Saturday, December 31, 2011

Social Insurance Benefits Increase Tomorrow!

By Andrew Jackson 
Progressive Economics Forum
December 31st, 2011

Amidst the plethora of media reports on “payroll tax” increases for 2012, there was little mention of increases in benefits.

There are, of course, two sides to social insurance programs.

Starting in January, CPP benefits – indexed to inflation – rise by 2.8% to a new monthly maximum of $986.67. (You can’t say that about far too many defined benefit pension plans, and there is no inflation indexing of other pensions.)

Reflecting the rise in maximum insurable earnings, the maximum weekly EI benefit goes from $468 to $485 per month.

The amount of earnings replaced by both EI and CPP will increase, giving rise to a premium increase in non inflation adjusted dollar terms. But, by the same token, there will be no fall in the real amount of income replaced by EI and CPP benefits during a spell of unemployment or when retiring.

Meanwhile, CPP premiums are unchanged as a percentage of earnings, and the employee EI premium contribution rate is up by an eye watering 5 cents per week per $100 of earnings.

I wonder why the mainstream media highlighted only the cost as opposed to the benefits of these programs?

CWB: farmers should sue for damages

By John W. Warnock
The Leader-Post 
December 31, 2011

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz "Law? What law?"
The Harper government has quickly pushed through legislation abolishing the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) single desk. This was done without a vote from the Prairie farmers who delivered their wheat, durum and barley to the board. A referendum was required in the previous legislation.

During the recent debate over this action, many asked if it would be possible for a future Canadian government to re-establish the CWB single desk. Could it pass legislation that would allow grain farmers to decide the issue? The consensus response seems to have been "yes," but under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) the government would likely have to pay compensation to agribusiness corporations for any loss of income. That could be substantial.

Saskatoon Community Clinic celebrates 50 years of medicare

Click image above to enlarge

Friday, December 30, 2011

The glorious heritage of Saskatchewan women (1952)

Honouring Canadian women through thirty years of glorious struggle

National Affairs
May 1952
From the Socialist History Project

Excerpt from the full article...

Annie Buller addressing a crowd before the Estevan Riot

Here is a chapter that was written in the blood of our people. Who can ever forget the three murdered miners in Estevan? Who can ever forget the women and children of Bienfait-Estevan during the strike, the parade and the trials? During the parade in Estevan the women were in the front lines, fearless and defiant, fighting for the lives of the men. They saw the miners shot, they saw their blood, and they were determined that the battle was not to be in vain. The miners and their wives could not be bought. They did not turn Judas and did not give evidence against the strike-leaders during the trials. It was not because they were not approached and that every effort was not made to corrupt and demoralize them.

A Multimedia Introduction to the Communist Manifesto

Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism

Saskatchewan's Farm Movement (1901–49)

By Stuart A. Thiesson
Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan

 Ox cart of wheat and straw, Saskatchewan, 1905
Agricultural settlement was well advanced before the formal creation of the province of Saskatchewan in 1905. Wheat was king: this reality had not escaped the attention of the open- market trade members of the Winnipeg Grain Exchange, who, in collaboration with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), were unchallenged in actively exploiting export grain buying opportunities. Farmer grievances began to build over complaints of unfair grading practices, excessive dockage, short weights, and unreasonable and monopolistic pricing and shipping practices.

Farmer anger had been building when W.R. Motherwell and Peter Dayman called a general meeting in Indian Head for December 18, 1901. It was unanimously resolved that united action was needed; and after drafting a constitution and by-laws, the Territorial Grain Growers Association (TGGA) was organized. Following a rapid expansion in membership, the first convention of the TGGA was held on February 12, 1902, where Motherwell was elected president and John Miller secretary. The fledgling organization soon had its first court challenge against the CPR agent in Sintaluta, who had refused to honour a “Car Order Book” provision under the Manitoba Grain Act, whereby a farmer might independently obtain a grain car, and load and ship his grain to market. The organization won the case, which was then appealed to the Supreme Court by the CPR; the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision, establishing for all time the farmers’ right to the use of the Car Order Book. The Sintaluta trial represented the first major victory for the organized movement.

Does it matter if our laws are passed illegally?

By Peter H. Russell

Globe and Mail
Dec. 30, 2011

On Dec. 15, the Governor-General gave royal assent to Bill C-18. This means that the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, the legislation that ends the Wheat Board’s monopoly of wheat and barley sales, is now the law of Canada – or is it?

The question arises because on Dec. 7, Federal Court judge Douglas Campbell ruled that the way Bill C-18 was introduced into Parliament violated the Canadian Wheat Board Act. Section 47 of the act requires that the Minister of Agriculture not introduce in Parliament a bill that would end the Wheat Board’s control of all wheat or barley sales without first consulting the board and holding a vote to determine whether farmers favour such a change.

Death of the Dear Leader

New Left Project
December 30, 2011

John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. He spoke to Alex Doherty about the politics of North Korea under the late Kim Jong Il and where the country may go from here.

Outside of North Korea and China Kim Jong Il is largely viewed as at best a laughable buffoon and at worst as a monstrous dictator who presided over one of the most repressive regimes in modern history. How do you think history will judge Kim Jong Il and his regime?

I think that Kim Jong Il will be judged harshly, as harshly as Enver Hoxha in Albania. Both leaders managed to preserve the independence and sovereignty of their countries – but at enormous costs. They both steered paths between the superpowers. They both aspired to create autarkic economies and monolithic cultures. Their policies, however, resulted in surveillance states, poverty, and isolation. Additionally, Kim Jong Il had none of the charisma of his father and all of his ruthlessness. He ushered his country into the nuclear club, which may well have staved off military intervention from outside. But the proliferation policies of the regime – regarding Pakistan, Iran, probably Syria – have not made the world any safer.    

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Just because you're an atheist doesn't make you rational

Once you make it your primary aim to refute the existence of God, you miss what's really fundamental

By Mark Steel
The Independent
29 December 2011

Having followed the latest debate about religion, I'd say the conclusion is obvious that the only thing as disturbing as the religious is the modern atheist. I'd noticed this before, after I was slightly critical of Richard Dawkins and received piles of fuming replies, that made me think that what his followers would like is to scientifically create an eternity in laboratory conditions so that they could burn me there for all of it.

It's not the rationality that's alarming, it's the smugness. Instead of trying to understand religion, if the modern atheist met a peasant in a village in Namibia, he'd shriek: "Of course, GOD didn't create light, it's a mixture of waves and particles you idiot, it's OBVIOUS."

The connection between the religious and the modern atheist was illustrated after the death of Christopher Hitchens, when it was reported that "tributes were led by Tony Blair". I know you can't dictate who leads your tributes, and it's probable that when Blair's press office suggested that he made one to someone who'd passed on, he said: "Oh, which dictator I used to go on holiday with has died NOW?"

The second cold war and South America

By Raúl Zibechi
Latin America in Movement
December 24, 2011

The "war against terror" inaugurated by George W. Bush as a response to the September 11 2001 attack is now giving way to a strategy of "containment" of China, the new strategy laid out by the Pentagon to encircle, and eventually stifle the asiatic power, with the objective of maintaining US global supremacy. The new course of the Empire includes South America.

The change of course appeared in November. "In our plans and proposals for the future, we shall dedicate resources to maintain our strong military presence in the region", said Barack Obama on November 17 to the Australian parliament. In the November edition of Foreign Policy, secretary of State Hillary Clinton filled in some of the gaps. "During the past ten years we have dedicated considerable resources to Irak and Afghanistan. During the next ten years, we have to look carefully at an intelligent use of our time and energy, in a way that we establish the best possible position to maintain our leadership."

The Year in Revolt

After rage, riots and revolution, the top to-do for 2012 is closing the divide. 

By Bob Mackin
December 29, 2011

The year 2011 has been brought to you by the letter R.
As in revolt, rage and riot.

Globally, nationally, regionally and locally, the biggest stories of the year had some element or degree of revolt in the foreground or background.

Millions of people supported or joined movements to express vigorous dissent as they grappled with an unstable present and uncertain future. If they weren't marching on the street, they were expressing frustration via social media. Their rage was not centralized, nor was it all peaceful. There were riots and even deaths.
First on the scene were citizens with smartphones and tablets, employing social media networks to witness the rage and spread the message. The commercial media often played catch-up.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Girl re-booted

Does the world need a second The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo film? Yes, says John Rees.

By John Rees
28 December 2011
Also see How Stieg Larsson trained Marxist guerrillas in Eritrea

You might think the world is already saturated with Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Sales of the original novel stand at over 30 million copies. It’s the first novel to sell over a million Kindle copies alone. When the first Swedish screen adaption, released in cinemas less than 2 years ago, came out as a DVD it became the fastest selling disc in UK history.

And there is another reason for scepticism: the plot of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not exactly new. For those who have been on a long-term mining expedition on one of Saturn’s less accessible moons it involves the disappearance of Harriet Vanger, a young member of an industrialist’s family, on an island in northern Sweden in the summer of 1966. There is only one way off the island over a road bridge and that was blocked by an accident when Harriet disappeared. Was Harriet killed? And if so which member of the Vanger family is responsible? In short this is a country house mystery of the kind made famous by, variously, Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Cluedo. Larsson himself makes the point in the book ‘It's actually a fascinating case. What I believe is known as locked room mystery’.

Bound for Local Glory at Last

New York Times
December 27, 2011
Also see Woody Guthrie: Redder Than Remembered
TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma has always had a troubled relationship with her native son Woody Guthrie. The communist sympathies of America’s balladeer infuriated local detractors. In 1999 a wealthy donor’s objections forced the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City to cancel a planned exhibition on Guthrie organized by the Smithsonian Institution. It wasn’t until 2006, nearly four decades after his death, that the Oklahoma Hall of Fame got around to adding him to its ranks.

But as places from California to the New York island get ready to celebrate the centennial of Guthrie’s birth, in 2012, Oklahoma is finally ready to welcome him home. The George Kaiser Family Foundation in Tulsa plans to announce this week that it is buying the Guthrie archives from his children and building an exhibition and study center to honor his legacy. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Portugal: government on the rampage

By João Camargo
26 December 2011

Following the election of the right-wing coalition government in Portugal the situation has deteriorated faster than anyone predicted. The latest outrage is a government recommendation to Portuguese youth to emigrate.

Reforms that have been announced include the end of Christmas bonuses, which are equivalent to one month's wages. These so-called bonuses have been undoubtedly necessary for a country that has historically provided the lowest wages in the European Union, but have never been provided to precarious workers. The average income for Portuguese workers is €777/month, and the minimum salary €485/month.

Canada shipping bomb-grade uranium to U.S.: memo

Comment by Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research
December 27, 2011
The Canadian Press

Global Research Editor's Note
The article below does not tackle the more substantive issue, which pertains to the use of Canadian nuclear materials to produce "weapons of mass destruction", namely thermonuclear bombs. The article focusses solely on the risks of radiation in the process of shipping the uranium across the US-Canada border.

Nuclear war is on the drawing board of the Pentagon. This material is intended to produce thermonuclear bombs by the so-called US defense industry. and this production is part of a procurement agreement between the weapons industry and the US Department of Defense.

The shipments of nuclear bomb making material are intended for the US weapons industry. These bombs are produced as part of a process of military planning. They are slated to be deployed. Under US nuclear doctrine, tactical nuclear weapons can now be used in the conventional war theater alongside conventional weapons systems.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Portugal: All-Out Privatisation Gets Underway

By Mario Queiroz
December 22, 2011

The most far-reaching programme of privatisation of state enterprises in the history of Portugal kicked off Thursday with the sale of almost all of the state's shares in the Energias de Portugal (EDP) utility to China's Three Gorges Corp.

The Chinese company paid 3.5 billion dollars for a 21 percent stake, beating out Germany's E.ON and Brazil's Eletrobras and Cemeg, and making it the largest shareholder. The state was left with less than four percent of the shares in the power company.

Three Gorges' victory in the bidding for EDP will open Portugal's doors to Chinese financial institutions, making more credit available in Portugal, as the giant Chinese corporation promised Lisbon.

Nepal: The radicals in the Maoists

By Post Bahadur Basnet
December 2011

A political agreement signed on 1 November was finally supposed to allow former Maoist combatants in Nepal to move ahead with their lives. Instead, the response has been mostly anger and accusations of duplicity.

Bhaktaraj Thapa Magar, of the Maoist Third Division cantoned in Shaktikhor, in south-central Nepal, limps as he walks. He lost his left foot in surgery after being seriously injured during an aerial blitz by then-Royal Nepalese Army (now Nepal Army) at a Maoist rally in Thokarpa, east of Kathmandu, in March 2005. Now 29 years old, Thapa Magar is dejected – not because he lost one of his feet during the insurgency, but because he thinks he was cheated by the Maoist leadership, which promised a ‘heavenly’ communist state and instead seems to have left him and thousands others in the lurch. For him, those at the top echelons of the party have built their political careers at the cost of the grassroots cadres, ‘selling out to regressive forces’ and ‘betraying the promise of the revolution’. Says Thapa Magar: ‘Wallowing in the blood of 15,000 people, [the leaders] have finally achieved what they wanted, but left us nowhere.’

Sexual politics in Cuba

An interview with Mariela Castro, director of Cuba’s National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX)

By Bernard Duraud
December 9, 2011
Cross-posted from Cuba's Socialist Renewal

Mariela Castro (centre)
The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and the late Vilma Espin, a key figure in the Cuban Revolution, Mariela Castro Espin, 49, director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), is a tireless campaigner for the rights of gays, lesbians and transsexuals, who have suffered discrimination for a long time. She is the initiator of important changes that concern them.

L’Humanite: For many years now you’ve been struggling for the freedom to express one’s sexual orientation and gender identity in Cuba. What is the current situation regarding these freedoms?

Mariela Castro: This is a good moment. It’s the result of several years of work. Since the creation of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) in the 1960s, the road was opened to gradually doing away with prejudices related to sexuality and gender. This work has allowed us to tackle other forms of everyday discrimination in our culture and society. It’s not easy to change the thinking of society as a whole about homophobia. But each initiative can succeed through educational work that is supported by the media, TV and radio, as part of a complex strategy. We have to reach out to everyone. This implies the existence of the political will to carry out all these changes, which will be embodied in a specific law, explicit, to deal with this problem.

Neoliberal Rampage in Canada

By Dave Broad
December 23, 2011

Like the Grinch who stole Christmas, the Conservative government of Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just left a lump of coal in Canadian workers' stockings. A cover story in the Globe and Mail of December 22, 2011 announces that federal public pension programs are being targeted for cuts to reduce the federal deficit.1

The previous day the Globe and Mail ran a cover story announcing that the federal government will be reducing funding for health care programs and eliminating national standards for health care.2 In essence, this will gut the Canadian Medicare system. Mr. Harper has been pushing a series of recent neoliberal economic and socially conservative policy changes designed to undo the last elements of post-WWII Keynesianism in Canada.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Politics après Jack

By Judy Rebick, Sam Gindin, Jean-Marc Piott, Simon Tremblay-Pepin, Libby Davies and Murray Dobbin 
Canadian Dimension
December 21st 2011

Jack Layton’s legacy
By Murray Dobbin

The outpouring of grief from across the country over the sudden and cruel death of Jack Layton continues to affect politics in this country. The NDP is up in the polls across the country — virtually tied with the Conservatives — and in Ontario where they are enjoying the best results going into an election since Bob Rae won in the 1990s.

But people are still trying to decipher exactly what it all meant and how it will change Canadian politics, if at all, in the longer run. There seems to be a consensus that Layton’s decency, his genuine affection for people, his manner, his humour — in other words his personality — account for as much of the response as the social democracy of his party.

First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia

By David N. Gibbs
Vanderbilt University Press
October 2011

In First Do No Harm, David Gibbs raises basic questions about the humanitarian interventions that have played a key role in U.S. foreign policy for the past twenty years. Using a wide range of sources, including government documents, transcripts of international war crimes trials, and memoirs, Gibbs shows how these interventions often heightened violence and increased human suffering.

The book focuses on the 1991--99 breakup of Yugoslavia, which helped forge the idea that the United States and its allies could stage humanitarian interventions that would end ethnic strife. It is widely believed that NATO bombing campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo played a vital role in stopping Serb-directed aggression, and thus resolving the conflict.

Gibbs challenges this view, offering an extended critique of Samantha Power's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide. He shows that intervention contributed to the initial breakup of Yugoslavia, and then helped spread the violence and destruction. Gibbs also explains how the motives for U.S. intervention were rooted in its struggle for continued hegemony in Europe.

First Do No Harm argues for a new, noninterventionist model for U.S. foreign policy, one that deploys nonmilitary methods for addressing ethnic violence.

 Gibbs offers a powerful new interpretation of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
--Chalmers Johnson, author of
The Blowback Trilogy

Germany's Social Democrats and the European Crisis

By Walden Bello 
December 21, 2011

Germany towers over Europe like a colossus. Its economy is the biggest in the European Union, accounting for 20 percent of the EU’s gross domestic product. While most of Europe’s economies are stagnating, Germany’s will have grown by some 2.9 percent in 2011. It boasts the lowest unemployment rate, 5.5 percent, of Europe’s major economies, compared to those of France (9.5 percent), the United Kingdom (8.3 percent), and Italy (8.1 percent).

In many ways, Germany is like Japan. Both countries were forced to give up armed expansion during the Second World War, only to have the national energy channeled into building formidable economies. But whereas Japan faltered in the 1990s, Germany has steadily plowed ahead, becoming the world’s biggest exporter from 1992 to 2009, replaced in first place by China only in 2010.

Milton Acorn and the Canadian Liberation Movement

By Alan Filewod
Works&Days 39/40
Spring/Fall 2002

If we Canadians, following the programme advocated by many, but most clearly by the Canadian Liberation Movement, seized the foreign-owned industries in our territory -- and if the principal foreign owner, the American Empire, launched military operations against us; What are the odds? Would we win? (Acorn 91) […] A people armed with a modern Marxist-Leninist ideology is invincible in a defensive war. (Acorn 102)

This militant assertion of Canadian revolutionary valor may be fairly typical of the rhetoric  of the New Left in Canada as it decomposed into sectarianism at the close of the 1960s, but it is remarkable because it is the thesis of an essay included in one of the best-selling volumes of poetry in Canadian publishing history. Milton Acorn’s 1972 collection, More Poems for People, sold some 10,000 copies in a country where the (statistically) average poetry volume sells less than 500.

More Poems for People marked the high point of Maoist sentiment in the field of radical culture in Canada, not just because Milton Acorn was one of the most highly regarded Canadian poets, but because his relative celebrity legitimized the Canadian Liberation Movement, which existed primarily in the form of its publishing house, New Canada Press (also known as NC Press).

As a member of the CLM, Acorn was the vindication of its strategy of popularizing the highly romanticized Maoism of a movement that after its collapse in 1976 was described by one critic, in language characteristic of the sectarian wars of the extreme left, as “a national chauvinist, socialfascist, absolutely degenerate organization”.

A consideration of Acorn’s role in the CLM leads to a useful comparison of the performative and textual strategies deployed by contesting groups that vied to mobilize support for Maoist-inflected Marxism-Leninism.

Read more HERE


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Approach of blaming the victim invites trouble

By Doug Cuthand
The StarPheonix 
December 16, 2011

Doug Cuthand
The past few weeks have seen a sea change in relations between the First Nations and Canada's Conservative government.

The government's reaction to the events at the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat has cast a chill across Indian Country. Its tactic of blaming the victim has not been well received. It appears that future humanitarian disasters will receive the same shabby treatment.

Assembly of First Nations leader Shawn Atleo had been trying to make nice with the government, but Attawapiskat has changed that. The chiefs are angry, and Atleo must get in front of the parade if he expects to lead them. His tactic of being a conciliator and partner with the federal government has blown up in his face.

Romanow backs Ontario health care slashing

By Pauline Tam
Ottawa Citizen 
December 20, 2011

SUN left their duty shoes at the Legislature 1999.
Roy Romanow, the former Saskatchewan premier who slashed medicare in an effort to save it, has fighting words for Premier Dalton McGuinty, whose minority government is seeking ways to rein in skyrocketing health-care costs.

No matter how the McGuinty Liberals decide to cut spending and reshape Ontario's health system, they should act decisively, move fast and brace for political heat, said Romanow.

"What you have to do is implement the reforms as quickly as you can and as effectively as you can in order to get the population to understand that it isn't all bad," Romanow said in an interview. "In fact, it's probably the right thing to do."

Monday, December 19, 2011


National Film Board of  Canada

This feature film is a portrait of John Grierson, the first Canadian Government Film Commissioner and founder the National Film Board in 1939. Interweaving archival footage, interviews with people who knew him and footage of Grierson himself, this film is a sensitive and informative portrait of a dynamic man of vision.

Grierson believed strongly that the filmmaker had a social responsibility, and that film could help a society realize democratic ideals. His absolute faith in the value of capturing the drama of everyday life was to influence generations of filmmakers all over the world. In fact, he coined the term "documentary film."

Alfred Hitchcock Presents "Class Struggle"

By Mervyn Nicholson
Monthly Review
December 2011

Class struggle is the last thing most people would associate with Alfred Hitchcock, probably the most famous director of them all. But there is a connection, nevertheless. No one would call Hitchcock a socialist; he emphasized that all he wanted was to entertain people—not instruct them. He was proud of his commercial success (and so were the studios that employed him). He made cynical-sounding remarks about manipulating audiences, and he never bothered with deep-level interpretation of his films.

It is true that his movies of the war period (1939–45) are conspicuously antifascist, Lifeboat most of all, but the common view is that Hitchcock is essentially apolitical. “You generally avoid any politics in your films,” the French director François Truffaut said to him, and Hitchcock’s reply sums up his attitude: “It’s just that the public doesn’t care for films on politics.” He has nothing against it, but it is not what the public wants. It is significant that even Lifeboat was accused by some critics of supporting the Nazis.

Academics typically discuss everything about Hitchcock, except class—class not in a quasi-cultural sense, but in the technical and Marxist sense of class, with related themes of surplus extraction, alienation, immiseration, and revolution, implied in the term. As John Grant puts it, “the notion of ‘class’ is a dirty word in today’s America.” Critics notice the “dark side” of American society, plainly depicted in Hitchcock’s Hollywood movies; they discuss the alienation and cynicism, the satire, even nihilism, in his films.

Read more HERE.

Cosmonaut (Cosmonauta)

Portobello Pictures

"A crowd pleasing coming-of-ager”

“I’m a Communist!” declares Luciana at age 9.

It’s now 1963 and 15 year old Luciana has been obsessed with Russian space missions since she was a little girl, a passion passed on by her older, oddball brother Arturo. She is now a committed member of the local Italian Federation of Young Communists and is nursing a hopeless crush on the handsome leader of the group, also her friend’s boyfriend. Susanna Nicchiarelli’s first feature follows feisty Luciana trying to get the boys in her group to take her ideas seriously as she suffers through the initial blast off and return to Earth of first love.

A teenage girl growing up in the Sixties finds an unusual way to impress a boy and show up her older brother in this bittersweet coming-of-age debut feature from director Susanna Nicchiarelli, which was selected for the "New Trends in Italian Cinema" section at the 2009 Venice Film Festival.

Luciana (Miriana Raschilla) was just a baby when her father died, but stories of his devotion to the Italian Communist party have had a strong impact on her and her older brother Arturo (Pietro del Giudice). They follow the progress of the space program together, urging on the Soviet cosmonauts. When Arturo declares his ambition to someday become a cosmonaut, Luciana starts her own personal space race, announcing that she intends to beat her brother into outer space and become the first woman in orbit. But it's hard to say how much of this is a genuine ambition, and how much is intended to impress Vittorio (Michelangelo Ciminale), the handsome leader of the Young Communists.

Sergio Rubini is terrific as Luciana's stern stepfather and Nicchiarelli, who co-stars as a party woman who inspires Luciana, skilfully evokes the period, contrasting historical events with the trials of adolescence, interspersing fascinating footage of the early Soviet space missions with newly recorded contemporary versions of pop songs from the period.

The Decline of Organized Labour and How its Current Trajectory Can Be Reversed

A case study in the Canadian telecommunications sector

By Sid Shniad
Labour/Le Travail
Spring 2010

There is an apocryphal story that Mahatma Gandhi was once asked what he thought about Western Civilization. He is said to have responded that it would be a good idea. That is pretty much my view of the labour movement today: despite decades of being on the receiving end of ferocious attacks from corporations and governments, organized labour is not functioning like a movement at all. The experience of unions in the communications sector provides a startling illustration of the prevailing situation, showing that even though unions have faced staggering challenges over the last 25 years, they have not made a serious effort to come to grips with the destructive, anti-social forces that are arrayed against them. Instead of responding as a movement, they have chosen to function as individual, isolated organizations and have been picked off one by one as a result.

Due to the particular conditions that prevailed in the telecommunications sector for much of the post-war era, workers who laboured there enjoyed a relatively privileged existence. Employed by highly regulated private and public monopolies, they earned wages that were superior to those of other organized workers and their job security allowed them to retire with decent pensions after a lifetime on the job. But this comfortable relationship began to unravel with the 1984 break-up of the AT&T company in the US, an event that proved to be the opening salvo in a series of massive changes that have rocked the sector ever since.

Read more HERE (pdf).

North Korea: Another Country

America’s leading historian on Korea offers nuanced analysis that demolishes familiar generalizations. In the battle to open closed Western minds, this tart and witty broadside makes an excellent start.

Depicted as an insular and forbidding police state with an “insane” dictator at its helm, North Korea—charter member of Bush’s “Axis of Evil”—is a country the U.S. loves to hate. Now the CIA says it possesses nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as long-range missiles capable of delivering them to America’s West Coast.

But, as Bruce Cumings demonstrates in this provocative, lively read, the story of the U.S.-Korea conflict is more complex than our leaders or our news media would have us believe. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of Korea, and on declassified government reports, Cumings traces that story, from the brutal Korean War to the present crisis. Harboring no illusions regarding the totalitarian Kim Jong Il regime, Cumings nonetheless insists on a more nuanced approach. The result is both a counter-narrative to the official U.S. and North Korean versions and a fascinating portrayal of North Korea, a country that suffers through foreign invasions, natural disasters, and its own internal contradictions, yet somehow continues to survive.

Cumings counters the hype with an instructive history.
—The New York Times

Few books of political commentary are as insightful, outspoken, and even personable, as this one.

America’s leading historian and political analyst of contemporary Korea.
—Chalmers Johnson, author of Blowback
Bruce Cumings is the author of Korea’s Place in the Sun, War and Television, Parallax Visions, and The Origins of the Korean War. He is a professor of history at the University of Chicago, where he lives.

North Korea as a Religious State

By Gary Leupp
October 14-16, 2006

All three countries labeled "the Axis of Evil" by President Bush in 2002 are presently religious states. Iran is of course a Shiite theocracy, while the government of formerly secularist Iraq—to the extent it has a government at all—is dominated by Shiite fundamentalists. North Korea has long practiced its state religion, Kim Il-songism.

According to North Korean scriptures, when the Great Leader Kim Il-song died in 1994, thousands of cranes descended from Heaven to fetch him, and his portrait appeared high in the firmament. Immediately villages and towns throughout the nation began to construct Towers of Eternal Life, the main one rising 93 meters over Kim’s mausoleum in Pyongyang. The Great Leader’s son, the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, took power, declining to assume the title of President. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Votes for Women

Montreal Herald
Nov 26, 1913

Lucio Magri: 1932-2011

By Perry Anderson
New Left Review
Nov./Dec. 2011

Lucio Magri was a unique figure in the European Left— the only significant revolutionary thinker of his time whose thought was inseparable from the course of the mass movements of the decades through which he lived. He was incapable of a theoretical reflection that was not rooted in the real actions, or inactions, of the exploited and oppressed. That was normal in the generation of Gramsci, of the early Lukács and Korsch, who witnessed the Russian Revolution. In the age of the Cold War, when Magri entered politics, it was virtually unknown.

The great Marxist intellectuals of the period—Adorno, Sartre, Lefebvre, Althusser, and so many others—developed their ideas in radical disconnexion from any close contact with popular politics. Italian Communism alone permitted, for a season, a classical circuit between original theory and organized practice, within the framework of a mass party. For a decade, Magri took the political opportunity it offered, before the pci dispensed with his loyalty. Did it ever realize what it lost in doing so? One day in Biella, when he was still a young cadre, after they had spent a night together working on a speech to be given by his superior, Enrico Berlinguer—before he became leader of the party—told him: ‘Magri, you have yet to learn that in politics one needs the courage of banality.’

Such was the self-awareness of officialdom, at its most lucid. Magri had another kind of political courage: the kind that Gramsci displayed, in notebooks that were never banal.

Read more HERE.

The Veiling of Women

By John W. Warnock 
Act Up in Sask.
18 December 2011

The issue of the veiling of women is again on the political agenda in Canada. The mainstream media has generally portrayed this as a conflict between the state and the right of women to assert their freedom of religion under the Charter of Rights. However, there is nothing in the Qur’an (I have read an English version) that even implies that women should be veiled when in public. If this were so, then you would not see so many women in Muslim countries around the world who do not wear any form of the veil.

The veiling of women is a patriarchal cultural practice that was widespread around the world before the beginning of Christianity and Islam. In her study of the origins of patriarchy, U.S. historian Gerda Lerner found that what seems to us today to be extreme misogynist laws and practices date back to the pre-state tribal and agricultural societies of the Near East. They are then codified in state regimes, including the Code of Hammurabi (1752 BCE), the Middle Assyrian kingdoms (15th to 11th BCE) and the Hebrew laws (1200 - 400 BCE).

Killing the Wheat Board, Kyoto and the Rule of Law

By Jim Harding
No Nukes
December 18, 2011

Since it got its long-sought after majority government last May, the Harper government has fast-tracked legislation that reflects its ultra-conservatism. This includes its crime bill which would see more disadvantaged Canadians imprisoned and fewer resources available for community-based crime prevention in an era of a falling crime rate. It includes its new U.S.-Canada border agreement which some observers believe could undermine ordinary Canadians’ privacy. And it includes Bill C-18 which would undermine the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).

The Harper government is using closure and limiting speakers at Committees to push its legislation through. It assumes that a parliamentary majority gives it the right to ram through whatever it wants; to remake Canada in its own image. Luckily the Harper government doesn’t control the courts or the media, though some supporters would like to obliterate the division of powers that provides for an independent judiciary and a free press, which is what fundamentally differentiates dictatorship from democracy. Canada’s democracy will surely be severely tested over the coming years of Harper rule.

Love and Capital

Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution

By Mary Gabriel
Purchase book HERE.

Brilliantly researched and wonderfully written, LOVE AND CAPITAL is a heartbreaking and dramatic saga of the family side of the man whose works would redefine the world after his death.

Drawing upon years of research, acclaimed biographer Mary Gabriel brings to light the story of Karl and Jenny Marx's marriage. We follow them as they roam Europe, on the run from governments amidst an age of revolution and a secret network of would-be revolutionaries, and see Karl not only as an intellectual, but as a protective father and loving husband, a revolutionary, a jokester, a man of tremendous passions, both political and personal.

In LOVE AND CAPITAL, Mary Gabriel has given us a vivid, resplendent, and truly human portrait of the Marxes-their desires, heartbreak and devotion to each other's ideals.

"This is the first seriously researched study of the relationship-the passionate love story-between the philosopher and his wife, Jenny von Westphalen...Gabriel draws heavily upon extensive Marx family correspondence to create a compelling story of love and heartbreak, following the Marx family across Europe through hard times and tragedy. 

She reveals not only the intellectual and revolutionary Karl Marx, but also the husband, father, and very human being...Recommended for serious general and specialist readers interested in understanding Karl Marx more deeply, the development of Marxist doctrine, and humanized 19th-century European history." (Library Journal, Leslie Lewis )

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Growing Pains in the Labor Occupy Alliance

Left Eye on Books
December 17, 2011

Although labor unions and Occupy groups are beginning to work together, differences in their approaches and attitudes are creating tensions. Two months ago, we argued that Occupy movements were likely to trigger the next upsurge of working class strike activity. Since then, it has become easier to see some of the ways this is playing out and some of the challenges that will be faced. It has become common to hear about labor unions participating in marches called by Occupy groups, or Occupy groups turning out to support labor actions, such as the picket line at Sotheby’s auction house called by the Teamsters in support of locked-out art handlers.

Yet two recent developments highlight tensions between Occupy and unions.  On November 17, Occupy and unions co-sponsored a demonstration that would march to the Brooklyn Bridge. Reportedly, in planning meetings, it was agreed that the march would be “lightly marshalled,” that people participating would judge for themselves whether to risk arrest by marching in the road rather than the pedestrian walkway. Organizers close to labor, the Beyond May 12 Coalition, had stated on Facebook that this was likely to be a disruptive protest.  As it happened, protesters stayed on the pedestrian walkway, because the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) produced a wall of marshalls, in effect doubling police lines, and eliminating the option of taking the streets.  

More Science than Fiction

By David Bressan
Whewell's Ghost

Science-fiction stories and movies are not only entertainment for a rainy day but also mirrors of the scientific abilities, ambitions, even anxieties of a society. A short overview about tales and movies shows this evolution.

The decade of 1950 to 1960, five years after the first war with atomic weapons, was populated by radioactive monsters, awoken from a lost world or created by science gone wrong. The terrestrial monster was often accompanied by extraterrestrial threats, it was not new dealing with ancient horrors, but the Alien will become even more popular with the advancement of special effects in movies.

Finally the last years have shown increased interests in the effects of human society on the planet, movies now deal with climate or environmental change.

Being Left in 21st Century Cuba

By Pedro Campos
Havana Times
December 17, 2011

The revolutionary experience of the twentieth century showed, once again, the failure of trying to fit revolution or socialism into a narrow box, beyond the dialectical and classical generalizations of the socialization and democratization of economic and political power.

This process will always have particularities in conformity with the level of the development of the productive forces, national distinctiveness, culture, history and other peculiarities of each country.

In this direction, one can largely agree with the ideas presented by our Brazilian comrade Boaventura de Sousa Santos for a left movement in the 21st Century(1). It is based on the origin of the political concept of leftism that was born from the French Revolution as an expression of the followers of the Republic, as opposed to the monarchy, and its subsequent progression as a movement that would always tends toward “equality, liberty and fraternity” – though, unfortunately, some do just the opposite in its name.

Book Review - Revolutionary Youth and the New Working Class: Lost Writings of SDS

Edited by Carl Davidson,
Changemaker Publications
Pittsburgh PA, 2011

By Jerry Harris
Keep on Keepin' On
December 17, 2011 

cover-front-revyouthCarl Davidson has done a tremendous service to anyone who studies the history of social movements or anyone interested in the 1960s rebellion. This "lost" collection of papers reveals the depth and richness of radical thinking coming out of the student movement as the war raged in Viet-Nam and militant protestors marched through the streets of America.

The most important document is the "Port Authority Statement," by SDS members David Gilbert, Robert Gottlieb and Gerry Tenney. Although at the time not widely circulated, it offers great insight into the thinking and analysis of SDS as it turned to revolutionary theory and debate. This is an impressive document. Detailed in statistical and economic analysis, grounded in revolutionary social theory, and innovative in its thinking and insights. 

Revolution and counter-revolution in the Arab world

By Joe Daher
17 December 2011

To mark one year since the start of popular protests in Tunisia, Joseph Daher, co-author of ‘The People Demand: a short history of the Arab Revolutions’, examines the continuing Arab revolutions and the challenges they face.

It is one year since the revolutionary process in the Middle East and north Africa began. We can now observe a struggle between the counter-revolutionary forces of Western imperialists and their regional clients, led by Saudi Arabia, and the popular movements.

The counter-revolutionary forces are trying to stop the wind of change led by the popular movements, and limit it to superficial issues: "everything must change so that everything can stay the same". Let’s examine how the struggle between these two opposite forces has developed.

The Politics of New Labour: A Gramscian Analysis

By Andrew Pearmain
Lawrence and Wishart
April 2011

This book is an attempt 'to think in a Gramscian way' about the curious political phenomenon of New Labour. It is written partly in retort to those people at the heart of the New Labour project who have cited Gramsci as a source of inspiration for their ideas. Pearmain argues that New Labour makes a far better object than agent of Gramscian analysis.

Part I discusses Gramsci's influence on left thinking in Britain - culminating in the 1980s debates in Marxism Today on Thatcherism and the 'Forward march of Labour halted'. It shows how arguments loosely based on these debates then fed through into the Labour Party, as its leadership - from Kinnock to Blair and Brown - sought a better understanding of Labour's defeats and how to adapt to 'new times'.

Part II is a critique of New Labour, arguing that though elements of the Gramscian analysis of Labourism did play some part in its formation, much was lost in translation. In discussing the making of New Labour, and what it took from both right and left (as well as what it chose to leave out), Pearmain shows how Gramsci's key political concepts offer a compelling explanation of exactly what went wrong with New Labour. 

"Full of excellent research, intellectual promise and visionary concept ... an important analysis not merely of the near futile decade of Blairism but of the failure of the wider Labour movement and indeed the entire British left?"
Geoffrey Goodman, Tribune, May 2011

Andrew Pearmain is a political historian based at the University of East Anglia. He was a member of the Communist Party (1975-85), of the Labour Party (1997-2002), of the Green Party (2003-present) and a Norwich City councillor (1999-2003). He is also a consultant and national expert on social care for people with HIV/AIDS.


Introduction: Gramsci, History and New Labour
Part I Gramsci and his Legacy
1. First Uses of Gramsci
2. Optimism of the Seventies, Pessimism of the Eighties
3. Iron in our souls: the hegemony of Thatcherism
4. The Abuses of Gramsci: 'Post-Marxism', Postmodernism and Cultural Studies
5. The 'Euro-communist' Roots of New Labour: Marxism Today
6. The 'Euro-communist' roots of New Labour: 'New Times'
Part II A Critique of New Labour
7. The Makings of New Labour
8. Neil Kinnock and the Labour Party Policy Review
9. Labour, Modernity and 'Modernisation'
10. What New Labour Took from the Left
11. What New Labour Left Out: the 'Gramscian' Left

End of Nations: Canada, the US and the "Security Perimeter"

December 16, 2011
American President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper have unveiled a new border security agreement that has received scant attention in the American media.
However, far from being a new arrangement, what this accord represents is only the latest in a chain of usurpations of national sovereignty. 

Find out more about the path toward the North American Union on this week's GRTV Backgrounder.


Time Line: Saskatchewan 1961

Unemployed Delegation

By Cathy Fischer
Focus on Socialism

The U.S. invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April. Kennedy sent advisors to Vietnam. The Soviets erected the Berlin wall. In 1961 president Lumumba was assassinated in Zaire. The assassination was thought to have been orchestrated by the CIA and the Belgium government, and in February, 2002, the Belgium government formally apologized for its role. In Canada, in November Tommy Douglas was elected national leader of the newly-formed New Democratic Party, and Woodrow S. Lloyd became premier of Saskatchewan. In the fall the Saskatchewan Medicare Act was passed, to take effect April 1, 1962, and Keep Our Doctors committees were formed in opposition. The Saskatchewan Power Building was under construction in Regina.

Womens Voices are Heard

The year 1961 was a time of recession and high unemployment. An Unemployed Committee was set up in Regina with help from the Regina Labour Council, and which we as communists supported. In February, the Unemployed Committee decided to send a delegation to the Saskatchewan government and to present a brief outlining their plight and asking for assistance. My husband and I were both working, but took the afternoon off to go along with the delegation. We were joined by several other [Communist] Party members, including Betty Beeching, and by Nettie Dabeka, the latter active in the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians. Betty, Nettie and I were the only women on the delegation.

Those taking part in the delegation gathered at the offices of the Labour Council, and we had a preliminary meeting and discussion there, with Ernie Smith, who I believe was the head of the Labour Council at the time, in the chair. (Ernie Smith is on the left of the three men leading the delegation into the Legislative Building, as shown in the picture above) Of course, in the discussion several of the men said married women should stay home and not take jobs away from the men. I knew Ernie had a pretty good head on him, so I was waiting for him to say something about the married women question.

Labour Delegation to Saskatchewan Legislature, 1961

But he didn't, so I figured I'd have to. I got up and said I was working, and was married, but had thought the question of unemployment was serious enough to take the afternoon off to go on the delegation; that as soon as unemployment went up the first line of attack was that married women should stay home; that there should be jobs for everyone who wanted to work; that in a country as rich as Canada there was no reason everyone who wanted to work shouldn't have a job; and we should be fighting for that, not about who would get the jobs that were available. I was very nervous, but well received, and no one offered to argue the point with me.

At the parliament buildings we were met by premier Tommy Douglas, and an official government photographer. I don't know how many there were in the delegation but the room they had arranged for us was too small, and since the Legislature was not sitting at the time, they had us all sit in the Legislative Chambers, in the seats of the M.L.A.'s, while Ernie read the brief.

Late that same year, in early winter, Claude Jodoin came to town to speak, and I think the meeting was at Government House. Jodoin had made a name for himself leading the Postal Workers Union, even ending up in jail. I was astonished to hear him say that for married women to work was like moonlighitng! Again I waited for some of the trade unionists that were there (including my husband and Ernie Smith) to get up and say something - but not a word. I was obviously pregnant at the time, but I got up and nervously challenged Jodoin, and said basically that everyone who wants to work should have a job. After the meeting several people came up to me and commended me for what I had said. I asked Ernie Smith why he hadn't said anything, as he was much more used to speaking than I was, but he just laughed and said he had been sure I would handle it.

"Why Marx Was Right": lively challenge to 10 myths

By Frederick Barr
People's World 
December 16 2011 

marxbookcover300x449Book Review

Why Marx Was Right
By Terry Eagleton
Yale University Press, 2011, 272 pages
Paperback, $16.00 (also available in hardcover and e-book reader editions)

While appreciating the work of Karl Marx, it is often that one encounters difficulties in sharing your views with others. We often try to explain and relate, only to find we must first defend. Because so much has been done in the name of Marxism over the decades, to say that being an enthusiastic Marxist carries a lot of baggage is being charitable.

It's not always an easy task to liberate the useful and vital ideas from beneath the weight of things like the "tyranny of Stalin," the "Chinese Cultural Revolution," and so on. Yes, one can argue that these phenomena had much or little or nothing to do with what Karl Marx worked away at, back before the turn of the last century, but the skills of many readers, however enthusiastic, are usually inadequate.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Grace Lee Boggs’ Message to the Occupiers

A lifelong activist shares her thoughts on revolution.

December 16, 2011

Grace Boggs—selected by Pete Seeger and Vincent Harding to be part of the YES! Breakthrough 15—is a 96-year-old activist and philosopher who has long dedicated herself to social change. In this video, she gives her advice to the Occupy movement.

"Transformation and change are the essence of Boggs' life," wrote Larry Gabriel in his YES! Magazine profile. "Part of this focus is the difference between rebellion and revolution. Rebellion involves physically seizing power over politics and economic vehicles, but revolution involves changing how you think and act based on those changes."

Grace Lee Boggs' Message to Occupy Wall Street Part 2 from American Revolutionary on Vimeo.

The conversation continues with Detroit philosopher and activist Grace Lee Boggs. Grace has more than 70 years experience as a movement activist and offers this message to the 99%.

We are making a film about Grace, her life, work and evolving ideas about revolution. Find out more about the film and help us finish it at:​American-Revolutionary

Please share on facebook, twitter, tumblr and anywhere you can! Keep the conversation going!

Be very afraid: Stephen Harper is inventing a new Canada

By Gerald Caplan
Globe and Mail
Dec. 16, 2011

Stephen Harper first became Prime Minister in 2006 and has already dramatically transformed the old Canada. But with no election due for four more years, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

It’s in the nature of true believers and ideologues to believe that any means to their sacred ends are justified. This makes them extremely dangerous people. It’s also typical of such people that they’re often motivated by unfathomable resentment and anger, a compulsion not just to better but to destroy their adversaries. These are good descriptions of Stephen Harper and those closest to him.

There was never a Trudeauland or Mulroneyland or Chrétienland, but as The Globe’s Lawrence Martin has made us understand, there is already a Harperland whose nature is quite apparent. Like the American conservatives whom the Harperites so envy, our government has concocted a new reality of its own that it is systematically imposing on the Canadian people. The values and moral code of Mr. Harper’s new Canada are clear.

An historic news conference

Canadian Wheat Board Alliance
December 15, 2011

On December 15, 2011 the Senate passed legislation ending the Canadian Wheat Board in spite of the fact a Federal court judge had ruled it illegal. This demonstrates the very limited value of the Senate as a chamber of sober second thought when it has been stacked with partisan appointees. The Harper appointed Governor General gave it Royal Assent the same day.

Our democracy rests on a system of checks and balances between the Parliament, the executive branch and the Courts. The Conservative Senators demonstrated they do not respect the rule of law by supporting the authoritarian approach to government being pursued by the Harper regime. This is really an old story of the conflict between the democratic rule of law and the dictatorial.

A progressive dialogue on the future

An open conclusion to the series

By Murray Dobbin
December 16, 2011
This week marks the end of our weekly series "Reinventing democracy, reclaiming the commons," a project begun last spring to help mark the 10th year of rabble. The series reflected the role of rabble as a site for activists -- a place for people who want to change the world to go, where their values are reflected back to them and where the world is not put through the perverse filter of the corporate media.

The series was launched because it seemed to us at rabble -- and this was hardly a unique view -- that progressive forces in Canada were in disarray and in a state of confusion as to how to deal with the new, right-wing world order. We had just come off one of capitalism's worst crises in decades -- the 2008 financial meltdown -- and yet we had virtually nothing to say about an alternative. The old saw about crises being opportunities seemed not to apply to the left. For us the crisis was, well, just a crisis. It was a crisis that working people would pay for just as they had paid for the rise of neo-liberalism since the mid-1970s.