Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saskatchewan CCF Election Program, 1960

Saskatchewan CCF

Most notable in the 1960 election was the promise to introduce province-wide medicare. When the CCF won the election and proceeded to fullfill their promise, the doctors commenced their infamous strike in 1962.

Who will reshape the Arab world: its people, or the US?

Phase one of the Arab spring is over. Phase two – the attempt to crush or contain genuine popular movements – has begun

Tariq Ali
Friday 29 April 2011 2

Tariq Ali
The patchwork political landscape of the Arab world – the client monarchies, degenerated nationalist dictatorships and the imperial petrol stations known as the Gulf states – was the outcome of an intensive experience of Anglo-French colonialism. This was followed after the second world war by a complex process of imperial transition to the United States. The result was a radical anticolonial Arab nationalism and Zionist expansionism within the wider framework of the cold war.

When the cold war ended Washington took charge of the region, initially through local potentates then through military bases and direct occupation. Democracy never entered the frame, enabling the Israelis to boast that they alone were an oasis of light in the heart of Arab darkness. How has all this been affected by the Arab intifada that began four months ago?

Together we can bring change to Ottawa, says Layton

April 30, 2011

VANCOUVER – Together we can bring change to Ottawa, New Democrat Leader Jack Layton told supporters today at a Lower Mainland rally.

“For too long now, your family’s priorities have been pushed to the end of the line. And those you have elected have taken you for granted,” said Layton.

“British Columbians know better than anyone. Stephen Harper promised to make life more affordable, then hit you with the HST in the middle of a recession.”

“And now he’s threatening to take $1.6 billion out of B.C.’s health care and education if you vote against the HST. It’s wrong. New Democrats will ensure that B.C. keeps that money, regardless of how you vote on the HST.”

“On Monday, we have a chance to come together as a country and change what’s wrong with Ottawa.”

Layton said that starting first thing after the election Canadians can count on him to get down to work.

“I know we can’t fix every problem. But we can take practical steps in the right direction: to hire more doctors and nurses, to boost small business, to make life more affordable, and to improve retirement security.”

“It starts with you. You know where I stand. You know I will fight for you. Together, we can do this.”

History reloaded and remixed

A Review of The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

Art Threat
April 30, 2011

The mixed tape is a cultural phenomenon that, thankfully, refuses to die. From the time of the earliest printed booklets through to the ubiquitous mixing of audio cassette tapes in the 80s to the sampling and remixing of the 90s and 2000s, people have taken existing media and sculpted into their own assemblages. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (Directed by Göran Olsson), which is screening at this year’s Hot Docs in Toronto continues that tradition and does so with a passion and perfection in form and spirit that awakens, inspires and provokes.

The feature length documentary is entirely comprised of 16mm footage filmed by Swedish journalists between 1967 and 1975, covering the “race wars” and black power activism in the USA at that time. Beautifully shot and composed, the source material is a rich treasure trove of intimate interviews, streeters, and verité looking at racism in America from the perspective of those in Black communities fighting against oppression with guns and words.

Priceless footage of Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis delivering powerful monologues about racism had the audience cheering – as if we were catapulted back in time and were right there with them. Of course access to a mountain of amazing source material never guarantees outstanding results, but much like A Film Unfinished, the contemporary filmmakers have stitched together footage that is as compelling and fascinating as any film using modern-day footage.

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is a masterpiece of archival cinema and resurrects one of the most important historical moments in the trajectory of American politics and race. Never-seen footage of radical leaders like Carmichael and Davis (and many more) helps paint an intimate picture that goes deeper than the much-seen footage of riots and public speeches. With expert editing and a fabulous soundtrack, the film thumps along with a vitality that matches the exciting politics of those tumultuous years.

One of the best decisions the Swedish filmmaking team made was to eschew the standard doc talking head, and instead the film is layered with voice over from contemporary Black artists, academics and activists whose voices are heard over archival footage but whose faces we never see. This visual-audio conversation between the historic giants of social change and contemporary fighters is cinematic magic and should be seen in every classroom in America.

The fight for equality and against race oppression is far from over in the USA and The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 resurrects incredible historic moments and personalities from the Swedish archives to connect the passion of the past with the present in a way no other documentary has accomplished before.

This is one mixtape that needs to be shared – don’t miss your chance to experience it.

Ralph Nader on Canada-US “Deep Integration”

By Ralph Nader
April 30th, 2011

Ralph Nader
April 27, 2011
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister:

The on-going negotiations, under excessive secrecy, regarding “deep integration” between the U.S. and Canada — countries of vastly unequal bargaining power — have received too little attention during this election period. The serious issues and consequences of any forthcoming agreement to Canadians deserve immediate public discussion among the candidates prior to the May 2 election.

Inasmuch as you are both the protagonist and the chief negotiator with the Obama administration, it is your responsibility to inform the Canadian citizenry about the general frameworks, directions and any subordinations of sovereignty that are on the table. Additionally, you can certainly disclose what is off the table and the general timetable for concluding the deliberations and announcing the proposed agreement.

Voters in a democratic society are rightfully irritated to find that a subject of such gravity excluded from public debate before Election Day. Canadians do not want a fiat accompli shorn of any public knowledge and participation. Such a process reveals a deep concentration of power in the executive that tears away the pretense of the deliberative parliamentary democracy that Canada holds out to the world.

The designs of “deep integration” are reflected in your interest in purchasing F-35 fighter jets (already estimated at $29 billion by a Parliamentary office) that has no Canadian defence rationale but serves to help bail out the Pentagon’s procurement mess with Lockheed-Martin’s delayed, troubled and way over budget aircraft.

The early tangle of “deep integration” within the framework of a proposed North American Security Perimeter Agreement will wrap many Canadian concerns — your Arctic, water, energy, anti-monopoly and foreign investment reviews — in a bi-national security blanket to the disadvantage of both the Canadian and American people. The corporatist lobbies and what President Eisenhower warned Americans about in his farewell address 50 years ago — “the military-industrial complex” — will favour this lucrative and anti-democratic initiative.

Such a Perimeter Agreement would place Canada under further pressure to forego its leading peacekeeping role — now at its lowest ebb — in favour of joining what is becoming open-ended, unconstitutional and unlawful military adventures by the U.S. government overseas. Involvement in the Afghanistan war could be only the beginning of this dismaying Canadian turnaround.

As an economist, you must know what the post-war Canadian Consensus has meant to the well-being of all Canadians –such that your country has often led the world in overall standards of living. You know that this understanding in the past received support from Liberals, Conservatives and the New Democrats. “Deep integration” will further the contrary corporatist uber alles philosophy that marks what has become known as the Washington Consensus.In a contest under deep integration, you don’t have to wonder which will prevail, especially given your own strong predilections in favour of an ideology of corporate globalization, militarism, privatization and de-regulation so identified with the Washington Consensus.

Since you are known to be proud of your views and what Harper’s Canada would look like, how can you not share forthrightly the scenarios you are conjoining between Ottawa and Washington so that the Canadian voters can register their response? Our corporate-hi-jacked government in Washington is not known for its sensitivity to the notion of Canadian independence. But having co-authored the book Canada Firsts in 1993, I learned that many Canadians treasure their sovereignty and associate it with making possible many advances long in your land that are still not prevalent in our country. Canada’s prudent bank regulation prevented a Wall Street style collapse of your economy.

Please recognize your peoples’ right to know now about what is going on in these deliberations over “deep integration.”

Sincerely yours,

Ralph Nader
Washington, DC

Ralph Nader is a leading consumer advocate, the author of The Seventeen Traditions, among many other books, and a four-time candidate for US President.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Guru and the Godfather: Henry Sigerist, Hugh MacLean, and the Politics of Health Care Reform in 1940s Canada

Hannah Professor of the History of Medicine, Queen's University,
CBMHIBCHM I Volume 9: 1992

Dr. Hugh MacLean
In September 1944, Henry E. Sigerist (1891-1957), historian of medicine from Johns Hopkins University, conducted a survey of health services in Saskatchewan for Premier T. C. Douglas and his newly elected CCF government. His brief report became the basis for legislation that enacted Canada's first free hospitalization plan. The recommendations seem to have been prompted by Dr. Hugh MacLean (1871-1958), a relatively unknown surgeon who practised in Saskatchewan for over 30 years. MacLean had observed how the economic Depression resulted in inadequate medical care and he became an ardent supporter of "socialized medicine."

Based on interviews with those who witnessed the events and on the personal papers of Sigerist and MacLean, this article explores the contributions of these two physicians to the Canadian health care system.

Read article HERE (pdf).

Henry E. Sigerist:: Architect for Saskatchewan Medicare

Medicare: A People's Issue

Sigerist on Cover of Time, 1939
Henry E. Sigerist was in Saskatchewan for less than a month but his recommendations would act as a blueprint for health care in Saskatchewan for the next fifty years.

Soon after coming to power Premier T.C. Douglas contacted the Johns Hopkins professor who had written extensively and glowingly about Soviet medicine.

Dr. Sigerist was born in Paris, received his M.D. from the University of Zurich in 1917 and, after a period of medical service in the Swiss army, devoted himself to the study of the history of medicine while teaching at the Universities of Zurich and Leipzig. In 1931 he came to Johns Hopkins as a visiting lecturer in history of medicine and the following year succeeded William H. Welch as director of the Institute of the History of Medicine. In 1933, Sigerist founded the Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine, which later became the Bulletin of the History of Medicine.

In Saskatchewan, the 1944 Sigerist Report gave sudden impetus to building new hospitals and to the forming new Union Hospital Districts. Forty-four new districts were created in three years. A major figure in the socialized medicine movement, Sigerist was also a pioneer in the study of the social history of medicine. In 1947 he returned to Switzerland to work on a comprehensive multi-volume history of medicine. He died in 1957.

The following article is from Time Magazine, Monday, Jan. 30, 1939

Medicine: History in a Tea Wagon

One fresh spring afternoon twelve years ago, a stout, bald American and a compact, bright-eyed young Swiss lingered over lunch in Leipzig's famed Auerbach's Keller. "This is the place," said Dr. William Henry Welch, dean of U. S. pathologists, shifting his big cigar to the other side of his mouth, "where my career started.'' He told how he had met great Dr. John Shaw Billings in Auerbach's Keller half a century before, how he and Billings had worked to establish at Johns Hopkins the first modern medical school in the U. S. Then he launched into a glowing description of Johns Hopkins' new Institute of the History of Medicine and the library that was to bear his name.

Haymarket Martyrs -- Origins of International Workers Day

PBS: In Three Parts

May Day Video

May Day Poster Art 2011

Supreme Court upholds rights of working people to organize and to bargain

April 29, 2011

The Supreme Court of Canada today, delivered a long-awaited decision reinforcing the constitutional rights of working people.

Consistent with a 2007 decision that identified similar rights, the decision confirms that working people have the rights both to organize into unions and to negotiate with employers collectively

“This decision is of great significance to working people in Saskatchewan, and to all citizens” said Larry Kowalchuk, general counsel for the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union. “The Supreme Court remains firm in its previous warnings to governments that ‘Charter rights must be interpreted in light of Canadian values and Canada’s international and human rights commitments.’”

In a decision released in March of 2010, a decision consistent with the findings of the Supreme Court, the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) directed the Saskatchewan Government to fix its Bill 5, The Public Service Essential Services Act, and Bill 6, Amendments to the Trade Union Act. The ILO found that both pieces of legislation violate international law and the human rights of working people in Saskatchewan.

“There can be no doubt, especially in light of today’s decision, that the two laws are unconstitutional,” said Bob Bymoen, President of SGEU. “We call on the Wall government to immediately repeal Bills 5 and 6 and to sit down with us to discuss any proposed changes to labour legislation in our province.”

“We are looking to have meaningful discussions with the government, in good faith, about the changes to unconstitutional laws that currently exist in our province,” said SFL President Larry Hubich. “It is extremely important that this government respect the rule of law, abide by the findings of the ILO, and come to the table.”

Click here for the News Release
Click here for the Court Decision summary

Ottawa Should Enforce the Canada Health Act

By Amir Attaran
Ottawa Citizen
April 20, 2011

It is a mystery. In poll after poll, Canadians finger health care as a vital election issue, but weeks onto the hustings, party leaders seldom discuss it.

That is lamentable: Canada's health-care system is at a crossroads greatly more complex than the campaign's glib talking points (heard enough about waiting lists yet?). The crossroads are medical and legal.

To be sure, Canada's health system is troubled. Yet the reason is not because of rising health-care spending, as some claim. True, spending grows faster than GDP, but that is because Canadians choose to live longer or stronger, so they buy more health care, and create more highly skilled health-care jobs -hardly an unwise, unjust or unsustainable deal. Better medical technology means there is more health care to buy. Some economists fret that new and better medical technology will drive spending increases and crowd out other purchases, but that is irrational: nobody complains when new and better information technology creates more laptops, iPads or BlackBerrys, which also influence buying patterns. Economic over-ambition, simply put, is not the health system's most serious problem.

Why we should care about CUPW bargaining

By James Clancey
April 29, 2011

The real question now is whether or not Canada Post is up to the job to be the innovator the country needs. There is a massive opportunity for CEO Deepak Chopra to make a transformative shift in our postal system. Now is the perfect time for Canada Post to open itself to the future, to invest and expand.

Back in the day, post offices were the heart of communities. People would go there to receive mail from afar, settle bills and accounts and, most likely, catch up on the on-goings in the neighbourhood.

Our postal service has been a central part of our country since it was first introduced by the federal government in 1867. It has been a shining example of a valuable public service - one that is often overlooked and, certainly, underappreciated.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Labour at the forefront of CPP struggle.

This Month In Labour History
Project 2012, AFL
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Canada's Pension Plan

Canada's first national pension scheme came into effect in 1927 thanks to Labour M.P.'s J.S. Woodsworth and Abraham Heaps who agreed to support Mackenzie King's minority government in exchange for the government passing the Old Age Pension Act. Under the new plan, both benefits and eligibility were quite limited so unions and like-minded groups fought for a universal, employment-based pension plan. The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) came into force in January 1966 resulting in a significant reduction in the poverty rate among seniors. Since then, improvements have been made, the most recent being the extension of benefits to same-sex and common law relationships.

Since it was created in 1966, unions have acted as watchdogs, defending it against attacks from those who do not agree with the concept of a universal publicly-funded program. Despite the rhetoric from a minority that oppose it, the CPP enjoys high levels of support from the vast majority of Canadians. Public sector unions such as CUPE have done studies showing Canadians continued to support CPP. Their 2010 Environics study showed that over 70 per cent of Canadians prefer a defined benefit plan, which guarantees a fixed amount of benefit when you retire, to a defined contribution plan, where the benefits paid out depend on the performance of the investments in the fund. In addition, over 80 per cent supported increasing benefit payments to seniors.

Biggest Free Trade Deal Since NAFTA, Ghost Issue of 2011 Election

Canada is on verge of pact with Europe affecting farmers, local industries. It's invisible on campaign trail.
28 April 2011

Most Canadians don't know it, but our country is currently negotiating the biggest free trade contract since the North American Free Trade Agreement, a deal that could significantly increase drug prices, privatize our water, and outsource jobs easily done by Canadians to foreign multinational corporations. And none of the parties are talking about it.

The Conservative government has been involved in private negotiations with the European Union over the Canada-European Union Enhanced Trade Agreement (CETA) since 2009, with the most recent round of talks taking place earlier this month -- during the campaign.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Canadian Worker Poet:: The Life and Writings of Joe Wallace

By James Doyle
Canadian Poetry Press

Joe Wallace's poetry, declared Milton Acorn in 1977, was "usually bad, but sometimes totally inspired". The author of five volumes of verse, Wallace was for almost all his adult life a member of the Communist Party of Canada. He was also a reporter and columnist for several periodicals, including the three major Canadian Communist newspapers, the Worker (which was published from 1922 to 1936), the Daily Clarion (1936-39), and the Canadian Tribune (1940-75). Besides being an active Communist, Wallace remained all his life a practising member of the Roman Catholic Church, and the interaction between his religious and political loyalties is evident in much of his writing.

Soviet poet Andrei Voznesensky and Canadian poet Joe Wallace during Voznesensky's visit to Canada, 1971
Although Wallace was little known in Canada except among members of the Communist Party, he was probably the most famous Canadian poet in Eastern Europe and China from the 1950s until well after his death in 1975. This lack of honour in his own country is partly attributable to the same political bias that prompted many people in Canada to ignore Norman Bethune until his fame in China forced him on his country's attention. But unlike Bethune's medical achievements, Wallace's poetry is open to severe criticism. It lacks the innovative techniques and ideological subtleties of the work of his great European and South American political confreres such as Bertolt Brecht, Frederico Garcia Lorca, Hugh MacDiarmid and Pablo Neruda.

Indifferent to most of the modernist poetic developments of the twentieth century, he derived his notions of literary form and language from nineteenth-century British, American, and English-Canadian traditions. His favourite foreign poets were Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Robert Burns. For Canadian poetry, he preferred the work of Victorians like Archibald Lampman, Alexander McLachlan, and Peter McArthur, and their twentieth-century imitators such as Wilson MacDonald. He remained cool even to the work of modernists of leftist political sympathies, such as Irving Layton, F.R. Scott, and Dorothy Livesay. Yet in spite of the frequently derivative quality of his writing, he deserves attention because of his international reputation, because of his contribution to a tradition that is frequently ignored in the history of Canadian literature and because, as Acorn pointed out, his poetry could on occasion be "totally inspired."

Read more HERE.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Taking Inequality Seriously

A Lost Interview with Brian Barry

New Left Project
April 26, 2011

This interview is with the late political theorist, Brian Barry (1936-2009), and was conducted in 2006. The interview was initially carried out for the now defunct radical left website UK Watch, which in some ways was a predecessor of NLP. The interview focused on Barry’s last book, Why Social Justice Matters, a sustained critique of inequality in Britain and the US and the illusions which justify it. I lost the audio but recently found a transcript of most of our discussion, though it’s missing about 20 minutes of conversation. It reminded me that Barry had some very important things to say which, however cliched it may be to say, are certainly no less relevant today than they were when we met.

What is social justice?  What is its status relative to other values, such as liberty?

As far as I am concerned social justice is an organisation of the basic institutions of society that satisfy certain criteria and these are primarily that the allocation of opportunities, rights and resources should be equal unless there is some reason for them not be.  And that applies both within countries and internationally.  

Capitalism and Class Struggle

By James Petras
Dissident Voice
April 26th, 2011

Image from the Regina Workers Mural  
The class struggle continues to play a central role in the process of capitalist accumulation, albeit it takes different forms depending on the socio-economic context. In order to map out the unfolding of the class struggle, it is necessary to specify key concepts related to the (a) varied conditions and dominant sectors of capital in the global economy, (b) nature of the class struggle, (c) the principle protagonists of class struggles, (d) character of the demands, and (e) mass struggles.

Capitalist accumulation is unfolding in a very uneven pattern with important consequences for the nature and intensity of the class struggle. Moreover, the particular responses by workers and especially the capitalist state to the general condition of the economy has shaped the degree to which class struggle intensifies and which of the two major “poles’ (capital or labor) has taken the offensive.

Read more HERE.

Celebrate May Day this Sunday!

NYC May Day links:
May Day: A History of Political Protest
What you need to know about May Day
May Day by Walter Crane (1889)

International Workers’ Day, May 1, is a day to celebrate workers; who we are, and what we do to build our communities and our world, every day.

This year, we’re taking back May Day with one big celebration of working people. Everyone is invited!

Join us at the Legislative Grounds on May 1 for food, music, a display and trade tent, a kids fun zone with dino’ bouncers and much more.

In Regina, meet at Victoria Park at 1:00 p.m. to parade together to the celebration.

Fun, free busses will travel from communities all over Saskatchewan to bring working people and their families to join in!

• MOOSE JAW: Bus leaves Towne ‘n’ Country Mall at 11:30. Reserve a seat by contacting Kim at or 693-7922 ext. 4221

• PRINCE ALBERT: Bus leaves South Hill Mall at 7:45. Reserve a seat by contacting Garry at or 961-7075

• MELFORT: Bus leaves Melfort Extra Foods at 8:45. Reserve a seat by contacting Garry at or 961-7075

• SASKATOON: Busses leave Circle Centre Mall at 9:30. Reserve a seat by contacting Darla at or 221-5536

• SWIFT CURRENT: Bus leaves Wheatland Mall at 9:30. Reserve a seat by contacting Danielle at or 773-2536 ext. 2

For more information on the Movement for May Day, email, call 525-0197 or contact your union!

May Day Poster pdf HERE.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rural-urban divide: Conservatives cater to the 'me' votes while 'we' votes are scattered

By Don Mitchell
April 25, 2011

When people consider their vote in the current federal election there are two different starting points. One perspective begins with "me," the individual. A second perspective weighs more the consequences of policies on the whole community.

Conservatives pitch to the "me" voters with appeal to self-interest and personal security. The promise of broad tax cuts is a prime example. Tax cuts and tax incentives motivate the "me" voter with direct personal financial gain, especially for the wealthy. Direct cash payments intended to subsidize family child care costs, tax credits for family recreational expenses and tax free savings accounts all provide direct monetary gains or savings to individuals while depleting the pool of social capital available to address broad community needs.

Canada’s Federal Election 2011: Should Radicals Care?

By Alan Sears and James Cairns
New Socialist
Monday, 25 April 2011

Despite severe problems with electoral politics, radicals building movements for real social change need to engage seriously with elections. In this article, we look at the current Canadian election from a Toronto perspective.

The 2011 federal election in Canada is taking place at a crucial moment. A massive wave of austerity is heading this way, after sweeping across Europe, the United States and much of the Global South. You just need to look at the attacks on pensions in France, the tripling of tuition fees in Britain, the devastation of public services in California or the elimination of collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin and a number of other states to see the kinds of attacks that are on the way.

The austerity agenda is basically neoliberalism hyped on speed, though it’s being presented as the necessary and inevitable response to the economic turbulence following the financial meltdown of 2008. The mantra of neoliberalism, which has been the core of the pro-capitalist policy agenda since the mid-1970s, is that the resources of the state must be focused on supporting the market system and corporate profitability, pushing people into the market to meet all their wants and needs.

Read more HERE.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Graham Steele, Paul Martin and the disapproving ghost of Tommy Douglas

By Stephen Kimber 
His blog HERE.
April 11, 2011

Is Nova Scotia Finance Minister Graham Steele former federal finance minister Paul Martin in NDP drag?

Consider. The night before Steele delivered his bad-news budget last week, his boss, Premier Darrell Dexter—as bosses are wont to do; can you say Jean Chrétien?—stole his good-news thunder.

The $222-million deficit Steele had forecast for 2010-11 had magically morphed into a $447-million surplus. The next day, Steele delivered the sobering, morning-after budget projections. In 2011-12, the province will again run up a whopping $389-million deficit.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Allan Blakeney, Pioneer of Canadian Health Care, Dies at 85

New York Times
April 19, 2011

Allan Blakeney, the health minister of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan who helped start North America’s first tax-financed universal health care system in 1962, and was later the province’s premier, died Saturday at his home in Saskatoon. He was 85.

The Saskatchewan government said the cause was liver cancer.

In 1946, the government of Tommy Douglas, then Saskatchewan’s premier, enacted universal insurance coverage for hospitalization. Mr. Douglas’s successor, Woodrow Lloyd expanded the program in 1962 to include the costs of medical care provided by doctors.

"My Perestroika”: Russians cope with capitalism in fascinating documentary

By Ed Rampell
People's World
April 19 2011

Movie Review: My Perestroika
Directed by Robin Hessman
2010, 87 mins, Unrated

In 1949, essays by six ex-Communists about why they quit their pro-Moscow parties appeared in the book The God That Failed. Contributors included American and French men of letters such as Richard Wright and André Gide - but none from the Soviet Union. Now documentarian Robin Hessman, an Academy Award-winning Yank who spent years in Moscow, has directed/produced My Perestroika, an 87-minute film about five Muscovite classmates who grew up together back in the USSR and now live in the Russian Federation ruled by Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin and company.

Few films released in the West have shown how the transition from socialism has affected Russians and other Eastern Europeans. Hessman's doc, released as the world commemorates the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, does not paint a pretty picture of socialism's lost generation; My Perestroika is no my blue heaven.

Solidarity Revisited: Organized Labour and the New Democratic Party

Dennis Pilon, Stephanie Ross, Larry Savage
Canadian Political Science Review
Vol 5, No 1 (2011)

This article seeks to engage Jansen and Young’s recent research on the impact of changing federal campaign finance laws on the relationship between organized labour and the New Democratic Party.

Jansen and Young use models from mainstream comparative politics to argue that unions and the NDP retain links due to a “shared ideological commitment” to social democracy, rather than an expectation of mutual rewards and despite changes in the global economy. We critically assess the evidence, method of comparison, and theoretical assumptions informing their claims and find many aspects unconvincing. Instead, we propose that better explanations of this enduring yet strained relationship can be formulated by drawing insights from Canadian political economy, labour history and working class politics, and comparative social democracy.

Full Text: PDF

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sky-high strike vote puts the pressure on postal negotiations

April 18, 2011

OTTAWA – Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) have voted 94.5% in favour of striking if necessary to obtain a collective agreement that addresses real problems and meets their needs.

“We hope the sky-high strike vote and the record turnout of our members will put pressure on Canada Post to negotiate,” said CUPW National President Denis Lemelin.

“Canada Post has been very focused on its demands, not ours. The corporation wants to pay new employees 30 percent less. It wants to reduce their benefits, weaken their job security and provide an inferior pension. It also wants to attack retiree benefits, sick leave and turn back the clock on many other contract provisions.”

The results of the strike vote show that postal workers will not accept these rollbacks.

According to Lemelin, the post office is about to announce its 16th consecutive year of profits. The corporation also plans to make huge productivity gains through modernization. Postal workers are saying they deserve a share of the benefits.

“A 94.5 % strike vote sends a clear message to Canada Post’’said Lemelin."CUPW members want a collective agreement that recognizes our work is behind the increases in profits and productivity. They want management to share, instead of attacking our wages, rights and working conditions.”

Meanwhile negotiations continue, with the aid of a government-appointed conciliator. If an agreement is not reached, CUPW gains the right to strike on May 24 at midnight.

Allan Blakeney versus Stephen Harper: Nation builder versus nation destroyer

Murray Dobbin's Blog
April 18, 2011

Politicians come and go but some go leaving a genuine legacy and that is the case with former Saskatchewan premier Allan Blakeney who died yesterday at 85. Unlike too many ex-NDP premiers, he didn’t take on the job as ambassador to the US or get suckered into moderating some right-wing prime minister’s image by accepting some other appointment. He mostly withdrew from politics but occasionally engaged when he thought it was important enough.

One of those occasions was in response to Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s outrageous statement that Medicare was designed to deal with catastrophic illness only. Blakeney called a news conference along with other key figures in the creation of Saskatchewan’s Medicare program and put Chretien in his place. Medicare, said Blakeney, was always intended to be comprehensive – anything less was a violation of its basic principles.

Strategies and tactics for saving this election!

By Don Mitchell
April 18, 2011

The probability of another Harper minority is discouraging enough. But the distinct prospect of a Harper majority (generated with less than 40 per cent of the vote) is deeply, deeply depressing. I'm hoping it's not too late to avoid that fate.

It's still possible the electoral process can more actively engage the progressive organizational networks, which we (rabble readers) are all part of. Individuals and groups whose priorities are ignored by the Conservatives can become more engaged and make a difference in the results, locally and nationally.

Adrian Dix wins BC NDP leadership

Motivating the left-wing base the way to beat the BC Liberals, he says.

By Andrew MacLeod
April 19,2011

Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix has won the leadership of the B.C. New Democratic Party.

"It's time to get down to work and defeat the BC Liberals," Dix said in his acceptance speech before being joined onstage by the MLAs in the opposition caucus.

In the third round of voting, Dix received 9,772 votes to Mike Farnworth's 9,095. Dix led from the first ballot to defeat Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth, Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan and pro-marijuana activist Dana Larsen.

The victory is seen as a move to the left for the party.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Promises to Keep

“Tommy Douglas said in 1978 that Allan Blakeney proved social democracy is not just an impossible dream. Blakeney is a principled pragmatist, a decent, extremely capable man, who gave intelligent and honest government."
 – Dennis Gruending, Promises to Keep

A political biography describing how Allan Blakeney defeated the Liberal government of Ross Thatcher in Saskatchewan, and how as premier Blakeney stunned the continent by taking over half the province’s potash industry; how he broke with many in his own party over the issue of uranium development; and how he fought Pierre Trudeau in the constitutional wars of the early 1980s.

Out of print. Limited number of copies available from the author: Email:

Reviewer Comments
“Gruending’s book is more than just Allan Blakeney’s story. It’s also the story of well over a decade of Saskatchewan history. The two are inseparable.” – Saskatoon Star Phoenix

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Blakeney, Allan E. (1925–2011)

By Dennis Gruending
Saskatchewan Encyclopedia

Old time CCF picnic circa 1976
Allan Emrys Blakeney was Premier of Saskatchewan between 1971 and 1982. Born in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia on September 7, 1925, he was a gold medalist in law school at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he studied economics, modern history and philosophy.

Following his return to Canada, Blakeney went to work for the government of T.C. Douglas. He married Molly Schwartz in Halifax just prior to moving to Regina in1950. She was to die suddenly in 1957, and Blakeney was remarried in 1959 to Anne Gorham.

Royal Wedding Blues

Donald Morrison takes a look at alternative approaches to the royal wedding

Red Pepper
April 2011
Also read Surviving the Royal Wedding

Determined to prove that republicans aren’t meekly hiding away for the occasion, Republic, the UK’s largest lobby group for the abolition of the monarchy, is to hold a counter-celebration on royal wedding day in support of people power and democracy.

Not content to fly the republican flag on its own patch, it will also host a gathering of co‑thinkers from all the large European monarchies (Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Sweden), united in a common drive to rid the continent of their feudal arrangements. If this response to the ‘happy day’ seems a little sober, the ‘Love Republic’ event with DJs and live bands shows that republicans can party with the best of them – albeit without the royalist overtones.

Dr. Harper’s New and Improved Medicare

Murray Dobbin's Blog
April 16, 2011

Medicare is turning out to be the sleeper issues in this election as Canadians continue to say that public health care – universal, comprehensive, publicly administered care, transferable across provincial lines – is their most important election issue, even more important than the economy. And is the economy that Harper has based his whole campaign on – after spending over $20 million in public funds framing the argument in his favour.

But if Medicare can become the issue in the last two weeks of the campaign, there is a good chance that Harper’s Teflon will start to erode.

Ruling places essential services legislation on watch

By Trish Elliott
Act Up in Sask
Friday, 15 April 2011

A B.C. Supreme Court ruling sets a precedent for Saskatchewan’s essential services legislation to be declared unconstitutional, according to labour leaders in Regina and Ottawa. Premier Brad Wall must “pay attention” to the ruling, stated Larry Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.

“Yesterday (April 13), the courts once again ruled that the actions of the Campbell government violate Canada's constitution,” said Hubich. “I suggest to you, that Mr. Wall has been following disgraced past B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell's playbook chapter and verse.”

In a landmark decision, the court ruled against legislation that imposed a single collective agreement on teachers and limited the range of items teachers could include in contract negotiations. In the ruling, Madam Justice Griffin declared that Bills 27 and 28 were a substantial interference in bargaining rights and infringed on freedom of association guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jim Harding on the Federal Election


By Jim Harding
No Nukes
April 14, 2011

Ideally our listening skills will increase during this election. Informed consent requires that we don’t just vote from prejudice or simple habit. But it’s hard to learn to listen when we are hit by so many contradictory messages. It is tempting to tune-out.

I am a political non-partisan, without membership in any party. While I support various programs across parties, I am mostly concerned about the slippery slope that Canadian politics is now on. If we don’t get our political act together we won’t be able to tackle the huge challenges of climate change, food security and environmental health. And we simply must!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Passover: A people’s holiday

By Eric A. Gordon
People's World
April 12 2011

The Jewish festival of Passover comes around every spring, but in 2011 it has taken on ever more powerful relevance.

Based on the Biblical story of the flight of the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery, the eight-day holiday has become the best loved and most observed in the Jewish calendar (this year it begins on April 18). Everyone can relate to its appeal, in every generation, to expand the horizons of freedom, even if in reality there is scant historical or archeological proof for the legend. The prominence of the escape from bondage theme in the Jewish mind explains in very large part why historically Jews, far out of proportion to their numbers, have been so active in progressive struggles.

J. Wendell Macleod: Saskatchewan's Red Dean

A revealing biography of one of the architects of medical education in Canada

By Louis Horlick
CA $34.95

Popularly known as Saskatchewan's Red Dean because of his progressive views and strong support of Canada's first medicare plan, J. Wendell Macleod (1905-2001) was a charismatic pioneer in social medicine and medical education. Louis Horlick mines Macleod's diaries, which span seventy-five years, in a vivid biography that also depicts the social and political complexities of health care in Canada in the twentieth century.

Macleod was an ardent believer in the social principles of health care. His early awareness of the economic chasm that separated rich from poor provided the focal point of his career as first dean of medicine at the University of Saskatchewan - he taught that understanding the social, economic, and political world in which people lived was critical to good medical education and practice and made it the core of the curriculum.

J. Wendell Macleod offers a revealing portrait of an early advocate of universal health care who passionately advanced his social agenda in his profession and practice. Macleod was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada in 1980. 

Review quotes
"Making good use of his remarkable diaries, this book presents the life of a brave and admirable man complete with warts." Robert Spasoff, epidemiology and community medicine, University of Ottawa

Louis Horlick is professor emeritus, medicine, University of Saskatchewan, and the author of Medical College to Community Resource: Saskatchewan's Medical School, 1978-1998 and They Built Better Than They Knew: Saskatchewan's Royal University Hospital, A History, 1955-1992. He is an officer of the Order of Canada.

Canadians for Tax Fairness

Canadians for Tax Fairness is a new organization formed to protect and enhance the Canada we love, by pressing for a fairer, more progressive tax system.

We are just beginning to build our website, so come back and check for new information and features. Meanwhile, check out the current content to learn more about our objectives, the petition, resources and more.

Website HERE.
Petition HERE.
Flyer HERE.

Left-wing Populist leads in Peru election

By Adriana Leon and Chris Kraul
Los Angeles Times
April 11, 2011

LIMA, Peru — After surging in the polls in the campaign's final weeks, retired army officer and populist Ollanta Humala appeared to lead Peru's presidential race Sunday, but was likely to face a runoff in June.

Peru's electoral commission, with about 43 per cent of the votes counted Sunday night, and unofficial tallies put Humala ahead of his closest competitors, Keiko Fujimori, a former congresswoman and daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former economy and finance minister. Former President Alejandro Toledo appeared well behind the other candidates. The top two finishers will face each other in a runoff election June 5, unless a candidate is able to win more than 50 per cent of the votes cast Sunday.

Yuri Gagarin - Kosmonaut

The Blog Fodder
April 12, 2011
Fifty years ago today, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.  His flight lasted 108 minutes from launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan until he landed safely somewhere near the Volga River.  Not quite a full orbit but enough to get 187 miles above the earth.  Gagarin was not in control of the space capsule as no one knew what the effect of being in space would be but he did have ability to take over and fly it if ground control lost contact.

Gagarin actually bailed out about 7 km up on the reentry and parachuted safely to earth because the capsule would land so hard no one inside could survive.  The Soviets did not talk about this because according to the "rules" the man had to stick with the ship from takeoff to landing.

He was a hero, no doubt about it, as systems were pretty primitive and there was no guarantee he would come back alive.  In fact he almost didn't as there was a reentry malfunction that nearly caused the capsule to burn up.

Just as there is a Lenin street in every urban centre of any size in the FSU, there is also a Gagarina street.  In Dnipropetrovs'k (the equivalent of Houston to the Soviet space program) we lived a couple blocks from Gagarina street, one of the main thoroughfares.  And here in Zhovti Vody, Gagarina street is the main drag.

Tragically, Yuri Gagarin was killed seven years later, test flying a MIG fighter plane, even as he was preparing for another flight into space. As the Russian Archives Online concluded his story: In July of 1971, the astronauts of the Apollo 15 mission visited the moon and left behind a plaque in memory of the 14 men, Russian and American, that had died leading mankind into space. Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin had made his mark on history.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Youth rises against bloodshed in Mexico, armed with poetry and art

Red Pepper: Maria Felix and Siobhan McGuirk report on the growing protest backlash against the war on drugs in Mexico

The on-going US/Mexican 'War on Drugs' has been well documented, with over 40,000 lives lost in the bloodshed. Now, following the murder of a famous poet’s son, the youth are taking to the streets. They are fighting back against politicians and gangs alike, with music and words, peacefully asserting: "Enough! No More Blood".

On Monday 29 March, seven bodies were found in a car at the side of a highway in Cuernavaca, the capital of Morelos State. They had been tortured and killed by asphyxiation. After four years of “the war on drugs”, people are used to such news, and to hearing soon after that the victims were linked to organized crime - no further investigation needed. 

Myths for Profit:: Canada's Role in Industries of War and Peace

More info HERE.

Canada the global good guy? Lets examine that claim. Essential intro to geopolitics and profits, from NATO to Afghanistan via Kosovo. 'Myths for Profit: Canada's Role In Industries of War and Peace' takes a different approach to peacekeeping, the military and development, raising all sorts of questions along the way. An entertaining, well argued documentary.

MYTH 1) 'Canada is a peacekeeping nation' examines the changes within the Canadian military policies and what has been the agenda of these actions. From the historical beginnings of peacekeeping, to the recent missions, the
documentary takes a critical look to the motives behind these actions. Particular focus is given to the role Canada has taken in NATO, the current perpetual war in Afghanistan, and how Canada played a pivotal role in pushing the policy of ‘humanitarian bombing’ in Yugoslavia in 1999.

MYTH 2) 'Canada’s military purpose is defence' By investigating the magnitude of the Canadian military industrial complex, this section probes the intersecting relationships between various government agencies and corporations as well as public complicity in this vast industry.

 MYTH 3) 'Canada's aid is helping people around the world' investigates how various government agencies and ministries have specific agendas they are implementing around the world. The active role taken on in regional development banks, to the policies pushed by Export Development Canada are designed and carried out to ensure a free market neo-liberal agenda in different countries, regardless of the negative effect they may have on the communities and environment they impact. This includes how Canada’s development agency’s (CIDA) tied and phantom aid function in post and present conflict zones.

Global financial crisis/recovery: What does it mean for Saskatchewan?

By Simon Enoch
CCPA, Saskatchewan Office
April 11, 2011

These remarks were delivered to the Saskatchewan CED and Co-operatives Conference, April 8, 2011, Mount Royal Collegiate, Saskatoon.

This is a somewhat difficult topic to tackle because as far as the global recession is concerned, Saskatchewan has weathered it rather well. If anything, our main problem may be the management of our current prosperity and resource wealth, all of which is certainly tied to the rapidity and the resilience of a global economic recovery.

Given there are so many unknowns on this issue, I will be forced to speculate based on current trends and the likelihood of potential scenarios emerging in the future. So I am certainly not offering predictions here, but rather identifying possible challenges that may arise given the uncertainty of the current global economic situation.