ... and sixth largest trading partner in Latin America and the Caribbean (excluding Mexico).” That business relationship is longstanding and growing. According to independent journalist Dawn Paley, in the 1920s Canadian-based International Petroleum Corporation (IPC) owned Tropical Oil and the Andian Pipeline Company. This year Andrew Cash reported that “Canada’s Greystar Resources plans to invest about $39.3 million ... in gold and silver mining in Colombia—and plans to increase that to $600 million by 2012. Canada’s Medoro Resources aims to sink about $100 million into gold exploration.” The deadly situation for trade unionists is the tip of the iceberg
in this country, which has had impressive security gains. As of 2009 there were almost five million internally displaced persons in the country—second only to the Sudan in that category. In recent years, the groups most affected by this mass forced migration have been “mostly indigenous and AfroColombian” according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. They reported that approximately half of the displacements occurred in Nariño, “where assassinations of indigenous people were also repeatedly reported in 2009.”
This violence—and internal displacement is impossible without violence—is intimately linked to the investment needs of Canadian and other foreign owned corporations in the country. A good example of this comes from the community of La Toma. For some 400 years, this community has been peopled by Afro-Colombians who trace their roots back to ancestors who escaped the horrors of slavery in the country, and fled for safety to the hills of the country. But according to the Latin American Working Group, their land has been given away to big mining corporations without any community consultations. Just over 1,000 families were to have been evicted in August to make way for these mining concerns. Fortunately, an international campaign stayed the hand of the Colombian government, for now. But for every one small town saved, there are a dozen others at risk. The appalling human rights and labour situation in Colombia is bad enough. Even worse is the way in which Canadian corporations look right past that situation, with only an eye to the bottom line. But most outrageous is the fact that in spite of all of this the government has negotiated a free trade deal with Colombia. And don’t think you can just blame Stephen Harper for this. Side by side with Harper was the federal Liberal Party, which, after winning a minor amendment to the proposed deal, gave it the party’s full support. Both the Liberals and the Tories have a shared vision— profits for Canadian corporations are more important than human rights and the safety of trade unionists. For more information, visit the Latin America Working Group website at www.lawg.org.
October 2010 Socialist Worker 7
MUNICIPAL ELECTION TORY SCUM
Time to give Jason Kenney the boot THERE HAVE always been compelling reasons to fire Jason Kenney. Now there’s another one. The September 27 Federal Court ruling by Justice Richard Mosley in the Galloway case spends 60 pages slamming Kenney and his office for their role in attempting to ban a political opponent.
The ruling is a major victory for free speech advocates—and a major embarrassment for the government. In March 2009, the British media announced that former British MP George Galloway had been deemed inadmissible to Canada, before he himself was notified. This was days before he was scheduled to arrive in Canada for a four-city speaking tour. Galloway later toured the US, but was blocked from entering Canada. The Federal Court ruling found that Kenney’s office initiated the process to influence and meddle in the CBSA’s preliminary assessment, directing senior civil servants to keep Galloway out. In only two hours, Galloway had been banned in record time. Kenney’s ministry, three other federal departments, the CBSA, the Canadian High Commission, and the Prime Minister’s Office had all been implicated in supporting and directing the ban. Worse still, Kenney’s staff leaked the preliminary assessment to the British media—then bragged about it later. This is a breach of Canada’s Privacy Act. In April 2010, Kenney appeared on CTV’s Power Play to argue that ministers must take responsibility for the behaviour and actions of their staff, an attempt to block Tory staffers from appearing before any parliamentary committees. Will Kenney stick to his word and take responsibility for his staff in the Galloway case, and for his own role, in breaking the law to advance their own political agenda? Not likely. Nor is it likely that the media will raise the demand, as most outlets misinterpreted the ruling, ignoring its sharp criticism of the government. Shamefully, all the opposition parties have been silent about the ban, and have so far let Kenney get away scot-free. That’s why the social movements must now mobilize to demand Kenney’s resignation. Only pressure from below, fuelled by the anger and outrage at Kenney’s arrogance and hypocrisy, will force MPs and media to take this issue seriously. And the base against Kenney is growing, as his attacks have widened. The key is to organize one united movement for Kenney to resign. The massive success of the Galloway ruling has already provided a big push. JUSTICE
Victory for sex workers A RECENT landmark decision to strike down several of Canada’s prostitution laws by an Ontario Superior Court judge will make sex work more safe.
Over the past decades, countless sex trade workers have been beaten and/or raped, and hundreds of have gone missing or been murdered, including 26 by BC pig farmer Robert Pickton. Simon Fraser criminologist John Lowman, testified as a key witness stating, “It is estimated that street sex work makes up less than 20 per cent of prostitution in Canada, but they appear to account for more than 95 per cent of the homicide victims and missing women.” While the act of prostitution itself is not illegal, activities related to sex work are illegal. Justice Susan Himel ruled that three of such activities—keeping a common bawdy house, communicating for the purposes of prostitution and living on the avails are “not in accord with the principles of fundamental justices”. In her ruling, Justice Himel cited evidence that shows violence against sex trade workers can be greatly reduced when workers are able to work off the streets and screen their potential clients. Sex workers agreed and applauded the decision, stating that it will make their work safer. The ruling gives workers the option of working indoors without being targetted as operating a common bawdy house, the choice to have conversations on the street—which will help them weed out potentially dangerous clients—and allows them to hire other services such as bodyguards, accountants and drivers. It will also mean that sex workers can more freely report crimes of violence without fearing arrest. 8 Socialist Worker October 2010
Rob Ford and the rise of the municipal right by RITCH WHYMAN FOR YEARS, mayoral candidate Rob Ford has presented himself as the champion of the “little guy” and a tax fighter. The reality is that he inherited a printing business from his father—a member of the Harris Government—and has used the wealth from that business to pay for his office and supplies—something very few “little guys” can do.
It is clear that it would be a disaster for workers in Toronto if Ford were to become mayor with a right-wing dominated council. He has promised to use his own borough of Etobicoke as a model—a place where garbage collection is privatized. He has promised to cut costs and go after the city’s unions. He has openly said he would fight to stop immigrants from coming to Toronto and stop funding Pride Week. He also has said he would, in essence, cancel Transit City—the first serious expansion of public transit in decades. Another candidate in the election is George Smitherman, the previous Ontario Minister of Health. In that position, he oversaw the debacle in Ontario of the computerization of health records that saw costs soar into the billions as contractors jacked up costs and made off like bandits. He has also openly suggested privatizing some services in the city and rolling back gains made by the city unions. A vote for Smitherman is a vote for privatization and Public-Private Partnerships (P3s). Joe Pantalone, long-time city councillor, is seen by many as the candidate of the left. He is the only candidate who has promised not to privatize services and to maintain commitments to building public transit. This has raised many questions about how Ford has emerged as the front runner and how it is that the two top candidates are open about privatizing services and possibly selling off city assets like hydro or using P3s to fund other initiatives. Some have blamed the city unions for striking two summers ago; others have claimed it is because of a shift to the right of ordinary working people. Neither of these is correct. The rise of Ford cannot be explained without looking at the outcome of the city workers strike in 2009 and the silence of the “left” on council and the actions of Mayor David Miller. Toronto’s two main municipal workers unions—CUPE Locals 79 and 416—struck against concessions being proposed by the city. Against the back drop of thousands losing jobs and pensions, the media and right-wing went on
an all-out assault against the so-called “fat cat” city workers. Instead of defending city workers and public services, the left on Toronto city council was silent. The right on council and elsewhere used the strike not just to attack workers but to attack public services, setting the stage for arguments now used by Ford to say the only way out of the economic problems of the city is to privatize services and cut wages. This despite polls showing the majority are opposed to selling off public services. With little or no response from the left and with a supposed progressive mayor leading the assault, many gave credence to the idea that it was city workers who were responsible for the economic woes of the city. This was a microcosm of the path that the Ontario NDP government opened for Conservative Mike Harris to get elected. When the NDP, under Bob Rae, attack welfare recipients and unions they legitimized the idea that workers and the poor were the problem, not corporations and the rich. In essence, the NDP cut down the trees by starting the assault on workers that allowed Harris to pave the road to implementing the neoliberal agenda in Ontario.
This is what the silence of the left on council and the actions of Mayor Miller have done in Toronto. They have legitimized the right-wing idea that it is city workers and services that must be cut to pay the banker crisis. This is a lesson that has to be learned if we want to push back against privatization; silence in the face of attacks on workers and services only opens the door for the right to gain. Further to this has been the inaction in defence of workers and the poor by council. For the past eight years, Toronto has had what many saw as a “progressive” mayor in David Miller. Miller was elected in response the destruction wrought by Mel Lastman at the city level and the cuts of Mike Harris. Yet over the past eight years with a “progressive” council hundreds of thousands of better paying unionized industrial jobs have disappear and wages for the majority have either stagnated or declined. In manufacturing, wages have on average dropped by close to $3 per hour over the past 10 years—without including inflation. At the same time, city services haven’t grown to match the increase in low income families while taxes for working people have increased. The growing gap between the Bay Street
elites and the wealthy versus the rest of Toronto—in particular newer immigrant communities—has grown over the past eight years. Close to 40 per cent of workers in the city make no more than $27,500 a year. This has created bitterness and anger—an anger that the rightwing tapped into by blaming city workers and taxes for the crisis. This all allows the populist rhetoric of Rob Ford to gain a hearing from those looking for answers to the crisis. Ford is a dangerous man, but no more dangerous than George Smitherman. The added danger of Ford is that he has openly attacked immigrants, opening the doors alongside Jason Kenney and the Harper Tories to an increase in racism and blame for the crisis being placed at the feet of immigrants.
This means that the election in Toronto has become a plebiscite on privatization. In this situation the left should back Pantalone, despite his silence on the city workers strike and his support for the police during the G20. The better showing for Pantalone means a bigger base from which to challenge privatization in Toronto. The fight against Ford, Smitherman and their right-wing corporate agenda though won’t be won through the ballot box, but through mobilizing and fighting back. In Toronto, several campaigns have been successful in stopping previous attempts at privatization. The Water Watch campaign beat back the privatization of the water system. Toronto Hydro workers have built campaigns that beat attempts to sell off Toronto Hydro. It will be crucial to push the leadership of the municipal unions to link up with communities to fight the attempts that will come under Ford or Smitherman to privatize city services or contract out work to the lowest bidder. The initiatives of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council and the Good Jobs for All Coalition and the One Toronto initiative point a way forward to uniting workers both in and out of unions, uniting different communities to push for better services and better jobs for all is a step in the right direction. However, it will take more than that to beat back the likes of Ford and Smitherman. It will take pushing the union leaders to stop relying on city councillors and to start mobilizing on the street. By standing up and fighting back, a clear alternative to capitalist crisis can be given. This is what can stop the likes of Rob Ford or George Smitherman, regardless of who is elected.
Sun down for Harper
Shiva’s Soil not Oil poses problems starkly, but misses key solutions Soil not Oil Written by Vandana Shiva Reviewed by Jesse McLaren
IN HER latest book, renowned scientist and environmental activist Vandana Shiva shows capitalism is the root of the climate crisis and that its profit-driven solutions will only make things worse. In this short and accessible book, Shiva blends science and politics to analyze three crises—climate chaos, peak oil and the food crisis—showing how they are interconnected and based on two centuries of an unsustainable quest for profits that has driven people off the land and privatizes nature. She looks back on the results of the “green revolution”, which claimed to promote food security. Instead, it concentrated a monoculture of climate-sensitive crops in the hands of oil-dependent corporations, whose production and use poisons the earth, promotes climate change, and whose expensive patented seeds and fertilizers creates huge debt that has produced an epidemic of farmer suicides. Now we are presented with a new series of pseudo-solutions—nuclear
power, carbon trading and biofuels— that will only exacerbate the climate crisis. As Shiva points out, “nuclear winter is not an alternative to global warming”. Shiva shows how these pseudosolutions are rooted in capitalism’s incessant commodification. “Some things should not be tradable—water and biodiversity are too valuable to be reduced to marketable commodities. Other things, like toxic waste and greenhouse gases, should not be generated. To turn them into tradable commodities ensures that they will continue to be produced. Instead of putting a value on clean air, emissions trading schemes value pollution”. Moreover, the production of biofuels drives communities and trees off the land, using oil and large amounts of water to divert food production into crops to run cars, while wild speculation on these profits drives up food prices and creates artificial famines.
For Shiva, the solution will come from the periphery of the system and a focus on small farms. “The solution to the climate crisis begins with the cultures
and communities who have not contributed to it”. And while she condemns capitalism for two centuries of driving people off the land into polluting cities, she does not articulate a role for the urban working class in fighting back. She claims that “as the fossil fuel economy has grown, it has substituted energy for humans”, rendering “humans redundant to the economic process”, and “replacing people with fossil-fuel driven machines”. Seeing no contradiction in capitalism, she calls for a “cultural transition” with an appeal to a mystical energy force. But machines do not run themselves; they run on human labour, and thus the working class has the collective power to bring the system that produces climate chaos to a halt. The 100 million workers in India who struck at the start of the month—shutting down coal, power, port, and road transportation—show how the working class can be a key ally of peasant communities fighting climate chaos. Despite this shortcoming, Soil not Oil is valuable reading for anyone seeking to understand the climate crisis and the dangers of profit-driven solutions.
Machete’s mixed consciousness Machete Directed by Robert Rodriguez Reviewed by Jessica Squires
MACHETE, THE most recent offering from director Robert Rodriguez—best known for his B-movie-style hack ’n slash movies and an association with Quentin Tarantino—is a typically sexist and gratuitously violent movie, without much of a plot but with lots of stereotypes. Noteworthy, though, was the boycott of its premiere by several white supremacist groups. Mainstream media reviews are calling it hateful, suggesting it incites violence against white people. And on May 5 (cinco de mayo) Rodriguez released a fake trailer for the movie with an explicit message to Arizona, site of recently proposed racist laws targeting immigrants and people of colour. In the film [spoiler alert] Jessica Alba plays a cop with US Immigration who joins the forces of good. A network led by She (a play on “Che”— depicted by Michelle Rodriguez) is helping illegal immigrants from Mexico get food and work, and eventually is forced to fight a “war” against border vigilantes who are secretly backed by a US Senator (Robert DeNiro). A bloodbath ensues; the Mexicans win. The entire film is a pretext for said
bloodbath, of course, and there’s lots of sexism (pretty much expected from what is basically a B-grade Western aimed at a particular audience) but what is interesting is the unabashed anti-establishment message. This politically questionable film is drawing a great deal of attention and its producers are banking on its having an appeal to a market of young, (mostly) mainstream, (mostly) men across the US. It opened its first weekend in second place and has maintained its standing since. Why this particular message at this particular time? Thousands of Mexicans cross the border illegally every year for a chance at a better life for themselves and their families. Around seven million of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the US are from Mexico. About six million nonstatus immigrants file income tax returns, pouring billions of dollars into the economy annually. Southern US states rely on the labour provided by undocumented workers. The US may now have a black president, but its economy has been slashed to ribbons, and its ill-conceived and morally insupportable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are taking their toll on both the American people and on the coffers of the nation.
Because of this, one trend in the US consciousness is a growing suspicion of anything blatantly racist. We’re also talking about an America in which Latin Americans have now long been part of most urban landscapes. It’s increasingly difficult to paint them as a “threat”. At the same time, objectified images of women unfortunately have not lost their general appeal. The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci explained such ideological contradictions with the phrase “contradictory consciousness”. At any given moment, a person—a worker—may hold in their head both ideas that serve their objective material interests, or class position, and ideas that run counter to their own interests. Anti-racism is an example of an idea that serves our class interests, because it helps to eliminate a force of division among workers; while sexism, another form of oppression, continues to divide us. Machete is interesting as a sociological and political phenomenon, and provides cheap vicarious thrills as establishment figures are brought down by the underdogs (Alba’s character makes a speech channeling Malcolm X, saying “We didn’t cross over the border; the border crossed over us”), but it also perpetuates negative sexist stereotypes; and Rodriguez is notoriously anti-union.
AN ONLINE petition and the resulting debate about “Fox News North” may have at least temporarily stopped Stephen Harper’s drive to purge the civil service of any who dare oppose his agenda. Sun TV News is the brainchild of billionaire and Rupert Murdoch wannabe Pierre Karl Péladeau, head of media giant Quebecor Inc. Péladeau is not unique in populating his boardroom with political hacks, but seems to have a singular affection for Tories. He plucked Kory Teneycke from the position of Stephen Harper’s Director of Communications to retool the political content (even more rightward) of his newspaper chain, and to head his push for Sun TV News. More on Kory later. The application put before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission was for a “category 1” channel, obliging cable providers to include it in their basic cable package, therefore obliging every cable subscriber to pay for it whether they wanted to or not. CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein rightly rejected the application. Péladeau and Teneycke reapplied, asking for special status, but there is no sign that von Finckenstein will relent. Meanwhile, rumours flew that the Prime Minister was not pleased, and rather liked the idea of a 24-hour news channel controlled by one of his own. Insiders report that von Finckenstein, whose tenure at the CRTC extends to 2012, was being offered juicy job appointments, even as an ambassador, to leave early. That would allow Harper to appoint someone more pliable to the position in time to save Sun’s application. Enter the AVAAZ online petition, intended to oppose political manipulation of our media and bolster support for von Finckenstein. In case you haven’t read it, check out www.bit.ly/99eUVZ. When literary icon Margaret Atwood signed the petition the whole affair gained front-page headlines, and right-wing pundits and media went ballistic. “So disappointing you would put your name to what is an anti-free speech movement,” wrote Sun Media’s Ottawa chief David Akin. “You’re smarter than that.” Atwood replied, “Of course Fox & Co. can set up a channel or whatever they want to do, if it’s legal etc. But it shouldn’t happen this way. It’s like the head-of-census affair—government direct meddling in affairs that are supposed to be arm’s length—so do what they say or they fire you.” Unfortunately they are both correct.
The problem with the AVAAZ petition, and the reason I didn’t sign it, is that it does not just target the impropriety of the Sun TV application. It does target “Fox North” as hate speech. It is a call for censorship that I refuse to support. Even without my autograph the petition had some interesting repercussions. Rather than address the questions it posed, however imperfectly, Teneycke attacked the petition for having too many bogus names, like “Bobba Fett” and “Snuffleupagus”. Big mistake. All the names on the petition had not been made public, so how did Teneycke
know about the fake ones? AVAAZ called on police to investigate tampering and fraud, as all the phony names seem to have originated from the same Ottawa-based computer. It would be churlish of me to even suggest the computer belonged to Kory the Tory. In a surprise announcement, Teneycke resigned from Sun TV, spinning it as a noble sacrifice rather than the result of his own stupidity. Exit Stephen Harper’s Director of Communications; enter Sun TV’s new boss, Luc Lavoie, former Director of Communications for Brian Mulroney, also an executive at Quebecor Inc. Kory Teneycke is not just a political careerist; he is a Reform Party true believer, a close advisor not just to Harper, but to Preston Manning and Mike Harris before him. He has long attacked the “left-wing” media, and particularly the CBC.
It is true that not long ago Harper and Teneycke lunched with Fox TV owner Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes. Ailes is the creator of Fox TV, a former Republican Party strategist, the man who mentored Rush Limbaugh, and who authored the deregulation of US broadcasting rules in 1987. The first thing to go was the so-called “fairness doctrine” which obliged news broadcasters to tell both sides of any story. However faulty it was before, the precipitous slide of US journalism can be charted from that date. Fairness has not yet been outlawed in Canada. The Broadcasting Act, overseen by the CRTC, mandates that Canadian TV news carriers “provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to be exposed to the expression of differing views on matters of public concern.” Further, broadcasters must “serve the needs and aspirations of Canadian men, women and children, including equal rights, the linguistic duality and multicultural and multiracial nature of Canadian society and the special place of aboriginal peoples within that society…” Such regulations are kryptonite to reactionaries like Harper, Teneycke and Péladeau. They drive right-wingers, like National Post foamer Tasha Kheiriddin, into a tizzy: “This combination makes the creation of a one-point-ofview conservative network difficult, if not impossible.” Amen to that.
You can bet that under a Harper majority government the Broadcast Act would be headed for the shredder faster than Mike Duffy to the buffet table. If the AVAAZ petition had been a clear defence of these principled regulations, rather than a hysterical attack on “Fox News North”, I would have happily signed. From StatsCan, to Elections Canada, to the Nuclear Safety Commission, Harper has not hesitated to fire or force out civil servants who thwart his agenda. Will von Finckenstein be next? I suspect that Harper will back down. An election may be looming and he has taken so much flak for scrapping the census that firing von Finckenstein might be fatal. Besides, I think Canadians would rise up saying: nuclear safety is one thing, but screwing with our TV—that’s going too far. October 2010 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.
A rebel’s guide to Marx: Sexism and women’s oppression Wed, Oct 13, 2pm Bahen Centre 40 St. George St Info: www.socialist.ca Organized by the UofT IS club
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.
The politics of food
Sat, Oct 23, 6pm Speaker: Andrew Hodge Info: 416-537-4866 Organized by the Toronto West IS
Stephen Harper’s shame: Canada-Colombia ‘free trade’ Fri, Nov 5, 7pm Speakers: Raul Burbano & Paul Kellogg Asteria Restaurant 679 Danforth Ave Info: papedanforth@gmail. com Organized by the Pape/ Danforth IS
Reform and revolution
Every day, there are battles between exploited and exploiter, oppressor and oppressed, to reform the system—to improve living conditions. These struggles are crucial in the fight for a new world. To further these struggles, we work within the trade unions and orient to building a rank and file movement that strengthens workers’ unity and solidarity. But the fight for reforms will not, in itself, bring about fundamental social change. The present system cannot be fixed or reformed as NDP and many trade union leaders say. It has to be overthrown. That will require the mass action of workers themselves.
Elections and democracy
Elections can be an opportunity to give voice to the struggle for social change. But under capitalism, they can’t change the system. The structures of the present parliament, army, police and judiciary developed under capitalism and are designed to protect the ruling class against the workers. These structures cannot be simply taken over and used by the working class. The working class needs real democracy, and that requires an entirely different kind of state—a workers’ state based upon councils of workers’ delegates.
The struggle for socialism is part of a worldwide struggle. We campaign for solidarity with workers in other countries. We oppose everything which turns workers from one country against those from other countries. We support all genuine national liberation movements. The 1917 revolution in Russia was an inspiration for the oppressed everywhere. But it was defeated when workers’ revolutions elsewhere were defeated. A Stalinist counterrevolution which killed millions created a new form of capitalist exploitation based on state ownership and control. In Eastern Europe, China and other countries a similar system was later established by Stalinist, not socialist parties. We support the struggle of workers in these countries against both private and state capitalism.
Canada, Quebec, Aboriginal Peoples
Canada is not a “colony” of the United States, but an imperialist country in its own right that participates in the exploitation of much of the world. The Canadian state was founded through the repression of the Aboriginal peoples and the people of Quebec. We support the struggles for self-determination of Quebec and Aboriginal peoples up to and including the right to independence. Socialists in Quebec, and in all oppressed nations, work towards giving the struggle against national oppression an internationalist and working class content.
Within capitalist society different groups suffer from specific forms of oppression. Attacks on oppressed groups are used to divide workers and weaken solidarity. We oppose racism and imperialism. We oppose all immigration controls. We support the right of people of colour and other oppressed groups to organize in their own defence. We are for real social, economic and political equality for women. We are for an end to all forms of discrimination and homophobia against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. We oppose discrimination on the basis of religion, ability and age.
The Revolutionary Party
To achieve socialism the leading activists in the working class have to be organized into a revolutionary socialist party. The party must be a party of action, and it must be democratic. We are an organization of activists committed to helping in the construction of such a party through ongoing activity in the mass organizations of the working class and in the daily struggles of workers and the oppressed. If these ideas make sense to you, help us in this project, and join the International Socialists. 10 Socialist Worker October 2010
Rise of the new sexism and how to fight it
Strikers guarding window entrance to Fisher Body Plant Number Three
Lessons from Flint’s victorious 1936-37 sit-down strike by PETER HOGARTH WHEN WE think of the Great Depression, we usually think of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal. That is where the credit usually goes for ending the terrible hardship of that terrible decade.
But the truth is the best answer to the depression was not from politicians, but from ordinary workers. And the best tactic they discovered to improve their lot was the sit-down strike. It did not happen all at once. In the first years of the depression, life was so hard that workers were too intimidated to engage in militant action. But in 1934 the tide began to turn as the US economy staged a brief recovery with a modest fall in unemployment. As the threat of firings and blacklisting eased workers felt more confident in their ability to fight, and union recruitment increased. By 1936 workers’ confidence was surging, especially in the rubber and auto industries, and the sit-down was born.
There were 48 sit-down strikes in 1936, involving half a million workers. The biggest, most important, and most famous began in December at General Motors in Flint, Michigan, the heart of GM’s manufacturing empire. In the summer of 1936, the newlyformed United Auto Workers (UAW) sent its organizers to Flint. Immediately organizers faced intimidation and violence and clandestine tactics had to be employed to keep the membership lists out of the hands of paid spies. Socialists and communists inside and outside the plant helped in the recruitment drive and prepared for a confrontation with management. Confidence grew and a series of sit-downs in several of the plants over firings and speed-ups boosted morale and prepared the rank and file for the battle ahead. The Flint sit-down began on December 30, 1936. Workers in Flint’s Fisher Body Number Two plant occupied in protest against the sacking of three inspectors for union member-
ship. The union was still weak in this plant and they knew they had to also close Fisher Body Number One plant where the union was strong if they were to have any chance of winning. The union discovered that GM was planning to move the dies out of Fisher Body Number One, so the sit-down had to begin immediately. Inside the plant the workers moved unfinished car bodies in front of all the entrances, forming a barricade. They welded a steel frame around every door and bulletproof metal sheets over every window, drilling threaded holes into them so the nozzles of fire hoses could be screwed into them. They soaked clothes to cover their faces in the event of tear gas attacks. Paint guns and metal pieces were placed strategically throughout the plant to ward off invaders. The workers in Fisher Number Two sat down within minutes of the takeover of Fisher Number One. The production of GM auto bodies came to a standstill and on January 1, 1937, all Chevrolet and Buick assembly plants were closed. GM and the local authorities threw everything they had at the striking workers, including injunctions, police beatings, gunfire and tear gas. However, in the face of all of this, labour and community solidarity prevailed. The union set up committees for food preparation, publicity, hardship, picketing and union recruitment. The city’s bus drivers, who the autoworkers had supported during a recent strike of their own, provided transportation for food and other supplies. Workers loaned their cars to the union who toured Flint with loudspeakers, a special newspaper was produced and the union and supporters picketed around the clock. The union set up a nursery to care for children while their mothers were working for the strike. Flying squads from Toledo and union members from Buick and Chevrolet picketed in support and lent a hand in fending off company guards who tried to get the workers out. Women helped to transform the sitin. The Women’s Auxiliary and the Women’s Emergency Brigade organized kids’ pickets, gaining publici-
ty all over the world, organized food run and physically defended the occupied plants. However, the decisive blow came on January 29, when, by leaking false information to company spies, the UAW was able to divert 1,500 company guards and occupy Chevrolet Number Four, GM’s biggest plant and the sole source of all Chevy engines. GM responded with violence and threats, mobilizing the National Guard, 1,000 armed vigilantes and the Flint police. The occupiers voted to hold the plants at all costs and prepared for a siege. That morning all roads into Flint were jammed with unionists from Detroit, Lansing, Pontiac and Toledo. Outside, 20,000 GM workers and supporters surrounded Fisher Body Two while the solidarity contingent formed a protective ring around Fisher Body One, ready to do battle.
On February 11, the forty-fourth day of the sit-in, with tens of thousands of workers ready to fight and threatening to wreck the factories, GM surrendered. Some 140,000 of their 150,000 strong workforce were sitting in or picketing. America’s biggest company was forced to recognize the UAW. It was a huge victory, the first time in the history of the United States that any employer had granted exclusive bargaining rights to any union on a national basis. The victory over GM inspired a working class revolt across the country. During the course of 1937 there were 477 sit-down strikes lasting at least one day with over 400,000 workers involved. There were 25 sitdowns in January, 47 in February, 170 in March, and 58 in April. It is no exaggeration to say that the sit-down wave transformed life for working people in both the United States and Canada. It was the foundation for the industrial unions, which allowed blue-collar workers in both countries to systematically improve their conditions of work. With those gains now under sustained attack, learning the lessons of Flint could not be timelier.
OPEN SATURDAYS, 12-3pm
RESISTANCE PRESS BOOK ROOM
427 Bloor Street West, suite 202, Toronto | 416.972.6391
Tues, Nov 9, 7pm Speaker: Pam Johnson Bahen Centre 40 St. George St Info: www.socialist.ca Organized by the UofT IS club
Can capitalism be fixed?
Wed, Oct 13, 2:30pm Langara College, rm A218 100 W. 49th Ave Info: vancouver.socialists@ gmail.com Organized by the Vancouver IS
Islamophobia: what it is and how it can be stopped
Wed, Oct 27, 2:30pm Langara College, rm B144 100 W. 49th Ave Organized by the Vancouver IS
From the Gulf to Enbridge: why capitalism can’t save the planet
Tues, Nov 9, 6:30pm UVic SUB room TBA Info: 250-385-3934 Organized by the Victoria IS
The revolutionary ideas of Karl Marx
Tues, Nov 23, 6:30pm UVic SUB room TBA Info: 250-385-3934 Organized by the Victoria IS
peace & justice events TORONTO
Malalai Joya: The truth about Canada’s mission in Afghanistan Wed, Oct 13, 7pm Speaker: Malalai Joya, former member of the Afghan parliament Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre 427 Bloor St W Info: www.nowar.ca Organized by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War
Refusing orders – Crossing borders: a dialogue with US war resisters
Sat, Oct 16, 11am-7:30pm St. Paul’s Anglican Church 32 Idylewylde St Info: www.resisters.ca or Organized by the War Resisters Support Campaign
You can find the I.S. in: Toronto, Ottawa, Gatineau, Vancouver, Victoria, Montreal, London, St. Catharines, Mississauga, Scarborough, Halifax, Belleville & Kingston e: firstname.lastname@example.org t: 416.972.6391 w: www.socialist.ca For more event listings, visit www.socialist.ca.
email@example.com ANTI-WAR ROUND UP by PAUL STEVENSON ON SEPTEMBER 25, anti-war activists took to the streets to launch the “Don’t extend it. End It.” campaign to bring Canadian troops home from Afghanistan.
In Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Edmonton, people distributed postcards to pressure our MPs to not support an extension of the mission. The Ottawa Peace Assembly held a picket at the Prime Minister’s office across the street from Parliament. In Toronto, people lined University Avenue in a human chain with signs and banners calling for an end to the occupation. StopWar Vancouver held a roving educational designed to bring the anti-war sentiment to people on the street. Both the Tories and the Liberals have indicated that they may join together to support an extension even though almost 80 per cent of Canadians want Canadian troops out by 2011. Every new deployment of NATO troops is making matters worse for the Afghan people and each year is more deadly than the last for civilians caught in the fighting. The September 25 events were designed to put our MPs on notice that the Canadian people will not let them extend the war again. It is part of a larger campaign, which includes a speaking tour with former Afghan MP Malalai Joya this October, and is in preparation for the NATO ministerial in November, which will see mass rallies all over Europe. For more information, visit www.acp-cpa.ca.
TAKE BACK THE NIGHT by JESSICA SQUIRES HUNDREDS OF women marched in dozens of cities around the world in mid- to late-September, and more are marching in weeks to come, in a tradition that dates back to at least the 1970s.
Take Back the Night is an annual demonstration against violence, usually with at least a portion of the event for women only because the action is a symbolic reclamation of the spaces denied to women. A combination of global outrage against violence against women and local resistance to police inactivity, the first documented marches took place in the mid-1970s across the US and Europe. The first march in Canada was in 1978, in Vancouver, BC. This year in Canada 300 women marched in Montreal, 100 in Fredericton, 200 in Edmonton, 100 in Prince George, 400 in Ottawa, 100 in Waterloo and a record 300 in London. Marches took place in centres as small as Carleton Place, east of Ottawa, and as large as Vancouver. And in Northern Ontario, marches helped sway NDP MP votes on the gun registry.
UNITE HERE LOCAL 75
Hotel workers premiere strike action at TIFF by PETER HOGARTH HOTEL WORKERS in the city of Toronto launched a series of one-day strikes over pay and working conditions. During the Toronto International Film Festival, Unite Here Local 75 members raised hell outside swanky hotels, picketing the Hyatt Regency, Fairmont Royal York and others.
Hotel guests were treated to loud wakeup calls from workers marching, banging drums, blowing vuvuzelas and shouting slogans
such as “Holiday Inn you’re no good, pay the workers what you should” and “no contract, no peace” as they blocked limousines and taxis from pulling into parking lots to check in.
The hotel workers have been without a contract since July 16 and talks with management have stalled. The members of Local 75 are mad that while the hotels are extremely busy, staffing levels are low. There have been layoffs but the remaining workers are overworked, with few having full-time status and benefits. The energy of the picket lines was incredible and they were given a boost in the press and on-the-line as Hollywood movie star Martin Sheen joined strikers outside the Royal York.
ARMOURED CAR WORKERS STRIKE by STEPHEN ELLIS EIGHTY ARMOURED car drivers from New Brunswick and PEI are now on strike to highlight the issues of wages, benefits and mandatory polygraph tests.
The use of polygraphs is a major sticking point for the union. One member, Dan McPhee stated, “If they suspect us of stealing they can
bring us in, take one, and if it comes up inconclusive they say, ‘You must be stealing’ and ‘we’re letting you go.’” The workers are members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and work for G4S Secure Solutions Canada. The armoured car drivers stock ATMs for several banks, including Royal Bank, CIBC and TD Bank as well as Costco, Wal-Mart
G20 DEFENDANT RE-ARRESTED FOR SPEAKING OUT by MELISSA GRAHAM ON SEPTEMBER 17, Alex Hundert, who is a G20 defendant and alleged ringleader, was returning from speaking on a panel titled “Strengthening Our Resolve: Movement Building and Ongoing Resistance to the G20 Agenda.” Based on his participation as a panelist at two recent events, the police are alleging that he is in violation of his bail condition to not participate in any public demonstration. Many are considering this latest arrest to be another attempt to silence Hundert; a panel discussion is clearly not a public demonstration. The Ontario Provincial Police also consider
interviews Hundert did with CBC radio, Toronto Sun, Vancouver Media Co-op and Rabble to be a violation of the condition. In a country that allows serious criminals to sell their stories to writers and film producers, this is clearly a masked attempt to silence free speech. Hundert’s original arrest took place on the morning of June 26, before the protests began. His partner was also arrested, and they are not allowed to communicate as part of their bail conditions. A class action lawsuit for $115 million has been launched on behalf of activists who were arrested and detained and business owners who had their property vandalized during the G20 Summit in Toronto.
NAOMI KLEIN SPEAKS OUT FOR WAR RESISTERS by ADRIEN RIEL NAOMI KLEIN continued her steadfast support for Iraq War resisters in Canada on September 8 at a fundraiser screening of Howard Zinn: You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train at the Bloor Cinema. US Navy Veteran and Iraq War resister Chuck Wiley hosted the night. The film, by Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller with narration by Matt Damon, was a walk
through Dr. Zinn’s life and what Ms. Klein called “seventy-eight minutes in the company of Howard”. She recalled the story of her parents’ move to Canada during the Vietnam War and expressed solidarity and admiration for this generation of war resisters. The proceeds of the fundraiser went to the War Resister’s Support Campaign legal defence fund, which assists in covering court costs.
VIGILS PROTEST HOMOPHOBIC BULLYING ON OCTOBER 6 over 1,000 people gathered in Toronto’s gay village, prompted by the recent spate of suicides by young gays and lesbians. The crowd came to mourn the loss of young lives and protest the violence and bullying that so often lead to such desperate choices. Days earlier, two young women in Orangeville, Ontario, took their own lives. In that case local
police ignored the families’ concerns; it was a search party of family members that found the bodies. In the US, recent suicides by young victims of homophobic violence have received increasing attention. A counter campaign, organized by syndicated columnist Dan Savage, features videos by well-known figures denouncing bullying and giving encouragement to young gays that “it gets better” as they mature.
and Canadian Tire. Union members are demanding a three year contract, better wages and the 13 per cent wage increase that remains outstanding from the expired contract with their employer. Fortunately, armoured car companies in both provinces have indicated they will honor picket lines. Solidarity, however, will be key if they are to win their demands.
Cleaners fight against poverty wages CLEANERS AND custodians at Hamilton’s McMaster University, represented by SEIU Local 2, are standing up against demands that they accept wage cuts.
The SEIU members are the lowest paid workers on campus. Many of them are new Canadians, women and single parents. They are in negotiations with the university administration for a new contract. McMaster is trying to take advantage of the economic crisis to drive wages and living standards down. Besides wage cuts, they want workers to pay a bigger share of benefit costs. They hope that recent bad news that has rocked Hamilton, like the closing of US Steel (formerly Stelco) will intimidate workers and erode solidarity from the community, traditionally a solid union town. Wayne Lewchuck, a McMaster professor who has studied poverty and living standards in Canada, wrote in support of the workers: “If this group of employees is forced to accept wage reductions, many will be pushed into poverty as defined by Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut-Off wage…. But this is only part of the cost of these wage reductions. There is now strong evidence to show that families living in poverty are more likely to suffer health problems and that children living in poverty households are less successful in the long-term.” The workers cannot and will not accept the cuts. There is increasing likelihood that McMaster’s cynical cash grab will force a strike on campus. If that happens, solidarity support from students and Hamiltonians will be essential to stop scabbing.
STICKING WITH THE UNION
Tribute to activist Peter Leibovitch
THE WORKERS’ movement lost one of its most ardent activists when Peter Leibovitch died recently of leukemia. He was a selfless fighter for trade union rights and a devoted father to his five sons and stepdaughter. Those of us who worked side-by-side with him in the United Steelworkers are absolutely devastated by his death. He was a militant in the best sense of the word. Peter served three terms as president of the USW Local at US Steel, Lake Erie Works, formerly Stelco. He fought not only for workers on the shop floor but ran on a rank-and-file program for director of District 6, covering Ontario and the Atlantic provinces. His goal was to bring an activist perspective to the leadership of the union. He pulled together militants from across the district to fight alongside him. He lost the battle but in many ways won the war, because many of those energized by that election fight went on to lead ongoing struggles in their own locals.
He was also well known for being actively involved in broader issues such as the rights of the Palestinians and the campaigns against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was a member of the Steering Committee of the Canadian Peace Alliance. When former British Member of Parliament George Galloway recently addressed a crowded venue in Toronto celebrating his triumphant return to the country after being banned from entry by the Harper Conservatives,
he opened his remarks by praising the work of “the late, great Peter Leibovitch”. Peter radicalized in the 1960s and was a member of McGill Français in Montreal. He moved to Toronto and became an activist in the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. After being fired for his role in leading a walkout, he took a job at Stelco in Hamilton. Again after being laid off, he was hired at Stelco, Lake Erie Works. He was a millwright by trade, but his passion was always politics. Peter also ran a number of NDP campaigns for federal, provincial and municipal elections in both Hamilton and Toronto. His most recent initiative was organizing precarious workers, both live-in caregivers and drivers in the cab industry. I Taxi was headquartered at the Steelworker Toronto Area Council at 25 Cecil Street. The parking lot was filled with cabs at every hour of the day and night, which spoke to the success of the campaign. There were over 800 people at his memorial and people spoke movingly and lovingly of his tremendous contributions to the workers movement and the ongoing fight for a better world. A colleague from I Taxi was overcome by emotion and broke into tears during his remarks. His grief was felt be everyone in the room. Peter will be sorely missed. He was a working class hero and leaves a tremendous legacy of working class struggle. I am sure that his message to us would be, “Carry it on, carry it on, carry it on.”
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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October 2010 Socialist Worker 11
EUROPEAN WORKERS BUILD FIGHT AGAINST AUSTERITY by JUSÚS CASTILLO STRIKES TOOK place across Europe on September 29.
In Portugal, unions said 50,000 protested in Lisbon and 20,000 in Porto, as the government announced a new austerity package—including cuts in public sector wages and a hike in sales taxes to 23 per cent. In Greece, telecom workers struck for 24 hours and rail workers struck for five hours. Bus and underground workers and hospital workers joined the strike in Athens. While an indefinite strike by truck drivers is continuing after two weeks, leading to supermarket shortages. In Poland, thousands marched in Warsaw against plans by the government to freeze wages and raise taxes. An indefinite public sector strike continued in Slovenia in opposition to government plans for a two-year pay freeze. Around 100,000 workers from across Europe marched through Brussels in Belgium as part of the European Trade Union Council’s day of action against austerity. In Birmingham on October 3, the Conservative party conference saw 7,000 trade unionists, students and other campaigners protesting outside in torrential rain, calling out the Tories for their vicious program of cuts. The resistance to austerity is building throughout Europe as workers, students and affected communities are starting to connect and fight back.
The general strike brought Spain to a standstill. Its scale and militancy took the government, the bosses, and even many on the left, by surprise. According to the unions,
Workers march through the streets of Madrid, Spain
over 70 per cent of workers struck—in large workplaces the figure rose to 85 per cent. Electricity use fell to Sunday levels and road traffic was down by half on a normal working day. Thousands of workers joined picket lines that spread out across every city, and convinced many other workers not to work. In Barcelona, strikers converged outside a large bank in the city centre. It was occupied by protesters and draped with enormous banners denouncing capitalism. The police attacked many pickets, leading to riots. In the city of Getafe, near Madrid, they even fired warning shots using live ammunition. Despite the provocations, in the afternoon workers poured
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onto the streets. Around one and a half million workers demonstrated, with many chanting, “Let the capitalists pay for the crisis.” Even smaller cities, such as Oviedo and Zaragoza, saw demonstrations of around 100,000. For years the major unions have taken a conciliatory approach to José Luis Zapatero’s Labour-type government, and the level of struggle in Spain has been low. But, despite Zapatero’s claims that he “would never make workers pay for the crisis”, since May his government has made a sharp turn to austerity. It allied itself with the inter national investors demanding lower wages and huge public spending cuts to make the
economy more “competitive”. Many thought the strike would not be effective because the unions were so discredited after years of “social partnership”. But in the run-up to the action the two main union federations sprang into action. Some 16,000 shop stewards from across the country met in Madrid, and soon the major cities were covered with strike posters and leaflets. Activists from the radical left set up strike assemblies in neighbourhoods in Barcelona and Seville to help build the action. The success of the strike is putting the government under huge pressure and boosting workers’ confidence. Strikes may now break out at many different companies.
Workers march against the Tory convention in Birmingham
Aware of this, the government is doing what it can to avert a second general strike. It is likely to retreat from some
of its neoliberal attacks— a sure sign of the power that workers have when they unite. © Socialist Worker (UK)
Solidarity action stops scabs at ECP in Brantford by CHARLOTTE IRELAND A MAGNIFICENT show of solidarity for 84 steelworkers, who have been on strike for over two years, was felt by ECP who announced they will return to the bargaining table. The workers, members of the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1-500, made a call for solidarity to help them walk the picketline and stop scabs from entering the factory. The call was echoed by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), the Brantford and District Labour Council and several other unions. From September 15 to 17, trade unionists, supporters and community members came in bus and car loads from around southern Ontario. Members of USW, CAW, CUPE,
OPSEU, OSSTF, PSAC and more joined the earlymorning action. In response, ECP removed scabs from the factory at 2am the night before the first solidarity picket and did not attempt to bring them in for the morning shift at 5:45am when over 50 picketers were readily waiting. Throughout the first two days the factory sat idle, costing ECP thousands of dollars each hour machines were down. At 9pm on the evening of the second day, just as USW members were arriving from Toronto, a scab bus attempted to cross the line while it was guarded by only three CUPE members. A call was quickly placed to the incoming steelworkers who rushed over to help stop the bus from entering.
Blocking the bus, picketers chanted, “No more scabs! No more scabs!”, draped union flags across the bus windows. After about 40 minutes, the bus was successfully turned back. The next day, over 200 people marched from the factory to the Superior Court to support ECP workers facing charges for previous, minor picketline incidents. While the company demanded jail time, the judge temporarily banned a few workers from the picketline. Unfortunately, the judge also limited the number of picketers to only seven at any given time.
Fighting concessions In his picketline rally speech OFL President Sid Ryan targeted Liberal
Premier Dalton McGuinty, demanding the implementation of anti-scab legislation, which was repealed by Mike Harris’ Conservative government. Importantly, Ryan also upped the ante by calling for more picketline visits to the other four strikes in the province where scab labour is being used. When companies resort to scab labour during strikes, and threaten injunctions and lawsuits against individual strikers, applying pressure to return to negotiations is made much more difficult for workers. Fightbacks under these circumstances require a united labour movement that is ready to escalate action in the fight against concessions, as the successful ECP solidarity rally accomplished.